RPM Steak - Chicago
A chef-driven menu is expected fine dining restaurants. At RPM Steak, Chef Doug Psaltis does the Chicago steak house Italian-style; RPM Italian is around the corner. Chef Psaltis is the “P” in RPM Steak; the “R” and “M” stand for the Rancic and Melman families who co-own the restaurant. Rich Melman, of course, is the legendary Chicago restaurateur and the man behind RJ Grunts, Shaw’s Crab House and many other restaurants in the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises empire. Like other LEYE outposts, RPM Steak is beautifully appointed, in subtle tones of black, white and gray, with lots of rich leather and wood, feeling as much like a club as a dining spot (though without the blaring music! Young people!). The room is designed for comfort as much as style, with sleek banquettes, suitable for merry-making groups or couples who just want a little privacy. Like many LEYE restaurants, it’s the kind of place you can bring business associates, a date, or a couple of friends and always feel like the place was made just for you.
Psaltis specializes in superb steaks (more on that in a moment) but what truly sets this steakhouse apart are the dozen fresh pastas made daily in-house, including pork and beef cavatelli, asparagus Agnolotti and prosciutto tortelloni. Other Italian touches to the menu include salumi, housemade focaccia and prime beef meatballs.
There are abundant fish and vegetable options; as food critic Phil Vettel wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “Psaltis treats his non-steak entrees with respect as well; the coal-roasted chicken has garlicky flavor and lacquered skin that's almost brittle in its crispness. A half-dozen seafood selections were augmented one night by Dover sole, in classic sauce meuniere, and I'd certainly opt for that indulgence again. The current indulgence from the kitchen, now that white truffles are in season, is creamy risotto, topped tableside with enough freshly shaved white truffle; the dish is nominally an entree, but probably works best as a shared side. And speaking of shareable sides, the vegetable offerings include a Millionaire's Potato, a double-baked, huge potato loaded with fontina cheese and shaved black truffle.”
If you’re a vegetarian…what in the world are you doing in a steakhouse? Never mind, but if you happen to find yourself here, you’ve got some good options: there are inventive salads and seasonal mushrooms, and of course you can order just straight-up pasta with or without cheese or butter. Salt-roasted beets are so good and so rich and red that you might almost think you’re eating meat.
So okay, okay what about the meat?
RPM Steak features around fifteen different cuts of steak, including steak grigliata, milk-fed veal chop and, get ready for this: prime, dry-aged bistecca Fiorentina. This is the stuff of legend. Perhaps the best known protein of the Florentine region, bistecca alla Fiorentina is a thick cut from Chianina cattle, a rare white breed still seen in the Tuscan landscape, where it’s frequently served medium rare or rare. The price for this steak is around $150, and you most definitely do not want to try to eat it all by yourself, unless you’re really, really super-hungry; it’s a Porterhouse that the menu says can serve up to four.
Beef is sourced from expertly curated purveyors across the Midwest and around the globe. An impressive range of cuts include prime dry-aged and Japanese-style wagyu as well as bison and locally raised, grass-fed beef. Other menu items include a 20 ounce grass-fed ribeye from Slagel Family Farm in Illinois; a 28-day prime dry-aged New York Strip from nationally known aging houses and the 5-ounce Japanese Wagyu A5 strip steak, which is the kind of steak you’re going to be telling your grandchildren about.
For all this luxury dining, you’d expect a wine list to match, and that’s just what you’d get at RPM Steak. There’s a very long list of wines by the glass (many under $20) and half-bottle, with many Italian and Italian-type wines (e.g., Pinot Bianco from Los Carneros, Ribolla Gialla from Napa), including, for the big splurge dinner (and isn’t indulgence what steakhouses are all about?) some outstanding selections like Bolgheri Superiore, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, "Ornellaia", 2001 (which will run you over a grand) and Langhe, Gaja, "Sperss", 1997 ($3K).
For mixed drinks, there are the necessary classics (Old Fashioned, etc.) and also Italian inflected cocktails like the Bellini and Negroni, which seem to fit perfectly with the vibe of this place.
Desserts at RPM Steak are taken as seriously as the steak. A mind-blowing 14K chocolate cake is a mix of dark and milk chocolate, flecked with real gold (don’t worry, it’s edible). For simpler tastes, there’s gelato and affogato, and if you’re into the whole “for the table” thing, there’s a bomboloni, cooked-to-order Italian brioche doughnuts, dressed with Nutella and powdered sugar. Indulgence, defined.