As an Asian child who was
popped out born in Canada, you can imagine my parents’ surprise when my elementary school dumped me into the ESL program for a good six years. This decision was largely based off of the fact that my first words were “ba ba” instead of “daddy,” though you can take a guess as to which synonym I more commonly use now. Despite the fact that I read and wrote at an accelerated rate in comparison to my peers, I was still marched off to a separate room during story time and forced to play menial communication games with other likeminded individuals until they eventually deemed that my command of the English language was adequate enough for the Canadian public school system. I suppose one proper justification that my former instructors could have successfully employed was the fact that I had a tendency to not understand commonly employed phrases and idioms. This included expressions such as being offered a “knuckle sandwich” by my neighbour or being “in a pinch,” which I formerly associated exclusively with the physical definition of squeezing one’s subcutaneous fat with the thumb and the index. It eventually dawned on me that this was simply metaphoric for a situation in which one was stuck in a dire predicament of sorts that had to be alleviated immediately. It was in such one occasion that I paid a visit to Black + Blue after a steak craving arose while shopping downtown. Of course, not all quick fixes are necessarily bad.
Located in the vicinity of two of its brethren, Black + Blue is the most recent addition to the Glowbal Group Collection. Opening its doors in the summer of 2011, the restaurant seeks to define the “golden age of steak.”
The two of us were seated in the middle of the lower level. From the outside in, the restaurant exudes immaculate grandiose in their mission to redefine the steakhouse. Aside from the ever prominent chandeliers and lights, perhaps the restaurant’s most prominent feature is the meat locker sitting in the middle that is visible to most of the restaurant. It is in this that Black + Blue prides itself through the aging of its meats: the walls are apparently made of Himalayan salt bricks, which naturally remove moisture from the enclosure and both tenderizes and flavours of the rare cuts of beef residing within for a period of 28-45 days.
We started off with a couple of cocktails. The Old Fashioned ($12) sits behind and included Maker’s Mark, angostura bitters, raw sugar, and maraschino cherry. I yet again managed to avoid ordering the girlier drink, which was incidentally quite strong. My Black + Blue Caesar ($8) in front, with Banff ice vodka, Clamato, horseradish, and pepperoni, was a bit less exciting than Coast’s incarnation of the drink. Nonetheless, the beverage was mixed well, in spite of being on the milder side. In terms of presentation, I would have preferred a bit more salting on the rim, but the pepperoni and stuffed olive on the stir stick offered up enough sodium already.
Now, the star of the show: the pieces of meat! I ordered the New York Strip (12 oz, $39), a selection from Black + Blue’s PEI Blue Ribbon series. According to the menu, the cattle are raised on Prince Edward Island and achieve a greater degree of marbling from longer feeding times and, of course, natural aging. I appreciated the fact that the steak was hardly seasoned, allowing the supposedly superior flavour of the meat to dominate.
Interestingly enough, the menu offers three differing degrees of medium: rare medium, medium, and medium well. I clearly chose the first of these, which is described to be seared on the outside with a 50% red centre. The first cut went through the meat cleanly, exposing an interior that was slightly redder than promised but, nonetheless, very much acceptable. On first bite, I found the meat to be tender, juicy, and a somewhat flavourful than your average sparsely seasoned piece of meat. While I enjoyed all of these characteristics, my one major complaint was that the steak started off lukewarm and only continued to cool as I made an effort to enjoy it slowly. During my last few morsels, the meat was essentially just cold. Perhaps this was a purposeful as a reference to the colder blue of the restaurant’s name, a result of the minimalistic cooking time employed, or the steak was left to sit on a counter for a bit longer than it should have. Nonetheless, the drop in temperature bothered me slightly.
My dining companion opted for a medium rare rendition of Beef Tenderloin (8oz, $39), which falls under the same PEI Blue Ribbon category. You may not be able to tell from the dimly lit, blurry photograph, but the interior appeared similar to mine in colour. I was told that the slab of meat was “very good.”
A trio of sauces were given to accompany the steaks. From back to front, these included the peppercorn, steak sauce, and chimichurri. We both enjoyed the steak sauce the most; it is apparently made in-house and is a sort of twist on the classic HP BBQ Sauce. The other two had much subtler tastes in comparison, particularly the peppercorn.
Aside from the small leek lying on top, which is probably meant as more of an adornment than anything, the steaks come a la carte. As such, our server recommended that we order a side to split, adding that this would be sufficient. We elected for the mashed potatoes ($7), which employs Yukon gold potatoes in its creation. As you can infer from its presentation, these potatoes were mashed beyond belief, being extremely smooth and buttery. Their simpler flavour was accentuated by the steaks’ natural juices that one may accumulate on their plate. They certainly served their purpose as an obligatory source of carbohydrates during the meaty meal.
Overall, I do appreciate Black + Blue’s concept and novelties. A note on the service: our server, while relatively friendly, was quite slow and blatantly absent for the majority of the evening. She did offer a water refill and allowed us to continue to chat after paying the bill, but this act may mostly stem from the fact that it was a quieter weeknight. In the end, everything down from the lavish ambiance to the steep price range suggests that above all, the dinner at Black + Blue sought to impress. You may have to use your outside, ESL graduate voice to carry on a proper conservation with your party if they happen to be sitting at a fair distance away from you while you attempt to recline in the chair, but you’ll certainly look good doing it. While one might argue that substance takes a backseat to style here, I could honestly say that I enjoyed the meal, lukewarm to cold steak and all.
Conclusion: Andy ate a fair amount, bordering on a lot?
Black + Blue
1032 Alberni St.