While many local restaurants try to cater to Whatcom County’s preference for informality, the Steak House at Silver Reef doesn’t skimp on elegance.
Uniformed waiters — lots of them — keep water glasses filled, crumbs cleared and meals dusted with freshly ground pepper. Lighting is dim but not dark, fresh roses grace the tables, and the table setting includes gold-rimmed plates emblazoned with the Silver Reef logo.
None of this seemed to faze the many denim-trousered diners on a recent Saturday night visit. This restaurant, after all, is part of the Silver Reef Casino complex, and Western Washington casinos aren’t like the ones in James Bond movies, where patrons dress in tuxedos and evening gowns.
Getting into the restaurant involves a stroll across the bustling and smoky casino floor, but the restaurant itself is smoke-free, and the ventilation system allowed only an occasional whiff of the nicotine outside.
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At every other local restaurant in this price range, chefs try to show off their creativity with daring new combinations or surprising twists on traditional ones. At Silver Reef, there is no straying from the tried-and-true — an approach that can be welcome when one feels like feasting, rather than experiencing culinary art.
While the menu features lots of seafood choices, chicken, lamb chops and pork chops, the focus is on the big steaks, Northwest-grown by Misty Isle Farms Natural Black Angus Beef. And big they are. You can get a seven- or nine-ounce filet mignon, but the rib eye, the top sirloin and the New York strip are 14 ounces. The porterhouse is a pound and a half. On Friday and Saturday, prime rib comes in 12- or 16-ounce portions.
Steak Diane, steak au poivre, and Chateaubriand are also available, and all three are prepared at your table. Our meals began well with steaming fresh sourdough rolls. Next we tried two steakhouse salads at $6, and got plates heaped with baby greens and tossed in honey mustard vinaigrette. Grilled pears, sweetly spiced pecans, currants, roma tomatoes and goat cheese-topped croutons added some excitement to the mix.
For dinner, we tried the lamb chops, $29, and the rib eye, $27. Somewhat to our surprise, we enjoyed the lamb chops a bit more, which is not meant as an insult to the steak. Both entrees were tender and juicy, suitably rare, and subtly seasoned to enhance but not interfere with the meat.
Meals include a choice of potato, but vegetables are extra. In keeping with the traditional spirit of the meal, we ordered whole mushrooms, braised in consommé with sherry, $4. Steak and mushrooms are one tradition worth preserving.
Dessert is one more exercise in traditional elegance, with a double-decker dessert cart that allows you to see what you’re getting instead of relying on a menu description.
In the America of my youth, a special-occasion meal meant a trip to the best steakhouse in town. The world has changed, and international cuisine dominates the fine dining scene here and many other places. The Steak House at Silver Reef could be just the ticket for people who miss the good old days.