From a kitchen inside the Clarion Hotel, executive chef Jeff Kirby concocts a diverse spread of Southwestern-influenced dishes from sandwiches and Tex-Mex favorites to tender, perfectly cooked steaks. Kirby and company keep the Maryland crab soup and other crowd-pleasing dishes on the menu and conceive new menu additions and daily specials to keep diners on their toes and to prevent cooking utensils from dulling due to complacency.
Flames shoot in the air from grills while chefs flip, chop, and cook new york steak, lobster, and salmon for diners clustered around teppanyaki tables. At a bar decorated with two giant lobsters and 100 percent fewer flames, the sushi chefs craft personalized maki rolls or specialty rolls with tuna, creamy wasabi, shrimp tempura, and other signature combinations. Red accents carry throughout the restaurant from the napkins and roses decorating the tables to the red shelves lining the full bar stocked with both hot and cold sake and pints of imported beers.
In Vallé Cucina’s kitchen, chefs form fresh jumbo lump crabmeat into thick patties, pan-sear them to a golden-brown hue, and drizzle their crispy crusts with beurre blanc. The eatery’s crab cakes have been hailed by Delaware Today as the city’s best for several years running. Vallé Cucina’s classic Italian entrees are held to the same high standard: chefs hand-roll gnocchi and drizzle them with slow-simmered tomato sauce, and accent dry-aged steaks with elegant flourishes such as peppercorn brandy cream sauce and blue cheese. Servers recommend selections from Vallé Cucina’s vast wine list to enhance steaks or Trevi Fountain reproductions.
Within a bi-level space, Twenty9 and its menu find room for both elegant, upscale dining and casual pub eats below-decks. Applewood bacon seals in the juices of the filet mignon ($33.50) and insulates it from jealous gossip between crab-and-corn risotto and garlic spinach. Free-range chicken ($33.50) adapts to the confines of the table with the help of butternut squash and apple-and-goat-cheese salad, and 18-ounce rib eyes ($28.50) leave room on the plate only for a classic side of veggies, potato, or machismo. The lower level slides shareable plates such as prime-rib cheesesteak nachos ($10.95) and burgers with gourmet toppings ($8.95) down the bar toward flat-screen-fixated munchers. In the warmer months, live music launches from an immense open-air patio and trespasses into the formal dining room to tiptoe amid warm wood tones and elegant cut-stone inlays.
Drawing on his culinary background working in East Coast bistros and stately hotel kitchens, Mile High Steak & Seafood’s Executive Chef David Robinson crafts a rotating menu of upscale steakhouse cuisine. Robinson, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, refuses to cut corners with his ingredients, going so far as to fly in fresh seafood and grass skirts overnight from the Honolulu Fish Company. He only chooses aged certified Angus beef for his steak-centric entrees, and he revs up traditional sandwiches and appetizers on the bar menu with high-end items such as shaved prime rib, artisan cheeses, and lobster. These gourmet bites pair palatably one of the bar’s signature cocktails or glasses of wine.
Even in his down time, Robinson keeps his culinary skills sharp, coordinating charity events for the Chester County SPCA and the Brandywine Hospital Strawberry Festival. But even with his busy schedule and impressive resumé, he’s still thankful for landing his “dream job” at Mile High Steak & Seafood.
Matt Crist, the new executive chef of Union City Grille, crafts lunches and signature dinners of handmade pastas, rich short-rib chili, and steaks seasoned with a house rub. An updated list of hand-selected wines and over 70 craft beers augment dishes that include hand-turned ricotta gnocchi and gourmet burgers. Guests can enjoy fare in the comfortable dining area, or in the eatery's cozy banquet room, accented with a modern fireplace. Sunday "choose your cut" fillet specials allow guests to feast on steaks discounted by the ounce, or pretend they are directing a film starring steaks.
Chef John Talbot delivers mouthwatering fare from the land and the sea to rest on Creed's elegant white tablecloths. Yellowfin tuna drizzled with ponzu sauce ($29) and chimichurri-topped New Zealand king salmon ($28) headline a list of fresh charcoal-grilled fish. Manager and sommelier Josef Plattner is often on hand to offer suggestions for which wine to pair with a New York strip steak ($38) or to mingle with a mustard-herb-crusted rack of lamb ($36). Though the menu favors meat, there are also a number of tasty vegetarian options, including the house-made vegetarian ravioli, stuffed with crimini mushrooms and ricotta cheese, served with fried spinach and a gazpacho coulis ($18). With its soft cream-hued walls and tasteful décor, Creed's is an ideal location for romantic get-togethers or business meetings with bands of ravenous highwaymen.