Thursday, August 30, 2007

Porterhouse NY

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Perhaps if I had had the lowered expectations that I would normally reserve for new steakhouses I would not have been as disappointed as I was dining at Porterhouse last week. If you have been following this blog you are probable tired of hearing me complain about the lack of originality in new steakhouse menus. Frankly I feel that steak is handled so well by NYC's traditional steakhouses that there is no reason to frequent new establishments that offer essentially the same menu. How many iterations of steak for two, creamed spinach and hash browns do we really need? Yet recent in depth coverage on Porterhouse by renowned bloggers Jason Perlow from Off the Broiler and the blogfather himself Ed Levine on his personal blog, piqued my interest. Ed Levine went so far as to call it one of the top three steakhouses in NYC. This praise was enough for me put aside my recently established rule of not dining in any new steakhouses that only parrot the menus of existing steakhouses. Well I can say that that law is once again firmly in place.

First the good. The service was excellent, professional and courteous. The room itself is very pleasant to dine in with a wonderful view of Central Park; and is spacious enough that you will be able to have an intimate dinning experience. Some excellent appetizers got the meal off to a good start, the bone marrow was utterly superb as were the fried oysters. A crab cake was just OK, it had a little too much red pepper for my tastes. The sides were also generally good, a credible hash brown did nothing to offend and the creamed spinach was indeed creamy with a refreshing hint of nutmeg. Porterhouse also has an extensive wine list and a knowledgeable wait staff. There is no doubt that this is a restaurant run by professionals with a lot of experience.

Now the bad. The steak was utterly disappointing. Completely lacking the crackling char that one can get at any number of top steakhouses in the city. A strip steak ordered black and blue came out closer to medium rare with virtually no discernible blackness, a similarly ordered T bone had to be sent back because it was cooked closer to medium and again totally lacked char. Although the replacement was indeed blue inside, it was unevenly charred on the outside and frankly was a bit tough and flavorless. Of all the cuts sampled the restaurants name sake, the porterhouse, was the best but still fell way below par. Apart from the rather limp presentation, it totally lacked the majesty of the sputtering, sizzling spectacle that marks the appearance of the porterhouse at Luger's, the porterhouse at Porterhouse just did not have the deep complex mineral rich flavors that one expects from dry aging. The beef was tender enough I suppose and was cooked perfectly rare it never caused me to but down my utensils and marvel at the sheer wonderfulness of the experience.

Top three steakhouses in NYC? It was not even the best steak I ate this week, both Bobby Vans and Pietros offered up far superior meals (reviews to come). I have to say that the one apprehension that I held before dining here was that they do not have their own dry aging room, rather relying on their butcher to age their beef. Dry aging is part of the cooking process. When you serve an unadorned broiled steak most of the flavor and texture has been developed during the preceding weeks. I don't care how much your butcher and you love each other, you are not really working for the same ends.

The deserts also disappointed. A decent cheesecake was probably the safest bet. Everything else was far to sweet and lacking in complexity. The duo of creme brulee was embarrassingly bad, being rather soupy and completely unsubtle in its flavoring. The build your own sundae kit was a tyranny of condiment choices to compliment a very bland vanilla ice cream. So given my expectations a disappointing experience overall. While there is much to like at Porterhouse with the steaks being so lackluster it is hard to recommend. I am hard pressed to explain the drastic discrepancy in my experience and those of the aforementioned well respected bloggers but there you have it.

Porterhouse NY
10 Columbus Circle 4th Floor
NY NY 10019
212 823 9515

Saturday, August 25, 2007

WD 50

Value is, I suppose, in the wallet of the beholder. While steakhouse regulars are used to paying upwards of $50 for a la carte prime steak plus the cost of sides, paying between $30-40 for an entree in a non steakhouse restaurant is still considered pricey, even in these days of spiraling food costs. Of course there is nothing that adventurous about plunking down that kind of scratch on a hunk of beef, you know essentially what you are getting but spending that kind of money on a entrees that I can guarantee you have never had before well that is a different gamble. Given the wildly eclectic menu, obsessive attention to presentation and, depending on your perspective, either brilliant or bizarre flavor pairings the menu at WB 50 is either a sure bet or a gigantic bust.

A generous lobe of Foie Gras came adorned with mole lentils and quince yogurt. It was incredibly rich and while the flavor combination worked very nicely, texturally it could have used some form of bread or cracker. Honestly they could have served a third less and it would have still been very satisfying. Most egregiously, given the obsessively finicky nature of the presentation, the plate also came adorned with a large smudged fingerprint. A startling error of commission, quite frankly.

The dish that seems most evocative of WD50's Lower East Side neighborhood, seemingly drawing inspiration from Katz's Deli, Streit Matzos and Russ and Daughters is the corned duck served on rye crisp with purple mustard and horseradish cream. A delicious combination.

The domestic "Wagyu" flat iron steak is technically not Wagyu but American "Kobe" style beef. Never the less it was lovely, tender, succulent and deeply flavorful. The onions and effervescent arugula sprigs complimented the beef nicely, the very bitter tasting deconstructed cappuccino in the form of coffee gnocchi and coconut foam not so much, not even the latter's sweetness could temper the acrid, biting coffee flavor.

Cod, Swiss chard, buttermilk Asian celery.

The wine list is as eclectic and perhaps more esoteric than the food menu.
This 2004 Ribera Del Duero Finca Villacreces was a nice find at under $70.

I can appreciate the vision of WD 50, I found Chef Dufresne's creations inventive and on the flavor matching side, coffee gnocchi aside, largely successful. Add to this generally beautiful presentation and doting service and there is a lot to like at WD 50. For the record I don't find the food here pretentious or contrived, I think that there is a genuine earnestness in the cuisine at WD50 but at the same time it is not the way I choose to eat. The food seems too measured, too exact, frankly too pedantic. I am not disappointed that I ate here, but I won't be rushing back anytime soon. You might say I broke even.

WD 50
50 Clinton St
NY NY 10002
212 477 2900

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kobe Club Clobbered by Zagat

When Frank Bruni gave Kobe Club no stars in his NY Times review early this year it prompted owner Jeffrey Chodorow to take out a full page add in the Grey Lady in defense of his establishment. I wonder what he will do now that Kobe Club only managed a paltry 20 for food in Zagat. Can the Zagat contributors expect a similar response from Chodorow? Given their anonymity he may just have to purchase Zagats email list and send out a mass letter. In any event it is a pitiful score for a restaurant that Zagat claims has an average meal price of $146. I take issue with the average cost figure Zagat site, that amount will barely buy you a Wagyu steak, the raison d'etre for dining here after all. Rearranging the numbers to $416 or $641 is the likely cost of admittance if you want to sample what is special here. And the Wagyu was excellent, but the rest of the meal although decent did not justify the cost of admittance. I also take issue with the decor score of 22, Kobe Club was frankly one of the most hideous rooms I have dined in.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Craftsteak Revisted

Last month I gave a generally positive review to Craftsteak, my sole complaint was, ironically, that their domestic steak offering were less than impressive. But everything else from the appetizers to the Japanese Wagyu to the wine list and the service was excellent and certainly impressed me enough to tempt me back. On my most recent visit a near calamity was averted when I was fortunate enough to secure the last 6 ounces of Japanese Wagyu. Be warned that this is a possibility so make sure to call ahead and make sure that they have the Japanese Wagyu available.

Japanese Wagyu Carpaccio

Intensely marbled, deeply flavorful the Japanese Wagyu Carpaccio was absolutely spectacular. It ranks as one of my favorite appetizers in recent memory.

Last time I tried the Japanese Wagu at Craftsteak I though it was excellent but found the au jus, sprig of Rosemary and the fact that it was served sliced all superfluous. This time I requested my steak be served whole and sans adornments. To the restaurants credit my wish was granted. While the presentation was not as impressive and I probably ended up with more fat than if I had been served slice steak (not really a problem) it was a more satisfying experience. I like playing with my food.

Bearnaise, steak sauce, creamed horseradish and Chimichurri sauce

The quartet of sauces served along with the Wagyu tasted great, with the French fires. I don't understand why anyone would spend $30 an ounce for some of the finest steak on the planet only to mask in completely. I don't understand why a chef would give someone the option.

Both the Japanese Wagyu offerings I sampled were delectable but for what they cost they should be. The seafood was also wonderfully fresh and the Oyster mushrooms had a lovely earthy flavor but the rest of the meal did not impress as much as previous visits. The Tokyo turnips were just a little bland and the mountain of tepid fries were quite disappointing. The service was also not quite as doting as in the past. Much of the staff seemed preoccupied with , and flustered by some crisis that involved a large party at an adjacent table. So, not as a salubrious experience as in past visits. While the beef was top notch the falterings elsewhere made the cost of the meal a little high for the return.


85 10th Ave.

(bet. 15th & 16th Sts.)

Manhattan, NY

212 400 6699

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


The endlessly diverse culinary scene in NYC throws the old cliche of "when in Rome..." on its head. Who are the Romans here? Italians? Greeks? Germans? Irish? Jews? Japanese? Chinese? The answer is probably all and none of the above. Since NYC is so cosmopolitan it is possible to eat some of the best food from around the globe just around the corner. It is thus reasonable to assume that when a Japanese restaurant is consistently packed with Japanese ex patriots it is probably doing something right. Such is the case at Lan, a lovely little restaurant that has reinvented itself numerous times over the last decade.

Japanese Wagyu Sashimi

Indeed, it has transformed itself from a Japanese steakhouse featuring Sushi to a Sushi restaurant featuring steak and now falls somewhere in between. When they opened back in 1997 a huge grill and massive extraction hood dominated the restaurant. The smoking, sputtering, sizzling spectacle of a chef working the grill served as the theatrical focal point of the entire restaurant. Later the grill was moved to make way for a Sushi bar as Sushi gained a larger foothold on the menu. The grill eventually disappeared altogether along with most of the steak. But these days Lan seems to have reached a harmonious balance between beef and fish, offering a decent selection of char grilled steaks and Shabu Shabu as well as some top quality Sushi. Most intriguingly Lan features Japanese Wagyu on its menu, offering both sashimi and shabu shabu but alas not steaks. It is too bad because the Kobe they have is outstanding but they do have a number of other steaks on offer.

The Wagyu Sashimi is delectable

Shrimp dumplings

Fried Oyster roll

Spicey tuna roll, tuna sushi. The sushi at Lan is of a very high quality.

The Shabu Shabu pot.

The Japanese Wagyu Shabu Shabu.

I must admit a reluctance to boil such fine beef and it tasted great raw but when it was cooked it was very flavorful and tender. I am not sure that a less marbled cut would suffice after trying Shabu Shabu with Wagyu. Still dollar for dollar I would prefer to spend my cash on Wagyu in steak form.

American "Kobe" style rib eye. At 10oz for $55 it is competitively priced vis a vis the domestic Kobe at BLT Prime and Craftsteak but it ultimately fell short of those offerings. The outside could have used far more char. Never the less the beef was very flavorful and I appreciate the presentation, the Wasabi mashed and grilled vegetables make for a good accompaniment both visually and on the palate.

The outside may have needed more fire but the interior was cooked perfectly rare as ordered

White chocolate mousse with berries.

Lan is a wonderful restaurant and while it is mid priced it has a sophisticated menu. The sushi and the Japanese Wagyu are especially good but they also boast a comprehensive range of Saki as well as a chefs tasting menu. I am not as thrilled with the steak, although the beef is of a good quality I prefer a charred crust on my steak. If they could only achieve more sear, perhaps by offering thicker steaks I think they would really be on to something. I also wish the offered Japanese Wagyu steak since they obviously have a top quality Kobe supplier. Highly recommended.

56 Third Ave
212 254 1959

Monday, August 6, 2007

Never Mind the Bollocks Here's ....

To the uninitiated it may seem odd that Beef Aficionado would be covering a fish n chip shop in Brooklyn, even though I grew up in England. But if you have been to a chippy in England you may have noticed that virtually all them sell a menu item called a steak and kidney pie. Truth be told the pies in chippy's are usually prepackaged crap, in general it is wiser to stick to the fish which comes fresh from the North Sea. To find a truly great pie you usually need to find a pub that makes them in house. Fortunately Chipshop in Brooklyn make their own pies and they are magnificent.

Steak and Kidney Pie and Chips

While the thought of eating kidneys may seem repugnant to many I assure you they can be wonderfully tender and sweet. If you have eaten a hot dog kidneys were probably amongst the better things that you consumed. At least in a pie you know what you are eating. Chipshop also offers a steak and onion pie but I urge you to try the steak and kidney. Tender beef and kidneys in a hearty broth make up the filling for this savory delight. The flaky crust and rich onion gravy make for a hearty meal. The chips at Chipshop are superb, crispy on the ouside but with an airy flavorful interior and they actually taste like real spuds.

Plaice and chips

Plaice is my favorite fish from UK menus and I was delighted to find it at Chipshop. I have never had it on these shores that I can recall. It is close to sole, which most chip shops in America use in its place, but it is sweeter with a buttery texture. A wonderful fish, expertly battered and fried.

In England beans means Heinz

Old Speckled Hen ale for the Gents

Young's Lager for the ladies

Treacle Pudding with custard

The treacle pudding was the best I have ever had, leagues ahead of the stogy rubbish they served at school. The pudding here is light, airy and spongy with a crisp shell. The custard providing the perfect accompaniment. For Ex Pats and locals alike Chipshop offers a tasty slice of England, The food is superb and I love the punk aesthetic inspired decor. Highly recommended.


129 Atlantic Ave.
(bet. Clinton & Henry Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY

383 Fifth Ave.
(bet. 6th & 7th Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Further down Hill Country

A few weeks ago I posted a less than positive review of Hill Country NY barbecue. Had I not eaten some absolutely wonderful 'Cue at the hands of the pit masters there I would not have ventured back after my last few experiences. But hope springs eternal and the memory of the beef ribs was enough to get me back there one more time.

I wish I could report that the train is back on track and that the woes that plagued the place had been resolved. Unfortunately when I last visited Hill Country it was my most disappointing meal there yet. I ordered a beef rib that showed up so devoid of meat that it was literally a bone. I requested a replacement that had more flesh but also an odd gas flavor. I am not sure how this can happen when the beef is smoked but it was unmistakable and unappetizing. The moist brisket, despite good flavor and a wonderful smoke ring was far too greasy and seemed as if it was carved before the meat was allowed to rest. On a positive note the sausage was excellent as it almost always has been.

The sides continue to confound. The raisins make for a disconcerting squishiness in another wise crunchy, albeit rather flavorless coleslaw. The beans with burnt ends have been good in the past but were rather dry and stogy the last time. More perplexing is the convoluted ordering system and the sheer number of employees, there are more people working there every time I go back. It seems as if they are running a fast food establishment rather than a barbecue joint, indeed the food seems to be turned out with about as much care as fast food. Hill Country is a victim of its own ambition. The hokey decor, the numerous merchandise items for sale bearing the Hill Country name, the ordering system would all be tolerable if the Cue was up to the task. Unfortunately the standards at Hill Country continue to slide downhill.

Hill Country
30 West 26th Street
NY, NY 10010
212 255 4454