Last night, to celebrate the end of my MIL’s chemo treatments, my parents invited us and my in-laws to dinner at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino.

This place is WILDLY popular and I was looking forward to chowing on MEATMEATMEATMEATMEAT.

Upon entering the restaurant, the first thing you see is a enormous window into the brightly-lit dry-aging area of the kitchen, along with a display of the different cuts of steak available. The most impressive-looking one was the Tomahawk Chop (or, as the restaurant inexplicably spelled it last night, “TOMAWAK SHOP”), an enormous 32-ounce bone-in ribeye.

We don’t often take the boys out to high-end (read: expensive) restaurants, but they were absorbed in our iPhones, and didn’t turn into pumpkins or anything. It helped, too, that service was quick, efficient, and personable. Our friendly waiter spent a good few minutes going over the menu with us, and was warm and attentive all night.

For starters, Fitbomb and I shared seared foie gras with cherries…

…and filet mignon tartare with quail egg.

When in Rome – or in this case, Cupertino, California – you should always order the restaurant’s best. So both of us ordered the same entree: A trio of different Wagyu New York steaks.

The steaks were perfectly-cooked – medium-rare edge-to-edge (sous vide, anyone?) – and each were topped with flavorful sauces and garnishes. The cuts of Wagyu were fatty and had a great mouth-feel, but I still missed the beefiness of grass-fed meat.

And that’s the rub with trying to stay Paleo at any steakhouse: The restaurant will always opt to serve grain-fed beef (some even proudly proclaim that they only serve grain-fed stuff) because of the taste and customer demand. Alexander’s meat, for example, is exclusively grain-fed. When asked, our waiter told us that Alexander’s has tried offering grass-fed meat in the past, but stopped because “of the metallic aftertaste” and “inconsistency” of the cuts.)

Our table also shared a bunch of sides: mushrooms, creamed spinach, fries, mac ‘n cheese and corn. (Yes, FRIES and MAC ‘N CHEESE and CORN. Not all of us at the table are Paleo eaters, sadly.)

As we’ve said before, we don’t keep non-Paleo foods in the house, but on the rare occasions when we eat out at restaurants with the kids, we typically let them order what they want. To be sustainable, we think that Paleo eating can’t be coerced. We teach our boys about making the right food choices, and cross our fingers that they’ll actually make ’em. 

But that doesn’t mean they won’t see the bread basket their grandparents are eating from and not demand a gluten-y hunk. Or refrain from eating the mac ‘n cheese and fries. Or turn away the complimentary fizzy fruit soda that the waiter brought over to them. Or the palate-cleanser – a strawberry-orange granita – that arrived between courses. Or the celebratory piece of cake that my MIL received gratis from the restaurant. Or the humongous cone of cotton candy that was brought to every table after dinner.

I’ll admit it: I didn’t cover the kids’ eyes and hustle them away from the table. (I did, however, move the cotton candy out of reach after the kids had grabbed a few handfuls of fluffy spun sugar.)

Blech. Bad Paleo mommy.

It’s not the waiter’s fault, of course. The service was fantastic and well-orchestrated. After learning of the reason we were dining at Alexander’s, our waiter made a point of bringing out complimentary champagne and dessert to toast to my MIL’s health. These were thoughtful touches, and it made the dinner a very special one for our parents.

How was the food?

Tasty, but waaaaaay overpriced for nice but fairly standard steakhouse fare. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll gladly shell out for great food, but: (1) Alexander’s did not blow my mind, and (2) it was more expensive than meals we’ve had at Momofuku Ko, Eleven Madison Park, Saison, and other super-insanely-awesome places.

Yes, I do go off the Paleo reservation once in a blue moon – even when we’re not at Per Se or whatever. I am under no illusion that restaurants cook with coconut oil instead of canola, and that restaurant sauces aren’t “enhanced” with sugar, corn starch and flour. It’s one thing for me to consciously decide to have an occasional eff-off meal – especially when the food’s fantastic – but I learned last night that it’s quite another thing to watch my kids blithely scarf down sugar, gluten and soy. I might have enjoyed the experience more if the Faileo foods weren’t devoured so gleefully by my children.

Lots of people love Alexander’s, and eat there guilt-free. Sadly, I’m not one of them.

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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