Taste | The Pines Steakhouse
By: Chef Alex Rivas
I am certainly not a big gambler, but when I found out that my next Taste mission would be at The Pines Steakhouse at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, I couldn’t wait to take a look around and learn more about what it had to offer.
The Pines Steakhouse is located near the middle of the building, so you get to pass a handful of slot machines on your way to the host booth. I arrived early and took the opportunity to look around. I was amazed at all the different food options they had available throughout the day, not to mention the Dodger Dog Cart at the entrance. I could see how even if you are not a gambler you can find a lot to do at San Manuel with the entertainment, nightlife and food options.
We entered The Pines Steakhouse and the excitement started to build as I remembered the great reviews I had read. As I was guided to my table, I couldn’t help but admire the great atmosphere—the décor was nicely balanced for a comfortable dinner atmosphere, but you could tell that as it transforms later into the nightclub, the environment sets a tone for a great night where you will build amazing and lasting memories.
I took my seat and started looking over all the options for dinner, and as I mused over the enticing selection, our server dropped off a bowl of warm, crunchy crust sourdough bread. This would certainly hold me over while the chef crafted our choices.
After finding out the head chef was from New Orleans, I had to try the Crab Cakes. They came out picture perfect, beautifully paired with a creamy creole remoulade and a fresh grapefruit fennel herb salad. The crab cakes themselves carried great flavors, with a nice crumb outer layer and fresh crab. They set a nice tone for the rest of the night, and I couldn’t wait to try many other items on the menu. I followed the Crab Cakes with the Catalan Style Fried Calamari, which were accompanied with romesco, charred onions, prosciutto aioli, and battered and fried lemons slices. The fried lemon slices reminded me of a sour lemon candy—I couldn’t get enough of them.
I followed the calamari with a trio of small plates, which are on special every Wednesdays alongside specialty cocktails, craft beer and wine. I dove into the small plates with the Half-Order Paperdelle, and lamb meatballs cooked and seasoned mighty fine. It was complimented by the marzano tomato sauce and burrata . . . how could you go wrong with fresh house made pasta and a light and tangy tomato sauce? It did not disappoint one bit. It had me excited for the next small plate, the Braised Short Rib Mac n’ Cheese. How does an eight-hour braised short rib taste, you ask? So good that I could trade in everything else for a bowl of it. You can tell that the dish was carefully crafted and was paid the attention it needed, from the melt in your mouth short rib, to the bright red wine sauce. It was a dish one could be happy to have as a last meal.
The final dish of the three small plates was the Beer-Battered Shrimp Lettuce Wrap. My only regret was that I didn’t have a cold beer and more wraps to enjoy them. Anyone could appreciate the beautiful pairing of the crunchy shrimp and bacon lardons alone. But no, they came with even more building flavor on top of flavor. I couldn’t get my hands on enough of the habanero aioli, which had nice flavor but did not burn your mouth.
Now that it was almost time to order our entrees, I decided to try one of their seasonal artisan cocktails. After looking at the great choices, I went with the one they called “Maximus.” What concoction could possibly come from that name? Let me tell you, it was built with house-made coconut cream, Thai aromatics, habanero chile, de arbol honey, peanut butter, and last but not least, Cîroc coconut. How did it taste? Mind blowing good! I didn’t know what to expect, but I couldn’t stop drinking it. The best way for me to describe the flavor was it tasted a bit like a curry, but more sweet, and it had this kick in the back of my throat from the habanero honey that reminded me that I just had the “Maximus.”
With a great cocktail and so many great plates tasted, what more could one ask for? Then again, The Pines is a steakhouse, and we had saved the best for last. The countless options made it difficult to pick one steak, but after careful thought I went with the Rib Eye prime bone-in 20-ounce with roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted asparagus. It was cooked to a perfect medium and melted in my mouth, and if the sheer taste of beautifully seasoned beef wasn’t enough; the house-made Worcestershire sauce was tangy and complemented the meat gracefully. If you’re not a Worcestershire fan the béarnaise sauce worked just as well. I also had to try the Miso Sake Chilean Sea Bass, after hearing so many great remarks about it. The sea bass flaked at first touch, you could see that it was cooked perfectly. It was beautifully presented with a black garlic puree and wild mushroom conserva and kabocha squash. It would have been a great dish to pick for those in the mood for a lighter dish.
In addition to my choice, we were also spoiled with a New York Strip, New York Pave and Prime Rib, all of which are pictured above. With everything I had tasted at this fine establishment, I did not think that I could give dessert a thought. However, after contemplating the options available for dessert, I could not help but go for something sweet.
The Pines Steakhouse from start to end puts a lot of thought into the menu, atmosphere and definitely the desserts. With classic options like Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulee to decadent Butterscotch Pudding & Chocolate Tart, one can find something they will fall for at The Pines Steakhouse. What really caught my attention, and I am still eager to try again, was the Firestone IPA SemiFreddo. A blend of something I enjoy on a regular social hour turned into a dessert. The semifreddo was recommended to us by our knowledgeable server and we were not disappionted. You could taste the beer flavor, but it was still creamy and perfectly paired with meyer lemon curd, grapefruit and rosemary shortbread. The unique blend of flavors excited my taste buds and I earnestly await another taste.
When I arrived at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, I was curious to see what it had to offer those who didn’t really gamble but still enjoyed a nice night out with friends to socialize over drinks and great food. I believe that The Pines Steakhouse fits many notes that all groups of people would appreciate and enjoy. With great options for entertainment and the offering of beautifully house crafted menus from cocktails to food, The Pines Steakhouse will take care of you and give you a night to remember.
The Pines Steakhouse is located at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino. Its hours are Wednesday thru Sunday, 5p.m. with last seating at 10p.m. Reservations are recommended, so call (909) 425-4889.