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MAR­KET STEER STEAK­HOUSE

Pasatiempo - - AMUSE-BOUCHE - Molly Boyle

Hang on,” I said to my din­ing com­pan­ion. The silky lux­ury of the USDA Prime steak tartare in my mouth was caus­ing a lull in con­ver­sa­tion. “I’m hav­ing a meat mo­ment.” In this brief win­dow be­fore the New Year, vi­sions of crusted medium-rare filets and suc­cu­lent lob­ster tails tend to dance in our heads. ’Tis the sea­son for the kind of deca­dence we usu­ally par­cel out over the rest of the year. But at Mar­ket Steer Steak­house, the new din­ing des­ti­na­tion at the Ho­tel St. Fran­cis, such oc­ca­sions are a year-round af­fair.

On two re­cent din­ners at the estab­lish­ment, which re­placed the for­mer Tabla de los San­tos this past fall, I saw more than one diner fork­ing a piece of steak, then clos­ing their eyes for a se­cond of bliss­ful re­move that matched my own. Chef-owner and for­mer world­cham­pion rodeo roper Kath­leen Crook knows her beef, hav­ing been raised in a cat­tle-ranch­ing fam­ily in Arte­sia. With her part­ner, gen­eral man­ager Kristina Goode, she opened Steak­house No. 316 in Aspen be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to North­ern New Mex­ico. Mar­ket Steer pays tribute to Crook’s bona fides with the res­tau­rant’s logo, which is based on her fam­ily’s live­stock brand. All the beef served is 100-per­cent USDA Prime, with a se­lec­tion of six cuts: two filets, a Kobe flat-iron, a New York strip, a cow­boy rib­eye, and a whop­ping 24-ounce porter­house.

One evening, we were quickly im­pressed by our ap­pe­tiz­ers: first, a bas­ket of crusty-soft bread and spicy whipped green chile but­ter, and then the os­ten­ta­tious pre­sen­ta­tion of a gar­gan­tuan stack of golden breaded onion rings. These came to the ta­ble skew­ered by a steel brand­ing iron that bears — you guessed it — the chef’s fam­ily brand. A serv­ing of the Vi­dalia rings comes with a tangy house-made steak sauce; the moun­tain of fried good­ness is enough to feed five. Mean­while, at my end of the ta­ble, the smoky-sweet di­men­sions of the ten­der tartare and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing fen­nel-stud­ded cheese crack­ers were be­ing played up by a glass of the bold, zesty Klinker Brick Old Vine Zin­fan­del.

All of the sides at Mar­ket Steer come fam­ily-style and in am­ple por­tions, but here we en­coun­tered a few mis­steps. The Boursin creamed spinach sounded like a fine idea, but the cheese sat lead­enly atop the spinach, over­pow­er­ing the greens. The sub­tly fla­vored fon­tina and black-truf­fle gratin also suf­fered from an over­abun­dance of cheese, as well as woe­fully un­der­cooked pota­toes.

The 8-ounce filet is a beau­ti­ful cut. Crusted with an ad­dic­tive spice rub, our medium-rare serv­ing ar­rived rather luke­warm on a plate all its own. But its ruby depths com­prised lay­ers of big fla­vor that were com­ple­mented by a gar­licky and pi­quant chimichurri sauce.

Meat is the main event here, we had sur­mised by then, an idea that was con­firmed by the black­ened cau­li­flower “steak,” the menu’s lone veg­e­tar­ian en­trée. It’s a head on a plate sprin­kled with spices, paired with a goat cheese and leek fon­due with pe­can pesto. The in­ad­e­quate amount of cheese sauce did lit­tle to make up for the bland­ness of the cau­li­flower, which came atop a bed of dull suc­co­tash.

On an­other visit, Crook’s glis­ten­ing New York strip with a side of smoked blue-cheese but­ter had my Em­pire State pal in parox­ysms of meat beat­i­tude. We’d be­gun that din­ner with the jumbo lump crab cakes, a mar­vel of sweet crus­tacean bits blended

The Short Or­der

At Mar­ket Steer Steak­house, the new crown jewel of the Ho­tel St. Fran­cis, deca­dence is an ev­ery­day ex­er­cise. Op­er­ated by chef-owner Kath­leen Crook and her part­ner, gen­eral man­ager Kristina Goode, the res­tau­rant serves 100-per­cent USDA Prime beef cuts, seafood, short ribs, duck, chicken, lamb, and cas­soulet. Meat is the main event here, but close at­ten­tion is also paid to sides like onion rings, whipped pota­toes, crab cakes, and roasted wild mush­rooms. For more ca­sual op­tions, look to the bar menu at the ho­tel’s neigh­bor­ing Se­creto Lounge. Rec­om­mended: Any steak, crab cakes, onion rings, olive-oil whipped pota­toes, roasted wild mush­rooms, steak sand­wich.

with a smoked-onion re­moulade and paired with a del­i­cate cider-vine­gar-dressed slaw. We also rel­ished the lime-chile tang of the ba­con and but­ter salad, a tum­ble of but­ter let­tuce, but­ter­milk dress­ing, cit­rusy goat cheese, and chile pepi­tas with a few brown­sugar-sweet strips of thick house-cured ba­con served along­side it. The quirk­i­ness of the ap­pe­tiz­ers made a good foil for a mem­o­rable steak.

That evening, we fared far bet­ter with sides, too, bask­ing in the silk­i­ness of olive-oil whipped pota­toes and a med­ley of roasted, herby wild shi­itake, beech, oys­ter, and cri­m­ini mush­rooms. Though it ar­rived a tad over­cooked, once we dug in, our lob­ster tail con­tained a mother lode of rich white meat — though in keep­ing with the bac­cha­na­lian theme, we half-wished we’d gone the menu’s sug­gested Os­car route and gussied it up with as­para­gus and Béar­naise.

Such lux­ury has a price, of course. By both meals’ ends, we were un­able to even con­tem­plate dessert — though tempted by the menu’s red chile spiced cheese­cake and bour­bon pe­can bread pud­ding — and eye­ing the hefti­ness of our bill. But for a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, Mar­ket Steer is a damn de­light.

Crook re­cently al­luded to open­ing Mar­ket Steer for week­end brunch in the spring­time, how­ever, which should yield more mod­estly priced fare. And those savvy din­ers who reg­u­larly seek out the scaled-down bar menus of high-end eater­ies are in luck — next door, Se­creto Lounge serves a short list of Mar­ket Steer items that in­clude a fried-chicken sand­wich, steak frites, a burger, and a steak sand­wich, pro­vid­ing a few more rea­sons to in­dulge in ev­ery­day ex­trav­a­gances.

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