Category Archives: Full Points for Flavor

Catch Steak

NYC has entered the era of Catch Steak, a sleek, trendy and sexy steak joint that has some real chops. Chef Michael Vignola, formerly at Strip House and Pomona, proves once again that he is an indispensable asset to the NYC culinary scene. And Catch Steak might be his opus.

The menu that he’s meticulously crafted is filled with both wild feats of cookery and traditional, no nonsense dishes. He exhibits both flare and restraint; fancifulness and humbleness; complexity and simplicity.

He boldly forgoes all other meat protein entrees and focuses solely on beef, save for fish and a plant-based meatless parm dish. There is no chicken. There is no lamb. There is no duck. Beef is the star of the show.

The beef selections are broken down into four sections: Japanese imports; domestic prime; dry-aged beef; and domestic Wagyu cross bred beef.

At first glance, the steak sizes may seem small and pricey. The largest steaks are 24oz porterhouses, and the average size of the cuts range from about 5oz-12oz. But there’s absolutely no waste on these cuts: no “vein steaks” with connective tissue; no gristle. Everything is high end, and trimmed to Michael’s meticulous specifications. Top quality and lack of waste means good value, so the initial sticker shock should be tempered in the mind of the savvy diner.

He sources the beef from many purveyors, but none of them hail from the usual suspects that you might know from the area. If you ask him who supplies the beef, he’ll tell you, “It depends on the cut.”

He spent months vetting each cut from various purveyors all over the country and all over the world. He spent months getting certifications to serve things like true A5 Kobe – with Catch Steak being one of just 11 places in the country that are permitted to serve it.

But the menu doesn’t stop at just one or two cuts from each section. There’s a full range of beefy selections within each, such that any one section would contain enough diversity to satisfy discerning meat connoisseurs dining at any great steakhouse. Catch Steak goes way beyond.

To put it briefly, there are almost 20 steak choices on the menu. My wife and I tried five of them.

First was a duo of imported Japanese selections. Snow beef strip steak, and true A5 Kobe deckle. The Japanese imports are all sold by the ounce, and as such they make great starters for the table to taste and share.

These are treated very simply and grilled on a beautiful hot stone platter that’s been freshly slicked with beef fat. Add fresh flake salt, pepper and garlic ponzu to your liking after it cooks, on your plate.

These were incredible. Both 10/10, but the Kobe deckle was the winner between the two. Both had a naturally buttery aroma from that marbling, which begins to render at room temperature. The deckle had a slightly more tender texture and beefy flavor.

Next was a 5oz soy caramel glazed domestic wagyu strip steak. A truly unique flavor bomb that is unmistakably Michael Vignola. The earthy and savory glaze paired perfectly with the natural sweetness of the meat. 10/10.

My favorite cut of the meal was this 6oz dry-aged deckle.

The peppery maillard crust gave it a great classic steakhouse texture, while the dry aging concentrated the beefy flavors into a walloping punch of “umami.” That aging also succeeded in transforming the most tender portion of the animal into an even more unctuous steak eating experience in this perfectly cooked steak. This was an easy 10/10, and it’s one of my top steaks of the year.

Our final beef selection was a prime porterhouse. This beauty is classic steakhouse fare, where the peppery crust serves as a counterbalance to the soft meat texture within.

While this was closer to medium than medium rare, it still held a ton of flavor and richness. Both sides were very tender, to the point where it would be difficult for the untrained palate to discern strip from tenderloin. The meat was a bit over-salted, but I chalk that up to new restaurant jitters. All of the other cuts were perfectly seasoned. 8/10.

I don’t know how we did it, but we tried a lot more of the ambitious Catch Steak menu.

We started with the roasted peppers appetizer, which is drizzled with 25yr old balsamic, sprinkled with crumbled pistachio, and topped with a dollop of pistachio cream. This was delicious, but I think it could be served with some thin slices of toasted country bread to knock back the concentrated natural salinity of the peppers.

The truffle toro sashimi is absolutely incredible. If toro is your thing, this is definitely a must-order.

Papa’s spicy clams are special. This is a traditional baked clams oreganata dish, but Michael has deftly incorporated spicy nduja into the stuffing, officiating the beautiful marriage between pork and shellfish with his own distinct signature on the nuptial papers. This dish is all him, and it’s killer. If you don’t know Michael’s cooking you’ll know it when you taste this.

On the side we went with three items. The first was actually listed as an appetizer, but we ordered it as an accompaniment to our steak: the potato churro.

This dish will become iconic. The potato is fried into a churro form, filled with sour cream, and then topped with caviar. What an amazing creation. A top dish of the year for sure.

The roasted maitake mushrooms dish is the perfect side to go with your Japanese beef selections. But if you’re like me, you can eat them all day, every day, on the side of whatever is around. I loved these.

Asparagus is a tough veggie to make unique. Here, Vignola has transformed them into a delicious and familiar menu item that many of us enjoy on a weekly basis when we get Chinese take-out: they tasted like sauteed string beans with garlic and almonds! In no way is that meant to be an insult or a triviality. I devoured these!

Dessert aficionados will flip their lid for this Snickers Baked Alaska. It’s large enough to share among four people, especially after going deep into beef for your mains. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s sweet.

This apple cobbler crumble is a house favorite. Inside the pecan strudel there’s a toffee flavored blondie, baked apple and creme fraiche ice cream. Awesome.

Just as impressive as the food menu is the cocktail menu. Mix master Lucas Robinson has curated one of the best cocktail programs around. We tried five drinks from the bar menu and one from the dessert menu. Here they are:

Cafe Disco: Start with this unique take on a negroni, made with cold brew coffee, gin, green chartreuse and campari.

Black & Bleu: This is a savory and earthy mix of miso-infused vodka, dry vermouth, white soy truffle and blue cheese stuffed olives. Very cool frozen copper martini glass too.

Cuffing Season: Wet your taste buds with this stiff pork rind-garnished cocktail, made with fat washed scotch, aperol and amaro. The pork rind is actually pretty friggin’ delicious.

The Glass Slipper: This spicy number is made with rye, Ancho Reyes, benedictine, sherry and absinthe. The rim is cajun salt. My kind of drink!

Up In Smoke: This delicious smoked cocktail is made with rye, yellow chartreuse, dry vermouth and mole bitters. It comes out to the table presented inside a smoke-filled glass lantern box. A delight for the senses with an earthy bottom end from the mole bitters.

Proper Irish Coffee: Lucas’ take on the classic is made with Proper 12 Irish whiskey (of Conor McGregor fame), Colombian coffee, creme de cacao, Ancho Reyes and vanilla salted cream. This hot drink is strong as fuck! A nice balance with those sweet desserts.

The bar area is awesome. Big, spacious, warm and comfortable, yet cool and sleek. I will hang out here and sip those amazing cocktails as often as possible.

The remainder of the space is massive and incredibly well designed. There are two large dining rooms and an upstairs. It has to be one of the biggest restaurants in the city. They spared absolutely no expense in building this place out. Every fixture, every wall, every table is stunning.

That about does it. I’ll be back here for sure. I need to work my way through some more of those amazing cuts of beef. I highly recommend you do the same.

Catch Steak overall score: 94

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

CATCH STEAK
88 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011

TAK Room

My wife took me to Thomas Keller’s new Hudson Yards eatery, TAK Room, for my birthday. This meal was pretty awesome, so let me get right down to business.

Cocktails

This place has a great selection of classics, spins on classics, and new style cocktails. I went with the “Old Hat” old fashioned. I liked it, but both my wife and I liked her order better (Waldorf Vieux Carre)

We both remarked that the cocktail pricing wasn’t too rapey. And it’s worth noting here that the bar and lounge area is seriously impressive. The bar is backed by windows, offering an impressive view. There’s plenty of lounge style seating near the bar, where you can drink, snack and enjoy the live music on the stage.

Table Bread & Crudite

This was a nice touch; the crudite was cold and fresh, and that butter extruder thing is becoming insta-famous. There are two varieties of delicious house made breadsticks as well.

Green Garlic Agnolotti, Razor Clams, Gremolata

Strong opener, and an easy contender for my best pasta dishes of 2019. It almost had an oreganata flavor to it, with a great balance of textures.

Beef Tartare

This had some freshly shaved horseradish on top of the raw egg yolk, and was really nicely executed.

Prime Rib Cart Service

Take a look at this video of the prime rib service cart:

That’s Snake River Farms domestic wagyu cross, highly marbled and riddled with intense flavor.

This is easily one of the best prime rib orders I’ve ever had. At $110, I would bark about it being too expensive, but it really was worth every forkful. 10/10.

Short Rib Beef Wellington

Check this out:

A beautiful specimen. The short rib was snappy, but super tender.

The puff pastry was perfectly cooked from end to end. Perfect execution.

The only thing I disliked about it was the perigourdine sauce. It had a bitter and almost burnt flavor to it. Luckily that was poured on the side rather than on top of the dish. 9/10.

Champagne Cake, Strawberry Creamsicle Ice Cream

This was a pretty tasty special for dessert (not on the menu), and they generously gave us a couple of glasses of rose champagne to go with it, on the house. Here’s the dessert menu:

Box of Caramel Corn

This comes with your dessert, for the table. Jumbo size pops, very few kernels. Highly addictive.

Views, Decor & Service

Last but not least, one can’t really do a proper review of a joint like TAK Room without speaking about the views, decor and service.

The outer rim of the gorgeous dining room overlooks “The Vessel,” the new scalable art structure in Hudson Yards.

The decor is like a cross between 60’s mod and 20’s art deco. It’s truly beautiful. The service matches the spectacular views and decor, with an impeccably neat, attentive and genuinely nice wait staff. We even saw the likes of Thomas Keller himself, doing one of the prime rib cart services, with Geoffrey Zakarian watching from afar:

One of the managers gave us a quick kitchen tour too, which was really interesting to see. The place is immaculately clean, and they showcase their selection of premium meats in a glass cabinet near the kitchen entrance. Listen carefully for specials, as they were offering cote de boeuf rib eyes at varying sizes.

In summary, this was one of the best meals I’ve had this year, and I look forward to going back to try more beef and even their roast chicken for two. We just need to save up a little bit, because this place is pricey. All in, this meal was $467 with tax and tip. Woof. Here’s a look at some of the pricing:

Here’s a quick update of the minute steak (a thin slice of NY Strip, also Snake River Farms) with fries.

I think a thicker but smaller cut would be better here, and maybe call it a three minute steak. 7/10. The fries were great though.

And a follow up on the burger, which the NY Post called the best in the city.

This is pretty good. Wagyu patty with aged cheddar, LTOP, on a sesame seed bun. I think I prefer a couple of other burgers here in Hudson Yards over this one, but for $24 it comes with those awesome fries, so it’s a good deal. Lunch only though.

TAK ROOM
20 Hudson Yards
5th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Kow Cattle Company & Nobu 57

I’ve been holding off on talking about Kow Cattle Company for a bit, hoping to visit the farm and facilities out in Iowa first, but I’ve been privileged to eat so much of it in the past year that I just couldn’t hold back anymore – especially after the beef binge I just had with their product at Nobu 57.

Kow Cattle Company is a small producer of highly marbled, domestically raised wagyu full blood and purebred animals in Iowa. They’re consistently raising cattle that grade out at super high prime, with BMS scores of 8 or higher.

They made a big splash in the NYC meat scene and made some great connections both in the restaurant world and in the influencer world.

Some noteworthy folks who are featuring their product fairly regularly: BLT Steak, Delmonico’s, The Grill, The James Beard House, The Gotham Burger Social Club, Bistrot Leo, Boucherie, and, of course Nobu 57 (and more as well).

 

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Supply isn’t always high at Kow, so if you see some on a menu, grab it while you can.

My first run-in with this delicious stuff was at Bistrot Leo. I tried a burger, some tenderloin tartare, filet skewers and a tomahawk rib eye that night. As you might imagine, the shit was delicious.

 

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One of the owners of the company, Jon Urbana, who has since become a good friend of mine, sent me home with a beautiful strip steak to cook up:

Later, I banged out a tomahawk at home as well. Absolutely stunning.

The high quality, and more importantly the consistency of that quality, is pretty much untouched by any domestic producer of wagyu beef here in the states. I’d love to get some of it into my shop, but they’re currently only shipping direct from their site. Believe me, a LOT of distributors are trying to get their paws on this stuff right now. I’m not alone.

In any case, seeing that Nobu 57 is one of Kow’s purveyors here in NYC, Jon brought me there to try some of the new lot of striploin that they have.

What occurred was nothing less than a Kow Cattle Company strip loin omakase for the ages.

COURSE 1

This preparation is thinly sliced, torched and sauced with ponzu and some sesame, rare to raw. Simple and delicious.

COURSE 2

Beef nigiri sushi. This had a quick sear on the edges, rare to raw.

COURSE 3

Tataki. One of my favorites. Thin sliced after being seared on the edges, rare to raw, and then lightly dressed and garnished with some ginger and shiso.

COURSE 4

This was my favorite. This was seared on the edges as well, rare to raw, but sliced a bit thicker and garnished with a black garlic sauce and some micro sprouts. Incredible.

COURSE 5

This was similar to sukiyaki, a saucy stew with onions and greens. Really tasty, and it demonstrates that even when cooked through, this stuff is tender and savory.

COURSE 6

Classic steakhouse fare here: seared and sliced, rare to medium rare, served with a garlic miso butter on a bed of grilled asparagus. Perfection.

COURSE 7

Foie gras and wagyu beef potsticker dumplings. So decadent, and they ate almost like soup dumplings with that burst of liquified foie and wagyu renderings.

I think that covers it. When you go to Nobu 57, you’ll find Kow on the “washu” side of the menu. Ask about some of the preparations you saw here, because they’re not always on the menu. If you know about them, they may accomodate you if they have the ability. Some stuff is limited availablility, so go early and go often.

NOBU 57
40 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

Pomona

This spot took over the space that was formerly Beautique. Chef and partner Michael Vignola, who used to be the head chef for the Strip House restaurants, has created an amazing menu here. My buddy and I tried a lot of stuff, so I’ll get right to it.

Foie Gras Sliders:

Incredibly tender and decadent, cut nicely with some acid from the apple slaw.

Mackerel & Potato Tartare:

The hazelnut, creme fraiche and jalapeno sauce really made this pop. This was so delicious.

Nduja Baked Little Neck Clams:

This is a perfect marriage of the classic seafood and pork flavor combo, with a slight boost of heat from the nduja. Great starter!

Truffled Chicken Dogs:

Probably one of the best upscale riffs on a hot dog that you’ll have. I didn’t get much truffle flavor and there was no brioche bun as the menu suggested, but the texture and porcini mustard were nice.

Duck Burger:

Jurgielewicz farms duck burger patty made of ground breast, confit of leg, foie, and fresh duck liver all seasoned with l’orange spices. Seared and rested in a rich duck jus. Duck skin mayo, grapefruit jam and killer fries. This place is no joke!

Seared Miyazaki A5 Wagyu:

AMAZING! This was dry-aged for 20 days and also cooked in dry-aged beef fat. This is some of the best beef I’ve ever had. 10/10.

Duo of Deviled Rib Eye:

This unique duo packs a powerful smoky and dry-aged punch! It features smoked deckle (bottom) and grilled eye (top), each rubbed with chili, herbs and spices, and served with black garlic bone marrow. This should be on your “must try” list! Chef Michael really nailed this. 10/10.

Creamed Escarole:

I love the use of escarole here in place of spinach. Escarole is such an under-appreciated green. This is a good “creamed spinach” dish for your steak entree. I think more butter and a bit less cream/cheese would make this pop a little more. Or perhaps I’d just like to see a sauteed version with some cannellini beans in the mix to remind me of growing up in an Italian household.

Ripped Sunchokes:

I love sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes. They’re like an awesome cross between a potato and an artichoke. These were smashed and fried, and then seasoned with shredded pecorino cheese and rosemary. Great side dish.

Goose Fat Tater Tots:

These are so crisp and flavorful. This should be your go-to potato dish here. Awesome.

Chocolate Mousse:

This has a nice texture to it, almost like cheesecake but light and fluffy. Great espresso ice cream to go with it too.

I highly recommend this place. Everything here was very good to outstanding. I can’t wait to try more of the menu and supplement this review over time.

POMONA
8 West 58th St
New York, NY 10019

BLT Steak

BLT Steak overall score: UNRATED

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.

BLT STEAK
106 E 57th St
New York, NY 10022

Bluebird London NYC

This joint just opened so I came in to check it out. They are an import from London, as the name suggests, and they are doing some really nice stuff.

First up, they have some great cocktails. Their Vesper martini, Bluebird race car cocktails (their namesake) and Thai Paloma were standout.

They do a beautiful gin & tonic too. I had several of these on the night of their grand opening party:

I tried three apps: The smoked salmon, the gin cured salmon, and the steak tartare.

Smoked Salmon: Very good quality salmon, nice and light – I can see this being a big favorite at brunch time with some toast and a mimosa.

Gin Cured Salmon: Truly inspired. Delicious. The gin really alters the flavor and texture (in a very good way). Served with pickled veggies and some mustard seeds.

Steak Tartare: Awesome. I actually found myself taking some of the cream from the smoked salmon dish and mixing it in with a bite of steak tartare here and there. It was a delicious combo!

Burger: This was so good. I loved the “Big Mac” style sauce on it. Everything really came together nicely. I am generally a big proponent of potato buns, but this brioche held up nicely since it was fresh.

Beef Wellington: The best version I’ve ever had. This is one of my top dishes of 2018 for sure. Perfect in every way. I’ve never had Beef Wellington so big, bold and beautifully executed. There are actually two more slices of this not pictured. I pulled them off the plate so you could see the cook temp better. Serves two for $85 – one of the best deals you will find for this level of cuisine. 10/10.

Sticky Toffee Pudding w/Pepper Ice Cream: Very unique. I really liked the contrast of flavors between the ice cream and the pudding. I think this would round out nicely with some citrus zest or perhaps a wedge/supreme of grapefruit or clementine. Really fun!

I will definitely be back here for sure. There are a few other steaks I’d like to try, and the space is just so beautiful that it makes you want to keep coming back for more. Look out soon for their brunch and afternoon tea services as well.

UPDATED THOUGHTS

After coming in here for breakfast, and then a special menu Christmas dinner, I don’t think I can recommend this place anymore. That first experience up above was great, and two of the dishes I ate made my “Best of 2018” on Instagram. But those two meals afterwards were just bland and flavorless. Sad, but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

BLUEBIRD LONDON NYC
10 Columbus Circle
Third floor
New York, NY 10019

Ai Fiori

My steak-eating crew and I came in here and tried 16 different items, so there’s no time for bullshitting. I will just get right down to it.

STARTERS

Dry-Aged Beef Tartare (bar menu)

This was damn good. Not as beautiful as Vaucluse, but it had a different flavor profile (Italian) that worked just as well as the classic French style.

Fried Soft-Shell Crab

So delicious. The zucchini puree underneath was a great Italian play for the sauce element, and the whipped ricotta just made it soar.

Octopus

The radish, white bean and salsa verde made the perfectly tender and grilled octopus shine with a bright pop of acidity.

Tomato Salad

This had stracciatella, pesto and watermelon. Very refreshing.

MID COURSES

Lobster Cavatelli

This sounded amazing but it fell a little short. It was by no means a bad dish. It was just not as stellar as the other entrees. Of course I would prefer this over the tomato salad from the appetizer courses. Duh. I just didn’t get a lot of robust flavors.

Spaghetti with Blue Crab & Bottarga

Winner. This was so delicious. Every aspect of it popped, and the robustness was there, while still preserving the delicate flavors of the crab meat.

Scallops

What made this really special was the corn pudding and toasted corn on the plate. I could eat buckets.

White Label Burger (bar menu)

My favorite of all the Michael White burgers. This one has Calabrian aioli and pickles on it, along with fontina, tomato and red onion. The blend is dry-aged Pat LaFrieda, just like the other White Label burgers as well. What’s really awesome here at Ai Fiori is the potato side that comes with it: pommes dauphines. I didn’t get a good shot, but they are basically breaded and deep fried balls of mashed potato. Again, buckets are needed!

ENTREES

Butter Poached Lobster

Insanity. One of the best lobster dishes I’ve ever had. So tender and flavorful, and it’s a really meaty lobster tail portion size with some sliced claw meat along the side.

Lamb Chops

These were wrapped in caul fat and crusted/glazed very nicely. The snap peas were a nice refreshing touch here to cut the fat, and I liked the use of barley in this dish. One of my favorite grains to eat when done right.

Tomahawk Steak (Costata)

This was an easy 10/10. Michael White’s large format steaks are just amazing at every one of his restaurants. While pretty much identical to the steaks available at Vaucluse and Osteria Morini, there is something to be said about the consistency of these steaks. Every time I visit, they are just as good, and they are all good at every restaurant. These are definitely signature items, and they are 100% worth ordering.

The charred lemon is killer! The rest of the meal was sides and desserts, which were all great but I won’t really dive to deep. My favorite dessert was the chocolate budino. There was some banana incorporated into that. Delicious.

SIDES

Broccoli Rabe

Chicory

DESSERT

Chocolate Budino

Almond Cake

Cheese Plate

I highly recommend both the burger and the tomahawk here. To start, split a pasta and a burger. Then hit the tomahawk for your entree, and get some extra pommes dauphines for the road!

AI FIORI
400 5th Ave #2
New York, NY 10018

Lawry’s the Prime Rib

Lawry’s The Prime Rib overall score: 92*

I’d never been to a Lawry’s before. I had heard good things, and of course we all know the seasonings from the grocery store.

But I honestly did not expect it to be as awesome as it was. The Chicago location is not only set in the beautiful historic McCormick mansion, but the prime rib is by far one of the best I’ve ever had. I would fly back tomorrow just for a repeat of this meal if I could.

Flavor: 10

We had the Lawry cut, which is $47 and comes with the famous spinning salad, Yorkshire pudding and mashed potatoes.

We shared this, which is why there’s a vertical emergency C-section scar on the meat in this pic (they plated it separately and I re-joined the meat for the photo).

I was blown away by this. It was so tender and juicy, so much flavor, and an incredible cap. I wish they had a location in NYC. They serve it with two types of horseradish: a cream and raw/grated.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10

You actually have a pretty great selection of cuts here for a place that mainly focuses on just prime rib. next time I’d like to try the rib eye (roasted prime rib which is then grilled and seared) and maybe the English cut prime rib. They’re missing the strip steak and porterhouse, but who cares. I’m not even going to take points away for that, since you have like 19 sizes of prime rib to choose from.

Portion Size & Plating: 10

Portions here are large and you get a great deal of food for the price. Everything is plated nicely, and the table side service for the spinning salad and prime rib cart is truly awesome.

Price: 10

Despite the silly “share charge” of $15, this place is a friggin steal. For $47 we got the steak, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and a salad.

Bar: 10

Although there is no real street side view or windows to the outside world, the bar and lounge area is breathtaking.

They make a delicious martini with Chopin vodka, where the olives are stuffed with prime rib and horseradish. Awesome.

My wife had one of their signature cocktails with gin and cucumber that was incredibly refreshing on such a hot day.

And they even have a side entrance to the bar room with a speakeasy vibe to it, called Side Door. Their bar menu gives you access to some of the delicious food in Lawry’s, but it is mostly re-thought for snack type dishes and pub food.

Specials and Other Meats: 7

The prime rib is special itself here. No real need for other items to be marketed, and if they were, I didn’t pay attention. They do offer any other entrees aside from beef or fish, and I respect the shit out of that. Take this category’s score with that in mind. In other words, disregard it.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

We only had what came with our prime rib; namely, the spinning salad, the Yorkshire pudding and the mashed potatoes.

The spinning salad is called that because they spin a cold metal bowl which tossing it. Romaine lettuce, sliced beets and a thousand island style dressing. Very classic.

The Yorkshire pudding is essentially a pop-over, and it was delicious.

Dessert selections are nice. At first we didn’t order anything. We were full.

But they brought us out an English trifle on the house for our anniversary, which is what we were leaning towards anyway. It was really nice and light. Great cake and great jam.

Seafood Selection: 7

There’s definitely something here for you fans of the sea. Salmon and lobster tails, to be exact. And some sides or starters like shrimp cocktail, of course.

Service: 10

Nothing like it. When you go here, you’ll feel like you stepped back in time. White glove service, extremely friendly and attentive waitresses, but not overcrowding or annoying. Very knowledgeable too, I might add. Here’s the inside of that prime rib service cart pictured above. Heaven.

 

The bread was basic, but the butter was soft and spreadable.

They paid attention to what we put on our OpenTable reservation, and we were greeted with a ribbon on our table, and treated to a free dessert.

Our waitress knew the Lawry’s Chicago story in and out. The space used to be a private mansion. It is absolutely stunning inside.

Ambiance: 10

This place is beautiful. I mentioned above that it used to be a private mansion (the McCormick family).

I’ve never seen a more elegant dining room.

Nice details in this joint. Check out this stained glass window in the lounge/bar area:

Bottom line, go here! This was my favorite meal in months.

LAWRY’S THE PRIME RIB
100 E Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60611

Mastro’s Steakhouse

Mastro’s overall score: 89

My wife and I came here with her uncle to celebrate his birthday and to use some accumulated Open Table credit that we built up with reward points. Check out the verdict:

Flavor: 9

We had two steaks. The first was the Australian wagyu tomahawk from Broadleaf. This thing was impressive.

It had a great crust, it was cooked perfectly to medium rare from end to end, and it was so damn tender. 10/10.

The other steak we tried was the 20-day wet aged prime porterhouse.

This was pretty good too, but I felt that it needed a bit more crust and lacked a little bit in terms of tenderness and flavor. 7/10.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

There is a massive selection of cuts here, with several different types of cuts within each category, and then some. Very impressive. The quality is all wet-aged prime or wagyu. I took a point because they have no dry-aged offerings.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions here are good, and they do some really nice plating for the chilled seafood. Everything else is pretty standard for steakhouse fare.

Price: 7

We had $120 of credit to use but the bill was still hefty.

Overall I think there is a better value for the tomahawk at Del Frisco’s (same steak is $95 instead of $115 – and just as good), and better value elsewhere for the porterhouse. For $63, a mediocre 24oz cut is a bit of a stiff price to pay.

Bar: 8

This joint has three bars; two upstairs and one downstairs. That splits up the crowd a bit, but each bar is still pretty nice.

I liked that they served my martini to me with the shaker, rather than taking it away. This allowed me to have that briny, watered down gin as a second serving when I finished the stiff drink. At $26 all in with tax and tip, that martini was pricey though.

Specials and Other Meats: 10

There were lots of specials read off to us, both in the meat and non-meat categories. As for other meats, they offer veal, lamb, chicken, and pork. They run the full gamut.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We tried the “steak bacon.” This was really good and thick. Loved it.

The chilled seafood was pricey but really delicious. We built our own tower with three jumbo shrimp, colossal crab meat and a dozen oysters.

For dessert we had butter cake and chocolate cake. The butter cake was awesome, and truly rivaled Del Friscos. It was bigger but lighter than theirs.

Seafood Selection: 10

There’s bass, tuna, swordfish, salmon, scallops, crab and lobster. Damn! I didn’t try them, but based on the quality of the seafood in the apps section, I have to bump this from my placeholder of 8/10 to a solid 10/10.

Service: 10

Let me start with the bread – amazing little basket here:

As for the wait staff – really top notch. They were very attentive, nice and non-intrusive. They gave us a freebie dessert since we were celebrating a birthday too. What really sent me over the top, though, was that they even called my wife the following day to ask how everything was, and to make sure that her uncle enjoyed his birthday celebration. That’s crazy!

Ambiance: 8

This place can get loud and rowdy, a little bit clubby upstairs. But the downstairs is a little more intimate and chill. I like that split personality aspect. Hopefully, when you go, they seat you in the location that corresponds to your mood.

STEAKHOUSE NAME
Address
Address

Tuscany Steakhouse

Tuscany Steakhouse overall score: 93

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:

Flavor: 9

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.

Closer?

More? Wider?

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.

Price: 9

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.

Bar: 8

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.

Looking for something more refined? How about surf & turf? Massive 16oz lobster tail and a 10oz filet mignon. Easy 10/10!

 

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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.

Service: 10

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.

Ambiance: 9

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.

PRIME RIB UPDATE!!!

On Wednesdays, this joint is now offering massive 26-28oz slabs of prime rib for $70. The cut is a la carte, but comes with some nice jus or gravy type sauce poured over the top. They only offer about seven or eight portions each Wednesday, so make sure you get there early to secure yours!

Damn huge.

TUSCANY STEAKHOUSE
117 W 58th St
New York, NY 10019