Sunday, February 25, 2007

Prime Time

After what seemed like forever, 135 Prime finally opened in late January. Tucked into a corner of a shopping strip on Hewitt Dr. Prime has generated a good deal of conversation. It is at the top of the Waco price range. Although there are some options that will let you enjoy some of the flavor of Prime without breaking the bank, you should plan on spending at least $30 per person to get a decent sample of the menu.

Gabriel Rodriguez owns the restaurant. His family owns the Ninfa’s franchise in Waco. He says he spent about $400,000 to open 135 Prime. That is a big investment that will take more than a few customers to recover.

We arrived about thirty minutes before our reservation time and found a seat at the bar. The bar area is in the middle of the restaurant and divides the space into a left side and right side dining areas. The bar is comfortable with several chairs and additional tables that allow for adequate seating capacity. The wine list was surprisingly good. A decent number of by-the-glass choices and a good range of prices for individual bottles make this one of the better wine list in Waco. This was a real plus.

The menu was heavy on beef as you might expect but there were enough other choices to satisfy the non-beef eater. My calamari appetizer was not what I expected. The large planks of meat were tasty and the three dipping sauces were OK as well. Other choices like the medallions of tenderloin and crab cakes were much better. The salad selection was very good as well. The house salad that accompanies the entrees was well beyond the standard dinner salad at most restaurants. The iceberg wedge was enormous and covered wit a great bleu cheese.

I chose the 16oz. Sirloin. It was bigger than advertised. Mine was a delicious cut of meat with a nice char on the outside and a beautiful medium rare center just as ordered. I clearly came from a professional oven that cooked the meat at a super high temperature. The spinach side dish had a bit too much cheese in it and could have used a bit less salt. I would have preferred fresh sauté instead of this baked dish. With meat this good, it is probably best to stick to the basic baked potato.

If 135 Prime can continue to deliver steaks of this quality and this well prepared, they have a chance to make it in the Waco market. My suggestion is to split the large-enough-for-two sirloin and a salad – add one or two appetizers and a dessert. Unless you really want a full bottle, choose a couple of glasses from the list and savor them with dinner. Two people can eat for between $50 to $75 going this route.

There are some service issues and a couple of menu items that may not make the cut but for the most part 135 delivers a first class dining experience.