Where's the Beef?

Pasadena's The Royce resurrects the American steakhouse

It's been several years since our city welcomed a steakhouse worth celebrating.

Leave it to Anthony Zappola, former head chef at Tom Colicchio's Craft, to remind us of the pure, atavistic pleasure found in a char-covered steak.

Zappola is leading the kitchen at the recently relaunched The Royce, the restaurant inside Pasadena's palatial Langham Hotel. Zappola has swapped the avant-garde European cooking of David Féau for a modernized take on the classic American steakhouse.

Don't worry: There's still anchovy-studded Caesar salad ($9), potatoes au gratin ($9) and wilted spinach in truffle cream ($9). Eventually, though, you'll be asking about the beef, and here the cuts range from dry-aged Pennsylvania prime to ultra-rich Japanese Wagyu.

The velvety steak tartare ($16), spiked with Tabasco, diced gherkins, capers and Worcestershire aioli, arrives with a side of fried potato crisps. It might be the world's most luxurious version of chips and dip.

We enjoyed the whole poussin ($26), roasted with kumquats and rosemary, and beef brisket braised in soy-ginger Bordelaise ($30). But after the scent of several oak-grilled steaks wafted past our table, we saved room for the main course.

Our medium-rare Australian rib eye ($65) didn't disappoint.

The Royce understands: If you call yourself a steakhouse, you'd better be able to run with the bulls.