Restaurant: The Royce Wood Fired Steakhouse
Location: 1401 S Oak Knoll Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106. (626) 585-6410
Date: December 10, 2019
Rating: One of LA’s best
For years some of the guys have been talking about how good the Pasadena steakhouse, The Royce is…
So I figured I’d give it a try — particularly given that we were doing (mostly) Grange night.
It’s located inside the Langham hotel in Pasadena — which is right by the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. I hadn’t even known this was here but it’s a lovely “old LA” hotel — really a rare vestige of the classic era of our city.
The Royce itself is a high-end classic (modern) steakhouse.
We had a great (if chilly) private room inside one of the wine cellars.
1998 Dom Pérignon Champagne P2. VM 94. The 1998 Dom Pérignon P2 is clearly heading into its next plateau of maturity, as evidenced by a host of coffee, roasted almond, butter, brioche, caramel, lemon confit and pastry notes. Even so, there is a good bit of freshness to play off a generally mature set of aromas and flavors. Readers who enjoy mature Champagne will find quite a bit to like in the 1998. Today, it is especially open-knit and giving. Two recent bottles have been terrific. (Drink between 2019-2039)
1988 Penfolds Grange. 94 points. Magnificent despite probably being several years past it’s peak. Still overpriced but the reason the demand is so high is due to this being the worthy benchmark for all Aussie Shiraz to aspire to. Supremely complex.
PRIME STEAK TARTARE. tabasco vinaigrette, house-made potato chips. Amazing tartare.
House-made potato chips to go with the tartare.
ROASTED BONE MARROW ‘GRATINEE’. wood-grilled bread, friseé salad. Nice bread. Was so hungry was eating frisee.
JUMBO SHRIMP COCKTAIL. cocktail sauce, yuzu aioli. Very good for being a “dull” dish.
Cocktail and tartar sauce.
GRILLED PORTOBELLO CARPACCIO. miso, arugula, citrus. Amazing bright citrus flavors and nice texture.
1981 Penfolds Grange. 95 points. Dark as night. Dill, and some coconut on the nose along with a black wall of dark fruit, asphalt, olive, and meaty notes. It just seems a little muted. The palate was more impressive than the nose, but the reason became clear by the end of the night. Viscous texture, but not fat, just very extracted. Meaty, and dark fruited, with iodine, anise, more meat, and dark syrah fruit. Very large scaled, and dare I day drinking youthfully.
Oysters on the half-shell.
ROYCE WEDGE. baby iceberg, pancetta, blue cheese crumble. Very solid wedge. Not as much dressing as I like.
MAINE LOBSTER BISQUE. sherry vinegar. Super rich classic bisque.
1998 Penfolds Grange. VM 97. Very deep red-ruby. Smoky, deeply concentrated fruit bomb of a nose: blackberry, dark plum, cassis; creamy vanilla and lightly toasty coconutty oak; and ethereal background notes of white pepper, smoked meats, musky spices, tar and licorice. Profoundly concentrated but velvety-smooth and seamless; impressively muscular and thickly coated with oak, and bound by drying, astringent tannins. Without question the most concentrated Grange of all time, utterly steeped in blackberry flavors; a real show pony. It’s also the most alcoholic Grange ever made, and at a declared 14.5% does taste warm and spirity – the first Grange to do so. It also ventures to some degree into the realm of currant and prune. No doubt a brilliant wine, but only time will tell if, with its elevated alcohol and its superripe flavors, this 1998 version ranks with the very best Grange vintages.
HAND CUT FRENCH FRIES. garlic. Tasted good, a bit soft, but lots of flavor.
1999 Penfolds Grange. VM 91+. Full ruby-red. Sexy aromas of raspberry, cola, root beer and coconut. Thick, dense and concentrated, with exotic, slightly candied dark fruit, caramel, toasted coconut and mineral flavors nicely shaped by firm acids. Shows strong fruit and a major dose of oak on the powerful, backward finish. This can’t quite match the 1998 for sheer depth of fruit, but it’s built to age.
AUSTRALIAN WAGYU TOMAHAWK. Rich.
From my cellar: 2001 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Hommage à Jacques Perrin. VM 95+. Saturated ruby-red. Highly complex, very primary, inky nose hints at blackberry, black cherry, licorice, spicecake and tree bark; dominated by the mourvedre. Then dense, thick and sappy in the mouth, with brooding black fruit and mineral flavors and superb precision. Hints of meat and leather lurk, but, like the regular release, this is extremely backward and dominated by dark fruits. Offers superb thickness without any excess weight, and a wonderfully seamless, elegant texture. Finishes extremely long, with very fine tannins. A unique critter: a Chateauneuf du Pape with just 20% grenache. Likely to develop in bottle for two decades or more. (Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL)
3oz MIYAZAKI, JAPAN. WAGYU TENDERLOIN. Very salty. First came too cooked. Soft and WAY over salted, so not the best use of A5.
2005 Dalla Valle Maya. VM 93. The 2005 Maya is gorgeous, layered and beautifully expressive in the glass. Overall, the 2005 is a relatively mid-weight Maya that impresses for its balance and overall sense of harmony. Still quite vibrant, the 2005 will drink well for at least a handful of years to come. Hints of spice, tobacco and new leather flesh out on the finish, adding further dimensions of complexity. (Drink between 2014-2025)
COLORADO RACK OF LAMB. israeli couscous, boursin. Amazing. tender, fatty, flavorful, crunchy
GRILLED SHISHITO PEPPERS.
SAUTÉED BRUSSELS SPROUTS. bacon vinaigrette.
MAC & CHEESE.
POTATO PUREÉ. horseradish. Very soft. nice.
MAPLE BRIOCHE BREAD PUDDING. candy cap mushroom ice cream. Amazing. Super decadent.
FRIED CINNAMON BEIGNETS. chocolate frangelico sauce. Huge and warm.
The stellar wine lineup.
Overall, this was a great meal. Many of the guys feel that this is the best steakhouse in town. I’m no total expert, but I’ve been to plenty and it’s certainly in the top few. I think at a similar level to Alexander’s and Cut, but probably a touch more classic — i.e. Cut and Alexander’s have edged a touch more off the traditional steakhouse playbook into newer territory. The Royce is pretty straight up. But then again they are contemporary and upscale unlike terrible fossils like Taylor’s — and at The Royce the execution and attention to detail is top notch. Definitely also much better than “middling” steak places like BOA or Del Friscos. Service was great too and the Langham is a really lovely space.
But the drive is long. Sigh.
Also, a slight note on steakhouses and the wines. As this is one of a series of 3-4 steakhouse dinners I did within a few weeks, and they all faced slight variants of the wine problem. Basically, the appetizers need champs and whites and then the “natural” thing for steakhouses to do is bring you all the steaks and all the sides in one giant wave of food. This works very poorly for wine dinners as about 2 minutes after this massive course hits I’m stuffed to the gills and there just isn’t enough time to enjoy more than one flight of reds. Tonight’s dinner suffered badly from this, as we did “individual ordering” of mains — which I don’t like at steakhouses. Along came the giant food wave and it was paired with 2 Grange, the Hommage, and the Maya. We needed to break the meats and sides into 2 waves, which as we will see from later dinners works much better.