Umbria Prime Restaurant: A Rare Treat in Downtown Boston

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Posted March 31, 2014 by Luke Olsen in Dining Downtown: Restaurant Reviews
Umbria Prime serves up perfect steak.

Umbria Prime restaurant has ruined me.

There used to be a time when I would gladly order a steak at any restaurant that advertised a nice cut with some grilled veggies on the side. But those days are largely over now, as the steak at Umbria Prime has completely broken the curve. Up until my visit to Umbria Prime, I thought that I had a wealth of knowledge and experience when it came to steak. But after I took that first bite of perfect, juicy filet mignon, I realized that I have only just begun.

Umbria Makes the Cut

According to its website, Umbria Prime cooks “exclusively corn- and grass-fed, 35-day dry-aged prime certified Angus beef that’s seared and finished in a 1,200-degree brick oven, leaving the perfect char.” Upon arriving, I found that the restaurant boasts a sophisticated atmosphere without coming across as pretentious, which I believe is an important quality in a steakhouse.

There are some steakhouses that will usher you in with their elegant atmospheres and then serve you an overcooked rib eye or a New York strip that has somehow curled in on itself. This style over substance approach hurts the image of all steakhouses. But more importantly, it implies that getting subpar steak at a steakhouse is somehow acceptable given impeccable service and beautiful finishes. This is never the case in my book. By focusing on the quality of food and making sure they do it right, Umbria Prime writes the ticket to its own success.

Umbria Prime's interior is sophisticated yet unpretentious.

Umbria Prime’s kitchen is where all the magic happens. Photo Credit: Nicole Russo

Unique Layout

Coupled with Umbria’s focus on food over fashion, there is a full view of the kitchen from most spots inside the restaurant. This is a great idea, though the execution needs a bit more work. In theory, it’s wonderful that you can watch your raw steak be transformed into a perfectly cooked meal—but in reality, you’ll also get a decent serving of smoke if you sit too close. While this didn’t really bother me, one table seemed a bit turned off by it. In addition, the atmosphere was more relaxed than other high-end steakhouses, with a dimmed interior and the friendly noise level of your favorite gastropub.

With a comprehensive wine list and plenty of mixed drinks to keep most cocktail hounds (me) busy, you won’t have any trouble pairing a drink with your steak. I wasn’t sure if it would be a bit much to have whiskey with my steak, but I eventually came to my senses and chose a Bulleit Manhattan. I made the right call. As I took a sip of my drink after tasting my filet, I could practically see the elderly knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade saying to me, “You have chosen . . . wisely.”

The Meal Seals the Deal

So, let’s talk about that steak, shall we? I have to admit, I was a little nervous going in, as I really had no idea how well this steak was going to be prepared. Based on previous steakhouse experiences, I’ve learned I should be cautious about my expectations being too high. However, when the steak arrived at my table and I sliced into it, all my worries dissolved. The sear on the outside was perfect—a bit of crispy char accompanied by the classic excellence of salt-and-pepper seasoning. Within that crust was the coveted rare center, which held its juices and required very little work to consume.

It became evident to me that someone in that kitchen lived and breathed steak, because that piece of meat was cared for like someone’s child. I slowly consumed it with a growing sadness, as each bite I took meant I was one bite closer to being finished. As I progressed, I focused more on the mashed potatoes and spicy broccoli rabe than I had with the steak, simply to prolong the experience. To top the whole meal off, my steak was served with a bone full of marrow, which was rich, creamy, and a completely unexpected addition to the meal.

If you’re not into steak, the restaurant serves many other options, including pasta, fresh seafood, and of course, other types of meat such as lamb and veal. The seafood risotto tasted very fresh and above average for a restaurant whose primary focus is steak, so I’d be willing to bet that their other seafood dishes are up to par as well.

So now, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I have entered a new chapter in my life where I chase that steak, trying to find one even better than the one I just had. I have a feeling my journey will be a difficult one, but I’m sure it won’t be a journey I’ll much regret. So although Umbria Prime has ruined me in a sense by serving an unreal steak—a steak by which I will judge all future steaks—it has also given me the criteria I need to define excellence.

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