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  • Writer's pictureDana

401 Prime's Main Restaurant - Lancaster, PA

Updated: Feb 26

I’m going to start this review by reminding everyone that there is a reason the site is called Hateful Heifers. We are picky. Nitpicky, even. We’re always nice when dining out, but we judge. It’s what we do.

We’ve tried 401 Prime’s lounge before, on 12/02/2022 and 12/20/2022, when the restaurant was still relatively new. There were things they did right back then that they didn’t do right this time around and vice versa.

We arrived just before our reservation time and were seated promptly. The dining room was busy! We were greeted by the server, who was pleasant but louder than the environment called for (and anyone who knows me and how loud I can be knows that's saying something!). We took a few minutes to peruse the menus, ordering our drinks – a Manhattan After Dark for me and a Port Authority for Alex, and starters. As always, we shared the starters. Since we’ve tried most of the other starters at the lounge, we went with the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and a half-dozen oysters, one new to us and the other one we’ve had and enjoyed before. Before the starters, popovers were delivered to the table. They were slightly warm, accompanied by a soft, creamy butter. The first time we had these, they were spectacular. We haven't had that experience since. The butter had an off-taste, not the same as the first time, when I would have happily scooped it into my mouth without any bread. The popover was overcooked, with an unpleasantly tough texture.

Then the starters arrived. The tuna was the star of this course. The yuzu vinaigrette gives it a lovely citrusy zing and the tuna was delightful. The only complaint we had was that it only came with four crackers. Doubling that would have been nice since piling tuna onto the crackers would have been messy. Sadly, this isn’t on the lounge menu, or I’d order it again there.

The oysters, though, were a massive disappointment. We’ve had oysters at 401 Prime before and they were solid. Not this time. They weren’t properly shucked, so we had to scrape each one to release it from the shell. More than half of the oysters were also very dry and shriveled-looking, missing the fresh taste we’ve come to love. I forgot to ask where they were sourced from, and the menu doesn’t give any indication, either.

Onto the mains and sides. Since 401 Prime bills itself as a “luxury modern city steakhouse” we had to try the beef offerings. 401 Prime does offer a wide range of cuts, from a $ 36 strip steak to A5 Wagyu at $ 43/ounce, with a 4-ounce cut being the smallest filet you can order. We went for the middle-range. I ordered the rib cap, done medium rare, and Alex ordered the filet mignon, done rare. The server let us know that they recommended sharing sides since they are large portions, so we did just that. We ordered the shaved brussels sprouts since we both love that vegetable. Both of us loved the idea of mac and cheese, so we also ordered that as our shared starch.

401 Prime does steak right. My rib cap was done to perfection, with a lovely and flavorful crust, and a perfect medium rare cook. Alex’s filet mignon looked fantastic as well, just slightly over rare. Between the two of us, there was no beef left on our plates at the end of the meal.

The sides were not as much of a hit. The brussels sprouts were good and Alex really loved them. I liked them but wasn’t as much of a fan of the dressing. The mac and cheese, though? Oh, so bland. And the cheese was somewhat gritty and had a slightly floury taste as if the roux hadn’t been prepared properly. There was a smattering of panko crumbs on the top, certainly not enough to warrant the dish being called Panko Crusted Mac & Cheese.

Onto dessert! I ordered the Crème Brûlée and Alex had the Chocolate Chambord Truffles. The crème brûlée was a winner. A satisfying crunch and a nice thick cream that was not overly sweet made this the perfect end to dinner for me. Alex enjoyed the truffles, but the only raspberries involved were in the sauce around the small pile of truffles and a few fruits as part of the plating. The truffles themselves lacked any hint of raspberries. Alex’s Espresso Martini was huge and the 401 on top was a nice touch. I went with a port that accompanied dessert well.

The young man who cleared our plates, Ian, was a delight. He was just so nice and exuded such positive energy.

At this dinner, though, something happened a few times that has never happened before – at least not in this direction. There were a couple of times when we were asked if we wanted something additional and my order would be taken, and Alex was ignored. Usually, I’m the one who gets ignored! It was just an odd thing to note, and it happened more than once. I found it curious.

Now for the nitpicky things. For the experience, the restaurant is somewhat overpriced. If you are going to bill yourself as a luxury experience, I really expect a luxury experience. That means not splashing water on the table while pouring and leaving it on the table. We also found it strange that the name of the linen company was on the napkins and, not only on the napkins but folded so that it was prominent. I don’t need to be told the restaurant bought luxury linens. The texture and weight alone should be a good indicator.

Overall, I am left with no real desire to revisit 401 Prime’s main restaurant. If we go back, it will be for the lounge. The restaurant does drinks very well, and there are a few winners that I would order again from their starters. I’ll even give the oysters another go, hoping this dinner was just an off night for whomever was handling seafood.

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