The last year has been a steady parade of cardboard boxes and plastic containers, as my dining life has been relegated to the home because of Covid-19. Some of it has been amazing, while other experiences are clearly restaurants trying to make do in a tough situation. These places want to stay afloat, mostly serving what they normally would in their restaurant, this time in a disposable vessel instead of a nice bowl or plate.
It’s likely that some of these restaurants offering takeout will go back to dine-in only after the pandemic ends. And I don’t fault them for that—something is lost in the takeout experience. Great food can still be delivered, but it’s not quite the same as dining in. But a new delivery-only restaurant, The Finishing Gourmet, is working to bridge that gap, so you can feel like you’re having an elevated steakhouse experience from the comfort of your home.
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The Finishing Gourmet launched in Los Angeles in late December with plans to eventually grow to other locales. The team behind the restaurant didn’t start this venture looking to adapt what they had been doing to a new model, but built their business from the ground up with delivery in mind. Even before the pandemic, ghost kitchens have been doing the same thing—usually hewing closer to fast-casual fare. However, while many have talked about delivering a luxury experience for the home, they’ve fallen short.
It may sound a bit shallow, but a big problem with creating a heightened takeout experience comes down to cardboard and plastic. Restaurants put a lot of thought into plating and presentation when you dine in, which is harder to do in a cheap clamshell container. The Finishing Gourmet has clearly thought about its packaging. The sides arrive in glass jars that keep them warm, the salads and shrimp cocktail come in actual bowls; and all the red wine bordelaise even has its own little glass container instead of a plastic cup.
Sure, they go a little overboard with all the containers where even each knob of butter gets its own tiny jar and the kit includes tongs as if we wouldn’t already have a pair already handy. Yet, the overall effect is that it feels substantial and special. Of course, none of this wouldn’t matter if the food wasn’t actually good. It is.
The sides and starters, like the rich scalloped potatoes, or the wedge salad with Point Reyes blue and Nueske’s bacon, were as good as you’d get in a steakhouse. And the one bit of prep work you have to do—the 30-day dry-aged steak you sear in butter—rewards with the beefy depth of flavor you’d expect from our favorite temples to red meat. It helps that the 39-oz. cowboy ribeye, once seared, rested and sliced, creates quite the show-stopping presentation.
And yet, a large question remains for The Finishing Gourmet: Will people still want this heightened experience at home once the pandemic is over and they can go out again? While the restaurant was able to deliver high-quality takeout, it still can’t compare to dinner at a steakhouse where impulse splurges are ordered, trophy bottles of wine are pouring and maybe even someone’s expense account is the one doing the heavy lifting. With even outdoor dining still prohibited in LA, it’s a problem they won’t have to face for a while. So for now, it’s worth splurging on.
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