Restaurant of the Week: Three Forks

CLOSED; now Eureka

Three Forks Chop House, 580 W. 1st St. (at Cornell), Claremont

To celebrate my 11th anniversary at the Bulletin, a friend treated me to dinner at Three Forks, a Montana-themed steakhouse in the Packing House and perhaps the valley’s most expensive restaurant. Hey, anything to avoid having to fork out (three fork out?) that much dough myself.

Three Forks was the first 909 restaurant to be reviewed in the L.A. Times in recent memory. Ol’ S. Irene Virbila gave it 2.5 stars out of 4 and for her, that’s a positive review. There was amusement over the photo, which included a man in very casual attire at the bar, on a local blog; someone said dismissively that they wouldn’t pay those kind of prices to sit near a man in a tank top. The review, which is posted outside the restaurant, has other problems: S. Irene manages to use the word “rustic” four times, including twice in the same sentence, to describe the tart, the sausage, the food in general and the atmosphere.

The restaurant has a website but no prices are listed on the online menu.

We sat outside near a heat lamp. We shared the charcuterie platter ($18), a plate of cured meats, olives, brie and something called ramp. I had the filet mignon, 10 oz. ($46), and she had the lamb chops ($39).

What arrived first was an amuse bouche — they don’t typically serve these things at the burrito stands I frequent — of, it was explained, “crab and cucumber with vinaigrette aged 12 years…excuse me, a vinaigrette reduction…to spark the appetite.” Whichever, the bite-size dollop had a pleasant mix of flavors.

Now bring on the meat!

The appetizer was quite good, although the ramp and olives were nothing exciting, and any more than two people would not have found the size adequate. The lamb was tender. The filet mignon, which I asked to be cooked medium, may have been overdone (that was my friend’s opinion; I’m no expert), a bit chewy on the inside and charred on the outside. But, as one who accepts what he is given in life, I accepted it and enjoyed it.

For dessert, we split the lemon tart for two ($12), which was excellent, very lemony, although not of the size you might expect from a dish billed as being for two.

Take points off the meal for a few aspects: the “artisan” bread that came with the meal wasn’t as good as that at Le Pain Quotidien a block away; the service was fair but not outstanding; and the view, of an industrial plant across the street, isn’t what you would call inspiring.

Total bill, by the way: $144.51. Gulp.

That said, the experience was a cut above Fleming’s, the steakhouse in Victoria Gardens, if a cut below Ruth’s Chris in Pasadena. Would we go back to Three Forks? On a rare occasion, sure. Perhaps to try the farmers market dinners on Sundays, which sound intriguing.

Plus, you never know when you might want the Three Forks specialty, a reduction of your bank account. And a dose of rusticity.

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  • Linda

    Hi David..Happy Anniversary! I am startled by what your dinner at Three Forks cost. Is the $46 price a typo for a 10 oz Filet that was not cooked as you asked and was “chewy”? What exactly is the reason for such an expensive menu if the end product is a letdown in any way? If it began as a piece of meat that merited a $46 price tag …assuming there is such a piece of meat, what happened on the cooking end? After all isn’t that what the $46 price is about…the meat and the capable execution in the cooking of said piece of meat?? There many good places in this area to enjoy a good steak and walk out the door happy about the total experience.

    [ARE there many good places here to enjoy a good steak? I’m not so sure. I haven’t walked out the door “happy about the whole experience” at any of them. But Three Forks came the closest. — DA]

  • Linda

    Touche David….How about coming over and I will cook you a good piece of meat on my BBQ grill ..just the way you want it cooked. Cooking a steak properly is not exactly a culinary feat. I think you really cannot beat Pinnacle Peaks for a great steak and your bank account is not left damaged. Of course it is apples and oranges but my question remains this: What makes the food served at Three Forks worth the extremely high prices they charge?

  • Dick

    The price of meat has been soaring lately since the ethanol crisis….I have eaten there many times and have been marveled….but I ask you if you are so adventurous then why was the filet was your choice….All of their meats are prime, cooked over olive wood…not in the usual high broiler no flavor machine….I think you should stick to your typical wing and hoagie places and leave the real food to real diners. You want good food then pay good prices and don’t eat at restaurants with the idea you were going to hate it…the “rustic” remarks in the review…Don’t be mad you never will write for the L.A. Times too.

    [Who said I had the idea I was going to hate it, and who said I did hate it? Not me. I said I enjoyed it. Btw, with all those ellipses, you won’t be writing for the LA Times anytime soon either. — DA]

  • Shirley Wofford

    Hi David,
    If you haven’t tried the steaks at Cafe Montclair you should. They are very good. And the price is right.

    [I keep meaning to go there for dinner but haven’t made it over. Truthfully, after I wrote about them in my column, they offered me a free dinner and one reason I haven’t gone is I’m afraid I’ll have to argue with them to get a bill. And yes, I’m serious. — DA]

  • Thomas Leak

    Comparing the two, how is ‘forks better than Flemings (my favorite upscale place)?

    [Fleming’s is more traditional, Three Forks is more daring. This is based on just one meal at each, mind you, but the service at Fleming’s was better while the quality of the food was higher at Three Forks. Just one man’s opinion. — DA]

  • Fan of Writer Man

    Hi David,

    Please indulge me to respond directly to one of your readers:

    Yo, Dick,

    Sounds like you’ve got an over-priced piece of meat stuck somewhere uncomfortable. Maybe next time you could shell out $15 for a side of high-fiber salad.

  • Dave


    Wow. I had the same experience with the overcooked filet and probably would not go there again.

    I was seated near the back end of the place near the kitchen and saw how they charred my steak to its imperfection. I figured since the place was new and the cooks were still learning how to manage the grill heat, that that was a good enough excuse. But to hear your steak was overcooked made me kick myself for not speaking up.

    If you want a great steak at a “hidden gem” in the valley, try the restaurant at Kellogg Ranch at Cal Poly Pomona. You will not be disappointed. They have limited hours during the school year but a great place to dine, have a great view of the valley, and have a great steak!

    [Thanks for the tip and for your comments. — DA]

  • DH

    I enjoyed 3 Forks Chop House. On my visit for starters I had the French Onion soup — good, but not spectacular. For my main course I had the elk. That was the most tender, flavor, sweet, melt in your mouth delicacy I have had in a very long time. We also ended the meal with the Lemon tart — which like the appetizer, wasn’t spectacular. All in all, worth visiting.

  • Michelle

    My husband and I were going to try this place, but now that I’ve read not so good comments about the food, I’m not sure we’ll go now. You want a really good piece of meat cooked to perfection that will melt in your mouth? Go to Vegas at a place called Circo inside the Bellagio. Their steaks cost around $40-$60, but let me tell you, IT IS WORTH IT! The food melts in your mouth, and the service is excellent. We have been there 4 times now and each time we love it.

    [Well, I did recommend Three Forks, with slight reservations. Your recommended place sounds good, but I have to admit, I haven’t been to Vegas in…12 years? Yikes. — DA]

  • Jack

    I recently had the Chef’s Farmers Market Prix Fixe Sunday Supper. The appetizer was tasty, the meat was stringy and too salty, as were two other meat dishes ordered by others at my table. The halibut ordered by a fourth person was somewhat dry. The waiter was very polite and friendly, but never served me dessert that was part of the Sunday Supper menu. The two people who had the onion soup were unimpressed; they felt it was too bland.

    Bottom line — overblown and overpriced.

  • I took my wife here for her birthday dinner and we had a somewhat mixed experience ourselves.

    We tend to splurge a few times a year on upscale dining, and while we couldn’t do it a couple of times a month, it is usually worth every penny when we do. We make it a point to visit Lawry’s Prime Rib in Beverly Hills at least once a year, and typically enjoy Fleming’s a few times for birthdays and special occasions.

    We decided to try Three Forks, but I think overall it was too pricey for what it offered. I don’t claim to know anything about what a restaurant costs to run, but it seems that this place shouldn’t garner the prices of a boutique eatery in Downtown LA without the location, buzz, famous names or atmosphere that comes with that experience.

    The positive points were the creativity with the dishes. I also had the elk, and it was my first elk experience. I really enjoyed the elk, it was awesome, and somewhat more reasonably priced than the steaks, but still was a very small portion. My wife had the filet and I was not impressed. I would have rather had a steak from Fleming’s for the price.

    The sides were also adventurous, we both absolutely loved the black truffle macaroni and cheese. It was the best dish of the night.

    Overall, the food was good, but the portion sizes and lack of ambience (not to mention that our service was horrible) rates it very low on my value for money scale.

    [Thanks for weighing in, Another Jack. — DA]

  • Sparky

    About the aptly named “Dick,” above:

    After I posted some mixed reviews of Three Forks online, I was met by a barrage of rather vicious personal attacks. (One was signed with the email address of a teacher at the California School of Culinary Arts, where Three Forks chef Eric Osley used to work.) It’s interesting to see that you have had a similar experience. Maybe they should stop trying to shoot the messenger . . .

    [I thought I’d written a positive review, too! — DA]