I'm just gonna say it: Filet mignon is the wine cooler of the meat world. It's the bland, boring, boneless, skinless chicken breast beef equivalent. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why anyone would order it.
A Steakhouse Date: Not Well-Done
I went on a blind date with a guy a few years ago. After some online communication, we set up a time to meet for dinner. He suggested a pretty nice steakhouse in town, which I thought was a little extravagant for a first date, but he claimed he loved the place, said he "really knew steak," and wanted to take me to the restaurant that had the best steaks in town to make a great first impression.
We got there and he ordered a filet — well-done.
Take it from someone who has worked in restaurants: When an order comes back for a well-done steak, the kitchen staff groans. I mean, they want you to have what you want, the way you want it, but it's hard when your job is to deliver excellent food and then someone wants you to overcook it past the point of what makes it really excellent.
I almost got up and left. In hindsight, I should have. I could hardly concentrate on the conversation, which yielded a similar attitude by this fellow on other topics — he thought he knew a lot about everything, but his views were sadly narrow-minded. It was our only date.
Why I Hate Filet Mignon
I think filet mignon the most bland, boring cut of beef — and most chefs I know agree. In fact, I'm convinced the reason bacon-wrapped filet mignon exists has less to do with our obsession with bacon and more to do with a last-ditch attempt to actually give the steak the flavor it is lacking.
But let's back up a bit to understand why the filet is so flavorless. The filet comes from the tenderloin of the cow, which is up way high in the stomach and not a muscle that's used heavily, like other cuts of beef. This is why it's tender, but that tenderness comes at a cost: there's almost no marbling or fat in the filet. That's because muscles that get more use are tougher, but also more flavorful as a result of their usage.
What's more, filet is expensive! I get that food is expensive — it's what many of us spend the biggest part of our budget on after things like rent and utilities — but if I'm paying for it and it's going in my mouth, it should be very tasty. For cost-to-taste ratio, filet is way down on the list.
A Caveat: Beef Wellington
I'm not saying filet has no place on the table. One delectable dish where filet really shines is beef Wellington, which I absolutely love, and which takes a good amount of culinary skill to pull off. The richness of the mushroom duxelles and buttery puff pastry pair really well with the mild beef flavor, and the tenderness is a necessity in order to easily cut through the dish while consuming it without completely ruining its construction.
What to Order Instead
Seriously, anything else is better than filet mignon. Just go with a chopped steak — it's much cheaper, plenty easy to chew, and has much more flavor, as it's like a hamburger, typically composed from both heavily used muscle cuts (think: flavor) and fat (more flavor).
If you love filet, that's OK, but trust me — you're missing out on the great, unique flavor beef can impart. And missing out on the flavor of life is a tragedy.