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The Art of Aging at Primehouse

Learn what goes into the making of a great steak with one of Chicago's best spots

There are plenty of well-known and well-respected steakhouses in Chicago, but only one with an on-premise dry-aging program that guests can enjoy first hand. This interactive dining experience can only be found at Primehouse {616 North Rush Street, The James Hotel, Chicago; 312.660.6000}.

For those meat lovers looking for their next steak fix, Primehouse’s “Art of Aging” dinner gives guests an exclusive look behind the scenes, with a chef-guided tour of Primehouse’s lauded dry-aging room, followed by a seated dinner featuring the very cuts of prized beef, for an experience that is out of this world.

The experience is led by Executive Chef Dino Tsaknis, who worked alongside David Burke before taking over Executive Chef of Primehouse in 2014.

The experience begins with a personal chef-guided tour of Primehouse’s butcher block and dry-aging room. Once inside, Chef Tsaknis provides guests with a crash course on Primehouse’s signature dry-aging program, surrounded by racks of meat aged anywhere from 28-75 days, with a select portion of cuts even aged over 100 days.

Following the tour, guests will feast upon the very cuts of meat they experienced in the dry aging room, specially prepared by Chef Tsaknis. Dinner for four begins with Primehouse’s famous table-side Caesar salad. After the first course, guests are treated to a family-style serving of the best of Primehouse, including a 40 Day Dry-aged Ribeye, and a 30 Day Dry-aged Porterhouse sautéed in Primehouse’s “Beef Love” signature sauce made from the rendered aged beef fat, rounding out the ideal dining experience for steak suitors and foodies alike.

If you’re looking for a sneak peek before you dine, Chef Tsaknis gave us some background knowledge on what makes steak great, and what he orders at his restaurant.

DiningOut: What led you to create this dining experience?

Dino Tsaknis: We wanted people to really understand what dry aging is. We want to clear up what it means to dry age versus wet age and have people taste the difference. Most importantly, I think the best way to eat steaks is shared with friends and family, which this experience does.

Why is aging so key for steaks?

Dry aging is key to steaks because not only does it add to the tenderness of the meat, but also to its flavor. The crazy thing about it is that different aging rooms give meat different flavor profiles. We have done many comparison tests using the same export split in half, with one-half aged in our room and the other halves aged in other aging rooms around the city. With double blind taste tests, we could pick ours out over the ones aged in other facilities. Even when we used differently sourced meat, we could still distinguish between the one aged in our aging room versus one of the other aging rooms in Chicago. To me, it was a big surprise that our room and others actually impart a signature flavor to the meat being aged in it.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your aging process?

We do what they call “accelerating aging,” which is a form of dry aging. It includes more temperature controls, fans, heating elements, ultraviolet lights, rotating stock one to two times a week. It is a very involved process, but it simply comes down to a clean environment with proper air flow, all while keeping proper humidity and temperature.

If you could create your ideal meal at Primehouse, what would it be?

My ideal meal at Primehouse is simple. Take one 30-day dry aged Porterhouse and a great bottle of wine off our list. The most important ingredient for any good meal is the company to share it with.

What wines do you like to pair with steak?

For steak, lately, I have really gotten into stuff from Baja, California. They are producing real quality wine that has flavor profiles that make you rethink what to expect from certain varieties and uncommon blends.

Two recommendations that we currently have on our list are Emeve Malbec and Vena Cava. The Emeve Malbec gives you more balance between fruit and non-fruit components. The Vena Cava is an amazing blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon that gives you big body, big fruit and nice smooth tannins with an amazing hint of salinity at the finish.

What other specialty or private dining experiences do you offer?

An intimate destination for special gatherings, The Wine Vault, is a noteworthy addition […] The concept was conceived as a modern interpretation of the classic “chef’s table,” meant for private dining. It serves to complement the chef’s progressive fare. A sophisticated setting within the steakhouse, the room seats up to 20 guests and features a striking, temperature-controlled wall of wine, along with contemporary furnishings and artwork. The menu is ever changing and revolves around seasonal ingredients.

Are there any other seasonal specials we should be on the lookout for this spring?

We actually have a whole seasonal menu that is new for spring that we are very excited about! The menu includes all King Crab Cakes and Dry-aged Beef Carpaccio.

By Kaleigh Glaza, Online Editor