When I first heard about Chef Adam Perry Lang, I had no idea about his pedigree. I knew nothing about him other than he was this chef “making great BBQ outside Jimmy Kimmel Live!” a few years back, as a guest pop-up event.
Hearing from trusted FTC’ers, we decided to give it a try and his BBQ offerings were delicious. Intensely smoky, meaty and just delicious, we were sad that it was only a pop-up, but then heard him chatting it up with everyone in line about opening a restaurant in L.A.! A permanent spot serving his delicious BBQ? That sounded like a winner.
Fast forward a few years, and Chef Lang has finally finished building out his restaurant - APL Restaurant - in the heart of Hollywood (near the madhouse / tourist trap area around Pantages Theater).
However, APL Restaurant turns out to be Chef Lang’s interpretation of a modern Steakhouse(!), not a BBQ restaurant (what we loved when he had a pop-up in L.A.), which seemed strange to us (that he showed up 2 years in a row as a pop-up, promoting great BBQ and then deciding to open up a Steakhouse).
But Chef Lang has worked at Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants such as Guy Savoy, Le Cirque and Daniel in New York, so surely this would reflect in APL Restaurant (or so we hoped).
Walking in, the tone, lighting and atmosphere feel… off. It’s cold and impersonal. My friend whispered to me: “Doesn’t this look like a nicer version of Maggiano’s?” I thought @PorkyBelly’s description fit as well: A nicer, darker version of a Corner Bakery or something.
Decadent French Onion Soup:
This looked beautiful when it arrived, a messy, oozing cheesy mess. The Cheese is nice and melted, the Onion Soup is good (not overly salty like many places), and overall, it tasted like a good, familiar, classic French Onion Soup.
APL “Felony” Knife ($950.01):
And then our server presents Chef Lang’s APL “Felony” Knife - Handmade by Chef Lang himself and ultra-sharp (named “Felony” Knife because Chef Lang will prosecute you if you attempt to steal it). It looks utilitarian and simple, but it was definitely sharp and cut through the meats we ordered with ease.
So, it turned out they sold out of the APL Short Ribs! (Before 7 p.m., uhm…) When we made a reservation we even told them how excited we were to try the Short Ribs, and only after we ordered and were going to get our mains that the server mentions that they had no Short Ribs left.
Since the majority of the menu was Chef Lang’s homage to an American Steakhouse and features a bunch of Steaks (and he dry ages his own Steaks in-house), we decided to try some of those offerings…
NY Strip “Prime Rib” King’s Cut:
First, in a sign of just how poorly trained their staff are, for a Steakhouse, where you’re supposed to take pride in your products, you’d expect the servers to know where the Beef comes from? (Basic, right?)
Our server had no idea where the Beef came from. Then they remembered, “Somewhere up north.” Then they said, “I think it’s Harris Ranch.” (We would later find out it wasn’t.)
The NY Strip “Prime Rib” was Non-Aged, and menu listed it as “Prime Rib.” When it arrived, it looked a bit lonely and sad on the plate.
It had the pinkish color of Prime Rib, but there was no Au Jus, no Horseradish, nothing. Just this slab of meat. We took a bite…
It was lukewarm. It was tender, and it did evoke the taste of eating “Prime Rib,” but it also tasted a bit bland by itself.
There was no option for Au Jus or Horseradish, either.
Cauliflower Steak (Crispy Garlic, Chili):
The Cauliflower Steak arrived, and it was a fried golden brown head of Cauliflower. It was pretty tasty and the highlight of our meal this evening.
Dry Aged Brooklyn Broil - Ribeye Steak:
This was part of their Dry Aged section, and featured a 100 Day(!) Dry-Aged USDA Prime Ribeye Steak, which sounded wonderful. It was a nice medium-rare:
Taking a bite…
There was the funk from the Dry Aged Beef, which was so pronounced you couldn’t miss it (a good thing). However, as we started taking more than a couple bites, we all noticed how chewy it was.
It was definitely dry-aged and sufficiently pungent & beefy, but it was full of gristle and was stringy in sections(!).
The flavor beyond the dry aging was fine, but nothing outstanding. (We had one of our biggest Steak lovers with us this evening, and we all agreed that the gap between CUT by Wolfgang Puck and APL was so great that there was simply no comparison (it was even worse than Felix’s $260 Bistecca).
APL Steak Sauce:
The $4 side of APL Steak Sauce did not help much. It was like Chef Lang’s take on A1 Sauce (but in a different way). It added some sweetness that didn’t really complement the Dry Aged Ribeye.
Mashed Potatoes (Buerre de Barratte Butter):
The Mashed Potatoes were OK. It was nicely pureed and smooth, but the Buerre de Barratte strangely didn’t really shine here.
Fuck Dat Fries (Malt Vinegar, Salt):
Any FTC’er here can see by this picture that these Fries were not fried at the right temperature. They were saturated and soaked with Oil! They tasted even worse than they looked: Limp, soggy, oily, terrible.
We also couldn’t really taste any Duck Fat, and reading @PorkyBelly’s experience explained it: That they couldn’t get Duck Fat in time to cook the Fries in, so they just used regular Oil(?!). Our server never mentioned anything to us about that shortcoming and yet they were sold as Duck Fat Fries. This felt like a bait-and-switch and false advertising.
At this point, our first dining experience at APL Restaurant was so awful and disappointing, I couldn’t bring myself to go again. Reading @PorkyBelly’s experience with the Short Ribs just made it even worse (it should’ve been their star dish).
But hearing from a few other FTC’ers on the following days receive Short Ribs that weren’t dried out like PorkyBelly’s made us reconsider. You all know that I try to go back to a restaurant more than once to give it a fair shake, unless it was so bad (or budget / time considerations) that I just couldn’t do it.
I was right there with APL Restaurant: It was so awful, I really didn’t want to back. But we found a couple other guinea pi… er, friends who wanted to go with us and try out the famous Short Ribs, that we went back.
Walking in, even having gotten used to it, it still feels cold and totally not like a “Steakhouse” vibe at all.
Fuck Dat Fries (Malt Vinegar, Salt):
We took a chance and wanted to see if the kitchen improved since their opening weekend. First, we asked our server who said, “Yes, the Fries are fried in Duck Fat today.”
First they looked much better than our 1st visit. They were slightly crisped, but a bit oversalted. And none of us at the table could tell it was fried in Duck Fat (if it really was or not). In addition, (you can see it in the pics a bit), many of the Fries had rotting / black chunks that weren’t properly cleaned / cored out.
At $9 for this tiny portion, it was such a far cry from the amazing Fries at Connie & Ted’s (double fried, wonderfully crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and our favorite Fries in L.A. right now!). Just look at Connie & Ted’s Fries (this is from another great Brunch a few weeks ago):
and at $6 for about 250% of the portion of what you get at APL Restaurant, it’s a joke.
Classic Shrimp Cocktail:
Not as bad as @PorkyBelly’s experience with the $10 Raw Onions here…
- News Flash: FTC and @PorkyBelly have made a difference: They are now selling the Cold Sweet Onions for… $3 (with the same description, and no mention of Tomatoes anywhere). So I guess they just ripped off PorkyBelly and then decided to change the pricing later.
But their Shrimp Cocktail arrives with all of 3 Shrimp… for $24 (which turns into ~$32 after tax & healthy surcharge & tip)!
The Chilled Shrimp tastes fresh and meaty, but there was nothing here that screamed “Must Order” or that it was superior to any great Shrimp Cocktail around the city.
Steamed Asparagus (Hollandaise):
This tasted seriously like Steamed Asparagus (that I can make at home). The Hollandaise added some creaminess, but actually overpowered the Asparagus.
APL “Felony” Knife arrives, signaling the time for meat…
Signature APL Short Rib (with Pickle Salad):
This time we called ahead to reserve the Short Rib dish.
First off, it is a huge pile of meat. It looked delicious. The top pieces were leaner and as you got closer to the bone, it got fattier.
The Short Rib meat was generally tender and moist (@PorkyBelly it seems you have helped improve the experience with your report). There was only a couple slightly dry pieces on the edges, but most of it had no dry issues.
However the seasoning was a bit off in parts: In maybe about 10 - 15% of the bites I took, it was really salty (like it wasn’t evenly seasoned), but the rest of it was fine (no Salt issues).
Secondly, while tender and moist and tasty, it lacked the smokiness of Chef Lang’s Ribs at the Jimmy Kimmel Live! Pop-Up he did (we liked the flavor and smokiness much more back then).
It tasted like you were eating a nice tender, “Roasted Brisket” or “Roasted Rib” with some Black Pepper and Salt notes, with maybe just a hint of some smokiness, but it was practically non-existent compared to his Jimmy Kimmel Pop-Up.
Otherwise, it was pretty tasty, slow-cooked meat overall.
But at $175, the only thing it came with were his Pickle Salad:
Which was sufficiently tart to help cut through the fattiness of the Short Ribs and tasty, but it was just a small cup of the Pickles. Seeing the reports on Majordomo’s version with so many more accompanying sides (and turning the rest of it into a Beef Rice dish), just makes this seem like poor QPR.
Service was mediocre throughout both of our visits. Servers forgetting to refill drinks or clear plates in a timely manner. At one point on our 2nd visit, we were out of Water for the table for a while. Multiple servers and busboys passed by and no one bothered to get us a replacement. We even tried to flag a couple of them down but they were in a hurry and didn’t see us. Then, when they finally brought us a refilled Water for the table, we had 3 empty cups amongst us, and the server poured 1 cup and left. Oh well.
APL Restaurant’s goal (from their website) is to reinterpret the contemporary Steakhouse. Unfortunately, the only thing that evokes “Steakhouse” are the high prices across the board for appetizers, mains and sides. There are some solid executions of things like the French Onion Soup and Cauliflower, but then you get totally overpriced items like 3 pieces of Shrimp in the Shrimp Cocktail for $24 ($32 after taxy, tip and surcharge), and the sad, gristle-ridden Dry Aged Ribeye Steak and so-so NY Strip “Prime Rib” King’s Cut.
Their Signature APL Short Rib is tasty and tender, but lacks the great smokiness and “BBQ” flavors that made Chef Lang’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! Pop-Up so good that this feels like a disappointment. But overlooking the lack of smokiness, all of us felt that dropping ~$230 (after tax, tip and surcharge) for the Short Ribs (with nothing else included) felt like a poor value, and something we had no urgency returning for at this price and execution.
APL Restaurant is striving to be a great Steakhouse, but it is so far behind CUT by Wolfgang Puck in terms of variety of Steaks, incredible flavor, texture, aroma, professional service, atmosphere, execution and more that there is no comparison. I’m hoping they improve over time, but in its current form, we’re in no rush to return.
1680 Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tel: (323) 416-1280