OC Review: RokPrime Steakhouse & Grille, San Juan Capistrano

RokPrime Steakhouse & Grill (Photos by Cindy Yamanaka, OC Register)

RokPrime is a beautiful steakhouse that opened in October in downtown San Juan Capistrano. The ceiling drips with chandeliers. The décor is a mishmash of chic Paris flea market finds and rustic California farmhouse attitude, with gilded mirrors, big chalkboards, stone floors, intricately detailed antique doors and simple reclaimed wood. Leopard- and cheetah-print fabrics somehow seem elegant, as does the brown butcher paper that’s laid atop white tablecloths. Waiters are dressed in starched white chef’s coats, which throws me off at first. I see a pretty chef in her early 20s approaching the table, and I think, “Wow, the chef is so young!” But then she greets us with “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I’ll be your server today.” That’s the point at which I suddenly see lots of these young chefs, er, servers, infiltrating the dining room.

When our steaks arrive, served atop polished volcanic stones, they’re sizzling and splattering wildly. It’s quite a spectacle. Clouds billow up from the rocks like smoke in a war zone. It takes only an instant for the splatter to overwhelm the table. Speckles of grease are everywhere, on the tabletop, on our clothes, on our wine glasses, coating our eye glasses, hanging heavily in the air, dragging thickly through our lungs. Luckily, we’re seated next to a window, and there’s a slight breeze today, so much of the smoke and grease cloud gets sucked through the portal before fully engulfing us…

In theory, the concept of serving steaks atop volcanic stones heated to 750 degrees sounds like a cool idea. But this isn’t the same as, say, sizzling fajitas, whose theatrics last maybe a minute at best. The steaks continue cooking and sputtering for 10 minutes or more, until someone realizes the meat is overcooked and needs to be removed immediately before it turns completely gray. But there’s nowhere to transfer the steaks. Apparently, the rocks are also meant to be our plates. Thinking quickly, we carve the steak into manageable hunks and stack the meat on our bread plates. Meanwhile, the rocks still smolder…

The restaurant claims to serve USDA prime beef, dry-aged and sliced to order in-house. But my rib-eye is clearly not the top-tier grade…

This is obviously merely a synopsis. To read my full review with the star rating and to view an extensive slide show by photographer Cindy Yamanaka, check out this week’s OC Register. Note: Subscriptions are required to access the OC Register online. We don’t give it away for free at the newsstand, nor do we give away for free online. Anyone can receive one week of complimentary access, but after that you’ll need to be a subscriber. Alternatively, you can always buy a single day pass — cheaper than a cup of coffee — for 24-hour access. 

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