First Taste

First Taste: Modern Steak at Scottsdale Fashion Square

We will admit to being wildly enamored of the classic old school steakhouse. When we think red leather banquettes, old men tucking into their scotch, and vats of heavy bernaise sauce over a bloody filet, we think of heaven.

Which is why we were curious to check out Modern Steak, Sam Fox's latest concept, as it premiered in a special preview dinner at Scottsdale Fashion Square last night. In media interviews, Fox has described the place as "non traditional," "fun," and "even "female friendly." That's not what we're used to -- so we were intrigued, to say the least.

After a night of wining and dining, however, we're convinced that the most revolutionary thing about Modern Steak is the room. A coolly elegant space with a purposeful touch of the tatty -- frayed floor rugs just like grandma used to have, a painted white trellis along the ceiling -- the room was washed in pale blues and white brick. It couldn't look less like a traditional steakhouse if it tried. 

The menu does attempt a bit of fun, with some American classics repurposed as starters. (Think footlong hotdogs on brioche -- yum!) In that spirit, we tried the lump crab rangoon. Unfortunately, it was an awful lot like the much cheaper version we're used to ordering. Pretty basic stuff for $13. To Modern Steak's credit, though, the spicy siracha chili sauce really was a treat: sweet, but with a good kick. We got an extra vat of it as a shout-out to the traditional steakhouse concept of overeating.

After that, 'twas time for a salad, and rather than the tableside Caesar we're used to with our steak, we opted for the Warm Maine Lobster Salad, which proved (we must admit) our very favorite thing about the evening.

The dish basically took the products of an old-fashioned lobster boil -- sweet corn, fingerling potatoes, and of course lobster -- and repurposed them with a little frisee and chopped mushrooms and a wonderfully subtle dressing. That one we can unequivocally recommend.

At that point, we were ready for our entrees. We tried the Loup de Mer, which was basically a whitefish with Kalamata olives and lemon.

Having tried that, and tried to do what Mr. Fox wants us to do and been all different and female friendly and fun, we have a word of advice for anyone going to Modern Steak: Order the steak! Our 12-ounce New York strip was perfectly prepared, with a nice peppery crust around the most lovely pink juicy center. This was a steak the kitchen could be proud of.

 We'd be remiss if we didn't note that, despite its overtures to the slender women who populate Scottsdale Fashion Square, Modern Steak does carbs very well. The potato puree, served in a very cute little blue stone crock with a lid, was excellent. And the breads that began our meal -- a baked potato concept with real bacon in it! -- were tasty enough to tempt the biggest anorexic.

Ultimately, we're not sure the whole concept hangs together. Yes, we love a good hot dog, but not as an appetizer to a strip steak. And while it's hard to criticize a room this swellegant, we found the space a bit ... chilly, even with those tatty rugs and the Chuck Taylors on our waiter.

But props to Sam Fox for mixing it up and attempting to give us both high and low on the same menu. And seriously, total props for that steak, and that bread, and those potatoes.  Whether the walls are pale blue or the traditional red velvet, surely, that's what matters.

Modern Steak opens for real October 26, in the new Barney's wing of Scottsdale Fashion Square.