Thursday, May 31, 2012


Pastrami on Rye
Sometimes ignorance can be bliss. Had I read my friend Zach Brook's take down of UMAMIcatessen's pastrami sandwich in his recent "7 Reason's To Hate L.A Lunching" over at Midtown Lunch I would have most certainly avoided it, especially after looking at the picture he took of the sandwich.

But I was armed with both ignorance and a Langer's t- shirt.  In case you don't know Langer's is widely considered to serve the best pastrami sandwich in Los Angeles, if not the country. So when I ordered a pastrami sandwich at UMAMIcatessen my t-shirt choice was noted not only by my server but also by the meat carver who loaded up my sandwich - it looked like easily twice the meat Zach ended up with on his sandwich.

I had requested the fatty end of the brisket and I was rewarded with thick cut, succulent slabs of deckle. The meat was pleasingly brined and seasoned - redolent with coriander and pepper and imbued with a deep smokiness. Great meat but at $14 a pastrami sandwich "being tasty (is) less an accomplishment than a contractual obligation" - to paraphrase what Frank Bruni once said of Wagyu beef.  Also the bread was a bit of a let down. It lacked the double baked snapped of Langer's rye, coming off a bit floppy and spongy in comparison.

Putting cost and proximity to Langer's aside it was a very good pastrami sandwich. Now to be fair to Zach I don't think I would have had quite the same reaction had I been served the sandwich he received. So if you do go to UMAMIcatessen I recommend you wear a Langer's shirt and ask for the fatty end of the brisket to get the best possible experience. Don't have a Langer's shirt you say? Now you have to two reasons to go to there.

852 S. Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213 413 8626

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pann's Homemade Corned Beef Hash

I am a creature of (bad) habit. Whenever I fly to Los Angeles my first stop is either In N Out Burger or Pann's Coffee Shop depending on whether I land in Burbank or LAX. This past Sunday it was LAX and I was greeted at Pann's door with a sign announcing "homemade corned beef hash". 'nuff said.

It was up there with some of the best I have had. Large chunks of meat - easily recognizable as brisket, rather than indistinct shards of beef - melded with irregularly diced potatoes and provided a wonderful synthesis of starch and protein. A side of biscuit and sausage gravy. Hello LA, I love you.

6710 LaTijera
Los Angeles CA 90045

Monday, May 14, 2012

Motorino Meatball Pie

Motorino ran a meatball pie as a special this weekend and I am surprised it isn't a permanent menu item, especially considering that they have meatballs on the menu anyway. It should be - it ate more like a lasagna than a classic Neapolitan pie, but who could complain about that? If you visit and it isn't on offer you might ask for it anyway.

Previously: Motorino Review at Slice

349 East 12th Street, New York NY 10003

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beef Aficionado's Top Ten Ribsteaks 2012

It has been four years since I last compiled this survey and, boy, have things changed in the world of steak. The economic crash of 2008 served to temporarily stymie the development of new steak-centric establishments as well as cull the herd of existing ones. The "nouveau" steakhouses - characterized by such places as Craft Steak, Kobe Club and Primehouse NY - were the first victims. Both Craft and Kobe Club are distant memories and Primehouse NY has gone "traditional" replacing the glass and marble with wood paneling and even lowering price, but not quality. With the traditional steakhouses either resting on their laurels or, worse, devolving into self parody, the way ahead for steakcraft was unclear.

And then a renaissance.

Suddenly there were steaks everywhere. Where as hamburgers and pork fat had been the obligatory menu items in the wake of the recession, the steak has made a big comeback in the last few years. And the trend is not one of quantity over quality. Quite the opposite in fact. Steaks are being aged for longer and longer periods and the breeding of boutique steer is leading to marbling that far exceeds USDA Prime.

Whereas dry aged USDA Prime beef was once strictly the purview of the top steakhouses and a handful of 4 star restaurants, you can now find it in all manner of places - trendy meatpacking-district supper clubs, locavore establishments in Brooklyn, gastropubs on the Bowery.

And, notably, steaks for two have become prevalent. While this is a roll traditionally played by the porterhouse, the ribsteak has become very popular as of late. Indeed, in my last survey all the steaks featured were for one, this time around half are intended (and priced!) to share.

The following list reflects the best ribsteaks I have eaten in the last year (rather than since the last survey). It should be noted that four of the ten restaurants didn't even exist last time I compiled this list in 2008. The exclusion of a number of the steaks from that survey should not discount them out of hand, in most cases I have not eaten them in a long time.

There are also a number of steaks that I have heard very good thing about - The Breslin, Perla and St. Anselm spring immediately to mind - but that I have yet to try. To reiterate - this is a list of steaks I have eaten in the last year that I highly recommend - it is not intended to be an exhaustive survey. So, in alphabetical order,  here are my top ten:

Minetta Tavern

My favorite restaurant. The best steak I have ever eaten was here - a Snakeriver Farms American Wagyu ribsteak that was a rare special and cost $260, It was heart-stopping in every way.

But the second best steak I have eaten is their regular ribsteak for two served with bone marrow. $124.

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal Street  New York, NY 10012

Momofuku Ssam Bar

I have eaten this one numerous times, it never fails to impress. Served for two. Market price (generally between $125-$150)

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003

Peter Luger

The venerable Peter Luger traditionally only served porterhouse and strip steaks. However in the midst of the prime beef shortage of 2008 they started serving a delicious bone in ribsteak. It is every bit as good as their world renowned porterhouse. $37.

Peter Luger Steakhouse
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY

Porterhouse NY
Despite being under a decade old Porterhouse NY has become a venerable institution for the carnivore and lover of the traditional steakhouse. And you won't find a nicer fellow than chef Michael Lomonaco. $55.

Porterhouse NY
10 Columbus Circle  New York, NY 10019
(212) 823-9500

Primehouse NY

While Primehouse NY offers ribsteaks dry aged for 28 and 40 days I always go for the 65 day version. $49 (down from the $65 of the last survey)

Primehouse New York
381 Park Ave. S.
Manhattan, NY


529 Hudson Street  New York, NY 10014


Resto's Bobby Helen is one of the most underrated meat-centric chef's in NYC. His "large format" dinners are wonderful but the most captivating menu item remains the cote de boeuf for two served with marrow frites and Bearnaise sauce.

111 East 29th Street  New York, NY 10016

Smith &Wollensky

My favorite traditional steakhouse. While I generally get the prime rib here the "Colarado" ribeye, which was long an "off menu" item, is a masterful hung of beef. S&W does an exceptionally good job of achieving a char on their steaks.

Smith and Wollensky
797 Third Ave.
Manhattan, NY

The Standard Grill

The food at The Standard Grill is not only far better than it needs to be, it is also far cheaper than it could be. Take the Pat LaFrieda "Demi-Vache" Dry-Aged Rib-Eye Steak for Two - it only costs $65 and is good enough to make this list.

The Standard Grill
848 Washington Street  New York, NY 10014
(212) 645-4100


A masterful hunk of 40 day dry aged USDA prime ribsteak is cooked over coals, imbuing it with a distinct smokiness that compliments the pronounced tang from the aging.

359 6 Avenue  New York, NY 10012

The entire list is mapped out on foursquare.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Game of Bones at Smith & Wollensky

I had another epic one on Saturday night at Smith & Wollensky. Not so much a meal as a ritual. No menus required, the same order every time - rare prime rib (reserved ahead of time as it tends to sell out), hash browns, creamed spinach. Lots of wine. The kitchen was as consistent as ever.

The company couldn't have been better either - my partner in crime Larry Chicane and our long time mate and member of the Brotherhood of Smoke Maya. We have been dining here together for almost two decades, usually before PPV boxing events. This weekend it was the spirited bout between the uncharacteristically gracious in victory Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto. The dinner that preceded it was just as spirited and turned on its head a paradigm that has emerged over the years of steak and PPV - the better the dinner the worse the fight. Not so last night.

Larry and I ordered  prime rib, Maya a ribsteak. I order the prime rib every time I eat here, it has been years since I tried a steak at S&W,  but the couple of bites Maya slid my way were sensational. But not enough to sway me from the prime rib. 

Which I am graving right now at 6:55AM and S&W doesn't open until noon. Larry, call me, let's do lunch!

The Smith & Wollensky Prime Rib Continues to Impress

Smith & Wollensky
797 Third Avenue at 49th Street  New York, NY 10022

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Black Label Burger and the start of National Hamburger Month

Happy National Hamburger Month, I started mine off with a Black Label hamburger at Minetta Tavern while simultaneously celebrating the fifth anniversary of this blog. Chef Riad Nasr was nice enough to decorate my burger for the occasion.

Beef Aficionado - 5 Years and Countless Steers

A Celebratory Hot Dog at Katz's
Remarkably this blog turns 5 years old today. My significant other the Fashionista noted this morning  that "you are almost back to the same weight as when you started!" Eating a burger for a day for a month and blogging about it as I did five years ago was probably not the best way to stay trim but it did lead to my gig at Serious Eats, my role as the creative director of Pat LaFrieda's Big App for Meat and most importantly making some very good friendships along the way.