Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butchery – San Diego
With nothing but rave reviews from people I know and a history of 8 years in the Gaslamp District of San Diego, I felt it was high time to give this place a shot, (check out the dinner menu by giving the old one, two click –> Here! )
Overall Rating: 8 out of 10
Here are my thoughts:
1. Parking – We opted for a nice Uber ride vice dealing with parking, because as most people know in the city, parking can be frustrating, expensive and time consuming. From where I live, it was a simple 12 minute Uber for under $10.00 so really it was worth it. I honestly don’t know if they have a dedicated parking lot but as we walked up I didn’t observe one and I also didn’t see any valet options, so I would have to do more digging.
2. Atmosphere – Very nice décor that is stylish with a rustic touch. Lots of woodgrain, old posters of the “western” era and an open kitchen so that patrons can watch it happen if they want. There is really not much in the way of natural light, as the windows are few and far between, but the lighting inside is adequate. There was a skylight directly above our area, but being as it was already dark by the time we had dinner, it wasn’t so much of a noticeable help. The one and only point that they lost was their bathrooms. For me, a place so nice (and with good food and great service), should have better kept up on their bathrooms. For the ladies at least, it was only two stalls and there were hints of disrepair, or just that they hadn’t paid as much love to the bathrooms as the rest of the interior. The atmosphere everywhere else though was very comfortable, although I would have liked to have them bring up the lighting in the kitchen area just a bit, as it was quite dark and it is always entertaining (at least to me) to be able to watch the chef work.
3. Service – Truly great! The manager came by periodically, from the moment we walked in until the moment we left, and was kind enough to fold my napkin while I went to the loo, and then put it on my lap for me again upon my return. Our server was knowledgeable, gave recommendations for things he felt we might enjoy and was personable. He was attentive without hovering uncomfortably and the other team members all knew right when to take your plate, when to drop the silverware for the next course and refill your drink. The service of the staff, from the hostess to the manager were nothing except perfection and I was beyond happy with it. For that one aspect I would give a 10 out of 10!
4. Food/Portions – Portions were good/adequate and not overbearing. I appreciate proper portioning and the fact that they understood it’s a steakhouse, so there will be other food coming and perhaps don’t make the appetizers so large and heavy that one cannot eat anything else. **SIDENOTE – As it is Restaurant Week, I will give my opinions, but do feel the food ratings could change if we go back on a night that is not a part of SDRW** Continuing on, the food itself would get a rating of 7.5 out of 10.
Much to our surprise, we were given an amuse bouche prior to the meal that was a very nicely balanced treat that was not expected. They started us with three different dinner roll offerings and butter. Additionally they had an extensive wine and spirit list, to which we ordered a 2013 Pinot Noir from Oregan to enjoy with our meal that was moderately priced and very tasty.
Appetizer 1: Fried Wagyu Beef Tongue – Textures of zucchini, pickled and raw rhubarb, adobo sauce, and chili powder. This I felt was good but it could have been better. As a person who does eat tongue, I was a bit disappointed in the texture of the finished product. Because the tongue was battered and fried, it ended up being overdone feeling and tasting, verging on the side of tough and dry. I understand the desire to fry the tongue, perhaps in an effort to make “taboo” nature of the protein more palatable for the less adventurous eater, but I don’t think I agree. After taking off the breading and eating the tongue by itself, I did actual find it more palatable and better tasting, slightly. I enjoyed the squash blossoms, the rhubarb and zucchini, which were nice to help with the heavier taste of the fried tongue. Perhaps even smaller cuts or doing a nice braised version could make me like this more, but overall it wasn’t terrible.
Appetizer 2: Signature Steak Tartare – Hand chopped tartare, prepared to order with capers, shallots and parsley, topped with a quail egg, served with toasted baguette. This was delicious! It was probably one of my favorite parts of the meal and I can see why it earned the “signature” title. It is something I heard about from other people who said I MUST try it if I went. The smell of it was so nice, it reminded me of when I was young and really oddly enough, of when I would make meatloaf in the kitchen with my mother. It may have been the seasoned meat smell, perhaps a dash of Worcestershire sauce or just my own nostalgia, but it made me very happy. A perfect portion amount for two people to share, it was the right balance or meaty, acidic, herbacious and eggy that I hoped to find in a steak tartare.
Entree: 10 oz. Bison New York Strip – 100% grass fed bison is from Durham Ranch in Wyoming. I will say that I was drawn to this as my entree for two reasons, 1. being that I am from Wyoming and my parents still live there, and 2. because while I have eaten bison in a ground form before, I have never had a steak of it. I was very happy with steak and felt that it had a better flavor than that of beef. My dining partner got a filet mignon and while we shared bites I noticed that I much preferred the taste of the bison to that of the beef. Tender (it was cooked medium) and juicy, it was well cooked and delicious. I had ordered the brandy peppercorn sauce on the side, but found it was a little bland and so ended up eating the steak on its own, which was delicious none-the-less. The steak was served with a side of green beans and what seemed like a stone ground mustard, mashed potato. The side dishes were less impressive than the steak. The beans were cooked well and properly, but seasoning was definitely lacking. Both the potatoes and the beans were too buttery (as if I ever thought I would say those words!), but it’s true. They had a sheen and a small pool of butter on the plate that was residual and excessive. If they had been done with less they probably would have been much better received and with the fact the dinner was with steak, I would think a slightly lighter side dish (or variation of) would have been welcomed.
Dessert: Orange Dreamsicle – Lemon olive oil cake, creamsicle “dippin dots,” candied oranges, and coriander. I wanted to love this dessert in its entirety, but alas I could not. I LOVE orange and I absolutely love the orange dreamsicle flavor of most treats that go by the name. This one was, in fragments, very good but sadly one component got in my way of loving it wholly. The candied oranges. Those were so hard and on a cold dish, so I couldn’t get the glorious and anticipated “creme brulee crack” that I was hoping for. In fact, it took some serious force with my spoon to get them to crack even a little so as to make for a smaller bite. Once I did take a bite with a piece of the candied orange it made my teeth stick so ferociously that I thought I might lose a filling. Then I was forced to pick at my teeth to get it out of the cracks between, with my fork, which is not something a lady loves to do at a the dinner table in the midst of a nice restaurant. Overall it was a good dessert but I ended up just avoiding the rest of the candied oranges while I ate the remainder of the dish.
Would I go back? Oh yes, but as I am not a regular “steakhouse” gal as a first choice for my dinners out, it would have to be a special occasion or probably at the request of a visiting guest. All in all though, very good and certainly a great option for those seeking a steakhouse downtown.
640 10th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone – (619) 450-5880