I'm not a big fan of steakhouses, mostly because they serve a very nice steak very plainly, and if I'm dining out, I really want something different from what I can prepare on the grill at home. Enter: RAY'S THE STEAKS.
Most of you have heard of this new phenomenon in Arlington (just seconds from Key Bridge) at 1725 Wilson Blvd (tel 703-841-RAYS) in one of the most unassuming tiny strip malls around. Ray's accepts no reservations as the place seats only forty people. The secret, however, is to try and stop by after 4PM to request a table for a time later the same evening. This works quite well as we were seated seconds after arriving for our 6pm "time." The decor is basically nonexistent; white walls with not a thing hanging on them (surely a poster of a cow or a steak would be nice), exposed ducts and wooden tables and chairs make this a place to go for the food, clearly not the ambience. Indeed, they could even do without the pounding bass music over the sound system, as the place is always so jammed, the din of the crown needs nothing else to add to it.
But, as I said you don't come here to see or be seen, you come FOR THE STEAKS, which are con fed aged Angus & Hereford Beef, the best I have ever had anywhere.
As you ponder your choices, some spicy cashews are placed on the table, so we quickly ordered a bottle of KUNIN ZINFANDEL "Westside" 2004 from Paso Robles, Calif. which had a monster berry and plum taste with a slight sweetness to it and huge fruit and alcohol at 15.25%, so much so that it worked much better with the food. Our starters were superb from the tasty BURGUNDIAN ONION SOUP au GRATIN which has bits of pot roast shredded in it (vegetarians have virtually no options here, and should steer clear of anything other than a salad) to the superbly rich and creamy SHERRIED CRAB BISQUE loaded with chunks of tasty crab. My BLACKENED JUMBO SEA SCALLOPS with SAUTEED GARLIC came with sauteed onions and peppers as well and packed a tasty punch. The portion was large enough to give the other three folks at the table
each a 1/3 scallop as well and they were huge! Four sad chunks of dry bread were delivered and I simply didn't even bother with it; I knew the food would fill me up, so why waste my time. We moved on to a tasty Blend of Zinfandel, Syrah & Cabernet called "THE GRAPPLER" from TWENTY ROWS in California that had an intense spiciness and was bound to be just perfect with the entrees to come.
If I have to complain about anything at RAY'S THE STEAKS it is just its popularity, and hence their need to keep things moving. I like to DINE, and sadly we had less than 10 minutes between courses making it quite difficult to relax. They want to move a group of four out within 90 minutes and they usually do. I know that when I return next time (and we will!) it will be on a quieter evening when perhaps we can linger an extra 15 minutes between courses.
The steaks were the best, and the sauces were heavenly. The filets are huge 8 ounce portions (all in the mid-$20 range) and are also available in 6 and 12 ounce sizes. Each steak can come with almost any topping, and one of us opted for the excellent BEARNAISE on the Filet Mignon. There are probably over a dozen different cuts with over seven or eight different toppings. One of us had no complaints about the Filet Mignon in its lone state with no sauce, as the meat was just perfect. the SIRLOIN DIABLO is a superb cut as well and a huge portion with CHIPOTLE Marinade, GARLIC, PEPPERS & ONIONS. The winner at out table was easily my FILET MIGNON au POIVRE which is first Seared with a BLACK PEPPERCORN CRUST and then served in a PORT WINE PEPPERCORN SAUCE that was creamy and to do for. It was quite spicy and truly tasty. I have found my steak and MY SAUCE as well here at Rays.
I must also mention that unlike other steakhouses that nickel and dime you for every side dish, at RAY's the CREAMED SPINACH and HOUSEMADE MASHED POTATOES are served family style and in unlimited portions!
There is dessert and it does sound good at Ray's, so we chose one slice of superb KEY LIME PIE which disappeared faster than you can say "the limiest pie around." A nice touch is the demi-tasse amuse of HOT CHOCOLATE that was served to us all at the end of the meal before we headed out to the chilly evening and home (yes, after just 90 minutes!).
I look forward to returning to Ray's to try the other steaks (especially the Hanger) and sauces, as well as to its new sister location in Silver Spring, Ray's The Classics, because this is truly the most perfect classic steak around!
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!