We were invited to dine at The Great Oak Steakhouse, one of the 11 restaurants at Pechanga Resort & Casino. Even though I often hear the name Pechanga all over the place, I don’t think I’ve ever stepped foot in the casino. It’s weird because I’ve been to just about every other casino San Diego has to offer. They had the Chinese New Year decorations in full effect and it made me happy.
The casino itself is a lot larger than I had imagined. We managed to walk around and quickly found the entrance to the Great Oak Steakhouse.
Inside was a large open area separated by a fireplace in the middle. I waited for some of the closer tables to clear out to snap a picture.
Even though the feel of the place is rustic and representative of the name “oak”, they did add a little flair from the 21st century in the tablet where you can order drinks. You can also tell from this picture just how dark the setting was.
The kitchen is helmed by Chef Martin Venegas, formerly the Executive Chef of Donovan’s Steakhouse. He prepared an amuse bouche of a pork pate crostini with pickles and a berry compote. It looks simple yet it wet our appetite for the dishes to come.
Normally I look at a bread basket and see a waste of stomach space. There are however, exceptions to this rule of mine. Happily, their fresh bread basket was one of these. The cheese crisps and olive bread were warm and delicious.
I enjoyed the lobster bisque a little bit more than Michael, but I agree with him in that there may have been a touch too much cognac for our liking.
These would be the only vegetables of our meal. The rest would be on the hearty side. The combination was easy on the palette and the crisp tart apples perked us up, readying us for the substantial meal to come.
Michael had his eyes set on these cajun seared lamb chops. I am so very glad he did. The cajun seasoning gave it a punch that didn’t hide the flavor of the lamb. Instead, it brought out all of pleasant notes that people don’t often experience because they try to avoid the inherent gaminess of the meat altogether. I admit I am a victim of this myself. Melt in your mouth doesn’t do it justice. I can’t see how it could have been cooked any better. The roasted garlic-potato aioli also added an extra dimension that put it in a league of its own. When a dish can’t be improved, all you can do is sit back and appreciate the profound skill behind it. Bravo, well done chef!
The steak was cooked nicely. Michael and I actually just got back from a trip to Dallas and we went to Top Chef John Tesar’s restaurant, Knife. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there that night and the food wasn’t memorable for the right reasons. We were very disappointed. The steak here at Great Oak is what we had hoped to receive at Knife.
I’ve had King crab legs cut down vertically for me, but never by a laser where it’s so easy to remove the meat! Awesome. I wish this is how it is always cut. I think I need to invest in a laser and bring it to Vegas buffets. “$2 for a laser cut king crab leg!” The crab itself tasted perhaps better because in a matter of seconds it was in my mouth.
No steak meal would be complete without sautéed mushrooms. Yum.
Ditto on that sentiment for truffle mashed potatoes. Nothing says decadence more than a dash of truffle oil to our already fancy meal.
The description of this dessert made it a no brainer. All of the ingredients seemed to check all of the likes on my list. In practice I actually thought it tasted better with minimal raspberry sauce. The sauce was quite tart and strong. Other than that, the Nutella ice cream was distinctly Nutella and graham cracker crust always is welcomed to my party.
For me, the apple custard tart was a more complete dessert in that all of the components worked beautifully together. The tart wasn’t overdone and had just enough texture to hold up to the salted caramel ice cream.
Wow, what a meal. The standout highlight if you haven’t guessed it were the Cajun Seared Lamb Chops. As soon as the first piece of lamb made contact with my tongue I closed my eyes in a state of ultimate bliss. Michael can tell you, that is a fact. I was hoping we would be able to get that from the dry aged meats at Knife in Dallas, but it was not meant to be. We would simply have to wait a few days to get it in our very own backyard at Pechanga. Everything was very well prepared, but the lamb chops stood out as the superstar of the meal.
Chef Venegas came out to chat for a few minutes and he is truly a master in the kitchen. The Great Oak Steakhouse has received the AAA Four Diamond Award each year since 2012 and it’s clear why that is. He’s also very humble and you can tell takes great pride in what he does.
Disclaimer: We were invited to dine at Great Oak Steakhouse and our meal was complimentary. However, our opinions remain our own.
Great Oak Steakhouse
45000 Pechanga Pkwy
Temecula, CA 92592