Review: Hy’s Steakhouse – Ottawa

170 Queen Street, Ottawa – (613) 234-4545 – Webpage

Date of visit: February 4, 2011

Ambience and Service

Hy’s is very ornately decorated and furnished and is perhaps best described as theatrically grand.  It has an imposingly high- ceilinged Grand-Salon sort of dining room with a separate barroom and cloakroom. I did not go into the bar area but it looked to be fairly nicely appointed from the outside. The nicest feature of the dining room is a sort of glass gazebo, which houses an impressive kettledrum shaped grill. Patrons seated nearby to the structure can watch different cuts of meat being expertly, and even flamboyantly, grilled to order. I was at a one of the tables closest to the grill gazebo but my location also in a high traffic area right beside the main kitchen doors. This definitely detracted from my dining pleasure to a noticeable degree. Although the room is large and was seated almost to capacity, I recall that there was no intrusive ‘dull-roar’ of conversation or any service related noises. I also have no recollection of any irritating background music or muzak.

The service throughout the evening was attentive but somewhat less than perfect. I was served my meal by a main-waiter, a young woman in her late twenties, and a young man in his early twenties who acted as sort of sub-waiter. This latter cleared away some table items as I was finished with them and also brought sundry items such as water, condiments, and a bread of some sort. His attendance was timely and appropriate without being distracting. There was also a ‘Pit-boss’ type of individual who asked after my comfort and occasionally cleared and brought items to some nearby tables.

My female waiter’s service is a not very easy to assess. I have difficulty deciding whether she was being patronizing, or simply just trying too hard to impress with her knowledge. I initially ordered, as a starter wine, a Merlot which was described on the wine list as being ‘Hy’s Choice’ or ‘Hy’s selection’ or some-such. The waiter grimaced and suggested that it did not ‘come off well as a Merlot’ and then suggested I try a ‘Fuerza Malbec’ from Argentina. This, she contended, came off ‘better’ Merlot-wise, although, now, in retrospect, I have to wonder what she meant by that. I decided to accept this young-woman’s suggestion but, unfortunately, the wine she recommended really did not suit my taste at all. I only rated her first suggestion with a two stars and I cannot now see how her assessment of the wine was in any way accurate.

When I later ordered an Australian Shiraz to accompany my steak, the waiter smiled approvingly (condescendingly?) and gave some sort of opinion concerning the supposed ‘peppery’ quality of the selection. I am now not sure what those comments were supposed to convey, and I did not record them exactly, but I can’t say that any of them had any bearing on the wine as I actually experienced it. Unless the aroma of my steak somehow negatively affected my palate (and I don’t believe it did), this second wine came across as almost nastily oily both in the body and aftertaste. I gave it a 1 out of 5.

I may also have been a bit sensitive to an almost overbearing quality in the service, but I actually found a few of the supposedly helpful comments to be rather sharp and not terribly welcome. For instance, when I hesitated between a selection that featured Hy’s self-vaunted steak sauce, and the Bone In Rib steak that I that ultimately selected, the waiter asked me whether I was a ‘steak sauce’ sort of person and seemed to sneeringly dare to me to admit that I really did secretly like such abominations. I had rather planned to ask what was particularly so special about Hy’s sauce but, by then, I didn’t put much value in her opinion. Ultimately, I went with the Plain 16 ounce Rib Steak and found that the Hy’s reputation is well deserved

The Steak

160z Bone in Rib Eye ordered ‘Chicago style’ medium rare.

My steak was extremely tender but not really cooked to order. It was nicely grilled but not as charred as I would expect for the ‘Chicago style’ I ordered. The waiter took my order without querying the term ‘Chicago’ but I now don’t think she really understood what I meant. Had she asked, I would have been happy to be more specific. In all though, I have to say that the steak was as tenderly cooked as any rib-steak I have ever had and would have rated a solid 5 out of 5 except for the overly salty seasoning that was applied too liberally. My final Rib-steak rating: 4 out of 5

Overall

My experience almost rated a 5 except for the unfortunate seating location and the rather overbearing service. I look forward to trying the place again sometime.

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