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RESTAURANT REVIEW : Feeding the Dreams of Steak Eaters : The beef is estimable, the rest of the meal substantial at 100 West--An American Grill.

August 05, 1994|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Max Jacobson reviews restaurants every Friday in Valley Life!

GLENDALE — 100 West--An American Grill is sizzling.

When the restaurant opened two years back (as plain old 100 West), the overly ambitious concept--a selection of tastings from a large, fairly indecipherable menu--apparently confused more people than it convinced. So four months ago, the restaurant metamorphosed into a traditional steakhouse, better suited to its clientele and more in line with the limitations of a hotel kitchen (it's in Glendale's Red Lion Hotel). Now everything works quite well, thank you.

The handsome, spacious dining room, dominated by towering wooden pillars, has developed a surprisingly cozy air. The once-harsh overhead lighting has been softened, and a series of framed photographs depicting Glendale early in the century adds a homey touch to the walls. Now that the place serves an old-fashioned steakhouse menu, nostalgia pix (as seen in any number of other L.A. steakhouses) make perfect sense.

Much of the sizzle I referred to is provided by the hot iron platters on which all entrees are served. The beef is a steak eater's dream--grain-fed Montfort Chef beef from Colorado, aged for 21 days. The rest of the meal is substantial, in the steakhouse manner. All entrees come with a salad as well as a choice of potato side dishes. There are also domes of herb-crusted sourdough bread.

So you need to order judiciously, especially if you're going all out and getting an appetizer as well as an entree. There's a good shrimp cocktail, a true steakhouse version with four huge prawns hanging out of a huge iced bowl. They haven't lost their natural crunch, either, and they're helped along by a tangy red cocktail sauce that is not at all shy with the horseradish. Workmanlike fried calamari come with a light breading and two sauces, one a rather nondescript marinara, the other a gooey herb-cheese sauce.

There's a tomato-onion salad on the menu, which has a somewhat redundant air, given that you automatically get salad (tossed in a sweetish vinaigrette) with your entree, and I must say that the tomatoes, though advertised as vine-ripened, taste no riper than most you find in a supermarket. The tomato salad does have a tangy olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, though, and aficionados of blue cheese will probably appreciate the liberal way it's sprinkled here, giving it a powerful kick.

Now you are probably ready to grab that wood-handled steak knife and dig into a hunk of meat. You could order a tender and flavorful 12-ounce rib eye--a beautifully marbled piece of meat that cuts as easily as ripe cheese. Filet mignon is another intelligent choice, an eight-ounce center cut that is leaner than the rib eye and nearly as tender.

The porterhouse, which weighs 14 ounces, demonstrates one of the elemental truths of butchering: The filet muscle is far more tender than the strip, which constitutes the other side of this cut. The 10-ounce New York sirloin is my least favorite of the steaks I tasted here. It's not as tender as the other cuts, and perhaps not as intensely beefy either.

Our waiter described the double-cut lamb chops as "the best in the city," and I wouldn't argue. The chops (two to an order) are thick and juicy, with two ribs each, and mine were cooked perfectly red in the center, with nicely charred edges. The only other entree I've tried was the smoked and grilled half chicken, a trencherman's portion that had a somewhat rubbery texture.

The potato side dishes are all winners. The best of them is 100 West pan-fried potato, which is like a shredded potato cake, or perhaps something between a potato pancake and hash browns.

The desserts are pretty much those you expect in a hotel restaurant: berries in liqueur, an almond tuile cookie filled with ice cream, a rather tired fudge nut pie. But this is a restaurant that knows its limitations and makes the best of them. And for that, we can all be just a little bit grateful.

Where and When

What: 100 West--An American Grill.

Location: Red Lion Hotel, 100 West Glenoaks Blvd., Glendale.

Suggested dishes: Shrimp cocktail, $6.50; rib eye steak, $14.25; center-cut filet mignon, $17.95; Porterhouse steak, $17.25.

Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Price: Dinner for two, $30 to $50. Full bar. Two hours valet parking. All major cards.

Call: (818) 551-4050.

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