Steakhouse No. 316
Food Three-and-a-half stars
Service Four stars
Ambience Four stars
Note: Of four stars and four dollar signs
Address: 1922 13th St., Boulder
Contact: 720-729-1922, steakhouse316.com
Hours: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Fare: Classic steakhouse fare, with an emphasis on prime cuts of beef as well as seafood and vegetarian options. Vegan and gluten-free options are limited.
Noise Level: Moderate, which is consistent with the intimate, club-like atmosphere.
Steakhouse No. 316, one of the newest downtown Boulder restaurants, boasts an Aspen pedigree by virtue of its first location's birthplace as well as a classic steakhouse vibe.
Occupying the former Conor O'Neill's space, this eatery features an endearing retro ambience underscored by soft lighting, luxurious upholstery and dark woods. This well-appointed interior seems more like the product of a long-standing establishment, rather than a recent remodel.
From the initial greeting at the host station, the service is attentive and thoroughly professional. Most needs are anticipated and addressed well before diners realize something needs to be tended to. This steakhouse's menu spotlights prime beef, seafood and other proteins, as well as the classic sides and salads associated with this dining genre.
Most old-school steakhouses possess an inherent sense of theatricality, typically expressed through over-the-top service or presentation. At Steakhouse No. 316, the most conspicuous display of culinary entertainment is the presentation of the $18 per person Caesar salad prepared table side for a minimum of two guests.
This course kicked off a Friday night dinner, and the presentation began with the appearance of a heavy cart adorned with all the fixings — and then some — of a proper Caesar salad. The first act is the blending of olive oil and vinegar with mashed red anchovies. The sheer volume of labor, along with the likely lopsided bicep development on the part of the server resulting from vigorous tossing, warrant the price. Cheese and white anchovy fillets topped things off, making for a cool, crisp and extraordinarily tasty salad — counting as the best caesar salad I've ever enjoyed.
Another commendable first course stood in stark contrast to the caesar when it came to flavor and texture, namely the $19 bone marrow and sweetbreads pairing. After all, who doesn't need a little thymus gland in their lives? These sweetbreads carried a hint of creaminess both in flavor and consistency, making for a preparation that's about as good as it gets for this offal. Marrow flavor was much deeper and complex than usual, making for a rich delicacy best described as decadent.
My dining companions selected two seafood entrees, which can sometimes be second-string choices at a steakhouse. The preparation of both the traditional $58 whole Dover sole with a shallot-lemon brown butter and a new-school $34 salmon with fennel and Dungeness crab was simply impeccable. The fish quality was first rate, and each was cooked to perfect doneness, with luxurious moistness and mouthfeel.
Since it would be an act of journalistic malpractice not to indulge in a hefty slab of beef at a steakhouse, I ordered a $56 10-ounce bone-in filet. This was a departure for me, as I prefer less tender cuts with more flavor. But I wanted to assess the tenderness, and I'm happy to report that it was as about as giving as a steak could be without falling into the fatal mushy zone. Dead-on was the best way to describe the textbook medium rare cut, which possessed the silkiness that only the highest-grade beef can possess. From a taste standpoint, and this isn't the kitchen's fault, is that the meat didn't pack as much of a flavorful punch as a less toothsome sirloin or ribeye would.
One thing that steakhouses can do that's typically beyond the capabilities of the home cook, is generate the high heat that creates the distinctive bark-like exterior crust. This steakhouse showcased that ability without compromising the interior doneness.Yet a lighter hand with the exterior seasoning would have improved the taste. It also wouldn't have overshadowed the $3 blue cheese and bone marrow compound butter.
Our server explained that the a la carte sides were sizable, and an $11 loaded twice-baked potato certainly lived up to this promise. Adorned with the usual suspects such as butter, sour cream and bacon, this hearty and enjoyable accompaniment could have been a meal unto itself. We shared it among the three of us.
At our servers' recommendation, our meal concluded with a dense and large $15 portion of bread pudding. While plenty for three, I didn't enjoy any significant advantage over other bread puddings, and I'd likely opt for a different dessert the next go around.
Unlike more avant-garde venues, a steakhouse is successful in its mission if it keeps to a traditional menu and delivers on the execution. A comfortably clubby setting and a near stratospheric service levels should also round out the experience. On all these accounts Steakhouse No. 316 succeeds more than admirably, assuming one has a reason to splurge or a robust bank balance.