For our New Year’s Eve dinner in Playa del Carmen, we went to Sonora Grill Prime. They offered a set menu price fix meal. Here’s what we had:
The first items to arrive at the table was a baked bean and cheese dip with tortilla chips, and an array of dipping sauces.
And our drinks. Here is my wife’s lychee martini.
First, a pumpkin and squash soup (which was velvety smooth and really delicious) as well as a dried fruits salad with blue cheese (which was also great – I want dried fruits in all of my salads now).
For the entrees, there was a choice of roasted chicken, fish (I forget which kind) and beef. Obviously I got the beef, which was a filet mignon.
Mine was grilled and cooked nicely to medium rare, despite the waiter informing us that all of them would be cooked to medium. I guess they really wanted to streamline the process in the kitchen.
I was glad mine came out medium rare, as all of the beef here is good quality shit from the US.
My buddy’s filet, on the other hand, was taller and skinnier than mine – a completely different shape. And it was rare. He wasn’t pleased with it, but I liked mine at 8/10.
My wife tried the fish. It was “fishy” as they say, but not quite as aggressively flavored as something like a Long Island bluefish. I thought it was fine.
The dessert was bread pudding, and we all liked it.
If I am down here again, I would like to try some of their steaks from the regular menu. When I made the reservation here, I did not know they were offering a special, limited menu. I guess I should have known better, since that’s pretty much what every restaurant does in NYC.
I’ve decided to save a full 100-point review for this spot until I return. For now, I just scored the steak on its own.
SONORA GRILL PRIME
Calle 12 Nte 251
Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720
Playa del Carmen; Q.R., Mexico
This is a special sort of review, so I am keeping it unrated for now (flavor on all of the cuts was a 10/10 though, just for your own edification). I recently became friendly with the owner of Kow Cattle Co., a domestic wagyu producer out of Iowa that ships directly from the farm to customers and restaurants. No distributors get their hands on this stuff, and the beef goes right back to them after the slaughterhouse. Needless to say they create some great product, most of which is grading out at BMS scores of around 8. This dinner was a special tasting of a few different cuts of Kow, since BLT is now going to serve some of their products on the menu. Check it out:
Wagyu Tongue Reuben
This baby is on their lunch menu, and it is amazing. You may be freaked out by the idea of eating tongue, but it is tender, marbled and delicious. When cooked properly, this is one of the most delicious cuts of the animal. Go give it a shot.
Vietnamese Style Tri-Tip
Perfection! I hope this is on their regular menu, because it is an amazing way to treat an off-cut, or not-so-common cut (uncommon here in NYC steakhouses anyway). There was a hit of fish sauce, fresh herbs like cilantro and scallion, pickled daikon and carrot. Amazing. And look at that sear on the outside!
Wagyu Tenderloin/Filet Mignon
This is pure butter. So friggin good. Great cook temp, great crust on the outside, and super soft inside.
Wagyu Tomahawk Rib Eye
This is served sliced and off the bone. I loved it. Everyone goes nuts for the tenderloin from these Kow folks, but I am a traditionalist. Give me that rib eye!
As for some of the other items we tried from the BLT bullpen, their awesome popovers:
A really nicely crafted terrine/head cheese:
Lamb bacon, which I was excited to see on the menu:
A standard wedge salad:
A great blue cheese olive martini:
Some kind of flourless healthy vegan brownie, that was actually good:
And mini cookie ice cream sandwiches. Good ice cream, but cookies needed to be softer.
Anyway, that does it. I’ll definitely be back for seconds on the Reuben for lunch, and I need to take my wife for the Viet tri-tip.
By the way, you can order all of these Kow steaks online from THEIR WEBSITE. I highly recommend.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
845 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10065
My wife and I came here for a quick meal and to take photos for Instagram.
The porterhouse was a 7/10. It was cooked nicely to medium rare, but it lacked a bit of seasoning and dry-aged flavor. The strip side had a bit of a chew to it, but still pretty good. The filet side was perfect!
The “sauce” we ordered on the side was the “cherry peppers and onions” selection, which I knew in advance wouldn’t be an actual “sauce” as listed on the menu.
Four Cuts Steakhouse is owned by the same folks as Tudor City Steakhouse, and I recall that I enjoyed the cherry peppers and onions there (it, too, wasn’t a sauce, but, rather, a toping or a side item). I dig it. And these are perfect to use for leftover steak and eggs the next morning.
We also tried the filet “oscar” style.
This was a 9/10.
The lobster meat and hollandaise really worked nicely together with the steak, which was perfectly cooked to medium rare.
I highly recommend that filet, and I’m looking forward to trying more cuts the next time I visit.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
You can see here on the menu that all “four cuts” are represented (not counting the lamb chops):
However, they also offer specials like the filet “oscar,” and this tomahawk that I unfortunately didn’t get to try:
It looked and smelled delicious! The meats hail from Masters, and are all dry-aged for 28 days.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions are large here, and plating is pretty standard in the steakhouse style. Elegant and simple.
The prices here are all very fair. In fact some are a huge bargain considering what neighboring steak joints are charging, much like their sister restaurant, Tudor City Steakhouse.
There’s a cozy little stretch of bar that was seeing a fair amount of action on a Friday evening. I liked this little guy sitting on there:
Drinks are pretty good too.
First they brought out a vodka martini by mistake, but they knew before I did (I hadn’t sipped it yet). They just brought out a gin martini and told me to keep the vodka one too. Bonus!
Specials and Other Meats: 8
There are definitely some steak items that aren’t listed on the menu. The tomahawk steak and filet “oscar” style that I mentioned above, for example. Make sure you ask what they have. By way of alternative meats, you can go with either lamb or chicken.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
The crab cake was meaty!
The star of the apps were the oysters Rockefeller and the clams casino. These usually come six to an order, but the chef did us a solid and gave us three of each so we could try both preparations.
I also really liked the tuna tartare. Big portion, clean and fresh taste, and simply executed.
Sautéed asparagus with garlic:
Hash brown potatoes:
Sautéed spinach with garlic:
For dessert, my wife liked the raspberry cheesecake best of the two:
But I liked the raspberry creme brûlée. This was a unique take.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s branzino, salmon and tuna on the menu for you non-carnivorous losers out there. But based on the quality of the baked shellfish apps, I would say you’re in very good hands ordering a seafood entree here.
Tony is incredible, and the wait staff is top notch. You really are treated like royalty here. My favorite service aspect of the meal at Four Cuts was the table bread. It comes with a really tasty garlic, olives, capers and tomato oil spread that will blow you away. It’s almost like a “bagna cauda,” but I’m not sure if there are anchovies involved.
This little “mom and pop” steak joint exudes a cozy yet elegant atmosphere that really makes great use of the space. It felt like the right balance between a traditional steakhouse and a local neighborhood joint. Go give it a shot. There’s even free garage parking for four hours right around the corner on 58th Street.
FOUR CUTS STEAKHOUSE
1076 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10022
I was invited into Mifune with my wife to sample some of their meat dishes and post some photos on Instagram. But we started with some cocktails, because Shingo Gokan, the man behind the cocktail menu, is an award winning “mixologist.”
This is the Seven Samurai, which is made with rye, aged sake, East India sherry, bitters and smoke:
Pretty beautiful, and really tasty. The smoke aroma was as intoxicating as the booze, and it was similar to a smoked old fashioned.
The Throne of Blood is made with Japanese whisky, Bourbon Antica, Torino and bitters. This is similar to a Manhattan.
The Hidden Fortress, made with bourbon, milk, honey shrub, orange cordial and bitters, is super smooth and tasty.
Finally, we tried the Drunken Angel, made with Hibiki, Umeshu and shiso. This was also great. Very light and crisp.
Now on to the food. The first thing we tried was the steak tartare.
This is made with Angus beef, poached egg and tosazu sauce (a seafood style vinegar). Watch the video as the egg breaks into the tartare:
It was delicious. More like a beef tartare soup – very interesting.
This next item was on special: bluefin tuna temaki. It’s a rib section of bluefin tuna, served with seashells for scraping the meat out and making hand rolls with all the fixings.
Check out this video. Pretty insane!
At just $40, this is a great deal. We probably got about 10 or 12 hand rolls out of this baby.
Okay now on to the meats! First, a straw smoked rack of lamb!
The lamb was perfectly cooked to medium rare.
It came with roasted garlic and grilled fennel. But the real treat about this dish is that when it comes to the table for eating, it’s served in a clay dish that has a smoking chamber underneath, so you get to smell that awesome straw smoke aroma the whole time while you eat.
Next up was washugyu tenderloin.
Washugyu is an American Black Angus and Japanese Wagyu cross breed that achieves a great balance of beefy flavor and tender marbling. This is the same stuff I sell in my shop, pretty much. Anyway, it was incredibly tender and flavorful. They got a nice sear on the meat too. 9/10.
It’s plated up with a shallot puree and some roasted veggies.
This was easily one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. I highly recommend this place, especially for that bluefin tuna temaki. You should go ASAP if you have any interest, because I don’t know how long that will be available on special.
Last week the owner of Tuscany Steakhouse invited me in to take some photos and try out the food. This place used to be called Nino’s Tuscany Steakhouse, but just before the new year they did a big remodel and upgraded the place big time.
I was excited to try it, hoping that they made some improvements. I didn’t have the greatest meal at Nino’s, but this new joint was a much different experience. Check it out:
We ordered the porterhouse for two.
Let’s take a peek at the inside…
Oh fuck yes… nice and pink. Let me spread her open a little bit.
Okay… so this thing was perfectly cooked to medium rare. It had a gorgeous, crispy, well-seasoned crust on the edges. This is one of the better porterhouses I’ve had recently. 9/10.
I came back for a second visit and tried the rib eye.
This was cooked perfectly, just like the porterhouse.
It just needed a bit more seasoning and it wasn’t as potent in terms of the dry aged flavor on this particular cut. 7/10, but increased to an 8/10 on average after several visits.
The porterhouse was still incredible though. Perfect.
The filet mignon was also excellent. 9/10. Thick, tall, like a mountain of meat.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
While they only offer the basic four steakhouse cuts – filet, strip, porterhouse and rib eye – they do a bang-up job on them, and they dry age everything in house. My porterhouse was aged for 29 days, and it came from Masters up in the Bronx next to my facility.
A couple next to me ordered the strip and it looked and smelled amazing. This place gets the job done nicely.
After several visits, one thing that really strikes me is how consistent they are. Every time I go, I get excellent quality, flavorful cuts. That is rare to find.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions are big here. The sides are definitely large enough to share with two to four people, especially if you’re going heavy on steaks. Plating is basic for the steaks and sides, but the apps can get a bit more flare to them.
The prices are very fair here. The steaks come in slightly cheaper than average for the location. Some of the pasta dishes seemed high, but the one I tried was worth it, and the sides and desserts are all great bargains, especially when you factor in the quality of the food for the price.
This is a nice little bar, and it was getting a good crowd on a Saturday as we were leaving. Same set up as the old restaurant bar, but nicer and remodeled.
I snagged a few of the potato chips that they serve at the bar. I like that touch.
They mix up a great martini too.
There’s also a great selection of wines here, and a little wine room in the back.
We tried some muscat with our dessert and it was just right. Not too sweet, not too potent.
Specials and Other Meats: 10
There were no special meats offered up, but there were specials of the day like soups. As for other meats, they had lamb, veal two ways and chicken two ways. Not a bad showing at all. In fact, I saw a veal parm come out after finishing the porterhouse, and I was so tempted to order one to go. It looked amazing.
Here it is:
Absolutely incredible. An easy 10/10. I would eat this every day if I could. It’s really surprisingly light, and super flavorful. The beef was so tender inside, and the crispy crust was the perfect contrast to the soft melted cheese.
Oh, so cheese isn’t your thing? How about the broiled veal chop, then? It’s a veal porterhouse, and it comes with grilled greens. This is amazing, and you definitely don’t see this cut very often in steakhouses, or anywhere else for that matter. 10/10.
Or the veal Milanese, which is essentially just a salad on top of a fried veal chop. 8/10.
I also gave the lamb chops a try. The serving size is incredible: three thick, double-cut chops.
They really nailed the crust.
And the inside was perfectly cooked. 9/10.
The “Pollo Tuscany” is essentially chicken breast, marsala style, but with roasted red peppers and melted mozzarella on a bed of spinach.
One thing I will note here under specials is the lunch menu. That veal Milanese is just $28 at lunch, and it is the full dinner size. They also have a special cajun rib eye at lunch too. This thing is amazing.
It’s a slightly smaller portion size than the dinner menu, but still around 18oz.
And for just $30 it also comes will full sized creamed spinach and mashed potatoes sides. Incredible! 9/10. You can also get the cajun rib eye as a full entree size at dinner if you ask, even though it isn’t on the menu.
Same goes for the porterhouse.
By the way, that cajun porterhouse was the best porterhouse I’ve ever eaten! An easy 10/10.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10
We did three apps to start. First, the bacon:
This was two slabs of thick cut Canadian bacon (we cut them each in half).
Te second trip the bacon came out a little more burnt on the edges, but still really delicious.
This shit was amazing. Easily on par with places like Angus Club and Maxwell’s Chophouse. This is a must order when you come here, and it goes very nice with their steak sauce (a tomato-based and horseradish-heavy sauce – also good with seafood).
Next was the tuna tartare. This was delightful.
It came with lightly salted avocado slices, lime slices, cucumber slices, toasted bread slices and a slice of tomato, along with some unsliced arugula. It was bright and fresh, and dressed perfectly.
I am tempted to get that every single time I eat here. But you have to explore. For example the salads are even pretty good, like this chef’s salad that comes with sliced shrimp and bacon.
We also tried an order of oysters. Just a half dozen, to see how the quality was.
They were excellent: Perfectly shucked with no bits of shell in them. Great size – not too big, not too small. Crisp, clean, briny, and fresh. Here they are, all dressed up and ready to get raped by my mouth:
For our sides, we ordered sautéed spinach and hash browns. Both were great, and very large portions. The spinach was seasoned just right, nice and simple with salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic.
The hash browns were nice and crisp on the outside, while still tender and soft inside. I loved these.
Fries are perfect.
The Clams Oreganata were excellent as well.
Lumb crab meat is a generous portion size:
Crab cake was really nice and classically prepared, Maryland style.
The lobster cocktail was flavorful and generously sized.
I didn’t get a shot of it, but the creamed spinach here is the “creamless” style that I love.
The calamari had a nice batter and were perfectly cooked.
Here’s a special they had: burrata with portobello and roasted red peppers:
For dessert, we had a slice of tiramisu and a piece of chocolate mousse cake. Both were excellent, and I really loved their shlag.
Here’s their apple strudel – HUGE!
Seafood Selection: 9
There’s sea bass, tuna, salmon, lobster and shrimp in the entree portion of the menu. That’s a fantastic showing, and I bet they do a great job since this is essentially an Italian joint, and Italian joints are known for having good fish. While I only tried the apps and a bowl of lobster bisque, I am confident that this section of the menu is well above average.
Their seafood linguini was incredible. It was jam packed with perfectly cooked shrimp, clams, calamari and even a half lobster.
Upon multiple visits now, I can confirm that the seafood is excellent. I tried the grilled tuna and the grilled salmon. I would definitely get both of them again, and the portion size is great.
The waiters are awesome here, and the management is super nice and engaging. They all know their stuff and can answer any questions you have, whether it’s the basics of the steak cuts or the specifics of aging. They’re even great with super old bottles of wine with delicate corks.
The table bread consisted of onion rolls and some sliced Italian bread, served with butter. This stuff is also great with their steak sauce.
This place made a great turnaround in ambiance. I loved the brick walls in there last time, and the overall cozy feel to the place. Now, with white-washed brick walls and deep, elegant wood finishes, this place feels more like what it is – a really nice steakhouse.
It still has some nooks and crannies in the dining room where you can get a more private feel, which I really like, and there’s even a separate room where you can host a party or larger group. They’ve really done a great job in here.
No bull: this place is really nice, and I’m glad it’s only a block away.
BURGER UPDATE! Awesome burger here. Well seasoned, juicy, tender, nicely ground and packed, excellent cheese coverage, great fresh sesame seed bun. I only wish it has a little bit of dry aged flavor, and it would be a rival to Lugers.
117 W 58th St
New York, NY 10019
He became wildly famous for being aggressively sexy with his meat – slapping it and rubbing it and what not – and then sprinkling salt on it with a highly unorthodox curled forearm slide technique. It became an internet sensation. At one point I even paid tribute to the craze:
Over the course of the year his fame and steakhouse brand has spread. He eventually opened up shop here in the greatest city on Earth, NYC, and right in my hood, no less.
Admittedly I had very low expectations for this meal. I read a few negative reviews beforehand, and I was never really a big fan of Saltbae’s elaborate displays on his Instagram profile. But there can be no denying the fact that Nusret is an incredibly talented butcher. He makes it look easy, and it isn’t. He’s also a very nice dude. Despite his showmanship, he’s quiet and humble.
Here’s how it went down:
What really intrigued me about this place was the unique spices and marinades being used on some of the menu items. Usually I’m not down with that shit, but I was curious.
For example, the Saslik steak is tenderloin marinated in milk and middle eastern spices.
The flavors were very nice, and I did like the onions, but the meat lacked any char, and it was too wet. It was also incredibly small, and I didn’t like that it was sliced up like stir fry. 6/10.
The other marinade you’ll see here is mustard. This was new to me. But, indeed, there may actually be some unbeknownst food science behind the mustard marinade: The vinegar in it helps to tenderize the meat even further (as if wagyu needs it).
There are two mustard marinated steaks on the menu: (1) the signature Saltbae Tomahawk, which is about 32oz for $275 and also has some dry aging on it; and (2) the Ottoman Steak, which is a similar sized tomahawk for $130, but isn’t dry aged. We ordered #1, and he sliced it table side for us. Here’s the experience:
That’s right: Saltbae himself fed me from his knife.
There wasn’t much flavor coming in from the dry-aging or marinade, but you can definitely taste that there was something different and unique about this steak. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare as well.
The only place where the tomahawk suffers is in the lack of crust on the surfaces.
I chalk this up to the limitations of cooking with a charcoal grill as opposed to pan searing, oven roasting, broiling or cooking on a flat top. 9/10.
We also tried the burger. This is a juicy-ass, thick fucking patty that’s cooked to a perfect medium rare. The unique part is that it’s cut in half and then grilled on the sliced portion as well, for a little extra caramelization.
It definitely lacks in the French fry department, as this $30 monster just comes with a handful of potato sticks on the board with the burger.
The cheese is ample and nicely melted. The delicately-packed grind is nicely formed and has great wagyu flavor and fat content. The onions are perfect. It’s not in my top five but definitely worth trying.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
All the meat here is high quality, BMS 9- and 10- scored domestic wet-aged wagyu, just like the strips I sell in my shop. It’s the best domestic wagyu or wagyu/angus cross you can get, and Nusr-et sources it from various companies.
I believe only one cut is dry aged, and that is the tomahawk.
There is a stunning lack of porterhouse on the menu, so I am docking them two points for that. However there are three varieties of rib eye, several types of tenderloin preparations, and a strip/sirloin.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
As far as plating is concerned, something needs to be done with the Saslik and some of the other starters. They kinda look like a piles of dog vomit. Not sure what can be done to remedy that.
The larger, full format steaks look nicer on the wood boards, though. Perhaps the smaller, thinly sliced items need a little more artistry.
Portion sizes are a little bit on the smaller side for the price point, but that is to be expected with domestic wagyu. This product is also not as readily accessible, abundant or wallet-friendly as prime beef. As such, I took that into consideration.
Much of Nusr-et’s current criticism is coming in the form of value or price. I can understand that, especially to the untrained eye. But the meat here is the highest quality domestic wagyu available, and with respect to the tomahawk, even dry aged. I think it’s fair to compare the pricing to The Grill.
The Grill has a 36oz bone-in, dry-aged wagyu rib eye for $270. The tomahawk here it is 32oz at $275, but it also comes with a show, assuming he is in town (I was there for lunch on a Sunday and he was still bae-ing at that odd hour).
Beatrice Inn is even more expensive for the high-end cuts, and they’re not wagyu, just to put things into perspective. Oddly enough, value can be had at Beatrice Inn (pork shoulder, rabbit for two, etc).
Despite the staggering prices, there is value to be had at Nusr-et as well. For example, his unadulterated wagyu rib eye and strip/sirloin cuts are priced at $100 each. I saw his “Istanbul Steak” come out, and it’s only a little smaller than what I sell at $75 per pound, raw. So that’s not much of an upcharge. Here’s what the strip looks like in the meat case at Nusr-et:
As for the $100 rib eye, the menu describes it as “thinly sliced.” I hope that’s not like hot-pot meat. But here’s what the rib eye looks like in the case:
Great looking caps there. I’m down with that steak too, as long as “thinly sliced” means it’s pre-sliced prior to serving, table side, and not a glorified stir fry dish like the Saslik.
So is the dry-aging on the tomahawk worth the upcharge here? Probably not, but I’m still glad I tried it. I would have always been curious about it if I hadn’t. Like a closeted homosexual, struggling with locked up desires…
But there were a few places where I did feel ripped off:
Asparagus: $15 for eight relatively unseasoned and boring stalks.
Saslik Steak: Funny that the accents on the S letters in that name closely resemble dollar signs, as the price tag of $70 for about six to eight ounces is too high. This is an appetizer at best.
Despite all that, I didn’t feel ripped off on the whole, at the end of this meal. Then again it was just a light lunch split between four people. Our bill with tax and tip included came to just about $500.
If I was here for dinner I probably would have ordered the same amount of food for two people. Then I might have felt ripped off.
My overall value analysis is this: There are some starters I want to try, so I would certainly go back, but that’s me. I’m also very interested in the asado short ribs. As far as the common cuts of steak go, however, I would much rather have the 32oz wagyu tomahawk at Del Frisco’s for $95, despite the lack of marinade, dry aging or Saltbae showmanship. It has such a great crust, and that price point is bonkers for the size. Cheaper and better. That is, essentially, my short form-recommendation.
There are no seats around the small, circular bar at Nusr-et. You can stand there and have a drink, I suppose, but that isn’t conducive for hanging out.
There are only a handful of standing-only high tops along the wall as well. I was expecting more from this midtown location. They could have easily attracted a good happy hour crowd and banked big bucks on booze, like the massive collection of Ciroc that sits on a shelf of its own – above even the Macallan 25 and Louis XIII – because Diddy and Saltbae are boys.
That said, I didn’t try any of their splendid looking cocktails. Maybe next time. But they’re a bit pricey.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
The alternatives to standard steakhouse beef cuts are as follows: (1) a full lamb rack, and (2) slow roasted asado short ribs. I would definitely like to try the short ribs. The lamb rack is too expensive at $250, however.
There is at least one item that was a special, not printed on the menu. Essentially it’s thinly sliced filet mignon that gets flash cooked tableside by pouring hot oil over it. If you’re a meat maniac like me, you’ve probably seen videos and images of this kind of thing circulating on the internet for months now.
I have no interest in this. It overcooks the meat, and it’s wet and greasy when you eat it. Fuck that nonsense.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7
As I mentioned earlier, the asparagus pretty much sucked.
But we also tried the baklava for dessert. The staff puts on a ridiculous and unnecessary show to serve it. I hated pretty much everything about this. Observe:
Do you feel like an asshole for having watched it now?
I noticed waiters doing similar shit with some of the appetizers as well. Also dumb and unnecessary in my opinion. The only show should be Saltbae, with the exception of torching shit for the meat sushi appetizer. Fire is pretty much always cool, no matter what.
In any case the baklava was awesome. Not overly sweet, nice moisture, great texture, and it’s served with a crazy good “ice cream” that is somewhere between gelato and cream cheese in texture. Very interesting.
I think this is $15 a slice, by the way. They may have forgotten to charge us for it, unless it was on the house due to how long it took them to bring us the check (see below).
I need to try more apps here, but for now I’m splitting the difference between a ten for the dessert and a three for the asparagus.
APP UPDATE: I tried the carpaccio a week or two later. It was a great value for $30, as I thought it would be much smaller.
Here’s how they prepare it table side:
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s only salmon and chimichurri lobster on the entree menu here. There are oysters, tuna and king crab on the raw bar menu. I cant even begin to think about what the pricing is on the crab and lobster. I think Satan charges less, since he only wants your soul, and not those of your unborn children as well. I didn’t try any of this.
Service here is a mixed bag. At some points it felt rude and obnoxious, yet at other points it was incredibly warm. The joint has only open for a week or two, so in all fairness that could be a part of it.
The manager Rami is amazing. Great guy. And as I said earlier, Nusret himself is super nice. He took pics with us, shook our hands, and was a great host. After witnessing his show in person, I’ve almost grown to like it, if only for the reason that he’s so fucking skilled and fast with a knife. Impressive. Especially in a dimly lit restaurant while wearing sunglasses.
But some of the waiter service needs improvement. Examples:
1) We asked a lot of questions about the menu, particularly the Saslik, before ordering. Our waiter was patient with us and answered whatever he could, which was great, but we still didn’t really get an accurate understanding of what was coming out for the Saslik. Perhaps the menu should have described it as an appetizer-sized stir-fry dish. It certainly shouldn’t be a main course.
2) We asked for water and they brought out one glass of room temperature tap water with no ice for each of us. Then they took the glasses away for some reason after we were pretty much still drinking them.
3) It took forever to get our checks and leave. I honestly think they forgot to bring it out, assuming we had already paid. Not a huge deal, as it allowed us to chat more with Rami and get a pic with Saltbae:
This place is gorgeous inside. The only thing missing is a true bar, as I noted above. The wall of meat fridges near the glass case and grill is pretty fucking impressive, and the high ceilings and huge windows are stunning and reminiscent of Del Frisco’s.
And if Saltbae is in the house, you’re in for a treat.
NOTE – The numerical score on this review is based on merely five items, and I will do my best to supplement it over time if I go back and try more things. However, as my buddy who ate with me said: The menu is not designed for customer retention.
I was invited into Butcher & Banker for a special preview dinner with a group of people from Instagram. This joint has taken over the previously unused space in an old bank vault on the ground floor of the New Yorker Hotel. I was really excited to try out some items from their impressive menu. Check out the details below.
I tried two different cuts of steak here. I’ll start with the big boy; the tomahawk rib eye (individual flavor score: 10/10).
This beauty was big, juicy and flavorful.
It was cooked to a perfect medium rare with a really great crust.
While there was a good amount of fat on this chop, the fat was the high quality kind that you can eat like beef jelly. I was loving it. And the generously sized cap was absolutely incredible.
Next up was the smoked strip steak (individual flavor score: 8/10).
This thing was beautifully presented on a circular, hibachi style steel mesh grate that sat atop a cast iron grill pan which was covered in rosemary (that’s where the smoke comes from – firing the herbs up). This, too, was perfectly cooked, juicy and flavorful. However I was only able to try a small piece, and I think I got one of the “lesser” slices that remained, as we shared two cuts among about 10 or 12 people. As such the 8/10 score is tentative, and I’m reserving full judgment on this cut until I can try another during my next visit. What I did have was great, but I imagine a slice from the center would be a perfect score, just like the tomahawk.
On a second visit, I tried the porterhouse.
It was a little overcooked, and only parts had that characteristic dry-aged flavor. I did like the rosemary aroma, however. 6/10.
More shots of the tomahawk, also from the second visit:
Not quite up to the first visit standards (7/10 this time), but a trusted friend went back again and he said it was much better. I chalk this inconsistency up to new-restaurant jitters. I’ve seen this happen with other places (like Boucherie), and the joints often times come out much stronger after working out the kinks. Overall they’re still at 8/10 after two visits, and I have high hopes for increases in the score with additional visits. I still need to try the culotte and rib cap steaks. More to come…
On a third visit I had the double filet mignon Oscar style, which was very tender and tasty at 8/10.
The rib cap filet with shrimp was nice too, but it is only available occasionally on special. 8/10.
This baby is very nice. I recommend ordering it as an appetizer and splitting with your friends. The cheese was a combo of gruyere and aged parmesan, which creates a really funky flavor profile.
It comes with a side of fries and a dynamite pimento cheese sauce for dipping. I think all this burger needs to reach perfection is perhaps a softer bun and a sauce of some kind. Perhaps the pimento sauce can be applied to the burger instead of as a dip for the fries?
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
Chef Scott Campbell sources all of his beef from Pat LaFrieda and a state of the art facility out on Long Island (apologies – the name escapes me at the moment). The cuts available here range far and wide: long bone short rib, tomahawk rib eye, porterhouse, rib cap, coulotte (top sirloin cap), hanger, strip (corn fed or grass finished), filet mignon, and cowboy rib eye. Insanity. And there’s definitely some dry aging going on here – they just didn’t print out the number of days for each cut.
Personally, I don’t care about the number of days as long as I can taste it. Lately I’ve had some dry aged beef that claims to be aged for so long, but the time didn’t translate into flavor. It really all depends on the aging room. Whatever the case may be here, I was able to taste it, and that is a win to me.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portion sizes here are pretty generous, and the plating is artful without being too fancy.
My meal was free, but the prices are fair for the area, and reflect normal pricing for a midtown Manhattan steakhouse. There’s a variety of cuts available for the discerning carnivore, ranging from $32 for the budget savvy to $63 for the big spenders (per person).
The bar is cozy and interesting. Being down in an old bank vault, it can be out of the way or an effort to get to, as it isn’t a visible spot from the street. But I really liked the vibe.
The cocktails are great here, and they reflect a modern twist on the art deco design of the New Yorker Hotel.
Raffles Singapore Sling:
A Proper Manhattan:
Our Bountiful Martini:
Specials and Other Meats: 10
There’s plenty to go around in the “other meats” department. The menu boasts a duck steak, veal, lamb and chicken. But the big star of the non-beef items is the Kan Kan Pork.
The menu description of this dish – “a grand arch of double loin chops, belly and cracklings” – doesn’t quite do it justice. Order it and you’ll know what I mean when you see it come to the table.
It’s garnished with caramelized Catskill apples, and served with an apple cider reduction.
There is no other pork dish like it in the city, and nothing even comes close to it. This is meant for two at $41/pp.
I’m not sure if the waiters will be reading off-menu specials each day, but when you have stuff like this on the menu, what else can possibly be “special” in comparison?
On a second visit, this baby was even more impressive than the first time. I fucking love this thing.
It kinda looks like a sleigh (as aptly pointed out by a friend):
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
We tried a bunch of apps and sides, so I’ll just rattle it all off and let you know my thoughts about each.
Banker’s Bacon Double-Thick
As you know from following this website and my Instagram account, there are very few bacon apps that can compete with my top five list. This Banker Bacon was delicious though – no doubt about it – and definitely worth getting as an app.
Short Rib Taquitos
I didn’t see these listed on the menu, but they were great. Super tender stewed style beef with a hit of cooling avocado cream inside a crispy shell. Can’t go wrong.
Colossal Shrimp Cocktail
Delicious and big. The fresh shaved horseradish on top was killer.
Calamari, Rock Shrimp & Shishito Fritti
These come with a great wasabi cream dipping sauce and a little bowl of curry salt for personal seasoning. That salt is really something else, and I love the flavor combinations when you dip into the wasabi cream and then finish with a pinch of curry salt. Perfectly crispy and lightly battered, and the shishito is a great touch.
Three Minute Diver Scallop Ceviche
Really light and well balanced. The scallops were meaty and delicate, and the bright yuzu and grapefruit dressing made them really pop.
Crisp Piri Piri Oysters Rockefeller
These were excellent. I usually don’t like cooked oysters very much, but these were almost like just the outside was cooked, with a crispy fried shell encasing the juicy, creamy oyster inside. Perfect with that dollop of creamed spinach underneath.
Roasted Wild Mushrooms
A great blend of fungi, simply treated with butter, herbs and seasonings – and looking beautiful.
Foie Gras with Grilled Pineapple
The pineapple was a bit too thick and not quite soft enough from the grilling process, but the concept is amazing, and so is the quality of the foie. Worth ordering.
I didn’t get a shot of this stuff, but the texture was so rich and creamy. It was awesome. Chocolate, vanilla and bourbon pecan (incredible and unique).
Seafood Selection: 8
I didn’t try any fish entrees, but all of the starters I tried involving seafood were excellent. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to ordering a seafood entree, as there are still so many meat items I need to try when I return. In any case there are scallops, salmon, shrimp and tuna in the seafood entree department – a fair showing.
The wait staff is on top of their game. They know the cocktails inside and out, and they can explain everything on the menu with precision.
Also worth mentioning here is the homemade skillet bread that comes out to the table with a pair of different butters.
Light, airy, and fluffy inside with a buttery and savory outer crust. One of these days I’ll write up a top five table breads list, and I’ll certainly be considering this as a candidate.
What else can be said about an old bank vault? The details in this place are all original and completely stunning.
And the modern touches from the renovation to turn this place into a steakhouse are elegant, yet still warm and inviting.
The space itself is divided into three locations: the vault, the bar/lounge, and the bifurcated dining room. It’s not a large restaurant, but they really made the best of the space. It feels like it belongs, and I can’t wait to go back.
BUTCHER & BANKER
The New Yorker Hotel
481 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001