There seems to be 2 ways to do a steak restaurant these days:
1. Travel back in time to the days of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing, baked potatoes swathed in layers of butter and sour cream and steaks the size of your torso, complete with gristle and a thick band of fat.
2. Go completely modern and have everything come out on white oval or square platters, do onion rings with panko instead of flour, have abstract art on the walls and have small steaks that come from carefully r
aised cattle, giving a green, grassy taste to the meat.
Somehow, Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse has managed to take the best of both old and new and make it completely their own. And, as it turns out, emerge as the very best of the bunch.
The decor, for sure, is just what the contemporary client is looking for. You'll find The Company Bar downstairs, cozy and dark with a long bar and a jazz pianist that sounds just they were plucked from the time of Louis Armstrong. Upstairs is open and lofty, yet with just 66 seats, it is intimate enough for date nights. Sexy and streamlined, the white space is accented with thick carpet, stone dividers and sepia prints of farm machinery.
Your server arrives. No matter how well you think you know beef, get ready to be schooled. My guy, Gordon, talks for 3-5 minutes about the dry-aging process done here (32 to 57 days, depending on the cut), where each cattle comes from, and what it should taste like. I feel like I've been given the most comprehensive instruction on the life of cows, all without leaving the comfort of my seat. After that, your server will guide you through the menu, which changes daily depending on what's been butchered that day, telling you about the different cuts and what might fit your tastes. They also do a burger, chopped to order, which sounds like fun. You can see the big swaths of meat through a glass wall as you enter the dining room. On the menu, you'll see listed each meat's place of origin, breed of cattle, specific cuts and aging requirements, much like the place of origin and terroir are listed for wine.
One thing that Jacobs & Co. also does differently is the way they cook their steaks. They are done in cast iron skillets and finished in the oven. This allows them to be able to rest for 7-10 minutes and not have their core temperature altered.
Hot, chewy and light homemade cheddar popovers (done in the style of Yorkshire pudding) with roasted garlic and oregano butter arrive in front of you, just as Robert Gravelle, sommelier, arrives. He pairs my wines by the glass, superbly - food-friendly wines that don't exhaust the palate, but draw upon the flavours of the dishes. Robert is handsome, well-traveled and tells me, "[The restaurant draws] a common thread between wine and food. And we offer value-priced wine and steaks, so the stigma of it being expensive to go out doesn't apply." In fact, they have a wine-by-the-glass program that features many organic and biodynamic wines.
And then the old school way of doing things begins.
A young man makes Jacobs Caesar Salads ($14) table side. However you like it, with anchovies, raw eggs, cheese and Tabasco, or not. He wheels around a cart the size of a small kitchen island and starts adding raw ingredients in a wooden bowl large enough to make salads for 10 people. He doesn't rush it, just whisks everything with a fork, while peppering the process with a few light questions to keep the conversation going. He is craftsman and showman for a couple of minutes at a time, but leaves you with a salad to die for. Creamy and salty, fresh romaine mingles with double-smoked bacon and crusty croutons that stay crisp. This is a Caesar that Dean, Sammy and Frank would have enjoyed.
But you're here for the steak, I know. Don't worry. You're not going to be disappointed. Not by the choice or by what ends up at your table.
I choose the Kobe Classic Beef Wagyu California Cut Striploin - 8 oz. ($94) - that's been aged 36 days and is from Alberta. And don't forget about the sides: the bestselling Duck Fat French Fried Russet Potatoes ($11), golden crisp and lightly salted with tarragon and cracked pepper and Roasted Mushrooms ($11), a tender mélange of cremini, oyster, king oyster and honey.
All steaks are charbroiled at 1800 degrees and you can have it cooked from blue rare to well done, though chances are your server will recommend a specific one for each cut, to bring out the best flavour.
My steak is actually not pure Wagyu; it's marbled beef from Japanese Wagyu/Kobe cattle crossed with Canadian cattle. The meat is rich and creamy with 4 gradations of colours going from dark brown to bright crimson in the middle (the chef's recommendation - rare). It is soft and sensuous, decadent and yet clean and surprisingly light for such a rich blend. Unbelievable.
You can choose to have your steak whole or sliced, but either way it will come to the table in a staub, a cast iron skillet, that keeps it warm, without cooking it any further. It is accompanied by chimichurri, ponzu and double-smoked bacon cream cheese with a little duck fat thrown in. You don't need any of these, as the steak is sublime on its own. However, I fall hard for the freshly-made green and slightly hot chimichurri.
Somehow Jacobs & Co., despite its perfection and good looks, is not stuffy. While the service has been incredibly attentive, it's never intrusive or cloying (General Manager Nick Kypreos keeps a quiet eye on everything, not letting anything be less than perfect). The whole experience is exactly what you want when you go out for a nice steak dinner - modern food with a little bit of the classics thrown in, a gorgeous space that allows you breathing room even when you're with 10 close friends, and wines that you can actually afford.
It's not your parent's steakhouse, but they sure as hell would like it here.