All posts by Johnny Prime

Kitchencue Stovetop Smoker

This is just a quick review of a new kitchen gadget I obtained after seeing some pics of it on Instagram. It’s a stovetop smoker that makes it easy to obtain smoked flavors without needing to open your windows or use something outside. My first attempt was with chicken.

The result was really nice – roasted and smoked. I will update this post as I try smoking more stuff.

Haru

My wife and I stopped in here on a weekend to try their happy hour menu.

We started with some drinks:

And then moved on to the food. Wings, shishito peppers, and four rolls: Haru wasabi, phoenix, Hell’s Kitchen, and spicy Titanic.

Everything was great, and we will definitely be back here again. The total bill for everything was just over $60. Not bad.

HARU SUSHI
859 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Upscale Flavored Steaks

The idea of a marinated steak is nothing new. Throw some soy sauce and garlic in a tupperware container, plop your steak in there, and a few hours later you’ve completely transformed the flavor, texture and character of your beef.

Lots of small, usually budget-friendly, run-of-the-mill restaurants that serve steaks will do this to punch up the quality and flavor of their beef. But a true steakhouse, it is often believed, won’t fuck with a quality cut of steak. Just salt and pepper is all you need.

Yet some of the best places in NYC are offering “flavored” steaks. And you will almost always see something like a coffee rubbed filet on a steakhouse menu from time to time. But let this be your guide to some of the good ones out there.

Probably the most commonly seen flavored steak is the “Cajun” steak. Typically this involves some onion, garlic, black pepper and often times something potent like cumin, paprika or cayenne pepper. These spices, when combined, can really make a steak pop and excite the taste buds.

My favorite Cajun steak is at Greenwich Steakhouse. This one comes with a little pool of oils and spiced sauce on the bottom, which I like to drag my steak though for extra pop. They’ll even throw the flavoring onto other cuts if you’d like, but the rib eyes are marinated in the stuff, so I think they might have a bit more deeply penetrating flavors.

For something less “wet” when served, go to Tuscany Steakhouse. This one is only on their lunch menu, but if you ask nice they might hook it up. Especially if you tell them I sent you. It’s excellent.

Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse also does a really nice job on their Cajun rib eye, which is a happy middle ground between Greenwich and Tuscany in terms of preparation and presentation; a little of the oil on the bottom, but still mostly a dry presentation. The great thing about this one is that the dry-aged flavor still comes though nicely.

Smith & Wollensky is thought to be the originator of the Cajun rib eye up here in NYC. In fact, Chef Victor at Greenwich Steakhouse is the one who developed the recipe at Smith & Wollensky before he struck out on his own (Greenwich Steakhouse). Greenwich is much better, in my opinion, but the two are very similar in overall style.

Harry’s offers a Cajun rib eye too, but it tastes completely different from the others up above, which all tend to have the same flavor profile. Harry’s is more earthy and peppery than the exotic spice flavors on the above cuts. Still great, just entirely different.

Another great flavored steak is the chili-rubbed rib eye. You can occasionally find this at Delmonico’s if they’re doing a tribute menu, but the man they pay homage to is Chef LoMonaco of Porter House Bar & Grill. He became well known for creating this spicy and delicious flavored rib eye.

If you’re like me, when it comes to spice, you prefer something aggressive like chili. But not so harsh that is fucks up your entire palate for the rest of the meal. I happen to love Szechuan peppercorn; that numbing heat with a slight burn. There’s just something about it.

I even tried to make a steak with those flavors a while back. But my attempt paled in comparison to the Szechuan tomahawk rib eye from The Lobster Club. This thing is aggressive, for sure, and richly flavorful. It’s tingly, it’s spicy, and it’s perfectly cooked. And when you go, bring the oily sauce home and fry up some leftover white rice with it, and top it with a fried egg or two. You won’t be disappointed.

There are lots of others out there that I didn’t try yet, like the chili wagyu sirloin at Char House, or the whiskey dry-aged rib eye and lavender-rubbed porterhouse at The Beatrice Inn. I may need to win the lottery first though to afford those. I’ve heard great things, but I think the whiskey steak starts at about $1000. At least it feeds three people.

Chef Chuck Troup

I recently tried a 500-day dry aged steak at Maxwell’s Chophouse.

It turns out that the chef there, Chuck Troup, is experimenting with some really interesting things.

After speaking with him that night, I decided I wanted to do a little feature of him here on the site in the form of a Q&A interview. Read on and enjoy, and I highly recommend Maxwell’s Chophouse.

JP: Tell my readers a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, how long you’ve been in the business, and what got you interested in cooking.

CT: I was born in PA and raised in New Orleans. I have been living this lifestyle going on 31 years now. I don’t think I necessarily chose this lifestyle, it really chose me. Growing up and starting out in the industry I was surrounded by all of the craziness and excitement in a kitchen. I was so engulfed in the way all the cooks would interact with one another and I found that really amazing. It was funny to me and also exciting the way the cooks would all scream and swear at each other all night long, and then be best friends after it was all over. It really was and is organized chaos and I love that.

JP: You seem to know your way around steaks. Would you say this is your specialty, or are there other cuisines that challenge you and inspire you?

CT: I would say I know my way around steak and I do enjoy working in the steak environment, but over the years I have worked in various cuisines. I spent three years in Japan. Working and living in Japan had a great influence on me as a person, and as a chef. Being from the south, I grew up in an environment full of Cajun and Creole food. I always try to incorporate everything I’ve learned over time wherever I go. Even at a Steakhouse such as Maxwell’s, I’ll throw in a Cajun/Creole special, or even a salmon or steak tartare or sushi roll special. All in all I love pretty much every cuisine, there isn’t much I won’t cook or won’t eat!

JP: I like that you are experimenting with various lengths of dry aging. Is there a sweet spot for flavor in your opinion? 30 days? 60 days? 90?

CT: I think that my personal sweet spot for aging is the 160 to 180 day range. To me, that length of dry aging just has the right amount of funk, flavor and taste. Honestly, after eating a dry aged steak, I don’t know if I could ever go back to not eating it this way. With that being said, as a chef it’s important to know what’s too much. I totally understand why some people have different views on aging. Always have to know your guest.

JP: What sorts of other things are you experimenting with?

CT: Lately, I have been experimenting with lamb, duck, bison, elk, veal and I have even done a few pheasants.

JP: Last time I was here you let me try something that was aged for 500 days. How would you describe the flavor on something aged for that long? I took to calling it concentrated beef rocket fuel!

CT: Well for me I would say that piece of New York strip steak had an unseasoned salami texture with a huge musky flavor, but was not near as funky as a 500 day rib eye. Not sure if “funky” is a good word to describe aged meat, but it’s usually a good kind of funk!

JP: Would you ever consider offering a tasting of various ages to a customer? Say 4oz each at 30, 60 and 90 days?

CT: I would love to do a tasting of aged meat! It would be really great to have people that don’t understand the complexities of flavor that come with the dry aging process at different intervals so they can see how that switch flips with age.

JP: Are customers generally aware of what dry aging does, or do you find that you and the staff have to explain the process?

CT: I think that our audience is generally more educated than 10 or 15 years ago, plus there are a decent amount of people that go to a steakhouse for the aged meat. There are times when we will need to explain what the process is and why different cuts have different flavor at the same age. It’s important that all staff (servers, back servers, etc.) are educated on the process so we can confidently explain to our guests.

JP: What’s your favorite item on the menu at Maxwell’s?

CT: My favorite cut on the menu is for sure our rib eye. My favorite thing on the menu would be the Lamb Burger! Of course it depends on what specials we have, so it does change from time to time. Now that I’m thinking about it, I also love our roasted chicken – it’s really hard to choose!

JP: What’s your favorite cut of steak?

CT: Rib eye!

JP: What’s the most difficult steak to cook properly?

CT: The porterhouse is the hardest to cook correctly. I am completely opposed to the technique of cooking it to rare, slicing and then bringing up to temperature. A good grill cook knows that is reheating, and how most steakhouses do the meat this beautiful deserves the respect of proper cooking along with our customers.

Boucherie Park

I’m going to keep this one nice and simple. Boucherie Park is the second location of Boucherie, which I love. The menu is the same, and the decor is very similar. While I like the ambiance of the original location a bit better, this joint has an area up front that I like to call the “meat bar,” where you can order freshly carved slices of prosciutto. They even offer baguettes and sandwiches during the day for lunch from this area. With that give and take on the ambiance of each spot, they actually even out at the same score: 95. You may as well jump over to that review to read more on each section (though I may need to update it). This place is excellent.

Steak Tartare:

Tomahawk:

Iberico Pork:

Flavor: 9
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
Portion Size & Plating: 10
Price: 10
Bar: 10
Specials & Other Meats: 10
Apps Sides & Desserts: 9
Seafood Selection: 8
Service: 10
Ambiance: 10

Donohue’s

I’m a sucker for old restaurants, especially places that date back to the “Mad Men” days of NYC’s mod past. I’m not sure if they filmed anything from Mad Men at Donohue’s, but they should have. It is truly scenic in there, and perfect for a show like that. And that’s kinda where my excitement for this place ends.

I’m not an ageist, and I’m by no means a young whippersnapper. But I think I may have seen Don Draper and Richard Sterling at one of the tables here, struggling to throw back one last martini before their final coronary. I’m 40, and I was probably the youngest person in the joint at 7pm on a Monday.

This place just sucks in old rich people for some reason. We even saw an octogenarian couple pull up in their two-seater Mercedes sports car and park right in front before slowly shambling their way inside. I don’t begrudge that though; it must be a rough haul to hoof it down from 68th and Park to 64th and Lex at that age.

But what’s the fucking attraction? Do they swap spouses or some shit? Is there a back room where they buy and sell peoples’ souls?

Well there you have my synopsis of this review in picture form. I posted those to Instagram the night of the meal. But allow me to expand on that with a full steakhouse review:

Donohue’s overall score: 66

Flavor: 6

The filet wasn’t a nightmare, but it lacked flavor. It was likely cooked without salt and butter. Maybe this method caters to the low cholesterol, low sodium, salt substitute -using, high blood pressure -having, at-risk-for-heart-failure crowd that frequents the place. Or maybe they just don’t know what the fuck they’re doing in the kitchen as far as seasoning goes. In terms of working the broiler, it really was cooked perfectly. The crust on the outside was crispy but not charred or burnt, and there was a nice pink center from edge to edge.

I split this with a friend, though, and he said he had some chewy bits that he spit out. My half was fine in terms of texture.

We also split a burger. This thing sucked, mainly because the stale and lifeless bun needs to be replaced and the meat didn’t have a good sear on it. Otherwise I would have been fine with a simple cheese skirt and the basic toppings. The steak fries that came with it were actually great. They were golden crisp on the outside and soft like mashed potatoes inside. I was actually surprised by them, since I usually dislike steak fries.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 5

I’m not sure why this place holds itself out as a steakhouse when there are really only two cuts of beef being offered: sirloin and filet. That’s only half of the four basic steakhouse staples (assuming you count the sirloin as a strip). That said, they do offer other cuts as specials from time to time, and the menu lists the beef as prime.

Portion Size & Plating: 6

Portion sizes are a mixed bag here. My friend had a shrimp cocktail and there were just four medium-sized shrimp on it – certainly not “jumbo,” as listed on the menu. The crab cakes were small as well. The steak, however, was a good size for a filet; probably about 10 or 12oz. The same goes for the carrot cake; it was also a good portion size. Plating is very basic. Nothing fancy at all.

Price: 6

The pricing is another mixed bag. There’s something to be said about a steak joint that gives you a filet mignon, a salad, a potato and some onion rings for $40. While the majority of the side items sucked, I wouldn’t care if they just nailed the steak. A $40 price tag would still be good for that. I’d go all the time and give the sides and salads to a homeless person. The steaks and entrees are all under $40, and some are even under $30, which is great! But what makes things really odd is that so much other shit is overpriced. The small crab cakes ($19), the “jumbo” shrimp cocktail ($18), the kid’s size martini ($14)…

I’m used to feeling ripped off for getting double that amount of hooch for $18. This was some next level of rip off shit though. Maybe former Donohue’s regular Bernie Madoff is setting the pricing structure here. A seemingly good deal on entrees to get you in the door, and then a shitload of ass raping money grabs that would make Mr. Charles Ponzi himself stare in awe and envy from the beyond.

Bar: 7

Bar and atmosphere are truly the reasons to come here. I love the dim lighting, the checkerboard floor, the warm wood tones, and the “regulars welcome” kind of neighborhood feel to a short, old, unchanged stretch of bar on Lexington. Sit down. Have a drink.

Specials and Other Meats: 6

There are chalkboards in the window out front and on the wall in the back that list many of the same items that are already printed on the menu. One or two things aren’t printed, though, so keep an eye on the chalkboard if you’re looking to be disappointed by an unlisted entree here. As for other meats, they have veal, chicken and pork. Not bad, but then again this place is more like a diner than a steakhouse, so I’m not really surprised at the variety.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 6

I started with an order of crab cakes.

I joked that these were like frozen food aisle items, but they really weren’t that bad. These little guys had a good crispy fried crust on the outside, and the inside was all crab meat, for the most part.

The steaks came with a green veggie, three onion rings and your choice of potato. I picked a salad and mashed potatoes. The potatoes may as well have been made from a powdered box mix; bland and somewhat dry. The salad was an afterthought; the kind you might get at a roadside diner on a transparent, filigreed, faux-glass plastic plate with your meatloaf. The onion rings were fine, however.

As I mentioned above, the fries were pretty solid, and the carrot cake was good. But it wasn’t great. It was indeed the best part of the meal, but in no way did this dessert hold a candle to something like the amazing carrot cake dessert at Ocean Prime. One of my buddies asked if they made the dessert in house, and the answer was a resounding no.

Seafood Selection: 7

There are several fish entrees to choose from here. More fish entrees than beef entrees, I think. My buddy had scallops, which were broiled with lemon and white wine (no butter). I think the low sodium, no butter thing is what draws the elderly in here. Or maybe the menu is catered to their palettes. Has to be. That and the nostalgia of reliving their youth in a neighborhood place that’s still open since 1950.

Service: 8

Our waitress forgot to bring us menus for about ten minutes and didn’t tell us about any specials, but that’s not really a big deal. Other than that, there were no problems. She remembered all the beers they had when my buddy asked, and she didn’t need to write anything down for our order. She was nice and pleasant, and she deftly swapped our forks and knives out between apps and entrees.

Ambiance: 9

I truly love the ambiance here. I think it could use some sprucing up though. I’m not talking about a remodel or anything like that, but something to clean it up and make it even more appealing as an old classic. The prices have gone up and the lease is locked for another 10 years, so they can afford to do something if they want to.

In summary, I’m glad I came here, especially since my friends paid for my meal as a birthday gift. I probably wouldn’t go back for a full meal, but I’d definitely stop in to take in the scenery on occasion, and maybe have an order of fries at the bar. Probably a beer, too, since those weren’t painfully overpriced like the martinis.

To try to answer my own question about why so many old rich people go to Donohue’s: I think the low sodium, no butter thing is what draws the elderly in. Or maybe the cooks just cater to the palettes of their regulars. There’s nothing official or printed about no salt and no butter. It was just very evident. So that, plus the nostalgia of old folks reliving their youth in a neighborhood place that’s still open since 1950. As for the wealthy aspect? No idea. Must be the neighborhood.

DONOHUE’S STEAKHOUSE
845 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10065

Gary West Artisan Smoked Meats

It’s National Jerky Day so I need to give you fuckers something for it. I recently got my hands on a bunch of flavors of this brand during a Certified Angus Beef tour of a meat purveyor near NYC (DeBragga).

This stuff is really good, and it reminds me of the stem portions of the “Say it with Beef” jerky rose bouquet that my wife got me for Valentine’s Day.

I highly recommend this product. Every flavor is delicious, tender and flavorful, as they are all made with CAB brand high quality meats. If you see it around, buy it all up.

Di Fara Pizza

Di Fara Pizza is known for being one of NYC’s (specifically Brooklyn’s) best pizza joints.

It’s been around for a long time (since 1965), and the man running the show, Dom, has been making pizza there since it opened.

Get used to this view for two or three hours when you come here…

The menu is pretty extensive for such a busy spot. Lines can get pretty long, and you might find yourself waiting two hours or more, even for just a few slices.

My wife and I stopped in on our way down to Coney Island for a concert. We ordered two square slices and two regular slices. I was actually surprised that this place was serving pizza by the slice given how long the lines can get. Usually when that happens, pizza joints will start doing pies only just for ease of operation.

They told us it would take about 25 minutes; that was at about 2:30pm. They clearly don’t know how to estimate the timing on this racket, even after 53 years. You’d think that would sort itself out after a few months of intense demand. But we didn’t really mind since our show didn’t start until 7pm, and we expected a bit of a wait.

We ended up standing around for about three hours waiting for our four slices though. Was it worth it? Yes and no. See below…

The first two slices to be ready were the regular slices. They were just okay. My wife even said that I made better pizza at home with respect to these. I agree. The crust was too hard, dense and dry in the back, and I needed to add some of their oil-soaked peppers to liven up the crust toward the end.

My favorite was the square pie. It was thick, saucy and packed with flavor, though still a bit too crisp/hard on the dough. These came out to us about 15 minutes after the two regular slices were ready. Again, poor timing. Everything should be served together.

See that black crust on the bottom of the corner slice there up above? Remember that…

One trick I learned toward the end of our wait was that if you walk in and take a peek over the counter to see if any straggler slices are just sitting around, you can ask if they’re unclaimed. Usually they’re not claimed, which means they’ll serve you right away and you won’t have to wait around like a sucka-ass tourist.

We did that as our two square slices were coming up, so we grabbed those two white slices on the left to go with our other four. The white slice was my least favorite of the three.

This slice, however, had a slightly better rise to it at the point. A little thicker, puffier, more airy, a better crisp – like a crunchy pillow – at that end. So that was a plus. I also liked the ricotta, but I again found myself gravitating toward the oil-soaked peppers in order to get down on the dry and hard crust toward the back end.

Which is really odd to say, because they drench the shit out of their pies with olive oil both before and after they come out of the oven. Shit was making puddles on the regular slices.

I did love the abundance of fresh basil on each pizza, but these fuckers were burning pies left and right all day long. I’m talking pitch black crusts! I usually like a little bit of that on a pie, spotty, just for texture and flavor, but some of these things were nearly destroyed entirely. Hard. Brittle. Dry. Black. And they were still selling them. The balls on these animals! We lucked out, though, and the six slices that we ate were okay, for the most part. Only one corner of one square slice was ruined and burned (I noted it above). Not bad.

So six slices, a glass bottle of Pepsi and a can of Schweppes seltzer ran us $38 and took up three hours of our lives. Was it worth it? Not for the food, no fucking way. Totonno’s is so much better, in my opinion, and you won’t have to wait that long to eat it. This place could really use a dedicated worker to man the ovens at all times so that nothing gets burnt. The commotion was too overbearing at times back there.

Taste and business commentary aside, I wouldn’t trade the experience we had for those three hours and a nice Totonno’s pie. I made sure to stay cognizant of the fact that we had the opportunity to watch Dom make pizza before it’s too late. The man deserves our respect, even if we don’t love every slice that comes out of the oven.

And he may be old, but fuck, man… the dude was pulling hot pies out of the oven with his bare hands! It was worth the three hour wait just to watch him do that.

DI FARA PIZZA
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230

Anchor Bar

The other day while walking around our neighborhood, my wife and I noticed that Anchor Bar had opened. For those who don’t know, Anchor Bar up in Buffalo is supposed to be the place that created what we now know as “Buffalo Wings.” The Buffalo location has become quite the tourist trap, so I am told, and people like to bicker about which place is better: Anchor Bar or Duff’s.

Well, I’ve been to neither. But I have been to some pretty fantastic wings places here, like Bonnie’s Grill and International Wings Factory (my two favorites – Bonnie’s for traditional Buffalo style, and IWF for the vast array of amazing flavors and dry rubs). Some people tell me that Dan & John’s is great too.

Anyway, we decided to give Anchor Bar a try. We ordered three styles: Hot (top), Suicidal (middle) and Habanero Dry Rub (bottom).

I’m not sure if they’re weakening the spice levels for the pussies out there, but hot was more like a mild or medium to me.

I expected suicidal to destroy me. Instead it was just a more earthy and granular flavor that had the same level of heat as the hot flavor.

The habanero dry rub was the weakest in spice of the three, and at times it felt like the flavors didn’t penetrate into the meat. They were nice and crunchy though.

Overall the wings were good. Above average for sure. I still think I like Bonnie’s and IWF better, but this is a pretty solid spot and very convenient.

My favorite thing that we ate was the beef on weck. I hope you people realize how fucking difficult it was to fool autocorrect from making that say “beef on deck.” Fucking annoying bullshit. The sandwich was good here, particularly the bread (I’ve had better roast beef).

Weck is a special kind of roll that also hails from the Buffalo area, typically topped with thick grain salt and other seeds and spices. The roast beef is sliced thin and served hot on the sandwich, typically with nothing but horseradish. I sliced up the pickle spear that came with the sandwich and put that on there as well. And it may be blasphemous, but I’ve always thought this sandwich would kick serious ass with some melted cheddar on top.

The great thing about this item at Anchor Bar is that for $16 you can get the sandwich and five wings – the best of both Buffalo specialties in one meal. Give that a shot if you go.

ANCHOR BAR
327 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019

Fish Cheeks

My wife and I came here for a friend’s birthday lunch. Here’s all the stuff we tried:

DRINKS

Watermelon Spritz: Aylesbury vodka with Aperol, fresh squeezed watermelon juice and Prosecco.

Thai Old Fashioned: Mekhong Thai spirit with Angostura, orange, kaffir lime and spiced chocolate bitters.

APPS

Calamari: fried calamari, cilantro, dried red chili, tamarind and fish sauce glaze.

Zabb Wings: fried chicken wings with chili, lime and mint.

Shrimp in 3 Crabs Sauce: lightly cured raw shrimp with lime juice, garlic, bird’s eye chili and mint.

Yum Som-O: pomelo, cilantro, fried shallot, apple blossom, toasted coconut flakes, peanut and tamarind dressing.

Grilled Pork Cheeks: Compart Duroc pork cheeks served with Jeaw sauce.

Market Oysters: served with fried shallots and nam jim seafood.

ENTREES

Coconut Crab Curry: southern style curry with crab meat and sea beans.

Short Rib Massamun Curry: grass fed short rib braised for 12 hours, potatoes and peanuts.

Crab Fried Rice: crab, rice, egg, scallion, cilantro and cucumber served with nam jim seafood and prik nam pla.

Steamed Fish with Thai Herbs: whole striped bass, chili, lime, mint, cilantro, cilantro and lemongrass broth.

Seafood Pad Cha: stir fried shrimp, scallop, squid, wild ginger, green peppercorn, basil, string beans and Thai eggplant.

SIDES

String Bean & Pork Cracklings: sautéed with dried chili and garlic.

Sautéed Cabbage: with garlic and fish sauce.

Spicy Corn: with grape tomatoes and string beans.

DESSERTS

Sticky Rice & Mango:

Coconut Ice Cream:

Okay, so that would be a shitload of dishes to review individually. I can tell you honestly that every single dish I had here was incredible, and that’s even including the vegan and vegetarian dishes. My favorites were the calamari, wings, shrimp in 3 crabs sauce, pork cheeks, crab fried rice, steamed fish, seafood pad cha and beef curry.

FISHCHEEKS
55 Bond St
New York, NY 10012