Under Pressure

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Posted February 4, 2010 in Eats

Steam kettle cooking might become very well become the tool that propels time-deprived, cooking-challenged schmucks back into the kitchen. But for now it’s a style unique to the kitchens of the Palace Station’s Oyster Bar in Las Vegas and The Boiler of Chino Hills, courtesy of Vegas (Palace Station) ex-pat Mike Ritter. If you’re wondering what steam kettle cooking involves, think coverless stovetop pressure cooking with stainless steel kettles, only instead of cooking alone, you chat with the friendly expert as she whips up bowls of deliciousness—the aromaticity of garlic and sautéing onions sizzling away in the kettle—that cause your nostrils to flare.

 

The Boiler is small, brick-lined place out in the boonies of civilization, dressed up by the few tables that encircle a large u-shaped bar and a separate wine and spirits bar, which seems vaguely removed from everything else. Sitting at the bar provides the best vantage point from which to observe the ongoing spectacle. Not even the plasma LCD televisions on opposite walls on the room could be as entertaining.

 

The Boiler doesn’t maintain a huge menu— few appetizers, a host of soups and salads, pasta, bouillabaisse and Louisiana favorites like jambalaya and seafood gumbo. The large portions of the Cajun calamari appetizer are a rather nice start, but are only to be let down by oysters on the half shell that are more fleshy than tasty, a gumbo that inspires minor comparisons to its Louisiana brethren, and a creamy, peppery clam chowder that, while tasty and fresh, doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of its San Francisco counterparts. 

 

Instead, it’s the Pan Roasts that stand out, a dish that ironically, doesn’t include any roasting. Pan roasts are a creamy, tomato-based stew heavily infused with herbs and spices (take your pick of degree from 1 to 10, 10 being El Diablo), and seafood. There are pan roasts dedicated to lobster, crab, clam, and oyster, but the best deal comes from the House version. This includes all of the aforementioned shellfish. While the stew looks deceptively light, the large bowls provide enough grub to satisfy two moderately hungry adults. I ordered mine with a spice factor of 5, mild to be sure, but enough so that the spice doesn’t destroy or overwhelm the dish. Every spoonful packs a bite of seafood, every bite a subtle reminder that simple cooking can really be some of the best comfort food life has to offer. 

 

Then there’s the issue of the wait staff, who verge on the overprotective with their constant hovering around the periphery of my vision. As it turns out, the eagerness of the wait staff works to my benefit as they constantly refill half-empty water glasses and clear away empty plates. It’s a pampering I probably could use a little less of, if not for fear of offending the pleasure of my servers and the otherwise blissful and satisfying meal.

 

The Boiler Steam Kettle Cooking, 4665 Chino Hills Pkwy. Ste. I, Chino Hills, (909) 597-9098; www.theboileroc.com. AE, D, MC, V.


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