Monday, January 15, 2007

Ray's the Steaks (Courthouse/Rosslyn)

Original posting date: December 14, 2006

Ray's the Steaks
1725 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209

After hearing about this local rival to Morton's and Ruth's Chris, I had to go check it out for myself. But three times I arrived at Ray's doors and was turned away. The first time, the restaurant was closed (they don't open Sundays and Mondays although that has now changed). The second time, the wait was one and a half hours so I walked down the street to Cafe Asia instead. The last time it was a few days before Thanksgiving and they had closed early for the holidays. After three attempts, my patience was wearing thin, but the thought of a juicy hunk of beef was too much to resist.

Last night, Tom and I went to Ray's once again, this time calling first to make sure they wouldn't be closed for some random reason, and showing up at 6pm to ensure that we would be beat the dinner rush. Success! We were seated promptly and presented with a small dish of spiced cashews and a menu filled with... steak. As far as entrees go, Ray's is strictly a steakhouse although it offers one vegeterian option - portobello mushrooms. Of course, I am very much a carnivore and did not hesitate to order the filet mignon with mushroom brandy cream sauce. Tom decided to go for the New York Strip au poivre (coated with crushed black peppercorns). While we waited, we snacked on the cashews as well as some soft rosemary flavored bread. The gratis snacks were small, but I appreciated that since I wanted to save my appetite for the main attraction.

The steaks arrived with small cast iron skillets of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, which were nothing to write home about. But the steaks.... they looked PHENOMENAL although I was a bit taken aback at how small my filet was in comparison to Tom's strip. But the quality of meat is much different and I really can't eat that much anyway. My first bite was bliss. Hot, juicy, and cooked just right (medium-rare) with wonderful flavorings and slightly sweet brandy sauce that was the perfect complement to the meat. Tom's steak, on the other hand, was definitely overcooked, bordering on medium-well, although he had requested it medium-rare. Our waitress noticed this right away and graciously offered to make him another one. While he was considering whether or not to take her up on the offer, another waitress (or hostess) came by and said "I won't let you eat this" and immediately whisked it away. The first waitress offered him a complimentary cup of crab bisque while he was waiting. He declined (damn sb!) but we really appreciated the offer.

When the second steak came out, it was done right, maybe even a little undercooked, but otherwise great. The peppercorn sauce was a little too spicy for me but it tasted good for the first couple bites. I nearly finished my filet even though towards the end, each bite was pleasure mixed with the intense pain of forcing more food into a full stomach. After she had cleared our plates, the waitress brought us a complimentary slice of key lime pie to atone for the overdoneness of the steak. Although I was stuffed to the brim, the sb and I still managed to polish it off. The crust was perfectly crunchy with a not-too-tart custard, topped with whipped cream and strawberries. I also loved the tiny gratis cups of homemade hot chocolate that come at the end of each meal.

In the end, the wait was truly worth it. Not only was the food delicious, the service was also exceptional and I wouldn't hesitate to go back the next time I have a craving for nice bloody steak.

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