The Diplomat Steakhouse
Sacramento, CA 95814
Some restaurants you visit solely because of the delicious food, but there are some you might frequent for different reasons, e.g. it’s walkable from your house; or maybe it’s a quick place to pick up a banh mi to go when you are sweaty from the gym and don’t want to run into anyone you know. (Star Ginger, I am looking at you.) There is only one reason to visit The Diplomat Steakhouse, and—spoiler alert!—it ain’t the food.
The reason is front and center when you walk into the hotel-lobby-esque bar: two TVs tuned to the live feed from the chambers of the current legislative session. All around you will be the well-heeled and the white-teethed. Status whiskey and buttery chards will be poured.
If you need a bar snack to keep the booze from going straight to the dome and causing you to break your NDA about what your handsy boss did at the retreat, try the fritto misto, which is well and freshly fried, with small tentacles and other seafood and veg bits interspersed with slices of fried lemons to keep things on the light side. And you won’t blow your diet, because the bottom layer will become a soggy mess as it soaks in unnecessary marinara sauce, and you won’t be tempted to finish.
The buzzing, macher-stocked bar is a stark contrast to the sepulchral hush of the dining room you will be escorted into, empty save for one other table and chilly as a tomb. Your waiter will be convivial and breezily tell you “the deal”: “traditional steakhouse; everything a la cart.”
You will try to un-bulge your eyes in front of the server as you realize that this means that your $54 rib eye does not come with a sauce, and you order it medium rare with the au poivre ($5 additional).
The ribeye will come much, much later, served sans sauce, medium-well rather than rare and lukewarm. The server says the au poivre sauce has “broken up” and offers a (comped) “A1 demi-glace” that tastes like, well, A1.
You can’t help but wonder if a new batch of au poivre could have been whipped up in the 40 minute lag between appetizer and main. The side of broccolini ($15) is served awkwardly whole, complete with woody stems.
Earlier in the evening, when you were young and naïve and still had hopes for the meal, you were served the complimentary bread, which is fried. Funnel cake, you think. Moments later your companion says, “It tastes like a funnel cake,” and you gently high five.
Your companion is urged to order the duck breast ($36) medium-rare and in this case the chef goes rare enough to quack; especially disconcerting because it is also served lukewarm. It rests on a bed of chalky risotto that boasts a sauce made of that classic flavor combination of … garlic and cherries?
There’s no offer of a dessert menu, either because they don’t serve dessert, or maybe because the server is busy tending to a basement room party of fat cats who he confides have all ordered the tomahawk steaks, advertised as thick ribeyes with a “large bone handle.” No price is listed, but when you’re on a lobbyist expense account, who cares?