So who is Del Frisco? The Internet knoweth not. Suffice to say, it's an upscale chain, and Boston is its ninth location. The bad news: everything here is very expensive, it's so loud you can't hear your own side of the conversation, and the waitresses have to wear skirts two inches above the knee. I suppose that last part is only bad news for some people, but my mother-in-law was one of them.
The good news — especially if someone else is paying — is that everything at Del Frisco's is pretty good, the view is incredible, and the service is relaxed. The decor runs to moderne, with the Peter Burega abstract hanging in the front atrium reproduced on the menu cover.
Let's start with the view, which is a hundred yards left of the classic waterfront overlook of the old Jimmy's Harborside. Will the politicians and deal-makers lunch here as they did at Jimmy's, or will they go to the exact and deeply symbolic original location that is now the Harborside Legal Sea Foods? Either way, you peer out onto more water than almost any other restaurant in Boston. On a nice night at Del Frisco's, you can do this from a long deck and terrace.
The bread is house-baked, sesame-studded, served warm with butter, and good. I asked about the oysters ($17) and was told they were from Onset, below Cape Cod. It's a high price, and the oysters were fine, with every possible trimming (of which a drop of lemon is all I use), but not wicked awesome. One had the odd fluting of wild Onsets; the others were pretty similar to cultured Cape oysters: mild and salty.
Jumbo lump crab cake ($19), however, was extraordinary. There's just no filler at all, so you have a mound of seasoned crab meat, and I pushed aside the very spicy chipotle cream sauce and the odd dribble of green oil, and reveled in the seafood flavor. Calamari ($15) is of the opposite school: bland but dry fried squid heaped up on a long plate with bean sprouts, a sweet chili sauce like Thai squid sauce, some mild hot peppers, scallions, and crushed nuts. We demolished it.
Most tables around us were having a side dish of onion rings ($10) the size of inch-wide bracelets, piled a foot high. Asparagus ($11) are fat ones, lightly cooked with shaved almonds. Broccoli ($10) are under-steamed, without anything, as if you could be here on any kind of diet except Atkins. Skillet potatoes and onions ($9) are homemade potato chips with a lot of sautéed, even caramelized, onions dribbled on, served in a cast-iron skillet.
Steaks? Although the company Web site claims 28-day aging, it's not on the menu, and I don't taste it. What I do taste is seasoning, with a lot of pepper, almost like one of Paul Prudhomme's blackening mixtures. As servers will explain, all the grading runs toward rare. The 16-ounce prime rib eye ($43), ordered medium-rare, was red clear through, as predicted, and delicious. Its primeness actually meant trimming away quite a bit of fat, but with a pound of raw, boneless steak to start with, there's still plenty of meat. A special on a filet mignon trio ($60) was ordered medium-well and was pink most of the way through. Each piece had a different topping or sauce, but the rule of trios held, and we would have been happier with one steak topped with the blue cheese — what I took for meat glaze was overly salty and tasted burnt, and a creamy artichoke or mushroom sauce just didn't register. For prime filet, Del Frisco's beef has a lot of flavor to go with the fork-tender cut, so the regular version ($38/eight ounce; $42/12 ounce) would be a good bet.