Malone's reconfigures the steakhouse model to suit our era.
Sturdy wood paneling suggests a man's world, but bottles of amber-, emerald- and aquamarine-colored glass twinkle like a jewel box. Some tables are too close for comfort, but the booths at both the Palomar (this review's primary site) and Tates Creek locations offer old-fashioned comfort, with hooks on the side for coats.
Harking back to the mid-20th century, porterhouse steak here weighs 24 ounces (that's 11/2 pounds). More petite portions, seafood and salads provide lighter alternatives. Even so, servings are generous. Malone's is not for the abstemious.
A warm baguette and a Boursin-style cheese spread with garlic and chives begins every meal. Drinks arrive quickly unless the place is packed; in that case, you might get thirsty.
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Fried appetizers like calamari and banana peppers ($8.99 at dinner), with the ubiquitous — and uninteresting — sticky-sweet dipping sauce, manage to be light and crisp. Even better are the marvelous oversize onion rings ($6.99), piping hot, steaming and sweet inside their crunchy golden batter. (Although not an appetizer, the fried fish sandwich ($7.99), with a large and lovely cod fillet, is moist and delicious inside.)
Salads run the gamut. The grilled salmon salad with baby spinach, provolone and candied walnuts ($11.99) was perfection. Also good is the Mediterranean grilled shrimp, awakened by peperoncini, kalamatas and garbanzos ($11.99). Less exciting is the California Cobb ($10.99) with underripe avocados, poached (not "roasted" as advertised) chicken pieces and chunks of tough bacon. A sometimes-underdressed "bottomless" "Lexingtonian Salad" comes with entrees. Of the many dressings, I suggest the red wine vinaigrette; the raspberry is cloying, the oregano tastes bottled and the citrus is bland.
Malone's pastas are compromised by unnecessary overdoses of cream sauce that virtually obliterate everything else. I could barely detect the spinach and asiago in the lukewarm ravioli ($17.99 with tenderloin medallions at dinner) or the red peppers in the bowtie pasta with very good salmon ($12.99 at lunch).
This is definitely from an era before Americans understood pasta.
Yet I know Malone's is capable of restraint because the broiled whitefish ($16.50 at dinner) — frozen, I was told by our server, rather than fresh — still had delicate texture and flavor.
Meat is Malone's signature, and they do it well. Medium-rare works for these prime-quality steaks, even if the center reaches only "warm." Try the filet medallions with Dijon horseradish ($22.95 at dinner), rosy inside with melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, or the 8-ounce filet mignon with tarragon-spiked Béarnaise sauce ($26.95 at dinner). They would probably taste even better on a grill versus the infrared broiler that Malone's uses.
My only qualm was with dinner's somewhat naked presentation — some asparagus here, a helping of whipped potatoes there, all stark against a cold white plate — but I suppose good steak speaks for itself.
The desserts, too, essential to decadent dining, have their ups and downs.
I tried to love the coconut cream pie ($4.69), but both crust and filling were too dense, and it looked as if it had landed in a white moat of whipped cream. For the record, the coconut topping did not taste toasted.
How about indulging instead in a DVD-size chocolate chip cookie ($5.99), warm and redolent of brown sugar, with a scoop of contrastingly cold vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce and caramel? Three of us almost finished it.
One of the best things about Malone's is its range, and if you order right, you can have a good meal here.
A three-course dinner for four with drinks but not tip was about $39 a person. Lunch with appetizers and drinks was about $17 a person.