All posts by Johnny Prime

Hillstone

My wife and I tried this place today on the recommendation of a friend of mine who spoke highly of the prime rib.

I give this a solid 8/10. For $46 you also get two sides with it, and the slab of roasty, beefy goodness is very well portioned.

It had a nice cap, good flavor both on the crust and throughout, and they serve it with a great seasoning salt (tasted like a sweet but spicy old bay salt), horseradish cream sauce, and gravy in a tea kettle.

The item that stole the show for me though was this grilled artichoke appetizer that our really nice and helpful waitress Marissa recommended.

The halves were perfectly seasoned, steamed, grilled, and then hit with some finishing salt. Absolutely awesome.

They serve some good crafted cocktails, and the bar is impressive as well.

Not a bad lunch!

HILLSTONE
153 E 53rd St
New York, NY 10022

Warren 77

This joint puts up some solid pub food. I came in with a group of food bloggers to help them promote their Stanley Cup game night specials (the joint is owned by an ex-NY Ranger). Anyway, here’s what we had:

Wings

These are breaded and served lollipop style. I liked them, despite generally having less of a preference for breaded wings.

Nachos

Stacked high with tons of toppings. Really good.

Boneless Chicken Wings

For the vagina in your group who doesn’t want any bones. Still good though – and also breaded.

Fried Pickles

A little too salty for me, but I liked the texture and sauce.

Philly Cheesesteak

I loved that this was on a hot dog potato bun. They said they usually serve it on different bread but ran out. I say stick with the hot dog bun. It was great. Low budget and tasty.

Double Cheeseburger

This was nice and basic too, but well executed. For $11 this is a great deal (fries were $3 extra, shoestring style, and  very nicely cooked). Their “77 Sauce” is like a Big Mac sauce. Dig it.

WARREN 77
77 Warren St
New York, NY 10007

Gem

I took my wife to Gem to celebrate our 9yr anniversary. Gem is home to the young rising star fine dining chef Flynn McGarry. He’s only 19yrs old, which means The Cake Dealer and I have been married for nearly half of his life!

Anyway, the meal was a set price tasting menu, which ran about $330 (tax and tip included, but before drinks, which was an additional $78 for three each). Here’s how it went down:

Everyone at the 6pm seating was given a glass of champagne upon entering, which I thought was cool. My wife and I opted out of the $100 drink pairing and decided to try three cocktails throughout the meal instead. They don’t have high proof liquor yet, but they do a good job making cocktails with wine, champagne and liqueurs. I think they also serve beer as well.

Drink 1: Cynar, sweet vermouth, champagne.

Course 1: Local Shellfish/Seafood

This array of beautiful plates consisted of the folowing:

Nori crisp with clam, fava bean and preserved citrus.

This was my first bite. It had a nice fresh, briny sea flavor and qas a good way to wake up the taste buds.

Surf clam with grilled blueberries and rose.

Nice contrast of sweet and savory here. Tasty broth in the shell as well.

Caviar with sorrel dressing and green almond.

A really flavorful and herbacious spoonful of joy.

Scallop with grilled cucumber and salted plum.

This was the star of the course. Really nicely balanced and incredibly flavorful.

Course 2: Smoked Cod with Apple, Caraway and Horseradish

This was probably my favorite dish of the meal. The broth was awesome, and the contrast between sweet/tart apple and smoky/savory fish was perfectly executed.

Course 3: Grilled Asparagus Chawanmushi with Ham and Dried Fruits

This consisted of both shaved and cooked asparagus, an asparagus custard, ham broth, and what we guessed were figs and cherries. Very nice. I think this was my wife’s favorite dish.

Course 4: Grilled Squid with Morels, Blackberry, and Hazelnut Mole

This was both beautiful and delicious. I really loved the flavor combination with the hazelnut.

Drink 2: Cynar, sweet vermouth, sherry.

Course 5: Ramp and Calabrian Chili Lasagna

This was a perfect dish. I could eat an entire sheet pan of this shit. It has a light spice from the chilies, a great freshness from the ramps, and a good crisp texture from the baking process. The delicate use of cheese, pinenuts and a pesto based sauce made this really unique.

Course 6: Cabbage with Foie Gras and Chicken Vadouvan

I loved this course as well. I only wish there was more actual foie gras meat. But the cabbage was served two ways: crisped and cooked with a sort of chicken broth reduction. The rich foie fattiness and savory flavors were abundant in this dish. Excellent.

Course 7: Aged Beet, Creamed Beet Greens and Beet Bordelaise

This was a vegetarian play on steakhouse cuisine. The beet was dry aged, smoked, and seared. When it first came out I thought it was venison. The flavor was deep and hearty from the prep and cooking process, but it still held true to beet flavor. The best part was the creamed beet greens. A near exact replication of good creamed spinach. The bordelaise was a bit heavy handed. Half of that amount would have been fine.

Course 8: Pork Feast

This course consisted of the following dishes:

Pork neck with a sauce made from snails, mustard seed and smoked maple.

I liked this, especially when dragging the pork through as much sauce as possible. Perfectly cooked, and a rare cut of pork that you hardly ever see being utilized in fine dining.

Pork and chive sausage with broccoli.

This was delicious. The sausage meat was formed around a shaved stalk of broccoli before being cooked. It reminded me of some shrimp paste sausage items you sometimes see in asian cuisines.

Roasted sweet potato logs with black sesame.

These were a bit sweet, so I recommend eating them last even though our waitress said that there was no particular order to this course.

Pulled pork lettuce wraps.

The fresh herbs combined with the sweet meat made me think of asian cuisine here as well.

Drink 3: Rhubarb cooking liquids, St. Germain and champagne. Sorry, no pic. It was pink, bubbly and in a champagne glass.

Dessert: Rhubarb and Green Strawberry Galette, with Olive Oil and Thyme Mascarpone, and Vanilla Ice Cream with Blueberry Compote

The ice cream and mascarpone were meant as toppings.

This course really stole the show, and it finished the meal with a bang. We both loved it. The tart was so light and flakey, and all the flavors really paired well together.

That does it. Great spot for a date! Tip is included in the pricing here, and you pay in advance when you make a reservation. So you should only expect to pay up for drinks.

GEM
116 Forsyth St
New York, NY 10002

Ben & Jacks Steakhouse (44th Street)

Ben & Jacks (44th Street) overall score: 90

I’ve been a big fan of Ben & Jack’s for a few years now, after several delicious visits to the location down in the Flatiron area. They recently re-opened their East 44th Street location, so I went in to give it a try with another food blogger pal of mine. Chef Admir wouldn’t let us order for two. Instead he fed us enough food for five. Check it out below:

Flavor: 8

Porterhouse: 7

This baby was cooked perfectly. It had a great char on one side, and it was cooked to a nice pink throughout.

Cajun Rib Eye: 9

What a great crust on this baby. And I could really taste the dry-aged flavor coming through. The cajun spice treatment didn’t overwhelm it at all.

Prime Rib: 9

This prime rib was definitely roasted to perfection, and since it was dry-aged, the flavor was extra intense and delicious.

As you can see, however, it almost looks as if the meat hit a hot surface to get an additional sear or cook on the cut.

Perhaps it was sliced on a hot surface, or it was a cut that was exposed on one side while roasting. Either way, it was delicious and worthy of your attention.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

This place uses Master Purveyors to supply the beef, and Chef Admir dry-aged everything in-house in a custom aging room. Everything is prime, and really friggin’ good. There’s a huge variety of cuts here, running the gamut on all the standard cuts and then some.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions here are good here. The plating is basic yet rustic and elegant on the steak and sides, but with the apps you will get some very beautiful looking platess.

Price: 10

I can’t take away points when my meal was free, but this place comes in average to below average on prices, which is great given the midtown location.

Bar: 9

Great big marble bar with lots of light coming in from the nearby wall of windows. They mix a nice martini too. I’d definitely hang out here and chow down on a burger or something before ordering a steak.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

I didn’t poke around too much into the specials and other meats sections of the menu, but there is good representation here. One thing I will mention is their happy hour burger special. For just $13.95 you get an 8oz dry-aged wagyu burger with fries. Awesome.

It just needs a potato bun and a sauce. Then it’s perfect.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

Great creamless creamed spinach, just like at the other location. Really unique mac and cheese, made with shallots and butter in the mix for a bomb of flavorful decadence. Great crispy hash brown potatoes, sliced thin and cooked with onions. Also some really awesome thick cut steakhouse bacon.

Seafood Selection: 10

I didn’t try any here yet, but I know the other location was great, and the same kind of variety in menu items is present here as well, so I’m piggy-backing the 10 score over here.

Service: 10

Top notch. Always. These guys are great and will make you feel like royalty.

Ambiance: 8

This is a brand new restaurant with really nice space and elegance. There’s even an outdoor area in the back for when the nice weather finally gets here.

BEN & JACK’S STEAKHOUSE
219 East 44th Street
New York, NY 10017

Tomahawk Rib Eyes

New in the shop!

These monster 40oz chops are choice or higher for just $75! They’re currently dry-aged for 45 days, but I’ll never let them out of the shop under 28 days. So flavorful. Go get some RIGHT HERE, right now!

NYC’s Top 5 Places for Prime Rib

I’m still making my rounds in the NYC prime rib scene, but I’ve sunk my teeth into some of the best there is. This list represents the best I’ve had so far:

1) The Grill

Easily the best expression of the dish that I’ve ever had. Somehow the flavor from the crust penetrates all the way into the center of the meat. Sauces aren’t needed, despite there being a little bit of jus on the plate already, but it comes with shaved horseradish on top (if you so desire), and a duo of horseradish cream sauce and dijon mustard on the side. All served table side from a fancy rolling cart with hinged cloche.

2) 4 Charles Prime Rib

If you can manage to get a table here, you must order the prime rib. It is their sole purpose for existence. The real dilemma comes in the form of which version to order: King Cut (bone-in, pictured above), Queen Cut (boneless, and a little smaller), or English Cut (thinly sliced). Royal genders of our European cousins aside, you won’t be disappointed with whatever cut you choose.

3) Keens

An absolute classic. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s delicious. This and the mutton chop are the two items that put Keens on the map and set their place in stone among the best steakhouses in the world. If you haven’t been here yet, you’re missing out. Plus I love that they use beef from Strassburger Steaks. Good people and fine quality products.

4) Smith & Wollensky

This joint is known for their prime rib and it’s been a mainstay in NYC since 1977. Almost any list you see that discusses prime rib in this great city will mention Smith & Wollensky. This baby is roasted to perfection with a good crust and a nice amount of cap meat. You really can’t go wrong.

5) Maxwell’s Chophouse

Last but certainly not least, Maxwell’s is my wild card choice. They’re new on the scene, but they’re coming out swinging! Their prime rib is available on the regular menu, but my friends and I called ahead to reserve a rack for six. This was downright barbaric! Watch:

Amazing. Dry-aged for 60+ days in house, this baby brought tons of flavor. I highly recommend it.

Honorable Mention: Porterhouse Bar & Grill

This joint offers prime rib regularly, and you can even call ahead to reserve a table for a special prime rib fixed menu meal. But they also have a special dry-aged prime rib meal for a bit more money. I have to say; they do a great job here.

The Hotomizer

This product is pretty cool.

Spray on heat!

One or two squirts adds a nice, neutrals-flavored spice to any dish. I used it on leftover lasagna, pasta, pork tenderloin, and even in cocktails. I love it!

I highly recommend.

Chomps

Chomps brand beef sticks are similar in size and style to Slim Jim brand jerky sticks, but they are a bite more tender and less grainy. A nicer quality. My wife picked these up for me as a gift, and I liked them.

“Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt” (venison) and “Hoppin Jalepeno” (grass fed beef) were my favorite flavors.

Worth a shot!

I Love NY Pizza

This pizza joint up in Schenectady is fairly good. I was expecting something rancid and offensive, so far from NYC. But the crust was nice – airy but crisp, with just the right amount of chew and dough bounce. I went with a mozzarella, ricotta, tomato and broccoli slice. I enjoyed it. If you find yourself in the area, this is a decent shop.

I LOVE NY PIZZA – YOU WILL TOO
1705 Union St
Schenectady, NY 12309

Denny’s

I ate a burger at Denny’s this past week for the first time in my life. I was actually kind of impressed with it. The burger meat needed a punch in the flavor department, and the sauce on the burger was too plentiful and too sweet (bourbon sauce), but over all it was pretty decent.

The burger patty itself was loosely packed (a good thing), and it had a great crisp all over. It wasn’t overcooked either. The toppings were layered on in just the right amounts, and there was good cheese coverage.

The cheddar bun was a big surprise. I was expecting it to flake apart and crumble under pressure, but it was fresh, pliable yet soft, and held up to scrutiny.

I’d eat here again, though maybe I’d opt for a standard cheeseburger instead of the bacon bourbon burger, so as to avoid the overly sweet sauce.

DENNY’S
60 Nott Terrace
Schenectady, NY 12308