Forbes Mill Steakhouse
Three businessmen bring a little Las Vegas glam, and American Kobe beef, to the Danville Livery
The new Forbes Mill Steakhouse feels more like Sin City than the 680 corridor. It’s a land of sleek lines, mahogany, and serious cocktails, where the clientele tends to dress in black silk shirts and low-cut bustiers, and the lounge and bar take up nearly as much space as the dining room.
Owners Ron Garald and brothers Dean and Darin Devincenzi opened the restaurant in March. It’s the second venture for the partners—they opened the first Forbes Mill in 2003 in downtown Los Gatos. All three men are restaurant industry veterans, but the two Forbes Mills, which serve only American Kobe and prime beef, are their first foray into high-end dining. Garald owns a Marie Callender’s in Los Altos, and the Devincenzis also own Double D’s Sports Grill in Los Gatos, which they bill as the South Bay’s first family sports bar.
Forbes Mill is clearly in a much higher price bracket than those family eateries—it’s even more expensive than its white-tablecloth neighbors in the Danville Livery. The menu tops out at $65 (or market price) for an 8-ounce American Kobe filet mignon; for $38, you can add a lobster tail to any steak entrée. If a recent Friday night is any indication, Tri-Valley residents aren’t balking at the prices. Instead, they’re filling every seat in the house.“We were looking for a market that was similar to Los Gatos,” says Mark Powell, director of operations for both Forbes Mill locations. “We wanted good diners who were food savvy, and Danville’s market wasn’t as saturated as Walnut Creek’s is.”
Savvy diners will not be disappointed: The kitchen excels at the classics while elevating them. The menu consists largely of beef, but you’ll also find the odd spud and all the traditional side dishes on the menu at Forbes Mill.
The kitchen’s skill is unmistakable in the Caesar salad, which looks like a knee-jerk rendition—the whole romaine leaves arranged in a neat bundle and garnished with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano—but it gets a sharp, fleshy kick of flavor from a marinated Spanish white anchovy fillet draped over the lettuce.
Crab cakes are another well-made appetizer at Forbes Mill. Their crackling panko shells are a testament to how delicately the cooks handle them.
Among the entrées, the Forbes Mill Mixed Grill is the restaurant’s most popular, according to management. The dish is arranged in three parts, and it’s a superb way to experience the kitchen’s sure hand with red meat. It’s also a crash course in taste discrimination, as you sample a New York strip steak, a lamb chop, and an Angus beef filet mignon side by side on the same plate. On our visit, the food runner who delivered our meal failed to differentiate the three cuts, so we were left to decide for ourselves.
The lamb chop was obvious, its Cabernet-mint reduction a modernization of the traditional English mint sauce. Discriminating between the strip and the filet wasn’t so simple. One came with baby carrots slicked with butter and parsley, the other with a cognac-peppercorn sauce, caramelized onions, and flecks of fried garlic. Waffling back and forth, we determined the cut served with the baby carrots was the strip because of its beefy flavor. The other must have been filet mignon because of its buttery texture. When the server returned to the table, we sheepishly offered our guesses. Somehow, after a bottle of Soquel Pinot Noir, we’d nailed it.
Side dishes can make or break a steakhouse. At Forbes Mill, some stumble—like precious, thin spears of asparagus you’d think would be impossible to undercook, yet arrive too crisp. Others, like creamed spinach, turn what could be a leaden cliché into a revelation. The kitchen cooks the spinach with small pieces of pancetta, and the cream in the dish supports the greens. Meanwhile, the requisite baked potato goes upscale—a Yukon Gold stands in for the typical Russet.
Unlike the mixed grill, which is an embarrassment of riches, the dessert sampler is just an embarrassment. It consists of Lilliputian versions of each dessert on the menu. The Kona coffee crème brûlée was curdled, and a passion fruit cheesecake had a whole lot of pucker and none of basic cheesecake’s simple satisfaction. But disregarding Forbes Mill because of dessert would be like folding four aces because your fifth card was a two. The service is efficient, the interior slick and inviting, and even the bathrooms excel in a somewhat Vegas fashion by offering guests amenities like mouthwash and hair gel. Prices at Forbes Mill are high, but so is quality, and many local residents are already regulars. It’s a place where everyone feels like a high roller.
at a glance
What Makes It Special: Beautifully marbled, tender American Kobe beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho.
The Space: Try to get one of the intimate, plush booths, but if you find yourself without a reservation on a weekend, head for the bar, where you can order the full menu.
Don’t Miss: The beef, of course, but also the crispy, panko-coated crab cakes.
When to Go: Dinner. Lunch has been inconsistent—a “rare” burger arrived well done and its lettuce and tomato were weary.
What to Order: The Kobe strip steak, since it’s the cut most improved by the Kobe farming method, which involves raising the Wagyu breed of cattle on a special diet of barley and wheat straw.
Contact: Forbes Mill Steakhouse, 200 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 552-0505, http://www.forbesmillsteakhouse.com
Hours: Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily
Price: Appetizers $11–$14, entrées $23–$65
Alcohol: Full bar