It’s primed for success

Times Staff Writer

AS my group of friends and I ride up the escalator from the parking garage, music leaks out a door cracked open to accommodate a coiled snake of wires to the speakers. The music dives and twirls, the sounds of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem clubs all orchestrated by a DJ, whose headphones are worn so loose, they’re practically sliding off his ears.

Guests crowd into the bar, more and more arriving the later the hour gets. Everyone is dressed up for the occasion -- women in gowns and silk and cashmere wraps, men in snappy suits. A few hipsters are mixed in too, in track suits and gold chains, or fedoras and rumpled suits.

The Prime Grill has just hit town from New York. The town in question is Beverly Hills, and the concept is high-end steakhouse with a twist: It’s kosher. That means no sour cream with your baked potatoes and no creamed spinach, but other than those two stalwart steakhouse classics, you wouldn’t necessarily suss out the fact. Well, there are an extraordinary number of yarmulke-wearing gentlemen to be seen, true. But the prices are just as sassy as those at Mastro’s or any other ambitious steakhouse.


Owner Joey Allaham, a third-generation butcher originally from Damascus, has spent a fortune on the decor, hiring Israeli designer Eddie Jacobs to create a series of posh dining rooms and an indoor-outdoor patio with canvas walls that can be rolled up in warm weather.

The bread is warm and good, and when the waiter asks if I’d like olive oil, I say yes for once. He pours a gold-green oil onto the plate and sprinkles some rosemary over. Meanwhile, we look over the wine list, which includes kosher wines from California, Israel, Italy, France and other parts of the Mediterranean. Every bottle on the list is mevushal, i.e. flash-boiled “to retain its kosher purity.”

Executive chef Makoto Kameyama is trained in sushi and has put together a sushi menu and added some other Asian accents to the very large menu. Organic cauliflower salad is drizzled with sesame chili oil, but it seems a bit tame. Yellowtail “pastrami,” basically sashimi rubbed in dry citrus zest, makes a delicious first course. Both the “gently fried” beef dumplings and the confit spring rolls, though, have fillings that may have spent too long going around the food processor.

Kameyama has devised a good dozen special sushi rolls, including one with glazed black cod, tuna and sliced white truffle. We tried the signature roll topped with thin slices of Wagyu beef. But you could also do vegetable guacamole or crispy salmon roll too.

Tables are mostly big groups of family and friends speaking a whole world of languages. At the table next to me, it’s Spanish, and I watch as two little girls play with their bracelets and hang on every word of their older cousins.

Prime beef, aged in-house, is of course the specialty, and it’s quite flavorful, especially the 22-ounce Park Avenue rib eye. The ladies’ cut is a dainty 16 ounces. There’s also seafood, and a trio of tender lamb chops, braised lamb shank and grilled lamb sausage if you want something other than beef.

The vegetable sides are all organic. Instead of creamed spinach, it’s sauteed. Mashed potatoes are flavored with olive oil, lemon and garlic. And French green beans come with sun-dried tomatoes and tofu. But smoked asparagus is a sorry thing. I wouldn’t get too adventurous.

The steaks are still the best thing on the menu. That and the joyous spirit of the place. Nobody here is jaded. If you keep kosher, going out can be a rare event and to a big new Beverly Hills restaurant, well, that’s got to make an impression.


The Prime Grill

Where: 421 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

When: 5 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 90 minutes after sundown to midnight Saturdays; 4 to 10:30 p.m. Sundays. Full bar. Valet parking.

Price: Appetizers, $8 to $22; sushi and sashimi, $4 to $16 or market price; main courses, $24 to $60; organic vegetable sides, $8 to $16.

Info: (310) 860-1233