212 Steakhouse overall score: 88
212 Steakhouse is relatively new on the steakhouse scene. It seems like they are offering some pretty amazing deals via Living Social to draw business and to introduce people to real-deal kobe beef, imported from Japan. This place is the only joint that’s actually certified by the Japanese Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association on America’s east coast.
So the deal is for about $90 (my wife got it for about $70). You get one appetizer to share, up to $30 value. You get two glasses of wine (one each) and two 4oz pieces of steak, either strip loin or rib eye. It may seem like very little, size-wise, but there is no waste, and tremendous flavor. Right now 212 is offering 60-80% off the regular price for this steak. At a regular price of $45/oz, these pieces at $15/oz are a steal.
When I first walked in and sat at the bar, I was greeted warmly by the bartender, who mixed up a great martini for me. Soon afterward I noticed the chef was out on the floor, having his staff taste the souffle he just made in the back. Christos, the chef, is a really friendly and outgoing guy. His heritage is Greek, and he’s spent almost 20 years in the kitchens around New York, with even a little international experience in Brazil. He’s the kind of chef that always tries changing recipes to make a dish better, never serves something he thinks is bad, and is constantly looking to learn and improve his trade.
I’m going to do my best to fit the review of this place into my cookie-cutter review format, but in reality this place breaks the mold. The quality is so high off the charts here that it almost makes me want to reassess all my other 10-point scores for flavor and quality. Real kobe is just incredible. Okay so here we go…
Flavor: 10 (now an average of 9 after below update)
Easily some of the very best steak I’ve ever had and will ever have in my life. You can taste the flavor of the meat more in the strip loin, and you can taste the flavor of the fat more in the rib eye. I think both my wife and I preferred the strip. Typically I will pick the rib eye because I enjoy the fat flavor more, and there tends to be better marbling in the rib eye. But with meat like kobe, there is plenty of good, melty, intra-muscular fat and marbling in the strip cuts as well. Listen, assholes… The point is this: you can’t go wrong either way. Just look at this shit! Strip 10/10, rib eye 9/10.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
You have a choice of Japanese kobe, US kobe, US wagyu or Japanese wagyu. The cuts are either rib eye, tenderloin, strip, or skirt. Most items are offered by the ounce, so, for the most part, you can tailor your steak to your appetite. While they don’t have the full gamut of cuts you find at traditional steakhouses, the quality here is so high that I would be remiss to give nothing less than full points here.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions are pretty much DIY, so if you’re willing to spend to get more, then you’ll be a happy camper. The pre-set size cuts are 8oz, 10oz or 12oz, which is pretty standard for the high quality meat game, and they’re typically boneless as well. Otherwise you’re looking at a minimum of 4oz on the Japanese meats. And before you freak out about the bone being taken out, ask yourself if you’ve ever tried meat like this before. The bone is not needed when there is so much flavor in the beef and you can literally melt the marbling with the warmth in your finger! The plating for the beef is really nice, on slate plates. But don’t run your knife across the plate or you might get the chills. EEEEEEK!
I have to give a 10 here because we felt like we got such an amazing deal. If you’re going to blow your budget on a steak meal then this might be the right place to do it. It’s not a traditional steakhouse atmosphere, so know that going into the transaction. What you are coming here for is once-in-a-lifetime steak. And since they are still running mega-discounts on their menu right now, both as a walk in and via the Living Social deal, I suggest you high-tail your asses over there ASAP to take advantage of these prices. They have every justification to charge double. Believe me; it’s worth every bite. Not only that but they seemingly knocked some items off our bill as well, like the desserts. That said, the minimum 4oz order will run you $60, and that’s at the super-duper-blowout-sale price. The normal price is $45/oz, muthafucka! Let’s put it in yet another way: Had we paid full price for this meal, it would have cost us about $460. Even the discounted price, as you see below, was still over $200. We paid just about $150 I think, with tax and tip included.
The bar is nice, so don’t get me wrong here with the lower score. They were out of Beefeater gin, which isn’t a big deal. My martini was $13, which is fair for NYC (yet also crazy when you think about what a bottle of gin costs). I just prefer a bar that sits close to the street, with an open feel and views. It’s nicely decorated, the bartender is excellent and friendly, and there’s lots of high quality booze and wine to match the high quality beef. It’s just not exactly a happening spot. The great thing is that they serve kalamata olives at the bar as a free snack. Awesome.
Specials and Other Meats: 7
What you see is what you get, as far as the menu goes. Christos told me that he likes to make a few special items from time to time, like scallops, but that the menu is pretty strictly adhered to by the big boss man. As far as other meats go, well, it’s either beef or seafood, my friends. Deal with it.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9 (now 8 after below update)
We had baked parmesan polenta fries, which were light, crispy, and surprisingly flavorful.
The grilled octopus app was highly recommended by all the staff, including Christos. It was soft, tender and really flavorful with a classic Mediterranean profile. The liquid that it was served in (oil and lemon, with capers, peppers and herbs) took away some of that nice grilled char that I love so much, but the liquid was perfect for dipping bread in afterward.
For dessert we had espresso chocolate chip coffee ice cream and creme brulee. These were both really good, both texture-wise and flavor-wise. But we will definitely be coming back for the chocolate souffle, which is one of Christos’ specialty items.
Seafood Selection: 9
There’s lots to choose from here, including a highly diverse menu of whole cooked fish. We will definitely be back to try the mussels, which, along with the octopus, are seafood dishes of particular note and considered signature items by the staff. But the whole fish plates sound amazing, and so did the various raw items on the cold apps menu. Until then, I can only judge this category based on the octopus, which was just shy of absolutely amazing.
Our waiter, Glenn, was very attentive and kind. He recommended a great Italian wine to go with our meal, and we really enjoyed it (Tuscany Bolgheri Elisabeta-Aulo Rosso IGT 2009).
Christos is, simply put, a highly valuable asset. He’s as good in the front of the house as he is in the back. He kept coming to our table for each course to make sure we enjoyed everything, and he was a delight to talk to. We truly felt like honored guests. The staff even made some special bread slices to serve up just for us at the start of the meal, toasted with olive oil, oregano, smoked salt and lemon. Regular bread and plain butter is absolute shit after you’ve tasted something like this.
They’ve done the absolute best they could with the space they have. The decor is very classy, dark woods, elegant fixtures. It’s done very well. It won’t compare to some of the mega-giganto steakhouses elsewhere in midtown, but you’re primarily here for the food. So stop looking around the room and focus on your amazing plate of the world’s best beef.
I went back with a Groupon (paid $18, got $60 to spend) and a friend to try out their Australian wagyu porterhouse. Well, I should say we started with 4oz of Kobe strip loin, which was just as excellent as I remembered from my last visit. 10/10. Natural buttery flavor, lean enough to still taste like beef, and every bit of fat completely edible.
The porterhouse was really nice, but something was lacking. The menu said it was dry aged, but we really only tasted it on a few bits that were on the edges and had a good char.
The cook temp was slightly more than medium rare (which is what we ordered) and more towards the medium side.
We enjoyed it, and ate every last bit of it.
However, I think the issue with this cut is the method of preparation. We both felt that the filet side had more flavor than the strip side, which is odd and backwards. Only a few bits of the strip side were better, along the outside edge. That ridge of fat was very tender and edible, which was a nice change. 8/10.
We also tried the creamed spinach, which was a bit too soupy on the bottom as compared to the crisp on top. The cheese crisp on top basically slid off in one piece and underneath was like a spinach stew. It hd nice flavor but I wasn’t happy with the consistency. Dessert was just okay. I had a mandarin soufflé but to me it was more like orange flavored ice cream. I’ve taken the apps, sides and desserts score down to an 8.
316 E. 53rd St.
New York, NY 10022