At a time when many feel nervous about the economy, restaurateur Ed Bailey has forged ahead as if it were the '90s, launching a new local chain of steakhouses called Bailey's Prime Plus.
They're not just any old steakhouses, either; they're lavish, statement-making places with glitzy details such as chandeliers, and they feature top-of-the-line prime-grade beef.
The Fort Worth outlet, his fourth, opened in April, and runs true to form. The opulence hits you the minute you enter, its spacious foyer and waiting room outfitted with luxurious black velvet banquettes and upholstered red and black chairs. An expansive bar houses the obligatory chandelier and a colorful leaded glass backdrop. In the center of the restaurant stands a massive circular wine room filled with bottles priced as high as $3,200.
The dining room reeks of cash outlay, from the water feature down the middle of the room to the velvet booths inscribed with an embroidered "B," done in grand scroll type. Two eye-catching chandeliers have beautiful black glass pendants surrounded with glittery rhinestones. Is it over-the-top? Sure, but it's fun, too.
The menu offers most of your steakhouse basics, but with a few variations that set it apart from the norm. Thus: In addition to rib-eye, shrimp cocktail and creamed corn, there is also broccolini and cheese, and almond-crusted brie.
The most outrageous appetizer was easily the lobster-stuffed avocado ($15), a crazy dish that exceeded all definitions of rich excess. Avocados were halved and their pits removed. Chunks of lobster were then stuffed into the hollows, along with a spicy-hot cilantro cream sauce. The whole thing was then wrapped in a batter and deep-fried.
The contrast between the soft avocado and its crunchy crust was seductive, and the lobster chunks were a tender pleasure. However, given how rich it was, a little went a long way. It contained at least three avocado halves, though with all the lobster stuffing and battered crust, the portion looked as big as if whole avocados were used; three of us weren't able to finish the dish.
Bailey's house salad is called "that" salad ($5 for a half portion), and it's a winner, with mixed greens, dried cherries, candied pistachios and blue cheese tossed in a maple-sherry vinaigrette. All of the ingredients were at their best, with the nuts good and crunchy and the blue-cheese chunks sprinkled judiciously.
Other salads, including chopped salad, Caesar and spinach, sounded sufficiently appealing that a non-steak-loving diner could probably do well here, especially given the large portions.
There are half a dozen steaks, plus veal, lamb and roast chicken, and a good selection of seafood items, too. Jalapeño onion crusted bass ($29) had the most zip, thanks to its crunchy spicy coating and a spicy tequila and red chile cream sauce. The fish itself was pristine white and fell into gentle flakes. Oddly, the thing we liked the least was the steak, a 14-ounce rib-eye ($37). Ordered medium rare, it was on the rare side and cooked in a rather lackluster manner, with no crust or personality. It almost seemed like penance for not ordering one of the more expensive treatments such as a pepper crust or a topping of foie gras and truffles.
Creamy mashed potatoes made up for it, with plenty of butter and garlic. Other potato options include baked, scalloped and a tricked-up sweet potato ($9) that came with a do-it-yourself arsenal of add-ons: sweet butter, chopped pecans, tiny marshmallows and maple syrup. Onion rings ($9) were the big-bangle variety with a battered crust that seemed cakey.
The best of the desserts was a praline cheesecake ($9), a two-layered construction with brownie on the bottom and cheesecake on top, plus a drizzle of caramel sauce. And while much of Bailey's can seem larger-than-life, it also offers a French sparkling wine, Louis Perdrier, that's only $6 by the glass -- a nice gesture that reminds you we're in 2010 after all.