It is unclear why anyone would actually order steak at Central Steakhouse: As delicious as the rib-eye probably is, who could stick with regular old steak when you could get pan-seared Hawaiian tuna with house-made potato gnocchi and mushrooms, or a grilled Cabuto pork chop with baby bok choy, fried plantains and a fig and walnut tapenade? With items like these, Central Steakhouse’s menu strays from traditional steakhouse offerings — though Surf ‘n’ Turf or macaroni and cheese were offered among the day’s specials — and ventures into more creative and sophisticated territory.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise considering the restaurant owners’ other joint in town. According to their website, Central Steakhouse was opened to capitalize on the popularity of the Filet Mignon at Bentara. Having run the critically acclaimed Malaysian-inspired restaurant for over ten years, Central Steakhouse’s owners William Christian and Chef Hasni Ghazali understand more than just meat and potatoes.
The benefits of experience are apparent beyond the menu as well. The restaurant boasts quietly trendy decor, cushy leather seats and extremely friendly service. The waiters are patient and accommodating, with no trace of condescension towards students whose budgets do not typically allow them to enjoy such fine dining.
But not everything at Central Steakhouse is perfect. The Roasted Duck Spring Rolls ($6.95) are only okay. They contain shredded jicama, carrots and cabbage — which are not as crunchy or flavorful as they could be — as well as Monterey pepperjack cheese, which is a surprising compliment to the roasted duck but contributes too much grease to the already oily fried roll.
The Panko Crusted Crab Cakes ($11.95), on the other hand, more than make up for anything the spring rolls lack. Laced with Monterey and goat cheese and served with a wasabi aioli, they are soft and delicate, thanks in part to the flaky Japanese breadcrumbs called panko in which they’re fried.
Other than steak, red meat does not appear much on the seafood-heavy menu, with the exception of the Coriander Seed-Peppercorn Rack of Lamb ($27.95). The lamb is a favorable indication of Central Steakhouse’s meat-grilling abilities: Ordered medium, it has just the right proportions of crispiness on the outside and pinkness on the inside. It’s served with asparagus, which is not particularly noteworthy, as well as coconut cream mashed purple potatoes, which look unappetizingly bluish-grey but have a lovely, subtly nutty flavor. The whole dish is served over a cranberry cabernet reduction, which is fabulous with the lamb though it swamps the creamy coconut flavor of the potatoes. (It’s also very much worth sopping up with a roll.)
As excellent as that sauce is, the House-Made Pappardelle and Shrimp ($20.95) does it one better. The dish consists of long, flat strands of homemade pasta cooked in truffle oil with three different kinds of mushrooms — oyster, crimini and shiitake — as well as grape tomatoes, sundried tomatoes and spinach. Four large shrimp are presented on top as a garnish. The vaguely Mediterranean flavors are strong without being overpowering, and the truffle oil provides the perfect note to round off the dish.
Even a classic dessert, a piece of cheesecake ($8) served with whipped cream and a raspberry, is just slightly off the beaten path: unusually light and fluffy, with a hint of lemon and a thin graham cracker crust.
All in all, Central Steakhouse provides an exciting departure from typical steakhouse fare. Its only real downside seems to be its prices, and even those are reasonable for a restaurant of its caliber. It isn’t their fault that most Yale students have yet to make their fortunes in I-banking. So until then, when rich relatives and alums offer a free meal, consider heading over to Ninth Square to check out Central Steakhouse.