It was my wife's birthday recently and I like to take her out to some place nice for a meal each year. A place we'd been to a couple times, but just for sandwiches in the bar, is the Bass Street Chop House in Moline. Although it wasn't my first choice for dinner that evening, my wife wanted to go there. And since it was her birthday, we ventured over across the river for dinner that evening.
Fine dining restaurants usually fall flat on their faces in the Quad Cities. Upscale and pretentious dining isn't a strong suit with residents in the area and there has only been a couple three fine dining restaurants that have been able to stick around for more than a couple years. Bass Street Chop House has been the exception to those who tried, but didn't last. A group of investors opened the Bass Street Chop House in June of 2006 and installed restaurant industry veteran Jeff Harrop as the managing director of the restaurant. Doug Lear has been the executive chef since the place opened. About four years after opening Bass Street Chop House, the group opened a pub called "The Landing" a couple doors down. That has since closed down and replaced by a new place called Pub 1848 which opened in May of last year.
Bass Street Chop House is part of the Bass Street Landing complex of office, restaurant and entertainment destinations that the City of Moline has helped develop over the past few years. The new Kone Centre Tower is located in the Bass Street Landing development complex and there are shops, hotels and upscale condos in the immediate area. The iWireless Center is located just a couple blocks away. In the wintertime, the City of Moline constructs an outdoor skating rink in the plaza area of Bass Street Landing. The night we were there, we were surprised by the large number of people skating on the facility considering it was about 35 degrees outside with a light rain.
We found a parking spot across River Drive from the Bass Street Chop House. (see map) A meeting room to the left as you come in was full with people for a function and a group of three had ducked in ahead of us. We were greeted by a hostess who asked, "Name?" with the assumption that we'd had reservations. I told her that we had no reservations, it was just the two of us. She let out a little surprised, "Oh!" And she said she'd see what she had to accommodate us. It was through the week and we didn't think that it would be that busy, but Bass Street Chop House appears to be a destination for not only people celebrating events, but for those in town on business. With John Deere, Kone, the Rock Island Arsenal and other large corporations nearby, it's a place that is designed to load up a businessman's expense account.
My wife and I were seated at a table near a window that looked out toward the skating rink. Our food menu along with a wine list was dropped off at the table. Not long after we were seated, our server for the evening, Kyle, came over to greet us. He said, "I've got to go drop off a couple drinks and I'll be back to tell you about our menu in a bit." Most of the men dining in the restaurant were dressed in business attire and the women were in stylish outfits. While my wife wore a nice top, a skirt and boots, I wore a sweater, button-down shirt, jeans and a pair of white cross-training shoes. I was - by far - the most underdressed person in the place. But I certainly didn't give a damn. My money spends just as well as the guy in the Brooks Brothers suit seated at the next table.
The Bass Street Chop House dining area is situated in a long room filled with tables along the windows and high-backed booths in the middle. Heavy white tablecloths adorn the tops of each table. The decor is a cross between 1930's-style art deco and the elegance of a big city steakhouse.
The bar area at Bass Street Chop House - the Chop Bar - has a distinct classy old time feel to the area. There are a handful of booths and tables in the bar area and they feature their own menu for the bar. We went there on a Sunday night a few years ago - woefully underdressed in shorts and summer shirts - and sat in the bar and shared one of their burgers. I didn't bring my phone with me on that trip, so I couldn't document the burger. But I do remember that it was pretty good. Expensive - but good.
The menu at Bass Street Chop House features dry aged, USDA Prime and Choice cut steaks. They have a number of fresh seafood items on the menu, as well. Appetizers include Duck Confit Spring Rolls, mushrooms stuffed with Italian sausage, and smoked salmon with capers and a lemon dill sauce. Their sides range from garlic or Maytag Blue Cheese potatoes, prime macaroni and cheese, and a mushroom gratin with Boursin cheese. The sides are big enough for two people to share.
The wine list was pretty extensive and rather impressive. The only problem was that the font size for the menu was about a 3 point. It was very difficult to read in the somewhat dim lighting in the dining room. I had to break out my phone and use the auxiliary light to read the wine menu. And I noticed that I wasn't the only one to do so.
Kyle came back and reintroduced himself to us. Then he went into full sales mode. Servers in upscale restaurants are basically salesmen, explaining why they have high dollar steaks on the menu without mentioning the price of the high dollar steaks on the menu. I asked Kyle if they aged their steaks in house. He said, "Yes, in fact we're the only steakhouse to have their own aging room between Omaha and Chicago." They age the steaks for 28 days and they feature just two different cuts - a Delmonico (basically a rib eye) and a New York strip. They also feature three cuts for USDA prime cuts of meat, and four different cuts of USDA Choice steaks including a bone-in rib eye and a 24 oz. porterhouse. Kyle was doing his best in selling the highlights of the menu. As a salesman myself, I couldn't fault him for trying to up-sell us.
He asked if we wanted a drink while we looked over the menu. In addition to the large wine list, they also have a number of craft beers, many from around the Midwest. I ordered a Founders Centennial India Pale Ale for the time being and Cindy ordered a drink that featured whiskey and absinthe. She said, "It sounded interesting and I wanted to try it."
I figured that I'd get a steak for dinner and I thought I'd step up to the plate and try one of their aged New York strips. Cindy was torn between getting a filet or one of the Delmonico steaks. When Kyle came back to take our order, she decided upon the 14 oz. prime cut Delmonico steak. He explained that the chef cooks the steaks a little more on the warm side of what people order, so he suggested that if she liked it medium then to order it medium-rare or medium-rare plus. And medium-rare plus is how she ordered it. She also ordered a cup of the lobster corn chowder and she wanted a side to go with the meal. I wanted the mushroom gratin, but she doesn't like mushrooms (one of our very few incapability issues in our 20 years-plus together). She ordered the creamed spinach - the smaller of the two sizes they offered of the side.
I ordered the 12 ounce aged New York strip - rare. I also ordered some au poivre sauce to go along with it. I then ordered a wedge salad to start out. "Crumbled blue cheese along with the blue cheese dressing," Kyle suggested. I couldn't say no.
For wine that evening, I ordered a bottle of the Maipe malbec wine from Argentina. We've really gotten into malbec's - not only for their hearty and forward flavor for a red wine, but because the price is so reasonable. The Maipe was $28 bucks at Bass Street Chop House. About five minutes after I ordered the wine, Kyle came back and said, "You know, we're having a wine tasting up in the Chop Bar and one of the wines we're featuring this evening is this malbec.' He showed me a bottle of the Finca el Origen Gran Reserva malbec. He said, "My manager said you really should come over and try a taste of the wine. It's only two dollars more than the Maipe that you ordered." I wasn't familiar with it, but I thought it would be worth a try.
Cindy's lobster corn chowder featured small chunks of fresh lobster along with some sweet corn in a light cream broth. And it was very rich. She could only finish a little over half of the cup and she declared it to be almost too rich. She offered me a couple spoonfuls and I could see where she was coming from. It was a wonderful and rich cream-based soup. A bowl of it would have been a full meal for me.
My wedge salad was basically half a wedge of iceberg lettuce. A generous amount of creamy blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumbles and real bacon bits adorned the top. I love a good wedge salad and the one I had at Bass Street Chop House was exceptional.
After we finished our soup and salad, our steaks made it to the table along with the creamed spinach. Cindy's steak was a nice chunk of beef and had a nice charred outer layer. The presentation was minimal with a single thin homemade potato chip on the side.
My aged New York strip was also a healthy piece of meat with char marks on the outside. Interestingly, the au poivre sauce was served on the side and it looked like it was - maybe - only two tablespoons of the sauce. I'm used to more au poivre sauce than what they served me and for a $2.00 up charge I expected more.
My steak was, well, hmmm... I guess I was disappointed in my steak. True to Kyle's word, the chef overcooked the steak. Not by a little - a lot. It was almost a medium-well on the outside layers of the cut, more of a medium through the next level before getting to a deep red rare strip that was - maybe - an 1/8 of an inch thick in the center of the steak. I would have preferred the steak to be sort of that deep red rare throughout the whole thickness of the cut. I'm sure their high-temperature broiler was the culprit, with an inattentive chef leaving it in too long on each side. I almost sent it back, but then I thought I would just man up and eat it as it.
The steak, itself, was sort of chewy due to the overcooked outer layers. It wasn't easy to cut and I guess I didn't get that deep beefy aged taste to the steak. The au poivre sauce - what there was of it - had a nice spicy black pepper flavor, but it was tremendously salty. I was glad that I only had a small amount of the au poivre sauce because if it had been poured over the steak - like many steak au poivres I've had in the past - it would have ruined the taste of the steak. The steak needed help and the au poivre didn't do it for me. For the money I was going to pay for the steak, I was highly disappointed.
Cindy's steak, however, was probably more rare throughout than mine was. It was a light pink medium-rare the whole thickness of the steak. It was also easier to cut and was more juicy than my steak. She was very happy with her steak.
The creamed spinach side was nice. It, too, was sort of a gratin style with bread crumbs and cheese mixed in. I expected to eat only a couple fork fulls of the creamed spinach, but I know I had many more.
The Finca el Origen Gran Reserva malbec had a very full bodied and forward taste. The wine went extremely well with the steaks, it's deep flavor and robust finish was a great compliment to the steaks. It was definitely one that I will seek out at a local wine shop.
For dessert, Cindy decided to get some of their housemade creme brulee. Kyle tried to talk her into the double chocolate lava cake, but Cindy thought that would be too rich. The creme brulee was rich enough. It had a wonderful and abundant vanilla flavor with a savory hint of nutmeg. The creme brulee at Bass Street Chop House is very good.
I expected to drop a couple hundred bucks on our meal at Bass Street Chop House and with a nice tip for Kyle we did just that. His service was very good and exactly what I expected from a fine dining steakhouse like Bass Street Chop House. However, I was disappointed with the most important part of my meal and wished I'd gotten like a filet or the Delmonico with a little more marbling. The aged beef didn't impress me and I'd say save your money and get a prime cut of steak rather than an aged steaks. Bass Street Chop House isn't for everyone, but if you do go expect to pay a little more than you normally would. It will be up to you if it's worth it.