City Bites

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: At Crazy Horse your steak is served by cowgirls and cooked by you

The Place: Crazy Horse was the name of a popular Kanata establishment that burned down a decade ago. A group of new owners decided to resurrect the name — and the country and western spirit — transforming a Mexicali Rosa’s in Kanata Centrum into The Crazy Horse Steakhouse & Saloon . In terms of decor, think wagon wheels, wooden horses, barn beams, and horseshoes as door handles — and a crew of Carrie Underwood wannabes as servers. The place probably seats 300-400 people, and I imagine it gets pretty rowdy when live country bands perform on weekends or when they bring out the mechanical bull. Suffice it to say, it recently won the People’s Choice award for “Best Nightlife” at the Ottawa Restaurant Awards.

The Deal: The music is loud, but the lunchtime scene is relatively subdued with a menu that relies rather predictably on big ol’ burgers and meat-stuffed sandwiches (there’s a veggie wrap and grilled salmon thrown in for good measure). It’s the Stonegrill concept, an import from Australia, that sets this menu apart from the American-style restaurant chains that seem to pop up in packs wherever parking lots are vast. Here’s how it works: special ovens heat large stone slabs to more than 700°F. The salt-dusted “lava rock” arrives at your table with your raw steak sizzling away on one side. At that point, you cook it the rest of the way to your liking. Every steak comes with a choice of two sides — from sweet potato fries or stuffed baked potatoes to corn on the cob or  Santa Fe rice.

The Dish: “The first rule of Stonegrill is don’t touch Stonegrill,” deadpans the server, who slides a softball-sized sizzling 10 oz tenderloin in front of me while outlining the procedure. No joke, this is one seriously hot stone and a massively thick butter-soft cut of beef that should require no more than a good sear on each side. After a few minutes however, I determine that it will be pretty much impossible to warm the centre beyond blue (rarer than rare) without ruining the rest of the steak. Ultimately, I decide to approach it like beef fondue, cooking a few bites at a time as per the server’s recommendation. While I found the concept of tableside grilling pretty amusing, and the steak tasty enough, the stone ends up functioning like a glorified George Foreman Grill. I missed the genuine smoky flavour and superior sear created on a real fire grill. Next time, I would order my steak the traditional way — cooked in the kitchen.

The Cost: Regular lunch items $10-$16; Stonegrill steaks $23-$35 (includes two side dishes).

Crazy Horse Steahous & Saloon, 115 Roland Michener Dr. (Kanata Centrum), 613-591-8884,