For prime rib enthusiasts, the standing rib roast at $28 is a beautiful rosy piece of beef that comes with a baked potato with all the fixings — sour cream, scallions and nubs of real bacon piled high on the halved potato. And that makes dinner. Lamb sirloin is not the thin slice I've encountered most places but a hefty 2-inch piece of meat. When I order mine medium-rare, the server comes back to say that because it's cooked sous-vide and then finished off on the grill, the chef serves it just under medium. It's firm yet tender, with grainy texture and deep lamb flavor enhanced by a slight char from the mesquite grill. It comes with sautéed spinach leaves and mashed potatoes and the lamb's natural juices.
Burger or French dip sandwich? I'd go with the French dip, finely sliced prime rib piled onto a soft bun, with its own "dip" of natural juices and another bowl of horseradish cream. At $18, it is quite a bit more expensive than Cole's or Philippe's but the quality of the beef is better. The cheeseburger is a neat package, a thick juicy beef patty on a soft yellow bun, all the fixings already in place, the tomato, the lettuce and some sweet pickles in there too.
The exception, sad to say, is the barbecued ribs slathered in a hot sweet mustard sauce. The ribs are very soft, maybe boiled first and then finished on the grill. They certainly don't taste smoked.
As for desserts, share, share, share. They're huge. From Houston's comes the apple crumble with plenty of walnut-studded streusel, thinly sliced apples and, to gild the lily with sticky sweetness, a caramel sauce. The best, though, is the strawberry shortcake, triangles of flaky poppyseed shortcake covered with juicy strawberries and lots of whipped cream.
South Beverly Grill does middle-of-the-road American food pretty well. The ingredients are good, the execution generally right on, but with the tendency to overdress and over-sauce things. Portions are generous but not quite Cheesecake Factory-size. This is a classier operation. Well-run and responsive to guests, South Beverly Grill has eliminated most of the negative elements associated with a chain restaurant. The food may be predictable, but that's the point. Never underestimate the power of the familiar.
SOUTH BEVERLY GRILL
Rating: one-and-a-half stars
Location: 122 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 550-0242; http://www.hillstone.com.
Price: First courses, $3 to $15; main course salads, $15 to $25; main courses, $15 to $36; desserts, $8. Free corkage.
Details: Open noon to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday. Full bar. Valet parking, $8 evenings; at lunch, 11/2 hours parking free in next-door lot, with validation.
Rating is based on food, service and ambience, with price taken into account in relation to quality. ****: Outstanding on every level. ***: Excellent. **: Very good. *: Good. No star: Poor to satisfactory.