Bentley’s — classic steakhouse with a twist

Every community deserves a classic steakhouse and I’m not referring to those of the chain variety. Think Gene & Georgetti in Chicago or Peter Luger in Brooklyn as opposed to Outback or Sizzler. Not that there is anything wrong with chain steakhouses, Morton’s seems to have pulled it off, yet there is something old school about a standalone, independent house of beef. Bentley’s in Encinitas is just the place in that it provides all the elements of a retro big city steakhouse with its rich wood and exposed brick interior, combined with some decidedly Southern California touches like the huge outdoor patio. It truly is a beautiful restaurant space nestled into the upscale shopping center it occupies.
With that, let’s talk steak. Well, first let’s talk about our starters. Rather than recreate our annual “meat fest” where my eating companion Chef Michael Zonfrilli and myself grill many different types of meat over wood or in a smoker, we decided to start on the lighter side and opt for some seafood starters. Seared ahi on a bed of marinated seaweed, a half dozen oysters, and calamari fritti breaded and fried with red peppers and sweet onions got us going. Very generous portions of each and reasonably priced with all of them under $13. Our waiter paired a nice Fume Blanc with our seafood and it worked perfectly.
We sampled from the salads and soups next with a bowl of New England clam chowder that had a nice little spicy kick to it and a decent spinach salad. It would have been nice to have a classic wedge of iceberg lettuce available as many steakhouses do, hint hint, but the chowder was good and the salad just fine. Nothing over $10 in the soup and salad section either.
So, on to our mini meat-fest. Michael went for the Texas chile oil rib eye with sweet pepper relish and au gratin potatoes. Everything worked so perfectly together on this dish. The spice of the chile oil, the tender, melt-in-your-mouth rib eye, and the sweet pepper relish … OK, I’m going back soon and getting this dish. I was jealous but since we were sharing I got a good taste of it. I went with the whiskey peppercorn New York strip, served of course, on top of a nice pile of fries. This was a very solid plate of food, but next time I am all over the above mentioned rib eye. The manager, a very knowledgeable David Reese, insisted that we try their “world famous” barbecue baby back ribs. How could we say no to that? He was dead on with that call as they were melt-in-your mouth tender and very flavorful. Most of the steaks and chops were in the $25 to $30 range and came with bread and choice of potato or rice. That was a nice touch given the typical steakhouse tradition of ala cart everything. I must mention there is also a nice selection of chicken, prime rib, pasta and combination dishes. We were there for the steak though, and they did not disappoint.
For dessert we went
with the fudge brownie cheesecake and the chocolate flourless tart. Not that we needed any more food after that feast but they both were tasty and left us extremely satisfied. Bentley’s has an extensive wine list and makes everything from scratch on site except the bakery products which are delivered fresh daily.
Bentley’s also has some nice budget-minded nights with half price wine on Monday and Tuesday, no corkage fee on Wednesday and Thursday is martini night as there is a large bar area. They also feature an early dinner menu from 5 to 6 p.m. with discounted entrees. Lunch is served Tuesday to Saturday at 11:30 am and dinner is nightly from 5 p.m. Bentley’s is located at 162 South Rancho Santa Fe Road, suite C-10 in Encinitas. Reach them at (760) 632-9333

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