Can we talk about the croutons at GT Prime? The perfectly formed golden-brown cubes of brioche dissolve in your mouth after their initial crunch, releasing their buttery goodness. They’re delicious on their own and even better in the new steakhouse’s riff on a Caesar salad, which pairs shredded kale marinated in a tart dressing with white anchovies, confit baby tomatoes and a generous dusting of Parmesan around the pretty circle-shaped dish.
It might seem odd to open a steakhouse review with a discussion of croutons or even a salad for that matter, but they serve as a glimpse into the culinary prowess of the chef behind them, Giuseppe Tentori. Given a stellar résumé that includes his current gig as chef at GT Fish & Oyster down the street as well as 10 years as Charlie Trotter’s right-hand kitchen guy, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the Italian-born Tentori is, as he puts it, “a huge meat-and-potato guy.” Still, that bodes well for River North’s GT Prime, his newest venture with Boka Restaurant Group. Fitting a chef of his experience, Tentori isn’t afraid to shake up the traditional steakhouse model.
Once you step through the giant dark-wood door—a tipoff, perhaps, that what lies behind it is going to be impressive—your first clue it isn’t business as usual is the open kitchen in the back of the 5,600-square-foot space on the ground floor of a new condo building. Grab a spot at the 12-seat bar in the lounge for the best vantage point of the beautiful wood-burning grill and the dozen or so chefs working in the tight space. The whimsical, hunting lodge-like decor from Studio K’s Karen Herold features faux fur-trimmed stools, a huge custom chandelier, dainty jewel-toned velvet couches and two animal heads perched above the host stand (dubbed Chuck and Tenderloin, in case you’re wondering). Or, as Boka partner Kevin Boehm says, “It’s like a beautiful Game of Thrones episode, except no one dies.”
The most dramatic differences, however, can be found on GT Prime’s menu—first with what you won’t find (towering seafood platters, shrimp cocktail, gut-busting potatoes) and then with what you will, including a variety of meat, both exotic (bison tenderloin, and venison and lamb loin) and traditional cuts (beef tenderloin, strip loin), available in 4- and 8-ounce portions to encourage sharing. Odds are, once your meat arrives in its cast-iron plate, a steak knife won’t be needed, since the cuts are served sliced and medium-rare—unless otherwise requested—and butter-knife tender. That’s what we experienced at my table with the venison and skirt steak, which had hints of smoke from the wood-burning grill. Decision-phobes can get The Carnivore, which includes four cuts, including American wagyu, and is available in two sizes.