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New York's Love Affair With Beef

A new generation keeps an old flame burning brightly

Kim Marcus
Posted: April 16, 2001

 
 
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New York's Love Affair With Beef

A new generation keeps an old flame burning brightly

By Kim Marcus


See also:
World Class
Neighborhood Stars
Trendsetters

New York restaurants have always served meat lovers great steak. Now they're adding the sizzle. There is also a greater geographic spread among the steak houses now, though Midtown still remains an important center for prime-beef enjoyment.

The city's newest steak houses have broken away from the clubby masculine ambience that has dominated the genre since at least the 1880s, when Peter Luger opened near the Brooklyn waterfront. The latest versions vary from the retro speakeasy Strip House in Greenwich Village to Del Frisco's glass-and-metal power palace near Rockefeller Center.

That doesn't mean that food has taken a back seat, however. All of the restaurants reviewed below will provide serious beef. The best of them dry-age their own meat, a method which sets my personal gold-standard for steak. New York's updated steak houses add the touches of detail to service and the extra quality to side dishes and appetizers that raise the primal enjoyment of beef to a fine dining experience.

Unfortunately, on the whole, these new steak houses are not as attentive when it comes to wine. You can indeed find one of New York's best wine lists at Del Frisco's, but at other restaurants, such as Michael Jordan's, wine definitely plays a secondary role. At still others, small slips, from misidentified wines on wine lists to lousy wine suggestions from sommeliers, can mar otherwise pleasing dining experiences.

Finally, don't be too taken aback when you get your bill. A typical meal for two with one bargain bottle of wine is doable for $200, but just barely. There's no getting around the fact that while there is plenty of cheap beef in the world, great steak is expensive.

Yet when the urge hits to bite into a rich and well-aged piece of prime beef, a New York steak house is more than worth the cost. It's just not your father's steak house anymore.


For the complete article, please see the April 30, 2001, issue of Wine Spectator magazine, page 95. (Subscribe today)

Del Frisco's
1221 Avenue of the Americas, bet. 48th and 49th
Telephone(212) 575-5129
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday
Cost Entrées $25-$36
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover

Del Frisco's is a steak house on a monumental scale, and it also qualifies as a treasure chest for wine lovers and cigar fans. Occupying nearly half the ground-floor space of a Midtown skyscraper, its two-story-high windows frame the glowing Art Deco-style towers of Rockefeller Center. The interior design is masculine, with dark wood paneling, leather upholstery and wrought metal banisters. The clientele matches the decor, with plenty of well-heeled, young business-types.

Ensconced under a massive mezzanine is a 70-seat combination wine cellar and dining room that provides gallerylike views of top-flight large-format bottlings. There's also a 50-seat cigar lounge. The wine list is as impressive as the architecture, featuring nearly 800 selections, with verticals of first-growth Bordeaux and leading California Cabernet Sauvignon, and even Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy. Just be ready to pay for the pleasures that await.

All of Del Frisco's beef is shipped from the Midwest and wet-aged for three weeks. The beef is well-seasoned (with plenty of pepper), and comes on a searingly hot plate, presented with almost military precision. Overall, the service is proper, but can be a bit pushy at times. This is not a restaurant for the timid, but for those ready for a high-energy show.

Manhattan Prime
Embassy Suites Hotel, 102 North End Ave., bet. Murray and Vesey
Telephone(212) 945-4767
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday
Cost Entrées $19-$37.50
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Manhattan Prime is the creation of chef Larry Forgione, who has long championed native ingredients and cuisine at his popular Midtown restaurant, An American Place. The theme has been successfully transplanted to his downtown steak house, which is located on the Hudson River waterfront in a brand new Embassy Suites hotel.

Large picture-window views of the Hudson River and a high ceiling make Manhattan Prime a calm, airy steak house perfect for a family gathering. The service is first-rate and the staff knowledgeable. The wine list is eclectic and well-priced, with a good selection of reds and whites from around the world, and a modest number of older vintages and large-format bottlings for special occasions.

The 16-ounce New York shell steak is the house's specialty, and there are three versions of it on the menu: standard-aged, 14-day dry-aged and 32-day vintage-aged. The vintage-aged steak (a fancy way to say dry-aged) is nicely charred and provides a true melt-in-your mouth experience. Starters and side dishes also show a deft and original touch. The creamed spinach is only lightly creamed, and a lemony Caesar salad, prepared tableside, includes Wisconsin Parmesan, sourdough croutons and organic egg yolk among its ingredients.

Michael Jordan's: The Steak House N.Y.C.
Grand Central Terminal, 23 Vanderbilt Ave.
Telephone(212) 655-2300
Open Lunch, Monday to Saturday; dinner, daily
Cost Entrées $19-$34
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover

Located on a balcony amid the grandeur of the main hall of Grand Central Terminal, Michael Jordan's is a truly unique New York dining experience. Yet as you gaze at the bustle and splendor around you, don't overlook what's on the plate. There you'll find some of the best beef in Manhattan.

Make no mistake about it: Prime dry-aged beef is the drawing card. The porterhouse is well-marbled, rich and earthy, while the filet mignon is tender and buttery. Mammoth salads and side orders measure up well, and the hash browns are light and nicely seasoned. This is a popular spot, especially at rush hour, when a briefcase crowd packs the bar. Be sure to confirm your reservation. Also, while you probably won't see His Airness in the dining room, there are plenty of celebrity items in the gift shop.

Overall, the service is professional and friendly, though the staff is not very knowledgeable about wine. The pedestrian wine list is the weakest point of the Michael Jordan's dining experience. But there is opportunity for this to change under the guidance of master sommelier Scott Carney, who was recently hired by the Glazier Group (see the Strip House) to oversee their wine operations.

Nick & Stef's
9 Penn Plaza, bet. Seventh and Eighth
Telephone(212) 563-4444
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, daily
Cost Entrées $19-$31
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover

Sports fans and steaks would seem a natural match, and that's the case at Los Angeles star chef Joachim Splichal's first New York restaurant, Nick and Stef's. Located at the rear of Madison Square Garden, the Midtown sports mecca, this soothing venue offers an oasis of fine beef and wine just steps away from courtside seats.

It's obvious from the moment you enter Nick and Stef's, named for Splichal's twin sons, that prime dry-aged beef is taken seriously. A glassed-in room filled with aging ribs of beef stands to the left of the entrance foyer. Inside the restaurant, a well-spaced array of booths, alcoves and tables set in a sleek motif allows room for privacy and intimate conversation.

Splichal protégé and partner Octavio Becerra oversees a uniquely organized menu that features some continental accents. All the menu items come by the dozen¿steaks, potatoes, vegetables, salads and sauces¿and garlic lovers will feel at home. Prices are reasonable: The 12-ounce New York strip, dry-aged on the premises, is the most expensive entrée at $31. The medium-sized wine list has interesting bottlings from New Zealand, Australia and California, as well as some selected big-name Bordeaux. Wine service is friendly, though it needs some seasoning.

Rothmann's Steak House
3 E. 54th St., bet. Fifth and Madison
Telephone(212) 319-5500
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Entrées $21-$32
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover

Rothmann's is an updated version of the traditional male-oriented steak house. It has a busy, purposeful air, with plenty of three-piece suits, but there are some more casual dressers as well.

Wine lovers will feel comfortable in this prime Midtown location, drawing pleasure from the large-format bottles on display throughout the modern wood-paneled dining room and the well-thought-out 500-selection wine list.

Rothmann's is the creation of Long Island restaurateur Anthony Scotto, who has named it after a famed inn on the island. At his Manhattan venue, Scotto has tapped chef Robert Dickert, who is related to famed Brooklyn steak impresario Peter Luger.

All of Rothmann's meat is dry-aged; a rare porterhouse for two was succulent, with a crisp char on the outside. Side dishes of garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach were fitting. The all-male waitstaff was friendly and attentive, but not overbearing. The fairly priced wine list is tilted, naturally, to reds, with mini-verticals of California Cabernet (Mondavi Reserve, Phelps Eisele, Ridge Monte Bello), and some Bordeaux big guns; there's also a good selection of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Merlot, along with Italian and other international reds.

Strip House
13 E. 12th St., bet. University and Fifth
Telephone(212) 328-0000
Open Lunch, Tuesday to Friday; dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Cost Entrées $22-$32
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover

The name of this stylized Greenwich Village restaurant is a play on its dual themes: steaks and cheesecake (of the female variety). Yet despite its sassy atmosphere, the Strip House makes a serious attempt to meld fine cuisine with prime, dry-aged beef.

This is a steak house like no other in New York. It sports an all-red interior and its walls are covered with more than 1,000 celebrity pictures, interspersed with portraits of burlesque queens from the ¿30s and ¿40s. The overall effect is warm and whimsical; Bogart and Bacall would feel right at home in a corner booth among the well-heeled clientele.

Restaurant impresarios Peter and Penny Glazier have put David Walzog in charge of the kitchen; he also oversees Michael Jordan's steak house and the southwestern-themed Tapika. At the Strip House, he presents his beef (the New York strip is the specialty, paired with a bone filled with silky marrow-butter) accompanied by side dishes with French-inspired accents. These include a savory creamed spinach infused with truffle oil, and crisp goose-fat potatoes.

The wine list, though lacking depth, features reasonably priced selections from the United States, France, Italy and Australia, served by an attentive and knowledgeable staff.

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