A highly anticipated entrant to San Diego’s culinary scene has taken root at Del Mar Highlands Town Center in the home of former resto heavyweight, Searsucker. The 2019 closure of that Brian Malarkey flagship (along with a pair of neighboring businesses) left 12,500 square feet of space ripe for manipulation by the Mastro family, restaurateurs lauded for luxe locales serving USDA Prime beef and fresh-from-the-briny seafood from Boston to the Bay Area. In 2007, they sold their family of restaurants and have since found runaway success with a modern steakhouse concept going by the name of Steak 48.
Launched in Arizona (the 48th state, hence the numeric nod), that model’s progenitor has spawned satellites in Chicago; Philadelphia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston; just north of us in Beverly Hills, and now, America’s Finest City. Since debuting in mid-October, Steak 48 has been packed with first-degree foodies angling to be among the first to experience the latest incarnation of this steakhouse sensation. But hype aside, how does Del Mar’s butcher-cut slice of the Mastro family’s carnivore brainchild stack up to other local steakhouses?
With a novella-length menu sporting Miyazaki A5 Wagyu, a 45-day dry-aged ribeye, and the beefy benchmark that is the serves-two tomahawk, plus a raw bar stocked with a gasp-worthy supply of lobster tails, colossal shrimp, West and East Coast oysters, and three grades of Osetra caviar, Steak 48 makes good on the steakhouse raison d’être of providing splurge-worthy delights and over-the-top luxury (just about anything can be topped with a jumbo lump crab cake if you so desire). And with 65 starters, salads, entrées, and sides (not including enhancements or desserts), there is plenty to choose from and far more than most traditional steakhouses — or restaurants, for that matter.
That degree of variety is admirable, but what makes it worth the lengthy perusal is the creativity coloring it, which also goes beyond the industry standard. Case in point: chunks of lobster served escargot-style in a dimpled vessel with a rich gratineed mornay sauce and dollops of caviar. It’s original and so ungodly delicious, it’s challenging to wait for it to cool enough to consume. Lobster also gets the starter treatment chicken-fried and packed into grilled New England-style rolls with a side of green-chili aioli, while crispy shrimp crown Parmesan-graced deviled eggs.
Steaks are aged 28 days, dusted with house seasoning, then blasted at 1,500 degrees before being shuttled to tables on screaming hot plates registering at a third of that massive temp. On the subtler side, tang and zip from lemon juice and Dijon mustard make for a unique dressing on a truly epic wedge salad, which is served with cold cutlery specifically for that course along with a choice of fine or coarsely ground black pepper. That’s next-level and impressive.
Sides — an important element of any steakhouse menu — channel the same innovation as Steak 48’s starters. Classic creamed spinach is augmented by artichoke hearts, and the house mac-and-cheese can be ordered with king crab and rock shrimp. Either way you have the latter, it delivers the creamy texture of a certain blue-boxed product while imparting lovely flavor and saltiness from Parm, Romano, provolone, and what’s listed on the menu as “a touch of Velveeta.” And diners with a sweet tooth will appreciate a pair of sides on the saccharine end of the flavor spectrum: praline sweet potatoes with mascarpone and streusel, and creamed sweet corn topped with a layer of brûléed turbinado sugar that’s cracked tableside.
In an arena where size matters, the subject must be addressed. Steak 48 holds its own from start to finish, beginning at the bar. From generous pours of the 49 wines offered by the glass to king-sized martinis served milkshake-style with second-drink overage delivered in a chilled shaker tin, thou shalt not go thirsty. In the meat department, plenty of pound-and-over bone-in cuts of beef are carved out by the in-house butcher shop (along with veal and Iberico pork chops). That said, the menu includes a “small” section with a half-dozen steaks that are 8 to 12 ounces (plus 3-ounce portions of that A5). Going that route helps save room for a bevy of sizable desserts, the majority of which are also super-sized and should be taken on by multiple diners or an entire table. (Note: Make room for the ultimate warm vanilla caramel cake, with its butter-crisped edges and soft center cool gelato interplay.)
There are chef’s tables and other upper-class seating options at Steak 48, but no matter where anyone parks themselves for the evening, they will be treated well by energetic, intelligent staffers who know the restaurant’s marathon-length bill of fare front-to-back. From greeting to farewell, the wait staff exhibits respect, patience, and genuine interest in making patrons not only feel comfortable but also engaged, buoyantly congratulating them on special occasions and “letting them in” on off-menu items like a luscious, deeply marbled rib cap or a version of the whipped potato side dish studded with shellfish and seven-year-old gouda so they can feel important, cared for, and in-the-know.
Steak 48 has spared no expense in bringing its concept for a fit-for-the-times steakhouse that’s upscale but different and easy to enjoy even at top-dollar prices. The best investment of all was hiring dedicated staffers and enough of them so they can deliver on the Mastro family’s lofty goals.
So, yes, Steak 48 has all the necessary components to qualify it as the next big thing — sleek design, fine ingredients, hefty proteins, quality sides, a free-pouring bar, and a packed reso
list — but at the end of the day it’s actually the details that set it apart. 619.901.0048, steak48.com
Culinary Innovation: 4
Food Quality: 4.5
Cocktail Program: 4
Wine List: 4.5