Angus Beef Steakhouse is in the newish Bulfinch Hotel near North Station. It’s also not far from City Hall, the state Department of Mental Health, and the O’Neil Federal Building, and serves steaks good enough for a lobbyist at prices a civil servant can afford once in a while. The appetizers and desserts we had were pedestrian, the service was uneven, and the wine list was overpriced. But given that it has little serious competition in the immediate area, Angus has time to fill out its portfolio. And for a good steak on your way to or from a Garden attraction, you can hardly do better.
If you can’t skip appetizers, you have the money, and you don’t have the ethical qualms, then the fresh foie gras ($21) is the only thing to have. It’s so rich you can split it. Basically, eating foie gras is like eating meat-flavored butter, but this is just sautéed lightly and is “light” enough — an odd adjective for foie gras — that it becomes like eating meat-flavored custard. The garnish is caramelized apples, good enough, and a caramelized strawberry, which takes on some of the meaty characteristics of the sautéed “watermelon steak” at Metropolitan Club. And a biscuit they could just throw away.
For a regular appetizer, the portabella mushroom ($12), layered with other mushrooms and a creamy garlic sauce, is rather meaty, too. But onion soup au gratin ($7) relies on what the menu frankly describes as “beef base” when it ought to start with stock and an enormous number of caramelized onions. It does get almost as much onion flavor as beef flavor into the broth, and not too much salt, but the topping is the usual mushy bread and melted Swiss cheese. Okay, one more time: 1) it’s supposed to taste like onions; 2) any bread in it should be fried like a crouton or very stale or toasted so it retains some texture; and 3) the cheese is a garnish, not a fondue. I don’t want to have to talk to you about this again.
For entrées, you have a choice of about 13 things, of which five are steaks, one is “surf and turf,” and another is rack of lamb. And you’re sitting in the Angus Beef Steakhouse. Is the picture coming into focus yet?
For the nearsighted, I would recommend the porterhouse steak ($35), some 24 ounces (probably weighed before cooking and bone-in, but this is still a very large piece of red meat). The porterhouse is the reviewer’s pick because it has a sirloin side and a tenderloin (or filet) side, and because of that it’s the hardest steak to cook correctly. The filet side tends to be cut thinner because it is more expensive, but it also cooks faster because it’s better marbled. The Angus Beef program selects prime and the top third of choice-grade beef, all quite decently marbled, and the restaurant named after it does a good job in the kitchen, even with the porterhouse. Mine was medium-rare as ordered, on both sides. Moreover, both sides were delectably tender and fully flavored, where an inferior porterhouse will divide these characteristics down the T-bone. I didn’t taste a lot of age, just very high-grade beef correctly cut and cooked. The original restaurant is in Montreal, so the steak was covered with cracked pepper in the Montreal style.
Although there are à la carte side orders as in American steakhouses, entrées at the Angus Beef Steakhouse do come with excellent, buttery mashed potatoes, and a portion of vegetables. These vegetables were the same on all the dishes, but different on different nights: once just sautéed asparagus, another time a mixed sauté of snow peas, red bell peppers, and carrot strips. So nothing to impress a gourmet, but nothing to offend one, either.
Much the same was true, on another visit, of the sirloin steak ($27/12 ounces; $30/16 ounces). We had the smaller steak, medium-rare, again cooked accurately and with a good balance of tenderness (which can be a problem with this cut) and the rich beef flavor typical of sirloin steaks.I should mention that you could also pay extra for mushroom, blue-cheese, or béarnaise sauces. But with beef this good, why bother?
On to the rack of lamb ($32). In my experience, lamb is the secret angle in steak houses. (Part of my experience lies in coming from a home where lamb was always overcooked.) If you like lamb, and you don’t want to overeat, it’s hard to go wrong in a place that mostly makes steaks. Sure enough, the rack at Angus is four baby chops, just meaty enough. They came medium, as ordered, dusted with some garlic and mustard, and were served with the same excellent potatoes and vegetables as the steaks.
The wine list has some very overpriced French bottles and surprisingly little by the glass. A glass of Wolf Blass shiraz ($8) was actually too soft a red wine to stand up to beef. Coffee and decaf ($1.75) were pretty good.