The Vintage Steakhouse
26701 Verdugo Street, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675-3146 (949) 661-3400
Located in the historic downtown of San Juan Capistrano, adjacent to the train station and a short stroll to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The Vintage Steakhouse is nestled in a thriving restaurant district on this historic railway stop. The Vintage can be found just off Verdugo street, right next to the AMTRAK station. When you look at the Vintage Steakhouse from the outside, it looks like a line of vintage Pullman Train Cars. Part of the restaurant dinning area is actually in the train car and the other portion is the original train station building. The interior decor is upscale turn-of-the-century railroad baron theme. The ambiance is dark with red curtains , dark woods and gold accents like an upscale cowboy brothel. When you looked out the window you could see and hear the train passing, it almost made me feel like I was in a moving train!
When we arrived, the restaurant was extremely busy and even with a 8:00 reservation, we still had to wait 30 minutes in the bar. The bar itself was very ornate, with the same dark woods and dim lighting. The bar was very loud with lots of merriment coming from the dinning room, the bartender told us that there was two engagement parties there that night. The parties were very loud but added something to the overall vibe of the bar.
After 30 minutes, we were seated in the railcar room. The room was cozy and almost reminded me of the Napa Valley Wine Train. We sat waiting at our table for 10 minutes for service. It was a very busy night and it was obvious that the restaurant staff was stretched thin. I couldn’t blame the waiter has he was obviously working hard to satisfy all his guests needs. When the waiter arrived, he greeted us with individualized attention and took his time. He explained the menu and answered our questions about the wine list. It was obvious he was a professional waiter, as he was extremely knowledgeable about the menu. He explained in detail how the food was prepared and what ingredients used in each of the dishes. Based on this conversation, we learned that the Head Chef was classically trained French Chef and has an affinity for mushrooms. You can see on the menu that there is a “Mushroom of the Day” featured on the menu. The menu also features a selection of fine-cut steaks, seafood and pork chops.
We first ordered the mushroom special, a long-stemmed Japanese mushroom called Enokita in a white wine sauce. I have never tried this type of mushroom, nor have I tried mushrooms prepared in a traditional French technique. The mushrooms had a creamy rich flavor that exploded with a nuttiness when I chewed on the firm flesh. We paid $12 for the mushroom of the day, but I am very happy i tried it.
We also ordered the halibut special and the prime rib eye steak, which was listed as one of their specialties. While we were waiting, the hot bread came out. I have read that a restaurant’s bread can foreshadow the overall quality of the meal, because if a Chef neglects the bread, he will most likely neglect other details. I love restaurant bread and The Vintage Steakhouse has some of the best. The bread was very hot, with a thin crunchy shell and a soft and fluffy interior, in true French Bakery style. It was as if I stumbled into a Parisian Bakery at 5:30 in the morning and the bread had just come out of the oven.
The Halibut was firm, moist and was a respectable sized portion. The beurre blanc sauce was rich, sweet and had a whole mouth flavor.. The lemon and wine broke through the richness of the cream and butter in the sauce to give it a little turbo to the taste buds. It looks like the fish was pan seared with butter, locking in the juices and providing a very slight crispiness to the exterior. Overall, a very well thought through dish in terms of flavor and texture layers, excellent flavors and a pleasure to eat. It was served with a twice- baked potato what was soft and creamy on the inside and crusted over on the outside.
The grill prime rib eye was a beautiful 16-ounce cut of meat cooked over a mesquite grill. The steak had a large basis of solid meat and fat clouds around the perimeter just like an oven roasted prime rib. The steak was grilled to perfection and I could smell a gentle waft of mesquite. When we ordered, the waiter suggested the steak cooked medium. He explained that medium is the right temperature to bring the flavors out of the meat and fat, but hot enough to drain out the natural juices. The waiter was on the mark, the exterior of the steak was slightly crusted over and had ornate grill lines. When the steak was cut open, it was beautiful pink throughout with lots of juices pouring out. When I bit into the steak, it was tender, flavorful and the juices rushed out of the meat and into my teeth. It was a glorious experience. The side selected was sweet potato fries, they were fantastic, but after eating the steak I had a hard time filling up on more carbs.
The meals were served with a trio of sauces, a demi-glaze, a mushroom and wine sauce and a béarnaise. The sauces were all fantastic in flavor and it was obvious that they were fresh. We tried all the sauces on the steak, but the mushroom wine sauce was the clear winner.
I really enjoyed my visit to this restaurant. The Vintage has a great atmosphere, remarkable food and a professional wait staff making you feel like you are the most important guest in the restaurant. Stepping into restaurant you feel like you are stepping into a by-gone era and transported away from your daily life for a couple of hours. My experience was excellent give this restaurant a rating of a 4 out of 5, meaning I would come here often and recommend it to friends and family. I highly suggest you try the mushroom of the day!
Visit the Restaurants Website: http://www.thevintagesteakhouse.com
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