Walking into Del Frisco's, which occupies the Packard Grande Building at 15th and Chestnut, felt a little like when Indiana Jones first shines his torch up at the Well of Souls. It's impressive and feels like a discovery of some lost treasure. The ceiling height stretches up for forty feet and a thirty-four foot wine tower occupies the focal point. The walls themselves are ornately carved and swaths of red fabric adorn them, directing your eye upward. Apparently, some of the major scenes of Jamie Foxx's new movie were filmed here. I took a detailed photo of one of the carvings, below right.
Back at eye level, however, we were greeted by not less than four women who eagerly took our names and directed us to the coat room, also staffed by roughly three women. As it turns out, the uniform at Del Frisco's, a chain restaurant, is a very short, ruffly black dress, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels, the effect of which transforms this lost architectural treasure into a high end Hooters. I was getting the feeling that I am not part of Del Frisco's target audience.
Nevertheless, I was part of the "press" invited to a steak and wine tasting that evening. Arriving a bit early, the maitre d' ushered us into the bar, where we sampled the drinks. Del Frisco's makes an excellent "juniper blossom" martini, with Bombay gin, lillet, Cointreau and fresh lime. Although a bit summer-y, I enjoyed it.
The tasting took place in the vault which was, of course, a literal vault, but nicely carpeted and surrounded by wine cellars. Executive Chef John Stritzinger told us about the cuts of steak, breaking them into three categories: the filet mignon, the New York Strip and the rib-eye. The spectrum of the three ranges from tender but flavorless (the filet) to more tough but flavorful (the rib-eye) due in part to the fat content and marbling. Cuts of steak with the bone tend to have more marbling than without. Apparently, you can order a bone-in filet off the menu, as you can with many cuts.
The steak itself was very good, with appropriate accompanying wines. In a strange twist, the filet was a bit overdone, and our fishnet stocking-clad server responded that it was to offer a compromise to the entire room. Serving medium-well steak to those that write about food, and presumably know enough to order steak medium rare, was strange. As predicted by Stritzinger, however, the rib-eye was the most flavorful. It was also the most rare, which could also explain the flavor.
Del Frisco's seasons its steaks with only clarified butter, salt and pepper, as we were told, but the seasoning almost forms another layer, it is so generously applied. This is not to my taste, as I do not always want to taste pepper with some of the better cuts of beef. We were told that it was more of a Southern style (where the Del Frisco's chain originates). Steaks were rumored to be over $60 each, although the online menu does not list prices.
The dessert was a scrumptious lemon cupcake with a lemon curd center and part of a project with Project H.O.M.E, which works to combat homelessness in Philadelphia. Del Frisco's will supply these desserts to the Project H.O.M.E. cafe and continue to work to employ the homeless recommended by Project H.O.M.E.
A noble goal for a restaurant that otherwise appears to value things like the mini-skirt and the $15 cocktail.
Del Frisco's is located at 1426 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, http://www.delfriscos.com/. Thanks to FFE and fellow bloggers at www.foodaphilia.com and frieswiththatshake.net for adding to the fun.