Sunday, July 15, 2007

Quality Meats

If you have read my last few posts you will see that lately I have been railing against the lack of originality in new steakhouse ventures. How many more iterations of the porterhouse for two can one town support? There are literally dozens of restaurants in NYC that have opened in the last few years offering virtually the same tedious menu. At the same time I have been less than impressed with the non Wagyu beef offerings of some of the nouveau steakhouses that I have tried as of late. Quality Meats definitely qualifies as a nouveau steakhouse but one with some traditional roots. The brainchild of Alan Stillman, proprietor of Smith and Wollensky, incidentally one of my favorite steakhouses, Quality Meats promises to update the traditional steakhouse fare while maintaining the excellent standard of beef that chop houses are famous for. Given the many wonderful meals I have had at S&W it was with guarded enthusiasm that I prepared myself for dinner at Quality Meats tonight.

Walking through the doors of the decidedly modern room designed by Avroko one is presented with a very eclectic space. Exposed brick walls, wine rack walls and meat hook light fixtures all make for a rather odd visual experience. It is not uncomfortable to dine in, like Kobe Club across the street, but the design is a bit busy for my tastes.

The Caesar salad was excellent, the fresh crisp romaine was just about perfect with a creamy dressing and good quality Parmesan. So too the fresh Malpeque oysters served with an interesting assortment of condiments. Nothing wrong here, good quality food prepared with care. But then again it is nothing that you couldn't expect at a regular steakhouse. One thing that you won't get at a traditional steakhouse, thankfully, is the waiter preparing "steak sauce" table side with a mortar and pastel. I never use steak sauce but did taste it just out of curiosity, I would be one dead cat it was an odd concoction that was dominated by too much fresh rosemary.

The rib eye steak at Smith and Wollensky is in my opinion one of the finest steaks available anywhere, I had hoped that this high standard would carry through to Quality Meats. At $44 the Quality Meats rib eye is certainly priced in the range of the top steakhouses.

Unfortunately the rib eye here was a very ordinary piece of beef, entirely lacking the deep complex flavors of the S&W cut. While it was delivered rare as ordered the outside could have used a lot more heat, the grill marks were quite uneven, a large section was completely un-seared. I asked for a charred exterior, I can only imagine how it would have looked had I not done so. The steak comes with the most enormous rib bone I have ever been served, easily a foot long. While it makes for an impressive presentation in practice it is annoying to eat, I almost knocked over my wine glass several times trying to cut the steak. The steak just did not have the flavor or tenderness that one should expect for $44.

The trio of filet mignon was also rather lackluster. The thin slivers of beef, cooked medium by default, were adequate in terms of flavor but really should have been served medium rare for best effect. The three sauces that topped the trio ranged from the delicious to the curious. A very nice Bearnaise was the star of the dish and had they served the entire filet with this simple sauce it would have been a winner. Next came what was billed as an au poivre but completely lacked the subtle melding of flavors that you might expect if you have eaten at an even half way decent French bistro, instead this was just a fiery, over the top peppery experience that completely overpowered the beef. The final filet came in the guise of a deconstructed beef wellington, mushrooms and pastry covering the steak. While not as offensive as the au poivre it was rather underwhelming and the pastry was a bit on the stale side. I appreciate the effort to bring something new to the steakhouse table and filets need all the help they can get but this is not a successful dish. on many levels.

I could talk about the sides, the wonderful pan roasted crispy potatoes for example or the gnocchi and cheese that you can smell from across the dining room but with the beef being so disappointing it hardly seems worth it. It is unfortunate that a restaurant from a group that excels at providing top quality beef can't live up to either that groups pedigree or its own name. Not recommended.

Quality Meats

57 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019
212 371 7777

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