Photo by James Vernette
Carne Prima Italian Steakhouse
I never thought I'd wish my 10-year-old son could drink wine until we ate at Carne Prima Italian Steakhouse (314 5th Ave.) in the Gaslamp.
I'd never let him of course, but I think he would have better appreciated the 40-ounce porterhouse steak we shared if he'd been able to sip the Brunello that the waiter recommended I have with it. The dry yet fruity Italian wine was a perfect match and, without it, I think my son wasn't able to fully appreciate the nuances of what happens when a great cut of beef is dry aged for 28 days.
Honestly, a lot of people won't. In fact, I can honestly say this steak is probably too good for you.
First, a little back story: My son and I took my father-in-law out for "a man's night out." I thought Carne Prima was a good bet because my dad-in-law once said that the best steak he had was dry-aged for 28 days.
"They just let the mold grow on it and then cut that off before cooking," he said wistfully.
That's basically the formula for the 40-ounce porterhouse for two at Carne Prima, a $110 a la carte hunk o' meat that looks like something you'd see on The Flintstones .
Carne Prima is class all the way: There's a great wine list featuring vino I can't afford, knowledgeable waiters and high-quality ingredients prepared simply. This giant porterhouse is cooked with just salt and pepper and the chef, Aliano Decka, personally comes out to cut up this meaty masterpiece. My son, father-in-law and I were in awe when it came out in all its glory.
Dry aging brings out a different, more complex flavor than what you'll get at a typical steakhouse, and it's not something everyone can handle. The Carne Prima porterhouse has an earthy flavor almost like a rind of parmesan cheese. My father-in-law got into it right away. I needed to adjust because I had never had meat like this. Once I did, I loved it—especially with the Brunello.
My son, who is very open-minded, never got the handle of it, preferring the seasonal veggies and garlic mashed potatoes we ordered as side dishes (the steak is a la carte). I think he felt like he wasn't "man enough" to appreciate this porterhouse.
I explained, "Hey, I understand why this might not appeal to you. Some flavors you need to grow into. I sure do wish you could try this wine."
With 40 ounces of anything, there are always leftovers. Although my vegetarian wife didn't enjoy the pungent smell of the steak ("Can you put it in two zip-locs, please?" she asked), I sure did. The next day, it spread like butter on a piece of sourdough. That and a little bit of Dijon was heaven.
So, here's the deal: People who really, really like steak and want some depth and complexity (and are willing to pay for it) should go to Carne Prima. If you just want a piece of meat that tastes like the sauce it was cooked in, perhaps Carne Prima is not for you.
My son has agreed to try the porterhouse when he can legally drink.