Roast, that is, at Suzanne Tracht's Long Beach satellite restaurant
If you're at all plugged into LA's culinary scene, you've heard of Suzanne Tracht. She's the chef/owner of Jar, the steakhouse with a short name and a long list of accolades. Among them is a coveted spot on LA Weekly's 99 Essential LA Restaurants list, on which Jonathan Gold calls her signature pot roast “glorious” and “compelling.”
There's no better testament for Tracht's talents than this. After all, not everyone can take a bargain cut of meat and have it upstage a filet mignon. But that's exactly what Tracht does at her LA restaurant—and now at the Jar spin-off in Long Beach that bears her name.
Open since last summer, Tracht's is set inside the lobby of the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, with nothing more than long white drapes and room dividers separating the dining area from the check-in counter. But despite the locale, it's the farthest thing from a plain-vanilla hotel eatery as you can get. Instead, it's everything you'd expect in an upscale steakhouse: a space dressed up with a white-linen kind of class and staffed with uniformed servers who know what they're doing.
Ask any of them what's good about a dish or what a particular ingredient is, and they'll tell you as if they cooked it themselves. And since the menu is cribbed from Jar almost word for word, they'll of course suggest Tracht's pot roast.
They'll say that the meat is so tender it can be eaten with a spoon, that the gravy is finished with a splash of sherry. But you should come already convinced that you need to order it. And when you do, you'll find it every bit as good as it's lauded to be. It takes less than a gentle tug of your fork for the beef to surrender in strands. Then you push it around like a mop to sop up the reduced braising liquid to be swallowed in sloppy mouthfuls.
The dish becomes even better when paired with mashed potatoes. The buttery spuds are the smoothest I've ever had—potato coaxed into velvet. The side dish fits the pot roast like a long-lost puzzle piece.
Other side items include golden-brown French fries flecked with minced garlic and parsley and a vibrantly crisp and simple sauté of pea tendrils that's a perfect veggie foil to all the proteins they grill up. The latter goes especially well with the Char Sui pork chop.
Both the pea tendrils and the pork are obviously touched by Asian flavors, but since it's done in nuanced doses, none of it ever comes across as forced or awkward. The pork chop, in particular, is a measured and effortless adaptation of the Chinese restaurant standard, arriving in a hunk big enough to satisfy any hardened carnivore, and enveloped with the crusty, charred remnants of a sugary marinade.
Though it's equally hefty, supremely beefy and exactingly grilled to order, Tracht's massive rib-eye steak needs the whipcrack of a green-peppercorn sauce to get it mooing again. Otherwise, it's indistinguishable from steaks served everywhere else.
In a way, this speaks to Tracht's strengths even further. You can get a decent steak anywhere, but few will offer that sauce with it, or the option of lobster béarnaise. A good steakhouse will also offer shucked oysters on the half-shell arranged over crushed ice—but they won't be garnished with a delicate julienne of radish, or served with Tracht's thoughtfully constructed black-pepper ponzu sauce.
And none would ever have the temerity or the skill to dare attempt an appetizer like Tracht's amazing braised pork belly with a tart ginger broth and ong choy—a dish that must be eaten to be believed.
So before you order your porterhouse medium-rare, remember that behind Tracht's outward appearance and steak-heavy menu, there's an accomplished chef who can dazzle, if you let her. And she does a mean pot roast, too.
Tracht's, inside the renaissance Long Beach Hotel, 111 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 499-2533; www.trachts.com. Open for lunch, Mon.-Fri.; for dinner, daily. Call for hours. Dinner for two, $80-$120, food only. Full bar.
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.