Category Archives: Full Points for Flavor

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.

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.

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.

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

The Aviary

I took my wife to The Aviary as an early Christmas present. I booked the five course “Cocktails & Canapes” tasting menu dinner about two weeks in advance with a $100 deposit. The cost is $165pp, with an 18% gratuity added at the end (and tax, of course).

That’s crazy expensive, but this is truly a unique drinking and dining experience. I drank and ate things I never would have even thought about. In hindsight, five cocktails was aggressive (but awesome). I think when I go back, I will just order a la carte.

Here is the entire menu, but I will highlight what was selected for us below in the review:

AMUSE

The first thing to come out was an “amuse” drink – a small shot of tastiness that involved lime, rum, and mint.

A few moments later, our first round of cocktails came out with the first course of food.

COURSE ONE

Drinks: Micahlada (left – and yes, that is spelled correctly) and Zombie Panda (right)

Of these two, the Micahlada was my favorite. This is The Aviary’s take on a michelada (beer, spices and tomato juice), made with soy, coriander, Japanese whisky and Evil Twin beer. The Zombie Panda was tart from the lemon, lychee and pisco, and filled with frozen spheres of raspberry juice to sweeten it up.

Food: Pineapple Two Ways

This was a nice way to get the taste buds popping. That brown stuff at the bottom was a mole sauce. I liked it a lot, but my wife wasn’t too taken with it. The black mint garnish was tasty and went well with the watermelon radish and passion fruit.

COURSE TWO

Drinks: How Does Snoop Dog Use Lemongrass (left) and Mimosa (right)

The mimosa was nice because the fruit juice was frozen into ice cubes, so the drink becomes sweeter and more smooth as it sits.

The idea behind the Snoop drink is that Snoop Dogg ends everything with “-izzle” when he talks/raps, so there is a “swizzle” made out of lemongrass, which is used to mix the drink together:

Food: Kampachi Ceviche

This was bright, light and savory, pulling in southeast asian flavors from Thai green curry, heart of palm and coconut. I really enjoyed the briny broth and the coiled peels of red pepper for spice.

COURSE THREE

Drink: Heart of Stone

This was the best drink of the night, and you get about six glasses out of the container. That container is filled with bourbon, tea, Fresno chili, pistachio and peach. As it sits there, the flavors infuse deeply into the bourbon, so each time you refill the glass it tastes a little different. More spices come out, more sweetness too. Amazing.

Food: Pork Belly Curry

This dish was really good, but it could have been excellent with a crunch element. I think the iceberg lettuce discs were supposed to be that element, but they fell short just a bit. Perhaps a fried shrimp chip or crispy egg roll wrapper would do the trick. But the pork belly curry itself? Awesome. The banana and cashew are excellent compliments to the savory.

FROM THE CHEF

Chawanmushi

They’re experimenting with “all times of day” food here at The Aviary, so this is meant to be a breakfast item. It’s velvety smooth, and the smoked abalone within makes you think you’re eating bacon. The pops of flavor from the pickled huckleberries really brighten and balance this seafood porridge custard dish.

COURSE FOUR

Drink: Memphis Half Step

These glasses come to the table upside down on a charred piece of oak cask, filled with smoke. The aroma is awesome. This absinthe and rye cocktail is super smooth with a hint of sweetness.

Food: A5 Miyazaki Wagyu Rib Eye

Clearly my favorite food item of the night. The meat was buttery soft, and the grilled romaine with puffed rice was a great textural pop to go with it.  That yellow sauce is a yuzu mustard. Possibly the greatest mustard ever. 10/10. Wish I had 16 more ounces of this.

COURSE FIVE

Drink: Boom Goes The Dynamite

This was sweet and warm, almost like a port or brandy. It was made with rum, vanilla, violet and rooibos…  and dry ice for the smoke.

Food: Blueberry

Milk chocolate, violet and buttermilk sorbet make this dessert extra decadent. There were some more spheres of raspberry ice on the plate too, rounding out the meal with a call back to the very first cocktail (Zombie Panda). Really nice.

THE OFFICE

After dinner, our waiter Preston took us on a short tour of The Office, the speakeasy behind The Aviary bar staging area (which looks more like a kitchen than a bar).

Here’s what the inside of The Office looks like:

They have a cabinet filled with really old spirits that you can order as well. Super rare.

I will definitely be back to try this place, as well as the Aviary again. So many interesting sounding drinks and food items to try, like the “Science AF,” which looks like a chemistry set, or the “Wake & Bake,” which is a pillow filled with smoke and a drink made with orange, everything bagel, coffee and rye. I snapped a photo of it before they opened the bag filled with smoke:

THE AVIARY
Mandarin Oriental
80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Salt + Charcoal

Salt + Charcoal overall score: 85

A food Instagram buddy of mine, @NYCFoodFOMO, set up an “influencer” dinner here, so I was able to try a bunch of stuff. I was really impressed with the meats. It was difficult to fit this review into my standard 10-category format, as some sections just didn’t pan out like they would for a larger steakhouse. With that in mind, you should focus more on the flavor category, as well as the specific notes I made about other food items. Base your decision to go here on the substance and “meat” of the review, as opposed to the total number. I really loved every single item that I ate here, and I will definitely be back again. Anyway, check it out:

Flavor: 9

Porterhouse: 8/10. This baby is dry aged for 50 days, so it eats really soft with with a nice outer crust texture for contrast.

The aged flavor was on the milder side, but I really enjoyed it.

Both the tenderloin side and strip side were perfectly cooked and tender.

Miyazaki Sirloin: 10/10. Look at this gorgeous slab of beef.

I mean, it’s rare that you find beef that’s really from Japan, so this is a special situation. They cook and serve this very simply – almost like a sushi dish – with ginger and wasabi.

It packs a lot of flavor, and is incredibly tender. A really nice treat.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7

You don’t have the biggest selection here (porterhouse, strip, off-menu filet, and wagyu sirloin), but the sirloin is highly marbled Miyazaki; the filet is topped with tons of uni; and the other two cuts are dry aged for 50 days. They are in serious need of a rib eye, however.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions are fairly normal here for the pricing, but the plating is gorgeous. Dishes are served in a Japanese aesthetic.

Price: 8

The prices can get steep. This surprised me for a steakhouse outside of midtown Manhattan. That’s the price you pay for high quality beef, though, and the Miyazaki is actually pretty fair compared to other places I’ve seen it.

Bar: 6

There’s not much of a bar scene to speak of, but the cocktails are certainly well crafted. I had a spin on an Old Fashioned, and I loved it.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

They offer an off-menu filet mignon that’s topped with tons of uni. I didn’t try it, but I’ve heard mixed reviews. I did, however, try their lamb and duck. Both were excellent, and some of the best I’ve ever had. No shame in taking a break from beef to indulge in these two dishes. Hell, they even work as shared apps if you want.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10

We tried a delicious trio of apps. First was the wagyu and uni roll. This is similar to the item served over at Takashi, with the accompanying shiso leaf and nori paper.

Next up was the uni shooter with poached egg, salmon roe and truffle oil. Delicious, smooth and decadent. I could slam a dozen of these no problem.

Last but not least, the crab cakes. These were generously meaty with a nice lightly breaded crust. Lovely.

Worth noting here: two of the dishes came with these amazing potato cake sides made of dozens of thinly sliced potato. It was buttery, salty and delicious.

Seafood Selection: 9

There’s a healthy amount of seafood on the menu here, as this joint also serves up some killer sushi. We tried a few rolls and loved them all. No pics though.

Service: 10

The service here is outstanding. Everyone is attentive, yet respectful of your space and privacy.

Ambiance: 8

Beautiful rustic wood tones make for a very cozy, warm and inviting atmosphere. I really liked the open view into the kitchen on the main dining floor. While the restaurant is long and narrow, they make good use of the space. And like a traditional steakhouse, there is a private dining room available downstairs, which is where we ate.

SALT + CHARCOAL
171 Grand St
Brooklyn, NY 11249

4 Charles Prime Rib

I agonized a bit over whether I should review 4 Charles Prime Rib within my 10 categories for steakhouses. In the end I decided to review it as a regular restaurant, as I felt the steak selections were so LASER-focused on prime rib that the overall score would be artificially low if plugged into the steakhouse review framework.

But who cares, right? You bastards just want to see the pretty pictures and know whether I think you should eat here.

The short answer: YES! Eat here immediately.

I was here with my wife and two other friends to do a full-cavity search on this restaurant menu’s ass. No gloves. No lube. Raw and dirty. Here’s what we ate:

THE BURGER

We split this as an appetizer, and yeah, I know: We didn’t get it “au cheval” style like in Chicago, with the egg and bacon on top. There were several reasons why we didn’t: (1) Overkill. It would be too fucking tall with thick cut bacon and a fried egg sitting on top of this double cheeseburger. And with the addition of lettuce and tomato? Fuhgettaboutit; (2) One of my friends can’t eat egg yolk; and (3) After I spoke with some friends whose burger opinions I value, it was clear that baconless and eggless was the way to go.

So how was it? Great. It’s crafted in a similar style to Genuine Roadside or Hard Times Sunday, where they serve up classic American doubles. However, at those places you’re paying half the price for something that I felt was just as good, if not better. My opinion: skip the burger. It’s great, but not worth the $20 price tag (fries not included).

THE FRENCH DIP

This isn’t on the menu but it’s often offered as a special for the day, and they pre-cut it for four people (even though we told them they didn’t have to). Thin sliced beef, provolone cheese, great sandwich bread, jus and horseradish sauce.

Verdict: amazing. Get this and split it as your appetizer like we did. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll probably be as amazed as we were.

THE PORTERHOUSE

DeBragga supplied this porterhouse, which was offered as a special for the day. It was only dry aged for 10 days, but it packed a great earthy flavor while still retaining the character of the beef. It was 32oz and $120, marketed as being “for two.”

How was it? 10/10 – perfection. Well, I mean, the crust could have used a slight bit more char on the outside, but the flavor was so tremendous that it didn’t matter. The quality  was insane, and texture was incredibly tender. Served with a Bernaise sauce.

THE “4 CHARLES CUT” PRIME RIB

This is 24oz of bone-in, slow roasted Anderson beef out of Chicago. It cooks for three hours at 250 and then five hours at 125. The result is an incredibly juicy and tender roast.

That’s horseradish cream sauce there in the picture, and the steak also comes with jus. This is easily in my top three for prime rib here in the city, with a very close Keen’s and Burger & Barrel also in that top three. 10/10.

SIDES

Blue Cheese Creamed Spinach: I thought this would be really potent and harsh, only good for a bite or two to add richness to the prime rib, but it was mild and tasty. While I really enjoyed it, it was not my favorite creamed spinach. I would say that it’s worth a try if you fancy yourself a creamed spinach connoisseur.

French Fries: Solid. Not amazing, but not bad by any stretch. They get the job done, they’re nicely fried, and they’re crisp. Served with a garlic aioli.

Roasted Broccolini: Despite the typo on their menu (brocolinni), these were really nicely done. I love this fucking veggie, so I like to get it every time I see it on a menu. These fuckers prepared it just how I do: Simply seasoned and dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic; and then roasted until it’s cooked through, developing a little bit of charred texture on the heads.

DESSERT

Lemon Meringue Pie: Really nice thick meringue on top. Super fluffy and lots of flavor. The pie itself was just right: not too tangy and not too rich. I loved it. I’ve always loved a good lemon meringue pie. And look at those peaks! Also the serving size is tremendous – basically a quarter of the entire pie.

Chocolate Cream Pie: The good folks at 4 Charles Prime Rib brought this baby out for us on the house. I was really blown away by this gesture, not to mention how cool everyone was with the four of us taking photos of the food. I like to think that we weren’t too obnoxious, though. In any case, this was really delicious. The bottom was a sort of Oreo crust, and the whipped cream and chocolate sauce just took that rich, flavorful chocolate pie filling to the next level. Great stuff, and I’m usually not huge on chocolate desserts.

The Damage

Boom. You need to eat here. I can’t wait to go back.

4 CHARLES PRIME RIB
4 Charles St
New York, NY 10014