Hard Rock Northern Indiana Council Oak Steakhouse celebrates one-year anniversary – Chicago Tribune

The first time I ever tasted béarnaise sauce was in the late 1990s at the Martinique Restaurant at Drury Lane Dinner Theater in Evergreen Park, when my sister-in-law Linda ordered a thinly sliced ​​skirt steak and it was served with this flavorful, tarragon- accented sauce in a small metal ladle as a side complement.

The dining and entertainment influence of Drury Lane Theater and Martinique Restaurant have been long gone as a destination since 2003.

But béarnaise sauce has remained on my mind this month after chatting with Chef Cristian Viracucha of Council Oak Steakhouse at Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana. His blended velvety recipe for a brown butter béarnaise sauce is unmatched and the perfect creamy tangy accent for the steaks served at Council Oak Steakhouse.

Virachucha, who has been with Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana since the launch in March 2021, was born in Loja, a small city in Ecuador, which is often referred to as the country’s cultural capital for its music scene. He spent the earlier part of his childhood there, later moving to New York at the age of 7 and still occasionally going back to Ecuador.

“The coffee back home is like no other that I’ve ever tasted,” he told me.

“I grew up picking my own coffee beans grown by my family. Now, my wife and I have our own family with the birth of our first child in 2020.”

It was after he moved to New York and began watching TV cooking shows — with his favorites being the ones hosted by chefs Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pépin and Julia Child — that, by age 14, he said he knew he wanted to be a chef. In 2009, he returned to Ecuador, a year after graduating high school, and began his culinary arts study to earn a bachelor’s degree in gastronomy and food and beverage services.

In 2014, he returned to Chicago to work at The Peninsula Hotel Chicago and cross-trained at The Peninsula Hotel Shanghai in China.

“When the opportunity came to be part of the process for the opening of Council Oak Steakhouse and the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to be part of the menu planning,” he said.

Council Oak is among the five restaurants featured at The Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, including the signature Hard Rock Cafe, YOUYU Noodle Bar, The Fresh Harvest Buffet and Constant Grind, the latter where gaming guests can revive and recharge with a latte, espresso and refreshing iced drinks along with fresh pastries, including tarts and specialty sandwiches.

“We have our 28-day dry age steak cuts and also our wet age steak options, as well as a selection of fresh seafood to serve to our guests,” said Virachucha, who agrees Father’s Day always brings to mind steaks on a grill.

“And of course, we prepare every steak to perfection per guest request. As guests dine, they can enjoy the preparation of everything being served through the glass observation wall of our special design exhibition kitchen.”

He is equally proud of the many other tempting menu highlights at Council Oak Steakhouse, such as a tower of fresh seafood selections, including raw oysters, chilled lobster claws and King Crab legs and jumbo prawns served with assorted homemade sauces. Creamed spinach, buttermilk infused mashed potatoes and fresh grilled asparagus are some of the menu side staples.

For dessert, Chef Virachucha describes each as “delicious works of edible art,” such as a layered s’mores influenced chocolate cake and a chocolate bomb creation topped with meringue and real edible flecks of gold. By the end of July, he said the steakhouse will also feature new summer menu items soon to be announced.

Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana is located at 5400 W. 29th Ave. in Gary at the I-80/94 Burr Street Interchange and the steakhouse is open every day. Guests have to be 21 or older to enter the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana. Call (219) 228-2383 or visit www.hardrockcasinonorthernindiana.com for more information.

Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is the director of marketing at Theater at the Center. He can be reached at pmpotempa@comhs.org or mail your questions: From the Farm, PO Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.

Makes 1 cup of sauce

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup shallots, chopped

4 whole peppercorns

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped plus 1 1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped, divided use

2 bay leaves

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup fresh thyme, minced

1 pound butter

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Splash of lemon juice, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup of the shallots, reserved from béarnaise reduction

1 scant smoked paprika

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Water, as needed


1. Make a simple béarnaise reduction liquid by combining white wine, chopped shallots, peppercorns, 1/4 cup chopped tarragon, bay leaves, white wine vinegar and thyme in a sauce pan and simmer until liquid is reduced by 2/3. Reserve the cooked shallots from the strained liquid for later use and chill the liquid reduction overnight.

2. To assemble sauce, start by browning the butter in a hot skillet so butter appears darker and almost “toasted.” Cool slightly until just warm.

3. Whisk egg yolks into the béarnaise reduction cooking over a double boiler until mixture is thick and frothy. Whisk in brown butter, adjusting with a splash of warm water as needed.

4. Add parsley, remaining chopped tarragon and the reserved shallots from the reduction béarnaise prepared the day earlier.

5. Season the sauce with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and smoked paprika, adjusting as needed for desired flavor.

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