Like an elegant riverboat or a French Quarter dining establishment, the new Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse is decked out in plush velvet, sparkling chandeliers and elaborate fretwork. It is posh, private and a little bit Las Vegas (it is part of a casino, after all). But most important, it’s delicious.
The premier restaurant on South City’s River City Casino, Jeff Ruby’s is the eighth eatery opened by the Cincinnati dining guru. You enter through an elegant bar, where a white piano on a pedestal is surrounded by premium liquor bottles. Massive tufted booths and private ‘cubbies’ with dark wood paneling and purple velvet chairs set the mood for an evening of tony food and service. Tuxedo-clad waiters anticipate your every need in a surprisingly warm and friendly way. Of course, all this comes at a price, but you also get prime meats, lobster, lump crabmeat and other goodies that soften the blow.
The menu is selective, with about a half-dozen appetizers, the same number of salads, a tempting raw bar, about nine steak options (filet and bone-in), and a very nice assortment of ritzy non-steak entrees (Colorado lamb with thyme demi-glace, halibut with crab, skillet-fried veal chop, imported Dover sole, filet stroganoff, osso buco pork and beans, etc.). Entree prices range from about $25 to $49, with most in the upper range. And these babies are a la carte. Sides are $7.
We started with the Maryland jumbo crab cake, and I have to admit that I was not expecting it to live up to its price tag of $15. But it was a good-sized patty brimming with big-lump crab, bound together with a little mayo and some excellent seasoning: salt, pepper and Old Bay-type flavor (paprika, cayenne). A pool of Cajun cream was on the plate, but this baby didn’t need anything else. Be forewarned: The food here was robustly seasoned, especially with salt.
Next we had the Saint Louis Bleu salad, a ‘composed salad’ attractively layered into a large mound and wrapped around the diameter with long strips of English cucumber to brace it. On the bottom were shredded romaine and radicchio, then vinegar-soaked strips of Granny Smith apples, candied pecans and massive amounts of creamy Maytag bleu cheese. It was all smothered in a dense balsamic dressing—a remarkable and satisfying dish. Here again, it merited the price: $9.
We anted up $72 for the steak and lobster, and $35 for the halibut. The combo dish had a big 11-ounce lobster tail, fresh from the waters of Mexico. The steak was a 9-ounce filet, thick and perfectly charred. The seasoning was intense—heavy on the salt and pepper, less so on the cayenne. Also, under the steak was a thin pool of melted butter and a hint of lemon, both of which added flavor. The meat was juicy and tender. The lobster meat, draped atop its shell, was flavorful and served with drawn butter and squeezed with lemon tableside. Our side of asparagus had a good bearnaise sauce and about eight very thick spears, tightly trimmed and meaty.
The halibut gave the steak and lobster dish a run for its money. The buttery flesh was delicious under a well-browned and buttered exterior. The fish fillet was thick and large, maybe 12 ounces, and it sat on a medley of mushrooms, slivered red onions and crabmeat doused in lemon butter-wine sauce. Very good.
Desserts are made in-house—even the half-dozen or so ice creams—and should not be missed. There were New York cheesecake with caramel sauce, Key Lime pie, upside down pound cake with coconut ice cream, flourless chocolate cake, crème brulee and several ice cream flavors. Our Key Lime pie was divine, served as a compact, round, layered ‘mold’ with graham crackers on the bottom, Key Lime mousse in the center and a thin layer of flattened whipped cream on top. The coffee ice cream was so intensely coffee-flavored that it’ll keep you up at night.
There’s no question that this place is as tony as it purports to be. The service is impeccable, the decor elegant and the food extravagant. It’s true that these are not your average prices, but this is not your average dining experience, either.