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Bowery Meat Company is Weirdly Worth the Money
Sep 28th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Last year, I spent a week on a yacht touring some of the islands of Greece with my boyfriend and three of his friends. One of those friends was visiting NYC last week from Romania, so I wanted to take her someplace new and well-rated. A co-worker happened to mention Bowery Meat Company to me that very week, and not only had the New York Times given it two stars, but it had meat right in the name.

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Rocco Steakhouse Has the Big, Fat Bacon and the Schlag
Jul 11th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

The only thing better than being invited to try out a complimentary dinner at a new restaurant is being invited to try out a steakhouse. Rocco Steakhouse is the mastermind of owner Rocco Trotta, who put together a staff of big names from old school NYC steakhouses, including the man who served as the general manager at Wolfgang’s for a decade. (And Wolfgang, of course, started his steakhouse after working at Peter Luger, so you just have to love all of the entanglement within the NYC steakhouse strata.) With another well-known steakhouse on the same block, I asked GM Pete Pjetrovic why he partnered with Rocco and beverage director Jeff Kolenovic to open the space on Madison Avenue; he said he knew they could create a better steakhouse with the best ingredients, the best chef, and the best head waiter.

It seems like the neighborhood agrees. When I sat down right after work, the completely enclosed dining room was nearly empty, but by the time my thick Canadian bacon with just the right amount of char arrived, it was full of regulars. Or maybe that’s just how the waiters treat everyone who walks in the door. I heard lots of “how are the kids?” followed by handshakes and pats on the back. The staff was warm and friendly and let me annoy them for a picture where they wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders like brothers. But of course when it was time to serve the steak, they were all business.

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“Musical Pairing” Dinner with Barbara Werner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Jul 24th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

Recently, I’ve been watching the movie Silver Linings Playbook a lot, both because it’s been on HBO and because I’m a sap. There’s this epic scene where Bradley Cooper’s character is desperately trying to find his wedding video in the middle of the night, and Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” plays over his frantic search. I try to imagine the scene without the song, and it’s just nothing by comparison. And I’m sure we all have these movie moments where the music mattered so much to us and really made the scene. Chef and author Barbara Werner has figured out that the same can be said for music and food with her new book series and app, Musical Pairing: The Art of Harmonizing Music to Your Meal.

When Barbara invited me to a nine-course music-paired tasting on her at the Ruth’s Chris Steak House near Times Square last week, I expected that she’d just rented out the upstairs meeting room for the atmosphere and would be having a caterer serve us tiny one-bite plates, enough to give us a sample of what an actual musical pairing dinner party could be like. After the first course, I was dying to know the caterer’s name. Because I am dumb. Of course it was Ruth’s Chris food we were eating, and it was all incredible.

My friend Kim and I were seated at a U-shaped table with other journalists, bloggers, photographers, and eaters,

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

and in front of each of us was a set of Frends headphones in either rose gold or black that were ours to keep.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

When Barbara Werner began speaking, we couldn’t help but stop sipping our champagne and admiring our new electronics, because the woman is a real charmer. She was funny. She was honest. She spoke openly about being divorced and how much she loves being a single woman but how she hates the way restaurants announce to all of the other diners that she’s alone the moment she walks in the door. “Table for ONE? Do we have a table for ONE LONELY PERSON?” She didn’t want to have to join Match.com just to be taken out to dinner, she said, but she hated the stigma attached to treating just herself to dinner. So Barbara started wearing headphones while she ate to block out the clatter of silverware as the server removed the extra setting from her table for two, and that’s when she realized that something special was happening.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

To start the evening, Barbara’s assistants hooked us all up to iPods,

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

and then servers brought our food to us as we began listening to the song Barbara had decided to pair with that particular course. She said that she’d specifically chosen headphones versus piping the music throughout the room over loudspeakers to ensure that we’d know it was the music that had made the meal so memorable and not the fantastic conversation we were having with the people next to us.

Our example course was a single scoop of vanilla ice cream, something we all knew well and could use as a baseline. As our dishes arrived, a classical music piece began playing. It was fine. The ice cream tasted like ice cream. But when they switched us over to “Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major”, the ice cream suddenly tasted . . . different. Brighter. Creamier. I knew it was just the power of suggestion, but did I care? If I stop feeling pain because of a placebo pill, I’ve still stopped feeling pain, right? It was a little bit exciting to me to think that my brain could be won over by a couple of violins. I was also probably won over by the fact that this woman was serving me ice cream for an amuse bouche.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

The rest of the night would only get better from there, thanks to Barbara’s song choices and this sampling of the Ruth’s Chris menu.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
ahi tuna on cucumber with spicy mustard

Barbara explained that her pairings are derived from a simple mathematical formula that takes into account the type of protein, the way it’s cooked, and then all of the side dishes and sauces. Since this tuna wasn’t cooked, its musical pairing number was small, so she needed a song with a matching small number. She was looking for a steady beat with no big sweeps, not a lot of dynamics. What she ended up with was “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s. I absolutely loved the spicy wasabi and ginger with the freshness of the tuna and cilantro.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
veal osso buco ravioli

Barbara has a culinary degree and comes from a long line of butchers. She was a self-described nerd in school, a choir geek, and learned about whatever music her crush of the moment was into to make boys like her. And she’s great at talking about food. The way she described the classic veal osso buco had my mouth watering even before the dish was anywhere in sight. This one was infused with saffron and was so rich and buttery. I’m not sure I’d heard of Florida Georgia Line before the dinner, and I don’t usually listen to country music, but “Cruise” had me wanting to dance in my seat and sing along.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
fried calamari with sweet and spicy chili sauce

I don’t eat a whole lot of squid in my life, and I was actively trying to control my portions so I’d be able to save room for the THREE COURSES OF DESSERT, but I couldn’t stop shoving this stuff in my maw. Set to the tune of Carly Simon’s “Let the Rivers Run” (the theme from Working Girl), it was bursting with red pepper flavor that’s making me salivate even as I type this. The lemon we squeezed over the whole plate was the perfect bright contrast to the heavy batter.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
tempura onion rings

And speaking of heavy batter, next up was the biggest onion ring I’d seen in my life. Barbara called this “the greatest stoner food known to man” and paired it with stoner music, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones. The coating on this was so thick it went from crunchy on the outside back to doughy again on the inside. I loved getting the best of both worlds, and really, the fact that this was a tempura batter meant that it was surprisingly light. I loved the Thai flavors of the dipping sauce.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
crispy stuffed roast chicken breast with sweet potato casserole

Next up was a roasted chicken breast paired with Cream’s “White Room”, perfect for the herbaceous cream sauce that burst out of the chicken when I cut into its crisp skin. But the star of this dish, and maybe reason enough on its own to visit Ruth’s Chris Steak House, was the sweet potato casserole with a pecan crust. It was CANDY. It could’ve easily been dessert. And did I taste a hint of orange in it? The fact that no one is writing love poems to these sweet potatoes is a crime. The Best.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Finally, we got to the Ruth’s Chris signature: a petite filet mignon medallion with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. This is the dish that inspired Barbara to write her Musical Pairing series. She was at Ruth’s Chris one night by herself, listening to Luciano Pavarotti sing “Nessum Dorma”, when she was inspired to figure out why this song and this food went so perfectly together. The song was so epic–probably too epic for my taste in any other setting, actually–but there was this moment when I was spooning these potatoes drowning in butter into my mouth that I thought I’d never be able to eat steak without music ever again after this.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
whipped banana cream pie

Harry Connick, Jr. sang “It Had to Be You” to us as we ate this mini banana cream pie that was more fresh banana than pie. We loved how it was just lightly sweet and how it was so much more “real food” than banana pudding is. The espresso martini it was served with was all chocolate and sugar, on the other hand, and of course I loved that in an entirely different way.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
bread pudding with whiskey sauce

This was like an apple pie stuffed into a bread pudding with all of its cinnamon and fruits. It was paired with The Mamas and the Papas’ “Words of Love” and a creamy whiskey sauce that seemed to also have a whole lotta powdered sugar in it.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC
chocolate sin cake

This really needs no description, because it’s all in the name. Eating this cake is a sin. Especially after eight previous courses and ice cream to start the whole night off. It was so dense and decadent that half of the room left their plate nearly untouched. I, on the other hand, ate nearly all of it but left behind a single bite to show that I’m in control of my appetite. And I’ll regret that decision every day of my life.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Several years ago, when I was a faithful minimum wage bookstore employee, I was so excited to read This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession the moment it arrived in the store. I was dying to know why music affected me so much, influenced my mood so intensely. What the book basically told me was, “We have no idea.” But even if I don’t know why my connection to music is so meaningful, it is. And well, my connection to food is embarrassing at times. As I sat listening to this Florida Georgia Line song I had never heard before and was finding it so unbelievably catchy, I wondered if the food had as much to do with me liking the song as the song had to do with me liking the food. It’s been a few months since I’d had a good tasting menu, so maybe it was partly just that I was experiencing the euphoria of an overly-full belly, but I kept exclaiming, “This is the best night of my life!” Loudly, so my friend could hear me through her headphones. And she was feeling the same way. Whether or not we can pinpoint the science behind musical pairing, we’re dying to host a music-paired dinner party full of the very best/truly, truly terrible songs our iPods can produce.

If you want to do the same, check out the beginnings of musicalpairing.com for videos and contests, and try the beta app at mpwebapp.com to see actual song suggestions based on your menu.

Musical Pairing Dinner with Barbara Werner, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, NYC

Thanks to Barbara Werner and Ruth’s Chris Steak House NYC for an amazing time!

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
148 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

Minetta Tavern: the Burger, the Bacon, and More
Feb 27th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

Stepping into Minetta Tavern, you can’t help but feel reminded that this is New York City you’re in. The bar is packed for Sunday brunch, with fortysomething women turned backward on their barstools to flirt with fiftysomething men. The floor is that classic checkered black-and-white, the ceiling is hammered tin, and the walls are covered in a mural that looks like it’s been there since the 1800s. Only the Minetta Tavern of today opened in 2009. It was opened by Keith McNally of Frenchy favourites Balthazar and Pastis, though, so you can bet it’s the perfect mix of the used up Minetta Tavern of the 1930s and sparkling new, classic and newly-conceived. And nearly impossible to get a reservation at.

My boyfriend and I went solely for the Black Label Burger, which is mostly talked about because of its $26 price tag. And also because it’s really, really good.

Minetta Tavern NYC
Black Label burger

A mix of different meats from famed purveyor Pat LaFrieda, this thing is dry-aged for weeks like a fine steak is. The New York Times review that gave Minetta Tavern three stars said, “It’s without question a riveting experience, because burgers seldom pack the discernible tang and funk of aged beef. But for that same reason, it’s unsettling and arguably too intense.” MAYBE FOR A PANSY. For me, biting into this thing with its caramelized onion topping was like sipping a cup of French onion soup. Beefy French onion soup. Except better, because it was on a bun. The meat was so dark and had such deep, rich flavors that it tasted expensive, gentlemanly, and refined. Served with a side of slightly crispy, slightly curly fries to soak up all of those beef juices.

Minetta Tavern NYC

Minetta Tavern NYC
“fried green tomatoes”

Neither fried nor green, these tomatoes were a big broiled disappointment when they arrived at our table. But once we got over the menu lying to us, we found that these were perfect to spread over our burgers like natural ketchup. Of course the burger was perfection on its own and didn’t need them, but at least we found something to do with them aside from throwing them onto the floor in anger.

Minetta Tavern NYC
thick-cut bacon

The bacon was your steakhouse staple, with that just-right chewy-melty combination of meat and fat.

Minetta Tavern NYC
Green Mary cocktail

The bloody mary list is five-deep and ingredient-thick here, and this one had green tomatoes, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Southwestern spices. Tex-Mex in a glass.

Minetta Tavern NYC
coconut layer cake

With fresh coconut in the cream and toasted coconut on top to make it extra coconutty, and a nice, balanced amount of sweetness. There are rumors of rum being added to the cake, which would explain how moist it was.

Minetta Tavern NYC

Living in a city so crowded, I have a preference for sparse, modern, clean-lined dining rooms, but I have to admit that I was charmed by the hubbub and ballyhoo of Minetta Tavern. It felt like half of NYC was crammed into the restaurant that afternoon, all of us sipping cocktails and listening to the conversations of the people next to us.

Minetta Tavern NYC

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012 (map

Quality Meats – Steak – Midtown West
Aug 31st, 2011 by plumpdumpling

After a totally-not-heated debate over on my personal blog, I decided to watermark my photos until enough people complain about them being ugly. Well, as luck would have it, Dr. Boyfriend invited me to Quality Meats for lunch on a whim last week, so I didn’t have my DSLR with me, and I forgot to set my point-and-shoot to take RAW photos, so the first time you’re going to see my watermark is on these less-than-stellar pictures. I recognize the error of my ways! No need to publicly mock me!

Anyway. Niko from Dessert Buzz was kind enough to link to one of my posts last week and also mentioned this post from Midtown Lunch that featured this sundae. Which I obviously had to have. So I linked it to my not-usually-impulsive Dr. Boyfriend, and he said he wanted to go. For lunch. Right then. I called and asked if it was okay for me to show up in jeans, the hostess laughed at me, and I hopped on the subway post-haste.

Quality Meats NYC

Quality Meats NYC

We love Quality Meats. This was our fourth time there, I believe, and it never gets less delicious. The decor is maybe a little three years ago, with those old-timey exposed filament lightbulbs and dark, dark wood everywhere and the feeling that someone may butcher a cow right next to your table. But I’ll never get tired of that decor; to me, it feels casual and expensive at the same time.

Quality Meats NYC

The rolls are the very best bread service in NYC. I dare anyone to contest that. Topped with chunky salt and so much rosemary you’d think you were dining with the Virgin Mary, the rolls are soft, warm, buttery, and taste like a forest full of evergreens. We asked for seconds, and I am not ashamed.

Quality Meats NYC

I’m not a huge fan of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s food, but I credit him with the surge in homemade sodas simply because I had them there first and have ordered them everywhere I can since. So I guess it’s my own surge. Either way, these were far more elaborate than the Jean-Georges versions, with ingredients like whole lemon slices, strawberries, and hibiscus in mine and cucumber and jalapeño in Dr. Boyfriend’s.

I’m not saying they were better than J-G’s, because the ones at his restaurants are a little more intensely flavored, but I really appreciated how huge the drinks were for the price and the fact that they’re served in to-go cups so I could enjoy mine well into the afternoon. And then suck dry all of my hibiscus leaves while my co-workers’ heads were turned.

Quality Meats NYC
colossal crab cocktail

Huuuuuge chunks of crabmeat served with sides of cocktail sauce, a soy-sauce-based sauce, and an herbed mayo. There’s not really much I can say about this, because um, crabmeat is kind of just crabmeat. I guess that’s why I’ve never jumped at the chance to share a plateau de fruits de mer with Dr. Boyfriend, much as he’s dying to. I like the taste of crab, and oysters are fine, and lobster has one of my favourite textures ever. But I’d much rather see what a chef can make with the meat than to just be served the meat alone, which is why I’m a crabcake kind of girl.

Quality Meats NYC
truffled chicken salad, apple butter brioche

I have to admit that the presentation threw me off a little. It’s a . . . log . . . of chicken salad. But really, what else are you going to do with chicken salad? Take a big scoop of it and plop it down in the center of the plate? Classy. Fill a lettuce wrap full of it? Tired. So I guess chicken salad meatloaf is the only option.

If you like chicken salad, and I do, this is a fine one. Crunchy from the celery, biting from the onion, and rich from the truffle, all on top of a buttery bread with a millimeter of crust on the top and bottom. The Marcona almonds and red grapes were the perfect crunchy, sweet accompaniments.

Quality Meats NYC
The QM Burger

I kind of secretly wanted a steak, but I didn’t think I could handle a porterhouse for two all by my lonesome at lunch, so I went with the burger. I love ordering burgers, because:

1) there’s no such thing as a bad one, and
2) they’re both super-familiar and super-nuanced.

I haven’t really had, say, enough halibut in my life to be able to say how this one’s flakier than that one. But I’ve had a lot of burgers, starting with the ones made from the meat from my family farm’s own cows. This one tasted like steak. Not like regular ground beef but like a slab of prime rib slapped on a focaccia roll. It was seared so dark on the outside yet dripped juice all over my hands with each bite. With cheddar and crunchy pickles and spicy mayo and all that steak flavor, it was not a kids’ meal burger.

Quality Meats NYC

Quality Meats NYC
Parmesan waffle fries

Accompanying both of our meals were these cross-cut fries with some well-aged Parmesan on top. These were the crispiest fries ever. I really mean that. Crispy to the point of too-crispy almost. There was no soft potato left inside of them, just oil-soaked snap-off-in-your-teeth crispiness. It was interesting but probably not my favourite way to prepare fries.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

. . . and that’s where the meal ended. Dr. Boyfriend remembered halfway through the bread that he had a conference call and would need to leave in a half an hour. So we plowed through our appetizer and entrees and left entirely sundae-less. Which, of course, was the entire reason for the meal. I wept at first but later realized this just means we have to go back again now, and obviously there’s no complaining about that.

Quality Meats
57 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. – Steak – Midtown East
Dec 21st, 2010 by plumpdumpling

If you can get past the fact that it’s owned by Michael Jordan and is called Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. (what?), this place is actually a decent steakhouse with atmosphere that beats the usual Harvard-crimson carpeting and gold-lacquered everything. My boyfriend and I talked casually about visiting The Steak House every time we spotted it overlooking Grand Central Terminal, but it took seeing Chef Michael Vignola on an episode of The Food Network’s “Chopped” to make us seriously consider a reservation. On the show, the chef was super-creative–quite the opposite of what we expect from someone just cooking steaks and lobster all day–and we were excited to see what sort of avant garde creations he was pushing out with Michael Jordan’s blessing. But alas, The Steak House’s menu mirrors every other one we’ve seen.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.

Never overestimate the power of assorted breads when it comes to getting an extra donut in your rating from me.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.
lobster salad

I’m just starting to get into lobster after years of hating seafood, and this was just the right dish for a newcomer. It was lightly-dressed enough that the ocean flavor came through but included enough other ingredients that I was sufficiently distracted from the idea of eating, as my boyfriend says, the insect of the sea. The cabbage helped keep it fresh, while the spicy mayo on the side gave it a kick. Also: potato chips. Yeah.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.
crab cake

Obviously this dish totally cheated by dressing itself with roasted corn. I didn’t particularly care for more cabbage slaw, but I suppose they don’t expect you and your date to be gluttons who order multiple apps on top of their filet mignons. I did particularly care for the lemony sauce the crab was swimming in, and the filler factor was slim to none in the cake.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.
filet mignon, macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach

The mac & cheese is listed as Michael’s Macaroni & Cheese on the menu, which only furthered our belief that he would pop out of the kitchen at any moment in his tall chef’s hat, giving us a friendly “bork bork bork!” a la the Muppets’ Swedish Chef. But no. Both of the sides were oversalted to my boyfriend’s taste, but I’m a freaky saltfiend who likes to make the waterboy come over every two minutes to refill me, so they tasted great to me. The mac & cheese was definitely the better of the two, though, almost certainly because it’s Michael’s.

As for the steak–it was well-seasoned and cooked to my liking. It wasn’t Peter Luger quality, but it wasn’t Outback, either. (Sorry, Outback.) The problem is that the prices are more Peter Luger (and actually even higher than that) and less Outback, which means I was expecting the same quality.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarZero Stars

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.

I love the view over Grand Central location so much that I’d forgive the lesser quality if it wasn’t for the higher price. I’d recommend The Steak House for impressing out-of-towners, clients, or anyone who hasn’t been to the city’s top-notch steakhouses like Peter Luger and Keens (which itself isn’t nearly as good at Luger, as you’ll see in my review). Come for the classy black-and-white action stills of Jordan hung on the walls and the menus that feel like the skin of a basketball, but don’t come expecting the best-quality steak.

Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C.
23 Vanderbilt Avenue (inside Grand Central Terminal)
New York, NY 10017 (map)

Loving Chain Restaurants Does Not Make You a Bad Person
Sep 17th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Last weekend, Dr. Boyfriend and I went to The Modern at MoMA for a tasting menu that included grilled foie gras with champagne-vinegar-preserved strawberries and a harissa tuile:

The Modern

This weekend, we’re going to Outback for a Bloomin’ Onion:

The funny thing is that Dr. Boyfriend, I think, is waaaaaay more excited about Outback than he was about The Modern. He’s never been there and is under the impression that it’s just the chain version of Peter Luger.

This is going to be awesome.

Restaurant Review: Keens Steakhouse
Sep 30th, 2009 by plumpdumpling

I went into my dinner at Keens Steakhouse with an extremely open mind. I’m a lover of Peter Luger, but I was under the impression that $90 steak is $90 steak wherever you go, and I was excited about the scotch-and-cigars atmosphere of Keens.

I hadn’t known to specify in my reservation that my boyfriend and I wanted to sit in the main dining room, so I was worried when all of the people in front of us were sent to different parts of the restaurant, but we were luckily seated downstairs under the ceiling entirely covered in clay tobacco pipes. The atmosphere is much darker and cozier than Luger’s, with dark walls and low light to contrast Luger’s whitewashed walls and bright windows shining in the midst of nowhere Brooklyn. This is the place you come to slurp oysters and talk about the things gentlemen do.


I love how it looks like the woman behind Kamran is blowing in his ear.

None of the appetizers enticed us in the least–though I’m sure my boyfriend would have jumped at the $65 seafood platter had I given him any indication that I was interested–so we opted for two side dishes with our slab of meat instead. We ordered the porterhouse for two, carrots with brown butter, and boiled baby potatoes with parsley and butter. For the record, any kind of restaurant with a separate menu section entirely for potatoes is my kind of restaurant.

We ordered our steak medium rare, because that’s how my boyfriend likes it, and I prayed that it’d be served on a hot dish like it is at Luger so I could allow my pieces to continue to cook. It was indeed, but we really didn’t need it to be, because the ends were so much darker than the middle that they were perfect for me and my desire for blackened beef.

Right away, I noticed that the plate just didn’t look as good as it does at Luger. The steak was smaller, and it was already cut off the bone. The bone was pathetically propped up on one end of the plate, which was almost worse than it not being there at all. I waited a minute to give our server a chance to put several slices on my plate like the waiters do at Luger, but he just walked away. It’s not that I even like that they put the steak right on your plate at Luger, but I somehow expected it.

The first bite of steak was just as juicy and steaky as any great steak I’ve had, but after that, I honestly believe that I could tell a difference between it and the steak at Luger. To be super, super honest, I think the steak I had at Primehouse might have actually been better than this one, but I don’t want to say that and risk losing my cred and have people think my palate is inferior.

There’s no doubt, though, that the sides we chose were better than anything we’ve had at Luger. My boyfriend said the cooked carrots were the best he’s had; we loved all of the butter left in the dish for spooning over our plates. The potatoes were the kind you close your eyes to savor completely.

My boyfriend ordered the crème brûlée, and I excitedly told him about a review I’d read in which the writer gushed about the deep dish that left plenty of cool custard underneath the layer of custard warmed by the torching of the sugar on top. What the reviewer failed to remind us was that a deeper versus wider dish meant there was a lot less caramel to enjoy.

However, everything I read about the hot fudge sundae was true. The woman at the table next to us was so impressed by the look of it that she leaned over to ask what it was. What it was was a giant cocktail glass filled with hot fudge an inch deep, several scoops of vanilla AND chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, slivered almonds, and wafer triangles. My boyfriend complained that the whipped cream didn’t compare to the schlag at Luger, but I was too busy having a heart attack over how much the hot fudge tasted just like my mom’s homemade sauce to notice.

I wanted to like Keens better than Peter Luger so I could stick to Manhattan when I want a great steak, but it looks like I’m stuck traveling to Brooklyn when I want to impress someone with a stack of meat. Keens wins for atmosphere, service, sides, and desserts hands down, though. And for saving me $20 on cab fare.

Restaurant Review: Primehouse New York (Restaurant Week Summer 2009)
Aug 11th, 2009 by plumpdumpling

My boyfriend, Kamran, and I base most of our Restaurant Week dining decisions on the inventiveness of the menu, which is why we chose Primehouse New York over Smith & Wollensky or Delmonico’s on the 31st. Passion fruit and gazpacho? Yes, please.

• APPETIZERS •

Passion Fruit Gazpacho
Lump Crab & Avocado

Grilled Double Cut Bacon
Roasted Figs, Frisée, Maytag Blue Cheese

Heirloom Tomato & Goat Cheese Salad
Micro Basil, Sea Salt, Aged Balsamic

• ENTREES •

Scottish Salmon
English Pea & Mushroom Risotto,
Preserved Lemon Beurre Blanc

Marinated Hanger Steak
Grilled Portabella & Arugula Salad, Roasted Pepper Salsa

7oz Dry Aged Petit Sirloin
Caramelized Summer Vegetables

• DESSERTS •

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart
Ladyfingers, Nutella Ice Cream

Strawberry Shortcake
Coconut sorbet

I don’t care for seafood and absolutely can’t eat tomatoes, so even though a salad is the least-appealing appetizer in the world to me, it was my only choice, and it turned out to be one I didn’t regret. The lettuce was lettuce, but the goat cheese with the bacon was perfect for the glutton in me, and figs are one of my favourite fruits. There was a upper-thick slice of bacon on either side of the plate, and while one was perfectly crisp, the other was chewy and fatty. While I’m usually much more of the burnt bacon type, I welcomed the diversity.

Kamran ordered the passion fruit gazpacho, of course. It arrived with the mound of crab and basil (or tarragon–we weren’t sure) looking rather lonely in the center of the large bowl, but then the waiter poured the soup around it for a delightful presentation. I don’t know that I’ve ever had gazpacho in my life, so I’m not sure how it’s supposed to taste, but this tasted exactly like salsa. A really, really good salsa. The kind you always want in Mexican joints but never actually get.

Kamran and I like to get different entrées and sample each other’s, so when I decided on the filet (obviously), he went for the hanger, thinking he’d appreciate the larger size. But no. The moment he saw the look on my face as I tasted my first bite, he knew he’d made a mistake.

I know the steak looks a little crusty and the vegetables a little drab in this photo, but the dish was very much the opposite of both these adjectives. Kamran’s hanger was a little bit embarrassing next to my filet, and although he tried to tell himself that it was just delicious in a different way, it wasn’t. It was decent and nothing more, and Kamran didn’t even want all of the extra portion size in the end. Sorry, hanger.

We didn’t even discuss getting a side, but as soon as our waitress walked away, I casually mentioned macaroni and cheese, and so it was. It was very homemade-tasting and had a nice crunchy topping. It was pretty standard, but standard mac and cheese is still pretty special.

My bittersweet chocolate tart was rich and fudgey, although the cake crust dumbed it down. No complaints, though. I ate every last bite of it and mopped up the chocolate drizzle on the plate with the sliver of chocolate stuck in my ice cream, too.

Kamran prefers a lighter dessert, so he was happy with his strawberry shortcake. The crunchy coconut slivers provided a nice texture, and there was no chance of the coconut sorbet with fresh strawberries being bad. I finished Kamran’s dessert for him, too, if you must know.

For the remainder of Restaurant Week, Primehouse appears to be lunch only, but we went at night and were surprised at how many couples weren’t trying the Restaurant Week menu. All around us were tables with raw bar towers, and one in particular caught Kamran’s eye, because he swore Tom Colicchio was sitting at it. I wasn’t convinced, so we called it a truce by deciding that it was his younger brother, Rod Colicchio. (Who doesn’t really exist, of course.) But watching to see how the supposed Rod Colicchio was enjoying his food became the focal point of the dinner nonetheless.

I really thought my filet at Primehouse was as good as any I’ve had in the city, although I hesitate to say that, knowing that the restaurant is part of the B.R. Guest restaurant conglomerate. However, a waiter near us flaunted the fact, telling his table that their size allows them access to the best ingredients. And they’re serious about what they serve, going so far as to have their own Kentucky bull (named Prime) that provides all of the beef they serve in the dining room. So maybe I shouldn’t be embarrassed to have liked it so much.

The only thing the older steakhouses have on Primehouse in my mind is the environment. While I appreciate a more trendy setting for a date, I also like how the sparse, serious décor of a steakhouse like Peter Luger lends itself to more of a focus on the food. Primehouse was full of soft chairs, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and an inexplicable slick 80s feel. It was lovely, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t my grandpa’s steakhouse. Which may be just what you’re looking for.

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