Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Primehouse - Almost Ready for Prime Time

Primehouse, the latest venture from the B R Guest restaurant group opened for business last night. Is it unfair to review a restaurant on its opening night? I think it is a bit so consider this a preliminary report. Of course if the steaks at Primehouse had not been up to snuff, especially at their elevated prices vis a vis NYC's top steakhouses, then there would be little reason to return but the fact is they were very promising indeed. Certainly there were some evident signs of opening night jitters; a couple of Martini's spilled on a luckless guest, the waiters inability to extract a wine cork, the rather prolonged wait between appetizer and main course, but by and large the service was effusive and the food generally very good.

The thoroughly modern room is beautifully designed and appointed, a far cry from the tired wood paneling of the locations former inhabitant the Park Avenue Country Club; come to think about it the decor here is a far cry from the tired wood paneling of your average steakhouse. Unfortunately the chairs, despite being quite comfortable are rather large, so much so that they cannot be tucked under the tables and thus become major obstacles for the wait staff. Still they will certainly accommodate even the largest of guests.

A voluminous and physically imposing wine list has some impressive high ticket items but sorely lacked anything decent under $70. Even the Malbecs from the new world, often veritable bargains, clocked in at over $100. While the food menu takes pity on the working man by offering a $24 hanger steak the wine list could have used a few cheeky, bargain priced Aussies on it.

New Wedge salad. A less stogy approach to the steakhouse staple, the heirloom tomatoes and more viscous dressing serving to lighten the palate. The red onions, which could have added some welcome sweetness were a bit pungent, still a decent updating of a classic.

There is little doubt that the grill at Primehouse is up to the task. The bone in Kansas City sirloin came beautifully charred, impressive for a restaurants first night. The steak itself was excellent, very juicy, perfectly cooked with a hearty beef flavor.

Kansas City Sirloin

Some will scoff at the story of the restaurant buying the bull, named Prime, that sires all of the beef served at Primehouse as marketing gimmickry but I happen to think that this type of vertically integrated production will insure consistency. The beef comes from Creekstone Farms, Kentucky and is aged on in house in the restaurants Himalayan salt room. Certainly Primehouse covers all the major steakhouse cuts, Porterhouse for two, ribeye, strip (called sirloin here, adopting the butcher rather than steakhouse nomenclature) but also some interesting additions such as the aforementioned hanger as well as some bone in fillet mignon.

Kentucky bone in ribeye. Ordered black and blue it was indeed perfectly cool inside although it could have used a bit more exterior char on the underside. Still it was very good, the flesh was utterly succulent with that ethereal melt in your mouth quality and the deep mineral rich flavors that dry aging imparts. While the steak was perhaps a step behind the best in NYC it was never the less most impressive for a restaurants first night.

"Old School" Hash browns. Perhaps a little too old school, they were a tad soggy except for some slightly raw pieces interspersed within, there is definitely some room for improvement here. Additionally the price for the portion size is not competitive with other steakhouses. For a dish to be this petite one would expect some truffle or other luxury ingredient.

Creamed Spinach


Slice of Prime with malt ball ice cream. Deserts at steakhouses tend to emphasis quantity over quality but despite the size of the multi layered chocolate cake it was actually quite light and most delicious.

So a strong showing for a first night. While I must admit that before they opened I questioned if NYC really needed another steakhouse I appreciate that Primehouse is trying to do more than simply replicate the tired but true formula of the Peter Luger and its numerous clones. As stated this is a preliminary report, I was impressed enough to warrant a return visit. More to come but for now Beef Aficionado can tentatively recommend Primehouse.

381 Park Avenue South
at 27th Street
New York, NY 10016

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