Don't we all deserve to dine like royalty, at least once in a while?
I do, of course, but heaven knows it happens far less often than it should. Fortunately the royal-dining landscape has expanded.
With excellent raw materials, skilled cooks, servers who seem to anticipate one's every desire, and an elegant setting, Final Cut Steak & Seafood at Hollywood Casino is the area's new "special occasion" (i.e.: splurge) restaurant.
Stepping into this round room, one encounters the dramatic back of a glamorous, hooded red cape, worn by the actress Ann-Margaret. (Elsewhere in the room, large cases hold a suit and guitar owned by Elvis Presley and a Tony Curtis outfit. This is, after all, Hollywood Casino.)
Large windows facing the Maumee River are accented with floor-to-ceiling shimmering gold drapes, notched at the waist. Seating choices are next to the windows, tables, or booths that are cozy half-circles of couch. Contemporary chandeliers cast just enough light. There's a soft jazz sound track and no casino noise.
Getting there requires reservations (on weekends), a drive through the five-story parking lot (one patron advised it's easiest to find one's car by leaving it on the top level), walking through the noisy, colorful casino, and the ability to spend at least $50 per person.
I loved everything I had on two happy visits.
Essentially a steak house with all items a la carte, the menu offers seven steaks: three USDA prime charred over hickory ($55 to $62), and four broiled at 1,200 degrees ($32 to $59).
First, the entrees.
On the chef's recommendation, I ordered the prime New York bone-in 18 ounce cut ($55). What a beauty! Thick and juicy with just enough chew, it was in a Bourdelaise sauce (red wine).
What's prime beef? It's the top 2 percent of all beef cuts, determined by a USDA employee and based mainly on its marbling (thin veins of fat throughout the meat that melt into and flavor the meat when cooked. This beef is grown on western ranches, the cattle (usually 18 to 24 months and fed a corn-heavy diet) are trucked live to town, and processed at Malcolm Meats in Northwood.
There's a lobster tail ($55) on the menu but we opted to share the huge slab and enjoy a small lobster tail ($29), a great counterpoint to the beef.
Berkshire pork ($37) is a double-bone chop, and like the beef, a prime cut. Thick with a salty crust that suggests bacon, the chef's recommendation is for medium-well, but near the bone, you'll find pink, less flavorful meat. (Leftovers note: Eat in private. Reheat. Pull ribs apart. Gnaw.)
Wild king salmon ($38) was sinfully sugar-seared, resting on a dollop of melted lemon butter. The flavor was delicate and the fish less oily than its farm-raised cousins.
A couple of entrees were garnished with pea tendrils, tender and tasting like spring peas right off the vine. Many veggies, by the way, are grown at the acclaimed specialty farm, Chef's Garden in Huron.
In addition to the entrees, there are lots of delightful treats sure to please your inner royal personage.
Shortly after being seated, an amuse-bouche arrives; a bite-sized treat, compliments of the house. Ours were dried apple slices with a spoon full of succulent shredded pork, a drop of raspberry sauce, topped with a toasted sage leaf. (Thought at the time: Cancel the steak. A big plate of these babies will amuse my mouth quite nicely.)
The breads: a warm sour-dough roll with a perfect crust, and a walnut-raisin brown roll, divided by a tall, crunchy triangle of lavosh (a Middle Eastern flatbread) covered with white and black sesame seeds.
And when was the last time your server explained the ingredients of each of the two butters? Made in-house was a mound of light, unsalted butter drizzled with honey. (Thought at the time: A scoop of that will make a dandy dessert.) The second butter, a rectangular slab, was made with just a bit of truffle salt (who knew?).
One appetizer was the scallop BLT ($14). Tank's Meats in Elmore, provides the wide bacon used as the base for the large, seared scallops (ever so succulent) served with half of a juicy roasted lemon. The sauces: white citrus aioli and tomato jam.
Another was crab cakes ($15); blue crab with just a tiny bit of bread, and three aiolis for dipping (lemon pepper, blood orange, balsamic reduction).
It was topped by a couple of long, spiraled purple potato chips made in house (yes, Virginia, there are purple potatoes).
Spinach salad ($7), barely wilted, has pecans and buttery goat cheese in a raspberry dressing.
Asparagus ($7) was steamed at our request (instead of grilled as on menu). Garlic mashed potatoes ($7 and plenty for two) are better than mom's.
A few fantastic extras were Oysters Rockefeller on the half-shell (on a big scoop of sauteed spinach and a buttery Parmesan), and a palate cleanser that was a pretty small round of peach sorbet with a little sprinkling of basil on top and at the bottom, a crunchy, mild salt -- volcanic salt from the northern coast of France, in case you wondered. (Thought: Cancel the home-made honey butter; bring more sorbet for dessert).
And at meal's end, another little gift from the chef: a sweet; tiny pieces of nuts and dried fruit on an excellent white chocolate coin.
Wine selection is on an iPad.
Service is a big part of the Final Cut experience and I'd judge the employees as the best trained of any place in the city. But I'd wager to say even QE II and her royal consort might find the interrupt level a bit much. At least five staff members stopped by the table at least once each, sweeping crumbs, refilling water, replacing forks, whisking away dishes, checking to see if all was right. It's as if one has another partner for dinner conversation: the staff.
But I'm hardly one to quibble. It's great to have a few hours of obsequious behavior aimed in my direction, at least once in a while.
Final Cut Steak & Seafood at Hollywood Casino
Address: 1968 Miami St.
Menu: Steak and seafood.
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are suggested.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $$$$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Web site: hollywoodcasinotoledo.com/Dining.
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.