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DINING OUT

Hearty fare, served with a few kinks

Metro 9 Steak House
30 Worcester Road (Route 9 east)
Framingham
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight; Sunday, 3 -10 p.m.
Telephone: 508-620-9990
Website: metro9steakhouse.com
Reservations recommended
All major credit cards accepted

As our meals hit the table, Metro 9 Steak House's manager stood by our booth, like a guard in a watch tower.

"Is it cooked right? Is it cooked to how you wanted?" she asked.

We had yet to lift our forks, and told her that, but she hovered until we did. One dining companion who ordered steak aux champignons ($25) to be medium found his first piece overcooked. He asked her to come back in a minute after he had some time to eat, but she refused.

"Take another bite. Take another bite," she insisted, hands on hips.

We all looked awkwardly at each other as he chewed his second piece, and then with food in his mouth, he announced, "It's fine."

She left the table without noticing a glass of red wine that had spilled on the white tablecloth. And our waiter, who returned several times, never noticed either.

Metro 9, which opened several months ago, took a gamble in opening across the street from the landmark Ken's Steak House.

It isn't trying to be Ken's, but it's not clear what the new Framingham steak house is actually trying to be. It has a hipster decor, dark woods, and dim lights. But the flat-panel televisions in the open bar, blaring CNN news and baseball games in to one of the dining rooms, made it seem more like the Sports Depot. The black and white photos of Miami's South Beach were jarring alongside oil paintings that look as if they came from a hotel lobby.

That said, Metro 9 serves up hearty portions at reasonable prices in a fairly casual ambience. The servers, though making some obvious missteps (not knowing who ordered which dishes, unable to describe the wines), try to make you feel important and special without any stuffiness or pretension.

Stick to the basics. Begin with the jumbo lump crab cake duet ($9) appetizer, loaded with crab and sweet and spicy dipping sauces of Creole mustard and sweet pepper relish. The apple and arugula salad ($7) offered a great combination of spicy arugula, tangy apples, smoky slices of bacon, and crunchy pieces of toasted bread topped with a slightly sweet dressing.

The 14-ounce rib-eye steak ($25.50) was flavorful and cooked to order, seared beautifully on the outside, medium on the inside. The restaurant says the beef is broiled at 1,800 degrees. It was salty and juicy, and we happily cut piece after piece.

The ahi tuna ($23) was the night's biggest offender. The entree featured a massive pile of sweet, citrusy noodles with tuna heaped on top, dangerously leaning over one side of the plate. The tuna itself was tasty, but overpowered by a chili sauce.

Also skip the side of lobster macaroni and cheese ($8). It sounds decadent, but before adding lobster Metro 9 needs to get the macaroni and cheese right. The sauce was too liquidy, missing any sense of creamy goodness that makes mac and cheese indulgent.

If the chef cooks it correctly, the steak aux champignons isn't a bad deal. One of the house specialties, it arrives presliced, so the pieces were cooked to slightly different temperatures. The dish was a lot of food for $25, loaded with mushrooms and mashed potatoes with chunks of blue cheese. But the blue cheese overpowered much of the flavor from the steak pieces that were not overcooked.

Metro 9 has an extensive wine list, and diners can get a decent bottle for about $30.

The chocolate bread pudding ($6) was full of mushy goodness and a sweet way to end the meal.

Metro 9 needs to work out some of the kinks, but it works now, for the most part, for the simple steak eater. But if you're looking for that classic steak house experience, head to Boston or simply across Route 9.

JENN ABELSON

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