We have all been waiting with bated appetites. What trick was Skip Quillen going to pull out of his toque this time? I had high hopes, but I never expected this newest incarnation of Chops City Grill onNaples’ Fifth Avenue South. Here is a steakhouse to beat all steakhouses – from New York to Chicago to, dare I say, Tokyo.
Twenty years ago, Quillen came up with the revolutionary concept of joining sushi and steak in the wedded bliss of Chops. The sushi remains, clever as ever, and other seafood entrées maintain the Culinary Concepts group’s know-how with fins and shells. But steaks dominate the extensive menu and dictated the restaurant’s total teardown, rebuild and redo. Rich in every detail, the new Chops borrows a bit from the lush, baroque feel of Quillen’s The Saloon at Coconut Point. Velvet banquettes, silver-threaded drapes, deep wood tones, intimate chef’s tables, along exhibition kitchen and an imposing bar create a retro atmosphere of elegance and affluence.
The quality of the steaks continue the sense of extravagance. Wagyu from Japan, Australia, Idaho and Ohio take center stage. Was that a cha-ching you just heard? At $92 for six ounces of Japanese wagyu strip steak, no one can say it’s inexpensive, but Quillen will tell you it’s the most fairly priced wagyu you will find in this country. Wagyu off-cuts such as the teres major and tri-tip, plus Iowa prime cuts aged in-house provide a wide range of options and price points.
Confused? Over your head? Talk to your server, who has been thoroughly trained in the often elusive jargon of steak rating. To put to the test what I learned, I tried the New York strip flight. Three ounces each of USDA prime, American wagyu and Australian wagyu taught my palate a lesson to chew on: You get what you pay for, but you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg or any limbs for a well-prepared, well-flavored steak.