Although Holy City Hospitality plays down the interconnectedness of the three new outlets, they don’t function completely independently: All of the drinks come from Victor’s bar, and guests at Vincent’s and Michael’s are offered both restaurants’ dessert menus. And while staffers don’t hopscotch between venues, the company hired them en masse. The most talented servers obviously ended up at Michael’s, the most successful of the triad.
Since broad-brush theming can feel rather cold and calculating, especially when three almost-instant restaurants are involved, it takes exceptional service to humanize the enterprise. Michael’s self-assured and knowledgeable servers do a terrific job of engaging with guests and sizing up their needs. While I spend a fair number of nights a week alone at restaurant tables with a magazine, Michael’s was the first local restaurant to ever offer me a reading light.
The downside of dining alone is potentially missing out on the tableside Caesar salad preparation, also handled ably by servers (who are so eager to accommodate that when I asked after the item, my server conspired with another server to add extra lettuce to a salad he was mixing for a table of two, the standard minimum for the $11 per person service.) The salad was intensely lemony with a strong whack of pepper-borne heat.
The menu at Michael’s is highly traditional: The appetizers include a crab cake and a steak tartare, and there’s lamb and lobster for folks who aren’t eating steak. Red meat, though, is clearly the main attraction.
Prime rib is identified as Michael’s signature entree, but as every pharmacist knows, signatures get messy. My serving of prime rib was too aggressively trimmed, and its pink flesh tasted tight and dry. I ended up spending more time with an accompanying cone of crisp-skinned French fries, despite an unfortunate spritz of truffle oil that’s somehow still in vogue.
A filet, though, was excellent. The beef had real personality and the kitchen didn’t dare muzzle it. The steak was seasoned with admirable restraint, and precisely cooked to the requested rare with a charred exterior.
Over the course of my five visits to the three restaurants, Michael’s always seemed the emptiest. The generically clubby room could use more people: It doesn’t look very lived-in yet. But since there are always people who could use a steak and good service, that issue ought to be resolved shortly.
Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560.