Golden Steer Steak House is a throwback to Old Vegas, no doubt about that. But as no throwback is truly authentic, this one comes with both the conveniences of modern living — the smoke-free air, bottled water if you want it (and without arm-twisting), great wine selection and diversity of staff and guests. But it also comes with the drawbacks, which were mostly embodied by customers in shorts and sweatshirts, in a decidedly non-shorts-and-sweatshirts kind of place.
Geez, people; if you’re paying $40 for a steak, would it kill you to put on long pants and a decent shirt? And this in the middle of winter.
But I digress.
Yeah, the prices are very much more New Vegas than Old, which I guess is to be expected on (or, more accurately, just off) the Strip these days. But in all other areas, the Golden Steer manages to meld the best of the old and the new.
Our drinks, for example. We don’t usually do cocktails with dinner, but an Old Vegas steakhouse somehow just screams "martini and shrimp," I guess in honor of Dino & Co., and so I’d start with gin, extra-dry, straight up with olives ($12), and it was perfect — a cold, clear homage to the simple purity of the bartender’s art in the days before we had vodkas flavored with everything but broccoli, and I have no doubt that will be next.
The shrimp cocktail ($17) would be called a prawn cocktail in most places, for the extremely large crustaceans (jumbo, the menu said, in one of the great oxymorons of all time). When shrimp get that large, they tend to end up tough from overcooking, but that wasn’t the case here, and they were fresh and sweet, the seafood sauce that accompanied them with plenty of punch. And since we’d mentioned to our waiter that we wanted to split it, he brought it with two plates and seafood forks, for a bit of Old Vegas above-and-beyond service.
We continued the simple theme with a tomato salad ($9). The promised "bed of romaine" turned out to be a leaf, but that was OK because the tomatoes were the kind that you and I can never seem to find, ruby-red and beefy-firm and tasting as though they weren’t long off the vine, and the house vinaigrette was perfectly balanced, with enough vinegar to justify the name.
We chose Chicken of the Angels ($26) simply because of Las Vegans’ regional fondness for the otherwise-appellated Chicken Angelo, and this interpretation did justice to the classic. Chicken breasts had been pounded until they were thin as scallopini, then sauteed just until cooked and served, with sauteed artichoke hearts and mushrooms scattered atop, with a light and nicely astringent lemon-butter sauce.
And a filet mignon ($36). We chose the petite filet, which at 8 ounces is still too much meat, and it was tender and prepared rare as ordered. Five dollars seemed a little excessive for the cup of bearnaise we requested (filet mignon being so lean that it’s not the most flavorful of cuts), but it was warm, buttery and contained plenty of fresh tarragon.
Cream of corn ($8) on the side was pretty good, with a fresh crispness and a sauce that was just creamy enough to justify the name.
And Cherries Jubilee ($12 per person), prepared tableside in the Old Vegas fashion, the tart cherries playing off the sweet vanilla ice cream on which it was served in retro dishes. We loved it. What we didn’t love was that they charged us for it twice, so that we were billed $48. What we loved even less was that we didn’t catch it until a few days later.
And the only disappointment of the evening, Our Signature Garlic Bread ($3), which turned out to be nothing to brag about, simply toasted (actually, kind of over-toasted) bread with some garlic butter. At first I thought I’d just been spoiled by all of the over-the-top garlic breads around these days, but another look at the menu confirmed that it was supposed to be made "with imported cheese fresh daily," and though I don’t doubt the latter I saw no evidence of the former.
Service throughout was great, except for that $24 mishap, the oversight of which I’ll blame on the martini.
We also liked the atmosphere, with the Sinatra and associated "luxe" music, the red-leather U-shaped banquettes and other decor elements that clearly have been updated periodically but haven’t lost any of their period charm.
The Golden Steer will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Even though I’m sure there have been ownership shifts over the years, the fact that it has survived that long and maintained an air of the past is unusual in any city, nearly unheard of in this one.
And long may it hail.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.what: Golden Steer Steak House where: 308 W. Sahara Ave. phone: 384-4470 overall: A- food: A- atmosphere: A service: B pluses: The best of Old and New Vegas. minuses: A $24 overcharge.