Restaurant Review - Cabernet

It’s easy to imagine that actual cows stood on the site of Alpharetta steakhouse Cabernet not so long ago. It’s located way up Ga. 400 on Windward Parkway, a road lined with corporate office parks that still has faint signs of being “in the country” not so long ago. The trees and grass knolls untouched by the landscapers have a stunned look, as if wondering, “Where did all these SUVs come from?”

Cabernet’s property obviously isn’t a home for cattle, but it does provide them a final destination. Serving businesses with such homespun, mom ‘n’ pop names as Compaq, Nortel and AmeriSuites, Cabernet proves to be an A-list steakhouse, with its distance from the city being its only drawback, for intowners anyway.

Many upscale steakhouses that cater to the expense account crowd all but drip with testosterone, but Cabernet seems refreshingly secure in its masculinity. And often, high-end meat palaces, however pricey, have a dim, cave-like atmosphere, but Cabernet, despite looking like a suburban bank from the outside, has a surprisingly light and spacious interior. The cool, cream-colored paint on the walls and the vaulted ceiling foster a feeling of relative brightness and headroom.

The handsome Arts and Crafts design style of the dining room, cozy bar and private room upstairs suits form and function — the comfy banquettes of the booths provide lumbar support for commuters. You’ll be happy to sit near the exhibition kitchen and catch the savory aromas of meat being grilled.

Cabernet embraces the notion that diners should pay high prices for red meat. Even at lunch, the steak cuts have dinner prices, meaning there’s none for less than $26.95. No sides accompanied my 16-ounce cut of prime ribeye ($28.95), as if paying that much solely for a piece of beef is a kind of status symbol.

That said, it’s a more than ample cut of beef, with gorgeously burnished meat that’s delectable even to look at, having just enough black searing to off-set the deep redness of the exterior. Neither over-seasoned nor cut too thick, it has a hearty flavor without being overly smoky, and is rich enough to sate you before you’re halfway finished.

The kitchen’s attention to detail extends beyond the beef. The Cabernet steak sandwich ($12.95) isn’t just a slab of red meat between slices of bread to keep the juice off your fingers. Instead, it includes romaine lettuce, Vidalia onion, sliced tomato and Gruyere cheese on onion focaccia bread. The faint sharpness of the cheese and pungency of the onion almost overwhelm the grilled beef tenderloin, which is nicely tender, not too thin or fatty like many sandwich cuts of steak can be.

Other choices suit the non-carnivorous parts of the palate. The complementary bread includes sweet nut-raisin slices. A pleasing level of care goes into the mixed green salad, a thoroughly yum my combination that includes cinnamon apples, roasted pine nuts, a raspberry vinaigrette and plenty of crumbled goat cheese.

Also fine was the appetizer of smoked Norwegian salmon ($8.95 at lunch), the thin layer of fish topped with capers, fine bits of onion and stripes of creamy dill sauce. The extras proved pleasantly mild, with the salmon itself being fresh and not at all “fishy” in flavor.

The herb-roasted chicken entree ($12.95) proved satisfying but rather staid next to the other menu items, although the chicken was tender and nicely accented by a brown sage and mushroom sauce. In addition, the mashed — sorry — puree potato on the side was lightly whipped and free of lumps, a welcome partner to a cut of steak. Also perfectly acceptable was a pasta of the day special ($14.95) which featured a modest portion of roasted chicken in a creamy sauce with chopped tomato, green beans and garlic fresh enough to have kick without coating your mouth.

During my visits, neither of my guests was game to join me for Cabernet’s specialty, marinated rock-salt-crusted ribeye for two ($34.95 per person), a hunk of meat the approximate size of a brontosaurus porterhouse. In it you can almost see the dimensions of the cow that was, and Cabernet can remind you to give props to the being that ends up on your plate.