Born and Raised
Posted on March 1, 2018
Chef Jason McLeod’s menu may offer culinary throwbacks such as Steak Diane, Duck à l’Orange, and Lobster Thermidor, but don’t mistake Little Italy’s Born and Raised for an old-fashioned steakhouse. Built as a stunning homage to a carnivore’s circa-1960s white-linen lair, with elaborate woodwork, leather, brass, and crystal expertly intermingled by interior design all-star Paul Basile, the restaurant looks the part but purposely chips away at its own façade.
The wait staff is decked out in various shades of formal wear with matching black Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers. Same for the bartenders, clad in white tuxedo jackets that give way to hipster shorts and whimsical socks spied when they venture from behind their luxurious marble stations to serve Martinis and Manhattans tableside. It’s a house of odd juxtapositions, but beneath its quirky aesthetic contradictions is a top-quality restaurant exhibiting finesse, knowledge, and care for its food and guests.
Upon entry, guests are greeted with the wafting aroma of smoldering coals from the open kitchen. That same smoky scent works its way into robust, dry-aged steaks, matured and butchered on-site in a room visible from the downstairs dining room. They are the stars of the show, and can be customized with a variety of supporting cast members including butter-poached crab claws or lobster and classic steakhouse sauces such as hollandaise, peppercorn, and bordelaise. Other standards include a prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, tournedos of beef anointed with foie gras, truffles and Madeira wine sauce, and a chateaubriand for two served tableside.
Lamb, pork, chicken, and locally-caught fish are cooked straightforward and matched with house condiments. Chef-driven creativity comes from an ever-changing “steakhouse salad,” seafood crudos, and the specials. An impressive example of the latter is a recently-offered appetizer applying Bananas Foster aspects to foie gras — hard-seared duck liver atop brioche with “bruleed” banana, foie mousse, and marshmallow fluff. It was a sweet, savory masterpiece.
Hearty, shareable side dishes are simpler, but equally delicious. Plump king trumpet mushrooms are brightened with lemon juice, and silken Robuchon-style potatoes appear to have the 50/50 tuber-to-butter ratio expected from this rarely served, indulgent treat. The caviar service further enhances an already decadent menu.
Throwback carts are wheeled about by personable staffers with a myriad of specialties prepared tableside including Caesar salads, French omelets, and steak tartare. Ingredients and culinary steps are thoroughly explained, adding panache and an element of entertainment. Carts are also utilized for displaying a range of hefty desserts. The showstopper is a towering, seven-layer carrot cake decorated with rosettes of thinly peeled carrots, a thin sheen of nuts, and a garnish of pineapple sauce. More muffin than cake, it’s a solid, spicy, semisweet way to end a meal.
While cart service is a plus, the dining room’s layout makes it difficult for both diners and cart-wielding waiters to navigate on a busy night. More elbow room, a separate bar, and a lovely view of India Street can be found on the second floor, where tables are more widely spaced, the food is just as tasty, and the bartenders still sport shorts and their Converse kicks. 619.202.4577, bornandraisedsteak.com Brandon Hernández
Photography by Vincent Knakal