Restaurant Week has begun!! I'm sooo excited!
Al Biernat's Steak & Seafood
4217 Oak Lawn Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219
We started off with the "preview weekend" at Al Biernat's. Located on Oaklawn and Wycliff, Al Biernat's is known for steaks and seafood.
I had made a reservation on a friday night at 8:30pm for a party of 10. Half of us arrived a little earlier than the reservation and waited at the bar for our table to be prepped. The gentleman at the front was very nice and we were seated right around 8:30.
First impression of the restaurant...the entrance is kind of hidden so it took us awhile to find it. After entering the front doors, the noise level went through the roof. The bar area is right at the front entrance and it was packed with people. Very noisy, hard to hear people around you (I was warned of that before going to the restaurant). People were nicely dressed and the lighting was very dim.
After we were seated, we were immediately given a basket of assorted breads. It took a while before we were given our menus and then another while before the waitress came along to take our drink orders.
For the "preview weekend" the participating restaurants offer a cocktail along with the menu. Initially I thought we were getting both cocktails but then found out we had to choose one. Half of the table ordered the 'before dinner' cocktail: Watermelon Sunshine Martini (orange vodka, Grand Marnier, Watermelon, sugar rim glass). The drink was pretty but meh. Personally I like sweet cocktails so it wasn't sweet enough for me, but for others who don't like sweet...it was too sweet. haha.
Anyways, it wasn't a big hit.
So we were talking amongst ourselves and asking each other what we're ordering...most people wanted to get the 12oz Prime Rib...of course! Since we're at a steak house, plus I personally think the Prime Rib is the best cut of meat! We waited another long while before the waitress came around to take our orders. (Just FYI on restaurant week...you order every course up front.) (I'm going to write about the dishes in the order of the courses) So the first thing the waitress said before taking the orders was that the Prime Rib was sold out. T_T I wanted to cry.... I had read about them selling out of the prime rib online, but I guess I was secretly hoping it wouldn't happen to us. So half of us had to decide on a different entree.
It took a while before our appetizers came out...
OH yea, I also had a coupon for a fourth course (you can get these at Central Market...for every $25 you spend they give you a coupon to get one dish. Only some of the restaurants participate in this so make sure you find out before you go get a bunch of coupons.)
Finally its FOOD TIME!!
The fourth course came out first: Tuna Tartar Tacos (with toasted sesame, red onion, scotch Bonnet Peppers). It also came with 2 sauces: one is most definitely sriracha (can't go wrong there!) and the other tasted like wasabi
cream. This was a great starter. The tuna was very fresh and there was quite a bit of fish inside the tacos. The texture of the tuna with the crispy taco shell plus the kick of the peppers and hot sauce was great. This was probably one of the best dishes of the night. The only minor complaint is that the taco shells were a little TOO crunchy. But overall really good...great flavors!
- Piri Piri Prawns (with jalapeno, cilantro, and citrus dipping sauce) First of all, these were more like shrimp, prawns are usually larger. The flavor was pretty good but not anything special. Now one of my friends appetizer came out with gigantic prawns...but only TWO instead of three. WTH?!?! And then the waitress had the nerve to say they only gave him 2 because his prawns were bigger than everyone elses. WHATTT?!?!?! He had to complain and they brought him out a 3rd prawn.
What's wrong here? 1. if the dish is suppose to have 3 pieces, then everyone should get 3 pieces, regardless of the size. And 2. the menu obviously said prawns so everyone should've gotten the larger prawns! That was a little ridiculous.
- I got the Summer Salad (mixed field greens, seasonal fruits and vegetables, raspberry-garlic vinaigrette) I was lucky yet unlucky with this dish. First of all, the restaurant is so dim that you can't really see what all is in your food....I'm not a fan of that. I like to see what I'm eating. So I passed the salad to my sister to take some first. Good thing I did that because she was like "there's mango in here"...and LOTS of it. They didn't specify which fruits would be in the salad. Now, I'm allergic to mangos (yes, I know...its sad...but its true), so if I had started on it first, I would've eaten some (since I couldn't see what they were). So she picked off most of the mangos and I attempted to eat a little bit of the salad. It's a bummer because I really liked it. There was lots of other ingredients like raspberry, avocado, apple, green peppers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and green onion...all things that I love. And the dressing was slightly sweet and very refreshing. But I ate a couple bites and let my sister have the rest. I just couldn't chance eating too much since the mangoes were already been mixed in. :( I guess in the future I need to be more careful and ask when they say "seasonal fruit".
- The 3rd appetizer was Gazpacho (with avocado, dill, house made saltines). Gazpacho is typically a cold tomato based soup with raw vegetables. I've never had Gazpacho before but I'm not a fan of cold soups in general. My friend did not like it at all. She said it tasted like salsa. I had a taste...she was right. The avocado added some creaminess that made it slightly better, but I thought it tasted like watered down salsa with a dash of shrimp cocktail sauce. Yea. Not good. Also, from the picture you can see a layer of oil on top. BLEHH...
After the appetizers we waited a longgg time to get our entrees. By this time it was well after 10pm... :(
- Wasabi Crusted North Atlantic Salmon (with coconut flavored Basmati Rice and sweet shoyu (sauce)). The salmon was cooked nicely and it was a nice size. I was excited about the wasabi part since I love wasabi. But I realized what they did was basically take those wasabi covered peas and sprinkled them on top of the fish. The crumbles were very hard...I could hardly chew it...it felt like I was chewing fish scales. Bummer... My favorite part was the coconut rice. It was slightly sweet and you can totally taste the coconut, but it wasn't overpowering. It's sad when the side is better than the main protein.
- Since there was no more Prime Rib, I ordered the Brined and Grilled Pork Chop (10oz; with Arugula, chipotle, black bean papaya relish). I really liked this dish. My pork chop was cooked nicely...I ordered it medium...and had a nice seared crust on it. The marinade on the pork was slightly sweet along with the sweet papaya with the beans. They put a dash of sriracha over the plate and that gave it a nice spicy kick to contrast the sweetness. Also there was plenty of arugula so I still got to have a salad after all. But others were not so lucky. The other 2 people that got the chops didn't enjoy it as much. Theirs were overcooked and hard to cut. So they were less than impressed.
- The remainder of the table ordered the Pasta "Puttanesca" (with Bucatini pasta, Diver sea scallops, capers, olives, tomatoes). I've never had Bucatini pasta before (its like a thick spaghetti but it's hollow). It was delicious. I love thick pasta...especially when they are cooked just right, which they were. It wasn't mushy, it was al dente with just the right bite of texture. The sauce was also very delicious...not too sour like some other marinara. The scallop I tried was overcooked though...slightly rubbery. So minus the scallops, I really enjoyed the pasta dish.
The rest of us had ordered the "after dinner" cocktail: Al's Magnificent Malt (brandy, grand marnier, cointreau, dark chocolate sippin' straw). This was definitely MAGNIFICENT....soooo DIVINE. A taste of heaven in a martini glass. It tasted like a spiked icy milkshake. YUM!!
Finally it's time for DESSERT!!! The part I look forward to the most. The desserts were served soon after the 2nd cocktail.
- Grand Marnier Creme Brulee...I had a bite...it was pretty good...nice and creamy with the hard sugar shell on top. But it was like most other creme brulees I've had in the past so nothing amazing about it.
- Coconut Cream Pie...I like the taste of coconut, but I hate the texture of shredded coconut. My one bite of it was filled with shredded coconut....GROSS! It was quite sweet...my friend couldn't finish it because it was too sweet.
- Pecan Pie (with Vanilla Bean ice cream) The pie was pretty good and you can't go wrong with vanilla bean. It was also very sweet and quite dense. I'm not a fan of pie so I can't really say much more about it.
- Most of us ordered the Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding (with toffee ice cream). It was basically vanilla ice cream with toffee bits on top...but it was delicious. The bread pudding was super chocolatey...and the parts that were actually soft and moist was really good. My piece was an edge piece or something because parts of it was quite hard. The portion size was quite big...the dessert started out pretty good, but the more I ate the sweeter it became. Usually the cold ice cream cuts some of the sweetness, but because the ice cream was mixed with toffee bits, it was also really sweet. And on top of that we were drinking the creamy cocktail. I managed to eat most of my dessert but got so overwhelmed with the sugar that I quickly developed a stomach ache and I couldn't even finish my yummy drink.. :'( I think if they had made the portions smaller, it wouldn't get so sweet. And I can take sweet...desserts are my favorite, so it's saying A LOT when something is even too sweet for me!
Overall, it wasn't a bad meal...but it wasn't great either. Now if they still had prime rib, I don't know if my opinion would change. But even though most dishes tasted good, I probably wouldn't go back and pay full price for them.
Now I'm going to gripe a little bit about service. This is for restaurants in general not just directed to Al Biernats. I think it's very uncool of a place to make someone feel second rate just because they are there for a discount or promotion. If you don't want to serve people that are there paying less for Restaurant Week, then don't participate!! I felt like we were given less attention and slower service just because we were there for Restaurant Week. Now our waitress at Al Biernat's was by no means rude or mean in any way. But we saw very little of her...and food coming out of the kitchen was very slow. I think the wait staff of any restaurant should keep in mind that their tips depend on how they serve (I mean...it is their JOB to serve the customers). Don't think that people will automatically tip the normal 20% whether or not you do a good job. I really believe that if someone does not provide good service, I'm not obligated to give them more than what they deserve.
Anyways, since the restaurant was so busy that night plus I was in good company, I was more lenient and still tipped appropriately to the amount on the check.
So it kinda sucks that the first place for Restaurant Week was disappointing... I'm hoping the next one will be MUCH better!!