Review: Anthony’s Chophouse

Prime Location: A different kind of downtown steakhouse—this one in the center of Carmel—Anthony’s Chophouse gives the old-school red-meat tradition some new schooling.

November 2018Add a comment

The cowgirl ribeye plated with crispy fried onions.

Anthony Valainis

“How are your steaks?”

“Are you enjoying your steaks?”

“Did your steaks come out exactly as you wanted them this evening?”

We had barely sliced into dinner, and no fewer than four immaculately dark-suited employees of Anthony’s Chophouse had stopped by our table, on four different occasions, to gauge our approval. “Do you love your steaks? Can I bring you anything else?”

They were, for the record, very good steaks. An 18-ounce cowgirl ribeye—cooked bone-in with the fat cap neatly trimmed away to form a giant meat lollipop—looked utterly gorgeous on the plate. Seared in a dark outer crust, the deeply marbled, loose-grained meat sheared off in floppy, juicy slices and melted in the mouth, a rich and beefy glamour steak. The other cut, an 8-ounce filet with a lobster Oscar upgrade, had that essential smooth, medium-rare density, further enhanced by the buttery luxury of Béarnaise sauce poured over a mound of chopped lobster—a gilded lily by steakhouse standards, perhaps. But what’s not to love about an expertly cooked steak at an end of the caveman spectrum? And why does everyone working the floor of this high-dollar stunner in the heart of downtown Carmel seem so unduly needy?

Nothing about the 9,000-square-foot, glass-walled Anthony’s Chophouse would suggest insecurity. With its white tablecloths and green-velvet banquettes, servers dressed in crisp black-on-black vest and ties, and roster of hand-selected steaks “single sourced and raised on Midwestern corn in Greeley, Colorado,” the restaurant opened in August along the bustling main drag of 2012’s “Best Place to Live in the United States,” as CNN Money crowned the suburb that year. Executive chef Justin Miller hails from Hillcrest Country Club, and Anthony Lazzara, co-owner with his wife, Kayla, has a fine-dining bloodline. His father, Chuck Lazzara, ran Indy’s longtime caterer and special-event juggernaut Ritz Charles and has plans to transform the Monon Trail–side area surrounding the steakhouse into a $20 million cluster of modern townhomes, offices, shops, and a 200-space parking garage.

You can see how this might all come together as you sit in your cushy leather chair, taking in a spread of extravagant proteins.

You can see how this might all come together as you sit in your cushy leather chair, taking in a spread of extravagant proteins that includes a 32-ounce porterhouse for two, American Wagyufilet, and $94 flight of beef. The restaurant also serves a cayenne-brined hot fried chicken straight from the Nashville playbook, along with the requisite Faroe Island Scottish salmon and some nice jumbo scallops with parsnip purée and fermented chorizo. Massive shared sides range from silky smashed Yukons rendered potlucky with sour cream and horseradish to bright, sweet rainbow carrots caramelized with white sesame and honey-soy glaze. A plate of forest mushrooms turns heads when it arrives at the table, adorned with tortilla-sized shards of frizzled Dijon chicken skin. A sexy lobster bisque containing chunks of tempura-fried crustacean and garnished with the hollowed tail has just as much flourish. Meanwhile, both shaved-black-truffle butter and a 45-degree egg are among the seven “Personalization” options for topping steaks.

Conspicuously missing from Anthony’s lineup: a shrimp cocktail.

It’s as if this trendy Hamilton County newcomer is saying—to anyone who (rightfully) regards downtown’s legendary St. Elmo as the yardstick by which all other steakhouses are measured—that it is not that kind of place.

Lobster bisque with bits of tempura-fried meat.

Tony Valainis

Instead, it’s the kind of place that perfects a square of crispy, fatty, unctuous Duroc pork belly, layered with sheets of roasted meat that dissolve into a salty wisp on the tongue. It also has the brilliant business sense to offer that flight of beef, three 4-ounce filets presented side by side with little more than a sprig of microgreenery. The first is a sample-sized puck of the restaurant’s standard Prime cut. The second is a grass-fed level up. And the third amounts to a few exquisite bites of American Wagyu beef raised on a Northern California ranch, so comparatively succulent and layered with funky, woodsy, wild flavors that the whole production comes off as an organic (but brassy) sales pitch. Once you’ve tasted the difference between our standby USDA Prime and this impeccably marbled beef that descended from the famously coddled Japanese breed—well, you can never really go back.

Husband-and-wife co-owners Anthony and Kayla Lazzara.

Tony Valainis

Still, playing around with the tried-and-true formula for steakhouse success in this neck of the woods is risky business. If Anthony’s, as open and streamlined as a corporate conference room, is presenting itself as some kind of Bizarro World answer to the dark and aggressively wood-paneled men’s-club tradition we are used to, then maybe it has good reason to come off as a little starved for feedback.

The new steakhouse on the block tugged at the heartstrings of culinary old-timers by building a piece of Carmel’s fine-dining history into its floor plan. The second-level dining room houses the original mahogany bar from The Glass Chimney, chef Dieter Puska’s beloved Old Meridian Street nod to French cuisine that lavished diners with chateaubriand, flaming desserts, and other dishes of the Oysters Rockefeller era for 32 years, until it closed in 2008. Bru Burger Bar eventually repurposed the space. “The bar itself is more of a novelty. It only has four chairs,” says Anthony Lazzara, who stored the disassembled artifact in his sister’s basement and uncle’s barn for two and a half years, waiting to give it (as well as Puska’s cherished cognac collection) a new home. “That place had such a loyal following,” he says. “We wanted to keep a piece of it for Carmel.”

They seat people up there on the weekend. To be honest, though, most of the action is downstairs, in the main bar that bustles just inside the front door. Maybe there is a bit of Cheers-like charm to leaning against some polished granite at a flashy, theater-in-the-round bar manned by ’tenders who can shake Tanqueray martinis with one hand and torch sprigs of rosemary to perfume the $12 Flora & Fumo cocktail with the other. It’s fine to mix the old with the new. But if you’re going to break out of a mold, you might as well do it with some attitude.

Anthony’s Chophouse
201 W. Main St., Carmel, 317-740-0900

HOURS
Mon.–Sat. 4:30–10 p.m.

VIBE
Fresh meat market

TAB Appetizers and other starters $14–$24, steaks $34–$110, non-steak entrées $22–$41, sides $10–$14

3-STAR RATING ★★

TASTING NOTES Serious steaks with nontraditional à la carte sides and a show bar.

NEIGHBORHOOD Carmel

MUST-ORDER
The pork-belly starter, followed by a medium-rare cowgirl ribeye and an embarrassingly large serving of fluffy-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside house-cut fries.

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