I’m not a huge steak lover, but Alexander’s Steakhouse has been on my radar for a long time. When a location popped up in Pasadena, I was pretty excited. However, the reviews weren’t very strong and I didn’t want to pay a lot of money to be disappointed. Pasadena is quite the hike for me, mind you. The Cupertino location is actually the original, and supposedly the best one, but the San Francisco one is still solid per Triple F. Solid is good enough for me. What sets Alexander’s apart from other steakhouses is their Japanese influenced approach to an all-American favorite. A5 Wagyu is the name of the game here, so be prepared for some sticker shock. Alexander’s also delivers many more innovative non-steak items to their menu, which helps balance out the meal overall.
Tofu dehydrated herbs, citron oil
Interesting preparation of tofu.
Tasted just how it looked. Crispy, oceany and umami from the seaweed.
Hon Hamachi avocado, serrano, cilantro, yuzu soy, garlic, radish
The real food started with this shooter of yellowtail and complementing flavors and vegetables. A really bright and well balanced bite. Well done.
Live Scallop pear horseradish nage, lime, basil
The raw scallop was supple and fresh. The combination of basil and lime added wonderful brightness. This was the last of our a la carte appetizers.
Binchotan Seared Wagyu kagoshima beef, marinated mushroom, yuzu
I opted for the tasting menu dubbed “The Study of Beef.” The first course was uttery impeccable. The smokey char from the use of binchotan, or special Japanese charcoal, gave this thin yet fatty slice of kagoshima beef an amazing flavor. Soo YUMS!!
Charred Octopus green tomato, mustard, spicy honey
The next dish wasn’t as amazing, but it was still solid. The octopus was charred yet tender. The tomatoes and mustard really brought some nice zing that was rounded out by the honey.
California Swordfish fennel, dry aged beef ragout, toasted brioche
Fortunately, the swordfish was not dry as most swordfish can be. Unfortunately, the fish was a tad fishy for me. I can’t say the beef ragout worked harmoniously with the fish. It just felt like a piece of fish on top of a pile of meat.
Smoked Oxtail marrow toasted brioche, 1000 island, uni
While meant to be one bite, I happily shared this with The Annoyer so we could both enjoy one of the most popular items at Alexander’s. The bread was buttery and rich. The oxtails were tender and saucy. I didn’t notice much in the way of thousand island dressing. The uni was sweet and creamy. Seriously, very delicious. I would have just liked the whole thing to be a bit hotter, instead of room temperature.
I found it a bit odd for bread service to come out in the middle of the meal.
Japanese A5 Wagyu twelve salts
My tasting course included a petite size portion of precious A5 wagyu, with an intriguing selection of salts from around the world (Pangasinan from the Philipines, sel gris of France, pink Peruvian, California sea, deep ocean from Japan, Himalayan pink, Alae Hawaiian red, smoked alderwood, Jurassic, Murray River from Australia, Kala Namak from India, and Black Cyprus from Cyprus). You would have to have an extremely sensitive palate to really differentiate the subtleties amongst the salts. Black Cyprus was probably our favorite. Kala Namak had a distinct sulfuric quality, like salty eggs. The smoked alderwood salt tasted like a salty foggy morning in the forest.
The wagyu was much smaller than how it looks in the picture. I want to say it was maybe 4 ounces?
It was a nice medium rare throughout. It wasn’t excessively fatty, which was good but also disappointing at the same time. With wagyu, you really expect this fat flavor bomb which I can’t say I experienced. A little sprinkle of the different salts definitely elevated the steak.
Aurora Angus Ribeye Chop 20 oz, illinois raised prime black angus, mushroom cream
I wasn’t too impressed with the rib eye chop. It probably didn’t help that The Annoyer prefers his steak blood red rare. So I spend most of my efforts chewing the damn meat and concentrating on not choking, rather than the quality and flavor. The sauce was a good balance of umaminess, creaminess, with a touch of wine.
Bread & Bone Marrow Butter
Can’t say I noticed much marrow flavor going on here.
Heirloom Eggplant roasted babaganoush, sesame, allium
The name was misleading. It tasted nothing like the Middle Eastern eggplant dish, but more so like the Japanese nasu dengaku or miso glazed eggplant. It was even topped with bonito flakes. It was definitely an interesting dish to be served along side steak, but I found it a tad too sweet for my liking.
Confit Fingerling Potatoes parmesan cream, gremolata, green garlic
These were pretty heavy and rich with cream and cheese. It was like a fancier scalloped potatoes.
Wild Mushrooms yuzu, shiro shoyu, chive
I quite enjoyed the earthiness here, but I think I could have made this at home.
Summer Mushroom Clay Pot koshihikari rice, toasted nori, marrow, foie gras, pine nut
A really fancy high end take on what is normally a homey pedestrian dish. I appreciated the subtle flavors of all the elements from the nori to the marrow and foie gras. The rice was a tad undercooked and I wished for a bit more salt or for one of the components to stand out a bit more. It was a really beautiful presentation though.
Chestnut Cream pear
I think this was supposed to be a little palate cleanser on the way to dessert town. It was pretty simple.
Smoked Marrow pecan butter, single origin chocolate, huckleberry
This was the dessert that was including in my tasting menu. I can’t say I loved it that much, nor did I appreciate much marrow flavor going on.
Fluffy Cheesecake cherry blossom, soba crust
I was so glad we added on this extra dessert. The tubular cheesecake and tangerine jelly that was snaked across it was not the most visually appealing dessert. The flavors were delightful. I loved the subtly crunch rice crust encompassing the cheesecake, which was very light in cheesy sweetness, atypical for American style cheesecakes. The tangerine flavors were a nice fruity contrast.
Mignardises key lime marshmallow, dark chocolate with candied ginger, hickory chocolate macaron
The chocolate macaron was the best offering here, with its subtle smokey hint.
Favoring foods with Asian flavors, Alexander’s interpretation of an all-American classic was definitely up my ally. I thought the hamachi shooter, binchotan seared wagyu, and smoked oxtail with uni were delicious treats. The meat, which should have been the star of the show, wasn’t really all that exciting to me. I’ve had better preparations of wagyu. And the price tag was pretty steep, considering I’ve had more enjoyable meals at the same price tag. Alexander’s was great to try, but I’m content just going back to Mastro’s for my steak fix.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here