Once upon a time there were many restaurants like E.B. Green's Steakhouse. Huge thick slabs of beef centered the menu; the only choice a customer had to make was what cut of meat he wanted to eat at what degree of doneness.
Rare, medium-rare or medium? (To order beef like this well-done may well be actionable under law.)
And with the glorious, bloody hunk came these appurtenances always: shrimp cocktail, hearty bread and fried potatoes.
Then health concerns and political correctness took over -- people started whispering the C-word; how's your serum cholesterol these days, by the way? -- and the steakhouse was no more.
The eclipse, however, was temporary. Trends in food, like trends in hemlines, politics or anything else, are cyclical. Now, across the nation, beef is back.
This is one of Western New York's first examples of the renaissance. We're talking serious. In the new E.B. Green's format, "Holy cow!" is not just whistling Dixie. The room itself hasn't changed much -- it always had a sort of masculine steakhouse look with its dark walls, massive furniture, luxurious carpets and see-through kitchen -- but the menu sure has. It's very, er, focused.
"Our new motto is 'big,' " our pleasant waitress said as she poured a gallon-size glass of Zinfandel for one of our party as an appetizer.
The theme continued as she held up for our inspection various pieces of sanguineous raw flesh encased in Saran Wrap. (Thus following the procedure of the hallowed Morton's of Chicago; if this trend continues, those of us who write about restaurants are seriously thinking of buying stock in Saran's creator, Dow.)
"This is our 14-ounce double Filet Mignon ($28) and this is our 20-ounce Strip ($25). This is our 12-ounce Swordfish Steak." (Luckily, someone was smart enough to cook the fish first and put crosshatch grill marks on it -- drippy fish is not attractive.)
"This," holding up a spud resembling Barry Bonds' bat, "is our potato. And this," holding up an orb the size of Mercury, "is our Beefsteak Tomato."
(I thought the tomato could have used a little deeper color, myself.)
But say what you like about the menu, everything served at E.B. Green's is of such high quality, there's little to say about it. For instance, exactly eight people in Western New York know how to make a martini, and E.B. Green's apparently has hired one of them -- we had a noble martini.
The bread was good, warm, whole-grain and crusty, though I would have liked a couple of slices of good sour rye in there, also, for old times' sake. The Shrimp Cocktail ($7) contained five huge, sweet crustaceans and a dressing that tasted of fresh horseradish.
The salad was a nice mixture of greens. The wine list (mainly reds, of course) is varied and well-priced.
That New York Strip was magnificent -- God bless America! It tasted the way steak used to taste before the USDA started fooling around with grades.
Beefy, juicy, tender but not too tender -- after all, you do want to challenge your teeth a little, don't you? Also, at least 2 1/2 inches thick, all the better to cut with the super steak knives, made locally in Perry.
The Filet -- ordered by the companion for health reasons (this guy really believes that because it contains less fat than a sirloin, a filet is better for you than Mevacor) -- was terrific, infinitely better than most filets, which tend toward the wimpy. (By the way, all the steaks are so big, you might want to share.)
A Sicilian Veal Chop ($25, ordered with cheese on the side) was great.
And then there was the asparagus. We ordered a portion for two ($6.50) and it was enough to feed six handily. It was perfect asparagus, not too thick and not too thin and cooked to the exact bitey stage.
And then there was the souffle for dessert.
I know, I know. Cheesecake is the standard steakhouse sweet, but Green's is just about the only restaurant in this area with the guts to put a warm souffle on its menu, and we wanted to take advantage of the fact.
You have to order the souffle at the same time you order your steak, because the timing is so tricky -- a puffy souffle can deflate faster than a healthy diet resolution.
If you catch my drift.
Our Chocolate Souffle was light and pumped up, especially tasty because we ordered it with Vanilla Sauce. Great heavens, what a meal!
We just picked up all our doggy bags and staggered home.
E.B. Green's - 4 stars (out of five, provisional rating)
2 Fountain Plaza (856-1539). Beef as a religious experience. In the Hyatt Regency Hotel sits a genuine New York City steakhouse where the operative mantra is "big." Elephantine portions, showmanship, quality and prices. Also on the menu: Swordfish Steaks, Veal Chops, Maine Lobster and Roast Chicken (but who will try them?). All major credit cards.
BEST DISH: You guess.
NEEDS WORK: Spelling on the menu. (Sauce Burre Blanc?)
PRICE RANGE: The 20-ounce New York Strip is $25; the 48-ounce Porterhouse is $49; the 2-pound chicken is $18. The steakhouse knife set is $34. All prices (except the knives) include salad, potato and bread.
SERVICE: Very good.
HOURS: 5:30 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday
HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CHOICES: Roast Chicken, Swordfish Steak.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.
PARKING: On the street; in the ramp; valet parking (for which there is a charge).