Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Macelleria

Macelleria has three things going for it - location, location, location This is surely the only reason that it remains open even with several other steakhouses in the immediate vicinity -The Old Homestead, Craftsteak, STK and Frank. It popularity is surely not on the back on anything that emanates from the kitchen nor from the distracted, confused service one is provided. But because the restaurant finds itself smack in the middle of the one of NYC's trendiest neighborhoods it is popular by default, happily absorbing the over flow from the numerous other, far better restaurants in the area. It is too bad because the premise seems so appealing, a rustic Italian steakhouse, offering a blend of the traditional NY steakhouse and Italian American menus. An outstanding example of this formula can be found at Pietros, Macelleria unfortunately does not come close.

A Gorganzola and peppercorn lettuce wedge came with an embarrassingly stingy portion of cheese. To add insult to injury the dressing was overpoweringly flavored with peppercorns to the exclusion of all other flavors. The steak and side items faired no better. From the tepid, limp oily shoestring fries to the soupy and bland creamed spinach the sides disappointed. When the waiter delivered an extra order of roasted potatoes, the safest side item but still not a great one, no one at the table took any notice. However when he returned to retrieve them he needed to be advised that we had in fact eaten from the plate at which point he returned them once more to our table, apparently they were to be served to other patrons. Most restaurants would not have taken the potatoes back, then again most restaurants would have sent out the correct number of sides in the first place.

The decor seems like a tiresomely derivative, low budget version of Prime Meats, repleat with a white molded steers head and raw brick walls. Frankly for the price of the food one wishes that they had spent a little more on the decor. Peter Luger might get away with serving prime steaks at prime prices on rickety wooden tables but at least they generally deliver on the steak. The steak at Macelleria was utterly disappointing, completely lacking any semblance of the musky mineral rich tangy flavors of dry aging.

A T-bone ordered black and blue came out medium rare, its inside temperature so warm I could barely touch it. This is a fairly major transgression, but one that I seem to be encountering a lot lately. The replacement steak was rare enough on the inside but lacked external char and one side was barely cooked, this is the epitome of sloppy, lazy cooking. You might expect this kind of service at a diner but the steak here costs over $40, how hard is it to cook both sides? Apparently beyond the prowess of this kitchen.


The rib eye was no better. It to was devoid of the complex flavors associated with dry aging, it was also rather tough as well as being slightly over cooked. To be perfectly frank in terms of tenderness and flavor this was not what I would consider "Prime" beef, a term that is bandied about an awful lot these days.


Take away the location and Macelleria offers such a below average incarnation of an Italian American steakhouse that I can't see how it would survive in a more remote neighborhood. The drab room might be kitschy if it had been around for a few decades, the distracted wait staff might be tolerable if the steaks were up to par but there is little to recommend at Macelleria, save its avoidance.

48 Gansevoort St.
(bet. Greenwich & Washington Sts.)
Manhattan, NY
212-741-2555

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

Mushrooms

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.

Primehouse
381 Park Avenue South
at 27th Street
New York, NY 10016
212.824.2600