Category Archives: Full Points for Flavor

Hida Beef

Hida is a region in Japan, located in the northern part of Gifu prefecture on Honshu island. That’s west of Tokyo, but not quite as far as Kyoto or Osaka. While I’ve never been there, I can tell it’s a place that I’d definitely want to visit.

Hida is known for it’s outstanding beef (Hida-gyu), which is derived from a black-haired Japanese breed of cattle. Laws are such that, to quality as the Hida brand, the cattle has to have been raised in Gifu prefecture for at least 14 months. The beef is characterized by intense, beautiful, web-like marbling with a buttery, smooth texture that melts in your mouth. The flavor is both rich and delicate at the same time. It can be likened to the top percentiles of wagyu beef, rivaling kobe and matsusaka in quality, with marbling grades of A/B 3, 4, and 5.

I was invited to a Hida beef tasting event at EN Japanese Brasserie, one of the seven restaurants in the area that will be serving Hida beef on their menus. The other six are Brushstroke, Hakubai, Hasaki, Sakagura, Shabu-Tatsu and the Members Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the first time that Hida beef is available here in the States, so if you’re a meat aficionado like me, you should definitely hit one of these places and give it a try. This stuff is expensive though, so make an occasion out of it.

I tried the beef in four different preparations: (1) sliced raw, nigiri sushi style, and then kissed with the scorching flame of a blowtorch; (2) seared edges, a tatami trio, with three different kinds of salt; (3) “Hoba-miso” style, stone grilled with miso sauce; and (4) chopped raw, tartare or ceviche style, with citrus and uni. Despite all the marbling, the meat doesn’t come off tasting very fatty, like some highly marbled cuts do. It didn’t leave a coating of waxy or fatty residue on my palate like certain cured salamis with high fat content. And it didn’t cause the flavors of whatever I ate next to change or taste different due to that fat, which is sometimes the case with aged beef and cured salami. In short, it was really a very pleasing experience.

I’ll start with my favorite preparations: (2) and (3). The tataki trio was essentially three slices of Hida beef (strip loin), each dressed with a different salt element: yuzu soy sauce, sea salt and a special red salt that had hints of spice to it. All three were great, but I think I liked the classic sea salt topper the best.

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The hot stone grilled preparation, Hoba-miso, was the only one in which the beef was cooked through. This dish is local to Hida. The sliced beef is placed on Hoba (a big Magnolia leaf) with miso and scallions, which then sits directly on the surface of the hot stone. As you can see, the before and after photos of this method indicate that this beef can be thoroughly enjoyed fully cooked if you’re one of those puss-bags who is afraid to eat raw or under-cooked meat.

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Fully cooking the beef did not take anything away from the meat. You still get that buttery smooth texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor characteristics. In fact, the leaf and miso bring nice flavor accents to the beef that compliment it well. This, too, was a strip loin cut of beef, and it was presented to eat on grilled sticky rice patties.

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Here’s the chef, Abe Hiroki, who was grilling these delicious morsels to absolute beef-paradise perfection:

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The torched nigiri style reminded me slightly of spam musubi, for the sole reason that it was a warm meat item served atop sushi rice. Here, you can get a real, unadulterated taste of the beef in all its marbled glory. It truly is spectacular.

I’ve been eating aged beef for so long that something this pure and clean really blew me away. This was strip loin as well.

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This was the sushi master behind these perfect pieces of nigiri:

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Finally, this tartare or ceviche style came dressed with a citrus yuzu sauce and was topped with uni (raw sea urchin). Absolutely stunning and decadent. The reason I am interchanging tartare with ceviche is that, typically, ceviche involves fish and citrus, while tartare features meat and egg yolk. Since this dish had elements of both but not all, I figured I’d split the baby. Tarviche? Why not. Also strip loin.

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The event also showcased some nice sake selections with flavors ranging from dry to sweet, traditional to aromatic and fruity.

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In fact, the event began with a “breaking the mirror” ceremony on the casks of sake, as well as a sake toast.

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The governor of Gifu was even in attendance, introducing the beef, the region and the customs to the audience.

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The restaurant itself is beautiful, and I look forward to coming back to try some more of this amazing beef. Every preparation was 10/10 for flavor, and I highly recommend it.

EN JAPANESE BRASSERIE
435 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014

Petrossian

Occasionally you come across a meal that changes the way you view particular food items. I’m a steak man. Clearly, this is known. I’ve eaten hundreds of cuts in my endeavor to find the best that NYC has to offer. I thought I’d pretty much seen it all in the world of steak. What else could there be, aside from some aged wagyu, or something completely ridiculous and rare? But just when I was starting to get a little bored and comfortable with my favorite food, Petrossian Chef Richard Farnabe came through with a completely unique and utterly genius steak offering.

Photo from www.therestaurantfairy.com
Photo from www.therestaurantfairy.com

The cut itself is something with which we steak aficionados are familiar; a 28-day, dry-aged strip loin (NY Strip). This lean cut hails from Four Story Hill Farm in PA. But Chef Richard’s preparation is what sets it apart from the panoply of great meats in the city of this cut’s namesake; it’s cooked to a perfect medium rare all the way through, and topped with bone marrow and caviar.

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Caviar? Why would someone do that, you ask? Well, having eaten it, I have a hypothesis: The natural brine and salt content in the caviar compliments the aged taste of the meat in a tremendous way. Aged beef has a certain flavor profile to it – earthy, funky, and highly concentrated. The caviar, being naturally salty and funky in its own right, is the perfect pairing with this kind of meat. It helps bring out those aged characteristics while also providing a juicy pop and briny burst to each bite.

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And, as you might expect, the marrow adds some nice fat flavor and texture back into the lean cut of beef. It really is a brilliant conception. In my opinion this is probably one of the best strip steaks you can find in town. 10/10.

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It’s accompanied by a semi-raw, ice cold asparagus salad. This adds some acidity and fresh green flavors to the meal, deftly balancing the punch you’re getting from the steak.

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And that’s not the only beef I tried. On the appetizer menu, they offer A4 wagyu topped with grilled sturgeon.

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This comes with a pickled quail egg and some caviar as well, along with a little crispy potato cube. When eaten together (beef and fish), you are experiencing that same beautiful pairing of earth and sea, one enhancing the other. The sturgeon had a flavor that was reminiscent of a good, Japanese style grilled eel. The slightly candied or caramelized, almost sweet top coating on the sturgeon pulled out a lot of those rich beef fat flavors from the steak. Another 10/10. For the record I believe this was sliced strip loin, but since it’s A4 wagyu, I will include it in my “other cuts” section for catalog purposes.

Now that I’ve gotten the most important things out of the way, let me briefly discuss the remainder of the meal. After all, the rest was just as impressive as the meats reviewed above. Even the table bread and drinks were nice.

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Petrossian explores elements of both classic French cuisine and Russian/Eastern European cuisine, and there is a healthy presence of caviar and smoked fish in the dishes, aside from having a robust stand-alone caviar menu. The starting amuse, for example, features both French technique and Russian cuisine, along with both caviar and smoked fish.

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What exactly are you looking at here? Three items.

(1) The lollipops are smoked salmon with cream cheese foam dipped in beet foam to make a shell;

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(2) The cubes are savory caviar marshmallows;

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(3) The spheres are chocolate foie gras truffles with gold leaf.

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These concise, decadent and dynamic bites set the tone for the entire meal. Petrossian is truly one of the few great places to indulge and splurge with a high quality meal where it’s actually worth the money, and where there is no pretense, no elitism and no unnecessary vegetable worship.

The next item that came out was a terrine-like foie gras brulee with smoked sturgeon and a pomegranate Guinness drop. It came with a little bread puff but I really enjoyed this by itself.

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The Guinness drop was spun sugar and candy-like in flavor and texture, and the foie brulee was rich, creamy and deeply flavorful.

My wife’s starter was the Petrossian sampler, which contained various smoked fish items and caviar. Everything I tasted on this plate was delicious in addition to being beautifully presented.

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Her entree was a special: baby pig, which consisted of an assortment of meats from the animal, including kidney, ear, rib, and crispy skin. There was also a croquette and crispy hash made from the meat as well. I tasted a bit of everything, thankfully, because I definitely would have ordered this if the steak wasn’t on the menu.

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In particular, I really liked the kidney, which was skewered on a sprig of rosemary. That little touch of presentation/technique added a great roasted herb flavor to the meat. Absolutely outstanding. It almost reminded us of Japanese yakitori.

Our sides were sumac pomme souffle, which were like little puffed potato chips, and a bowl of sauteed wild mushrooms with herbs.

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These items went perfectly with our meat courses.

Dessert was a lot of fun as well. We had beignets with a multitude of injectable sauce bulbs, and a smoked wood ice cream chocolate ball, which was covered in chocolate sauce at table side.

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The beignets were very light and crisp, and my favorite sauce was the pistachio. The chocolate ball was rich, creamy and decadent. Really smooth and tasty.

And then these little guys came out with the check: chocolate truffles and marshmallow cubes, both plated on a bed of dark chocolate morsels.

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With Chef Richard at the helm, Petrossian has skyrocketed back into NYC’s short list of high end restaurants that discerning diners simply must experience at least once. I was extremely impressed.

PETROSSIAN
182 West 58th St
New York, NY 10019

STK Rooftop

STK Rooftop overall score: 87

I came here with a group of friends for a steak night. I have to be honest; I wasn’t expecting much from a scene-heavy location on a rooftop in the meat packing district, but this place delivered. Everyone seemed happy at the end of the meal, especially me, which is all that really fucking matters anyway.

Flavor: 10
I ordered their off-menu special cut, which was an 8-10oz spinalis (the fat cap of the rib eye). It was topped with pickled mushrooms, pickled jalapenos and chimichurri sauce.

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This fucker was perfect. Unlike Bowery Meat Company, which ties together several slivers of trimmed cap to form one round cap steak, this seemed to be one full hunk of the same spinalis. I was impressed with the flavor and cook quality of the meat, and the pickled items added a nice pop of brightness and flavor to the meat. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare / medium temperature, it was juicy and I could taste the dry-aged flavors come though (this was the only dry-aged offering). 10/10. Also note that this is the only other place in the city aside from BMC that offers a version of this cut, so go get it.

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I also had a taste of a bone-in tenderloin that a friend ate, and it was very tasty as well (9/10). To clarify, he actually ordered a rib eye but they delivered a filet. He was a little bummed about it but decided to keep his filet. In the end I think he was happy with the steak.

I noticed that all the steaks had a good charred crust on them, and they all seemed to be seasoned generously. I snapped a few photos to demonstrate:

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I didn’t get to try the rib eye this time, but here’s a shot of it:

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Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
All the steaks on the menu are prime quality beef, but they didn’t offer anything that was aged aside from the special that I got (which was not on their menu).

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The good news is they have several sizes of steaks to suit whatever kind of pussy appetite you might have, and two people can probably share the large steaks.

Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions are pretty good here. While two of the large cuts seemed a bit pricey, I felt the porterhouse was fair and that all the other cuts were correctly priced as well. Side items and apps were also good. Plating was basic but with a touch of attention to beauty.

Price: 9
We were eating with nine people and the bill came to $187 per person, with tax and tip included and two of the diners not paying (they won credit card roulette). There were lots of cocktails and wine involved too, so I thought this was pretty fair, though we did skip dessert. For the quality you get, this is a good deal.

Bar: 8
The main bar here is a bit small, but you’re up on a rooftop that looks out across the Hudson. It’s a nice spot, and there is also a lounge on the other side of the dining room if the bar area is too crowded. I think it just would have been better planning to have the bar and the lounge adjacent to each other rather than split by the dining room. In any case, the drinks were made well, and the cocktail menu was pretty interesting.

Specials and Other Meats: 9
There is chicken, lamb, duck and beef short rib for those who don’t want a real cut of steak. As I mentioned above, they had a great spinalis special. But they also have some wagyu selections available as well, for those with fatter wallets.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We started with some oysters for the table. They were small, which I don’t mind, but some people do. They were west coast fuckers too, so a bit more fish and brine flavors involved.

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I had the octopus appetizer, which is done two ways; grilled and braised. They’re served together on the plate with nice purple potatoes and roasted, skinless grape tomatoes. While some bites had a bit more snap to them than others, overall this was a tasty dish and the octopus was tender.

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I also tried two other sides that we ordered for the table: truffle fries, and mac and cheese. The truffle fries had a good truffle flavor but they weren’t crispy enough. That was a bummer, and it made me think that the truffle flavor was just an oil-based add-on that was poured on top before serving, which could have been why they weren’t crispy. But the mac and cheese was awesome. It was topped with a nice baked bread crumb crust, and the cheese was top notch quality. Apologies for not getting a pic of either.

Seafood Selection: 8
There are at least three or four fish items on the entree menu to choose if you have a snatch and don’t eat meat, but we certainly didn’t try any. The appetizer fare is chock full of shellfish and other seafood items, however, and some of those, as mentioned earlier, were pretty good.

Service: 10
Our waitress, Sue Ann, was great. Not only did she properly explain each cut of steak on the menu, but she was forthcoming with her opinions on which steaks were better than others. She was also looking out for us, because when we first arrived, three of us were not yet there. They wouldn’t seat us at our table for nine until all guests arrived. The table for six, at which we were originally sitting while waiting for the final three, was really just comfortable enough for four people. There’s no way we could have eaten there, even if the last three didn’t make it. She told us to start ordering and when the others arrived, it’d be timed right as another large group would be finishing up their meal, so we would swap tables. It worked out nicely.

Ambiance: 9
The rooftop is beautiful. I’m only taking a point off because I thought the space could have been laid out and organized a bit better. I think it’s great that they have cover in the event of rain. Also some areas are still uncovered so if the day is nice, you can get some sunlight. They even have temperature control, at least near the bar. It was a muggy night but we were still very comfortable while eating dinner up there. Nicely done.

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STK ROOFTOP
26 Little W 12th St
New York, NY 10014

Bohemian

Bohemian is a dine-by-referral-only joint on Great Jones Street that’s nestled in the back of a high-end butcher shop called Japan Premium Beef. My wife scored a referral to eat here through one of her friends, so we set up a meal with her sister and her sister’s husband to celebrate their anniversary and sample as much as we could fit in our stomachs.

We started with a bunch of cocktails, which are all really great and unique. We tried about seven or eight over the course of the meal. Here are a few pics of some of them:

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They have a great selection of hard-to-find Japanese beers too:

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Plates here are small and pricey, but very good. We started with this poke bowl that consisted of high grade tuna, soy, sesame and micro greens. Absolutely delicious and super fresh.

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Next up was the wagyu short rib sashimi. This had great fat content and was super tender. Each piece gets topped with a little bit of wasabi and fried garlic slices.

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This fois gras sushi with aged balsamic and sea salt was incredibly decadent, but pricey at $17 for the pair:

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My favorite of the starter items were these wagyu beef tartare squares, served on blue cheese stuffed toasted grilled cheese. The cheese was mild and didn’t overwhelm the awesome flavors of the beef. Add a bit of dijon from the smear on the plate and you’re set.

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This mac and cheese is served with a tomato butter toast that is out of this world. The mac itself is perfect in every way: creamy, smooth and topped with a crunch.

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This slab of bacon was a bit chewy in the part that I had. My wife had a better experience with her piece. The good bits were super tasty though, so maybe the slab itself was just a little inconsistent.

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And why not have a pair of wagyu mini burgers with pecorino? They were perfectly cooked to medium rare, and served with some pickles for good measure.

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The miso black cod was really nicely cooked, but a bit on the small side in terms of portion.

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We regretted not going with the branzino when we saw that it was a beautifully presented whole fish and smelled like charcoal. But I wasn’t too worried because we were about to eat some fantastic wagyu beef. We started with a trio of beef (3.5oz each) that contained flatiron steak, culotte (top sirloin cap) and skirt. We liked them from best to worst in that order. I’ll review them now in the same order.

The flatiron was buttery and tender, cooked perfectly to medium rare and came in, for me, at an easy 9/10 for flavor.

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The culotte was similarly buttery, but a bit tougher in texture. It reminded me of strip loin, but a little less grainy. 7/10.

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I wish I had used a knife to cut these skirt steak bits a little smaller because they were too tough in the size that was served to us. They were cooked perfectly, but just lacked a bit on the flavor and texture fronts. 6/10.

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All of the beef was served with a small tray of sea salt that you could use to season as you saw fit. This was key, because otherwise the cuts were all a little too bland.

The last cut of beef we tries was a 10oz hanger steak. This was super tender and extremely delicious, and cooked absolutely perfectly with a great crust and a bright pinkish red center. 10/10. It was served on a mountain of potatoes that seemed to have been baked first, and then fried to a golden crisp on the outside. Awesome.

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Dessert was pretty nice too. We tried two ice creams: ricotta and strawberry balsamic. The strawberry was tart, but really nicely balanced between the sweet aspect of it. It ate more like a sorbet at times. The ricotta was light and fluffy, more like frozen cheese or a semifreddo. The ricotta cheese flavor was definitely prominent. What was best was mixing these two flavors in each bite. It was like eating a delicious frozen strawberry cheesecake.

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Sorry for the shitty pics. At this point the lighting changed drastically in the joint, and I didn’t bother to fix my settings.

We also tried the trio dessert sampler, which consisted of creme brulee, matcha green tie cake and cheesecake.

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My favorite of the three was the creme brulee. It was really smooth and creamy.

BOHEMIAN
57 Great Jones St
New York, NY 10012

Bowery Meat Company

I met up here with two friends for a meal after hearing a lot of good reviews about the joint. I wasn’t really sure I should call this place a steakhouse, and when I spoke with owner John McDonald he confirmed my thoughts. The idea, according to John, it seems, is not to pigeon hole the place as being a traditional steakhouse (usually just attracting an all male crowd, for the most part), but, rather, a meat-centric restaurant with a menu that appeals to all kinds of diners. Not only that, but he and his business partner/chef Josh Capon have endeavored to put together a unique menu, with cuts that you don’t often see in other restaurants, if ever. Other restaurants they are involved with include Lure Fishbar, Burger & Barrel Winepub and El Toro Blanco.

Given the above discussion about the term “steakhouse,” I decided not to rate this joint on my traditional 100-point scoring system (though I will include it on the list for convenience purposes). Instead, I will respect the owner’s concept and write it up like I do other restaurants. It just happens to be a wonderful meatopia!

The bar is a nice marble stretch, wide, lots of room, and has high-top seating behind, along the street. Easily a fun place to hang out. There’s also some lounge seating and regular tables beside it. This is a neat spot because every so often you can steal a glance into the kitchen through the swinging door next to the bar. There’s plenty of room to walk in and eat in the bar/lounge area if you can’t score a rez in the main dining room; just try to beat the crowd.

I started with a “Sagely Seventy-Five,” which was a really refreshing gin drink with lime, pear bitters and garnished with a sage leaf. No: I did not grow a vagina. I actually love gin drinks, mixed or straight up. It smelled and tasted exactly how I expected. The bartender, Alison, did a great job with the mix too.

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I swiped a taste of my buddy’s “Loneliest Monk” as well, which was a really nice rye, chartreuse, amaro and orange bitters concoction. Very classy.

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The bar, by the way, was a warm and comfortable place. Lots of elbow room too, which is nice. The bartenders and patrons were all very sociable. In fact, we had the good fortune of sitting next to a gent who is close friends with Chef Josh, so he gave us some pointers about what to get from the menu.

After our cocktails, we took a seat at a table next to the bar, in the lounge. Our waitress, Melanie, had a really deep knowledge and appreciation for beer. She made some excellent suggestions throughout the meal, the best of which, I thought, was this really effervescent Belgian beer that packed a ton of flavor without being hoppy or bitter. I fucking hate IPA shit, so this was excellent for me:

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We then had the great pleasure of meeting the man of the hour, Chef Josh Capon. He was a really fun, down-to-earth guy, cracking jokes with us, being vulgar and ridiculous (like we are), but at the same time making us feel not only welcome, but like we were kings. He was awesome: warm, friendly, easy to talk to, and it felt like we’ve known him forever. Check out this incredible display of meats he brought to the table, explaining each cut and how they are prepared:

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The first thing to come out was a plate of warm, sliced rosemary focaccia and some slices of soppressata. The bread was savory and herby, and the meat was soft and melty. I thought it was very cool and thoughtful that they put enough for each of us to try our own: three slices of each. That kind of attention to the diners does not go unnoticed by me. You’ll see the same thing was done for other dishes.

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Next was a little plate of bone marrow and oxtail rice balls: again one for each of us. These are called “arancini,” and they were spiced with lemon zest. I think at some point “put my balls in your mouth” was uttered by at least one of us, if not Chef Josh. The man had us cracking up hysterically at the table with his wit and outgoing personality. These were amazing little bites, by the way. Flash freeze these and put them on the shelves of stores in the frozen food section and you could make a killing!

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One of my buddies was too slow in putting Josh’s rice ball into his mouth, so there was a little bit of a threat happening with a tomahawk chop:

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Next, Josh brought out a sample of the crispy polenta for us to try. I enjoyed this. It had a nice texture with bold earthy flavors from the mushroom and shaved cheese on top.

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I think the star of the amuses (if you can call them that), was the dry aged wagyu meatball. When explaining it to us, we were all blown away, jaws dropped and salivating like wolves at the scent of fresh blood. I think Josh even said something like, “Yeah, it’s great. Basically, if you don’t like this meatball, then you can go fuck yourself.” HAHA! And he’s absolutely right. If you go to this restaurant and you try this meatball and DON’T like it, then I will say you can go fuck yourself. You don’t need to hear it from the man himself; you can take my word on it. It is amazing. Everything from the meat itself, to the consistency of the ball, to the herbs folded in, and to the sauce were all done with unrivaled culinary prowess. And I’m a hard man to please when it comes to meatballs!

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Okay so now let me tell you what we actually ordered for the apps. Yeah: all that stuff above was just to wet our beaks!  Wait – I just typed out “wet our beaks.” Who do I think we are, a bunch of fuckin’ Don Fanuccis from The Godfather?!??

Anyway, we started with the broiled oysters with garlic, romano cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley. Delicious! But watch your mouth because these muthafuckas are HOT! I typically don’t like cooked oysters, but these were done really nicely. They were briny and soft, properly cooked, yet crisp from the breadcrumbs. A great texture contrast.

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Next app: fois gras and chicken liver parfait. This was so rich and decadent, yet not heavy or filling. It was served with an onion jam and spread across toasted brioche. Chef Josh even spread the delicious shit on our bread for us when he served it. Amazing service! This is a must-try dish if you are into this sort of thing. All three of us absolutely loved it.

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Our third and final app was the Chinese BBQ pork belly lettuce wraps. Fresh, savory, light, bright and packed with porky goodness. The touch of acidic pickled veggies on the side, fresh cilantro and lime, and sliced chili peppers really made these bitches pop. So simple, yet so complex: a conundrum.

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For our mains, my bitch-ass friends wanted to share two entrees rather than three.  Whatever. We ordered the Bowery Steak, which is the first time I have ever seen anything like it on a menu. It’s essentially a pinwheel-wrapped fat cap from a rib eye, fashioned into a circle/spiral that’s roughly 10oz, if I had to guess, trussed, and cooked like a proper cut of steak. They serve it on top of creamy whipped potatoes, and top it with a chimichurri-like salsa verde.

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The owner, John, explained to me how the dish was conceptualized one night when coming home from a wedding that he and Josh had attended. They prepped that night, and the next day they brought it to life. Bravo, gents. You’ve made me very happy. This steak was fantastic, unique, innovative, tasty and perfectly cooked. Medium rare inside with a nice crust on the edges. Mmm.

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We also tried the cheeseburger, which is said to be made with 40-day dry-aged beef. This baby has been gaining some serious notoriety in burger circles, so I was excited to try it. It comes topped with griddled onions, raclette cheese and tomato aioli.

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Unfortunately, splitting it three ways left me wanting more, much more. It’s tough to make a solid review off just a bite or two. I did notice, though, that it was a bit salty, and could certainly have benefited from a cool, crunch element like lettuce. Here’s my pathetically small third of a burger. Thanks boys… Next time I’m ordering my own.

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The burger also came with fries, and a little tray of pickled tomato, okra and cucumber. The fries were really nice. Beautiful golden brown, crispy, herby and flavorful. I suppose we should have topped the burger with some of the pickles to get that needed crunch element, but digging into them on the side was nice too.

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We also took down an order of garlic spinach. This was really flavorful without being too overpowering on the garlic angle. Unlike typical sauteed spinach items, this wasn’t laden with oil either. It was fresh and light. Definitely a good choice.

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We were going to skip dessert, but Chef Josh brought out a nice trio of dolce de leche ice cream balls. This was a nice snack to take in with a glass of amaro, as we did.

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That about does it. If you’re wondering what the damage was, it really wasn’t too bad at all, especially given all the samples that Chef Josh brought out to the table for us to try. Here’s Sir William Price, in all his glory. Very fair, if you ask me.

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On a second visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Paul, who fired up this amazing 38oz cote de boeuf, which I think is probably the best large-format rib eye I’ve ever had in my life. It had a nice seasoned crust that crisped up nice under the broiler. Also – unlike most thick cuts of beef, it wasn’t overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside. it was just right. A perfect medium rare.

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Alright so I am forcing this into the review system despite the fact that they don’t claim to be a “steakhouse.” Let’s be honest – this shit is a steak joint!

Bowery Meat Company Overall Score: 95*

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

Some new pics as of 5/5/2016, when I tried the chateaubriand and tomahawk steaks for two. Both were incredible. This place never fails to impress.

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BOWERY MEAT COMPANY
9 E. 1st St.
New York, NY 10003

Osteria Morini

My wife was recently browsing around the Instagram foodporn landscape when she came across this image of a massive rib eye:

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Photo Credit: Osteria Morini: @OsteriaMorini on Instagram

I was immediately intrigued when she shared it with me, but I kind of just put it on the mental list of places that I needed to try. Like any fool who is just looking at photos and not actually READING captions, I missed the integral part of what was going on and why my thoughtful wife sent it to me:

“BIG news. Literally. Tonight only we are serving 120 day dry aged Tomahawk Steak. It’s on a first come basis and there are only 7, so call to reserve yours now.”

120 fucking days?!?? Wow. So a few days go by and I get this frantic text from my wife: “GET YOUR CAMERA AND MEET ME AT OSTERIA MORINI TONIGHT AT 6PM!”

I responded. “Okay. Why, what’s going on?” Then she proceeded to explain to me the details of what I had glanced over a few days earlier. She’s a very patient person. I do this often, apparently. But my mouth dropped. She had secured us one of the seven 52oz, 120-day dry-aged Pat Lafrieda/Creekstone Farms rib eyes just a week or two in advance of our 7-year wedding anniversary. They only offer them on the first Wednesday of every month, so scheduling is limited. Anyway, I ran home and got my camera, because we were about to celebrate with the best steak we’d ever eaten.

The steak is not trimmed of any excess fat, and the bone is left with all the meat still attached prior to cooking, as you can see in the Instagram photo above. This is ideal when dry-aging, because eventually you have to trim off the outer bark and you inevitably lose some meat when that happens. Better that it be fat and gristle than your spinalis dorsi. Even still, this particular cut is still left with tons of surrounding meat and tenderized fat. Ours came out to the table pre-sliced, beautifully plated and ready for gorging:

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Everything is edible on this. Even the fat breaks down into a really delicious beef jelly after that much time aging.

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The cap was truly something to behold. Packed with tons of flavor and so fucking tender. As for the eye (longissimus dorsi), just take a look at this perfectly cooked masterpiece of a slice:

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I half expected something so funky and nutty that it would almost be unrecognizable as steak, and more akin to blue cheese. But it was mild and pleasant, not so robust that it became odd tasting, like what can happen with some long aging processes. This was just right. I was smiling the entire time. This is the best steak I’ve ever eaten. 10/10.

But let’s not brush aside the other great Italian cuisine going on here at Osteria Morini. The bar has a great selection of Italian-inspired cocktails that are really unique and interesting.

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The atmosphere is home-ish and comfortable. It’s warm and inviting, with lots of wood tones.

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By 8:30pm the lights had dimmed significantly and the place was wall-to-wall jammed. The food is so great, it is no wonder why. But when you take the stellar service into consideration, a packed house becomes a no-brainer. GM Phillip Buttacavoli made us feel very much at home, and all employees from servers, to kitchen staff, to bartenders were really helpful, pleasant and nice.

The foccacia table bread was warm, toasty and nicely seasoned.

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We started with the stracci pasta: long, wide ribbons of egg-forward pasta with a braised wild mushroom sauce and rosemary oil.

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Perfectly cooked, and delicious through and through. The other pasta dishes all sounded great too. I will definitely be back to survey more of those selections.

The steak, which was a very fair $145, came with our choice of two sides as well. We went with the parmigiano roasted asparagus and the parmigiano fingerling potatoes.

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The asparagus reminded me of the kind my mother used to make. Very simply cooked but with parmigiano over the top to add in some salt and flavor. And the potatoes were perfectly crunchy and nicely seasoned all around.

For dessert, we tried the gianduja budino: a baked chocolate and hazelnut custard with candied hazelnuts, brown butter and salted chocolate cake crumbles.

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I loved it. It had just the right amount of sweet and savory to strike a great balance. They even gave us some complimentary glasses of saffron and cardamom amaro to go with the dessert.

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We ended up using a great Gilt City deal on this meal. My wife paid something like $145 for $200 worth of credit to apply to the bill at pretty much any Altamarea Group restaurant (except for Marea). That left us with a little bit to cover at the end.

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What a fantastic meal. I can’t wait to go back!

OSTERIA MORINI
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012

Blu on Park

Blu on Park overall score: 90

This joint just opened up on 60th Street, just east of Park (not actually ON Park, but close enough). Owner Amir is having a great first few weeks after opening, with a packed house on most nights. Chef Russell slings the food here, after doing a 12 year stint at The Boathouse in Central Park. Impressive.

Flavor: 10
I ate here with my wife, sister in law and brother in law, so we got to try a good amount of food. For our steaks, we went with a 40oz tomahawk rib eye for two, as well as a porterhouse for two. Let me first discuss the tomahawk:

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This fucker was cooked perfectly. You can see that nice bright pink medium rare awesomeness  stretch from end to end. The crust had ample and robust seasoning, which was kept simple to course salt and cracked pepper. Even the far end of the fat cap was still a perfect medium rare; I was really impressed with that.

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The porterhouse was similarly pro-executed. In fact, in the first few bites, we couldn’t readily identify which side was which between the filet and the strip – THAT’S how tender the strip side was!

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On second glance it’s clear that the top is strip and the bottom is filet, but the filet side was quite generous.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
Blu offers two sizes of filet, two sizes of rib eye, multiple sizes of porterhouse and a strip. Everything is aged for about 28 days (with the exception of the filet) and is prime quality. These babies come from Master Purveyors in the Bronx. I’m familiar with their products and I can tell you they are top notch.

Portion Size & Plating: 10
Portions are all generous here, from apps on up the chain to entrees and desserts. The plating is simple and elegant, no fuss.

Price: 8
The prices here seem to be on par with other steakhouses in the area. It was a hefty bill, but I didn’t feel ripped off. In fact, it was the opposite: I was really happy with the meal and was happy to fork over money for a well-worth-it meal.

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Bar: 8
This place puts up some really great cocktails, and it has a killer selection of scotches, like Ardbeg Uigeadail – a super smoky and peat-infused islay whisky.

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The bar is a beautiful black quartz topped stretch that is clean and chic, with gorgeous high tops and seating nearby.

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Definitely a cool place to hang out, especially with cocktail napkins like these – haha!

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Specials and Other Meats:7
There were no specials just yet, as the joint is pretty much brand new! The only other selection aside from beef was veal – the rest is seafood. I don’t mind that one bit – it’s just one spot where I need to deduct some points.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We tried some oysters and the beef carpaccio for starters. Both were incredible. The oysters were west coasters that were meaty, clean and crisp:

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The carpaccio was filet that was sliced thin and topped with some watercress greens, meyer lemon, crispy fried artichokes and shaved cheese. Great way to prime up for more meat.

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For sides, we went with creamed spinach, whipped potatoes and roasted king oyster mushrooms. Let’s start with the best – the mushrooms.

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I typically pass on mushroom sides at steakhouses because they generally seem to be a huge waste of money. They’re usually some crappy-ass button mushrooms that are overly buttery and mixed with onions. They may taste fine, but I can do that at home for $3. Here, the king oyster mushrooms, first off, are expensive and more rare. Second, they’re meaty and earthy, a great compliment to a piece of steak. They roast them with garlic here and they come out absolutely perfect. Third/last, at just $12 I find this to be a great buy. I’ve seen these ‘shrooms go for $24-$32/lb in some grocery stores. They also offer these “unsliced” and with a few other sides as a main, vegan option entree. Great idea.

The creamed spinach was a bit lacking for me, but my wife and I both agreed that we enjoyed the texture, which was broken up here and there with some crispness.

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The mashed potatoes, which I didn’t photograph, were creamy and smooth, but they were nothing to necessarily write home about. When I visit again, I’ll stick with the mushrooms and maybe try the french fries instead.

For dessert we shared a key lime pie that was more like a layer cake than pie. My wife and I really enjoyed the change-up for this dish. The cake had an almost nutty quality, with the texture of carrot cake. It came with a scoop of coconut sorbet that was really icy and mild – not too sweet.

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The manager, Carlos, was a real gentleman. He sent over a complimentary glass of after dinner dessert port for each of us, as well as a follow up reception at the bar with glasses of champagne and a cheese platter! We were blown away.

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If you lack a sweet tooth, like I sometimes do, then this cheese plate is the way to go. The blue cheese on there is incredible! Especially when you mix bites alongside the fig cake.

Seafood Selection: 10
There’s a shitload of awesome, fresh fish on the menu. Salmon, branzino, sea bass, tuna and lobster all grace the menu in entree format. The apps are chock full of shellfish offerings (as mentioned above), and the plateau selections looked amazing.

Service: 10
I already mentioned Carlos’ amazing hospitality above, but I have to say that everyone here is great. All the way from owner to management, from front to back and the bar in between. Our waiter, Johnny, was a real gent (nice name too). And everyone was dressed really nice and sharp – waiters had nice suits with bow ties, and the table service was highly attentive without being in-your-face all the time. Well done guys!

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The bread was warm and fresh – olive stick or white dinner roll – and the butter was soft and easily spreadable.

Ambiance: 9
Amir has curated an absolutely incredible renovation from what was once a Chinese food restaurant and an office space into a really elegant and inviting two-floor steak joint. The downstairs is perfect for hanging out and sipping cocktails. Up a half a floor is a nice small dining area with a fireplace and high ceilings, with impressive wine shelving all over the walls.

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Then up another half level is a long stretch of beautiful dining space that overlooks a huge full-front-of-the-building window and nicely painted exposed brick walls. There’s even a small private dining room that can probably seat about 20 for events.

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GREAT new spot. Check it out and tell them I sent  you.

BLU ON PARK
116 E. 60th St.
New York, NY 10022

Strip House

Strip House overall score: 96

I’ve heard lots of good things about Strip House over the years, and I was psyched to go there and use a gift card I received for my birthday (Thanks Jackie & Mike!). Check the verdict (about as close to perfect as you can get). On my second visit, Jackie & Mike took us out for a b-day/anniversary celebration. Things are still incredible here. See the italics text below for new updates.
Flavor: 10
This place lived up to its expectations, and then some. The ribeye was perfectly cooked. It had a great crispy sear on the outside, and it was the perfect pink color and temperature from edge to bone, no uneven cooking, no change in texture, nothing. It had a great fat cap, and all the fat was soft and edible. There was nothing left on the bone at the end of the meal. Aside from the meat, everything else was perfect as well. This place is fucking legit. On the second visit I had the bone-in strip, and it was on par with the ribeye: amazing. Perfectly cooked, very flavorful and juicy. I tried smearing some of the mushy garlic onto a few bites and it really enhhanced the taste. I suggest trying it a little bit here and there. I had a taste of the special bone-in filet as well, and it is top notch.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
Strip house has all four of the basics covered; porterhouse (only offered for two), ribeye, filet mignon and strip. In addition they have a Chateaubriand for two. There was no mention in the menu or on the website regarding what grade or quality the beef is, but based on the flavor I’d say it is prime. On special they even had a bone-in filet (aka “the conundrum”). A wide variety of meat sizes and flavors. The only thing missing was a porterhouse for one. On special for the second trip they also had a boneless dry aged 16oz ribeye on the menu.
Portion Size & Plating: 10
Portion sizes are just right for the steaks. The strip comes in 16oz or 20oz (bone-in) portions; the filet is either 8oz or 12oz; and the ribeye is 20oz (bone-in). The porterhouse for two is 38oz, and the Chateaubriand for two is 24oz. The garnish on the plate was a nice roasted bundle of garlic, within its paper, sealing in all the heat to make it nice and spreadable. I didn’t delve into it too much, but it was a nice touch, and it even had a sprig of rosemary sticking out so it looked like a little pine tree (rosemary) with the roots wrapped (garlic bushel). Speaking of garlic, it seemed to be a common theme on many of the plates. For example, in the crispy goose fat potato dish, garlic was sliced and fried, and placed on top with a little bit of parsley. There was also some minced garlic cooked into the sear on the steak (nice!). The garlic wasn’t overpowering at all; just prevalent. The sides were a bit on the small side in comparison to other places I’ve been, but to be honest there is enough to feed two people on any one dish. The ripped potato app is a fairly large portion, however. See pic below:
Price: 9
At Strip House, the price for beef ranges from $41 to $49. The filets are $41 and $45; the ribeye is $46; and the strip is $45 and $49 – the larger of the two strips (bone-in) being the most expensive cut on the menu. The porterhouse runs $45pp, and the Chateaubriand is $43pp. The special bone-in filet was $52. Apps are $11 to $19, sides $8 to $12. A martini costs $12, which I thought was fair. These numbers are about right. The total bill, after tax, tip and deduction of gift card, came to under $200. A good deal indeed, though the sides were a bit small for their respective prices. Be sure to snack on some of the candied pecans that come in a small dish with the check – they are incredible.
Bar: 9
The bar is really nice. First, the martini was made perfectly. The bartender chilled a glass while preparing the drink, and he even had the courtesy to ask if I wanted it shaken or stirred, up, or on the rocks. The decor is awesome, and the tables and couch near the bar make for a cozy yet elegant and swanky old time feel, with a nice view of the wine room near the entrance. I can definitely see myself hanging out here for a drink. I just don’t know if anyone else would be there since it isn’t in the most jumping location (though there is plenty to do nearby). The cocktail menu has a few new style drinks; interesting mixes rather than the traditional old time types of classics, but they are still good. My wife had a “bluebird sing,” which was a nice blueberry flavored drink. On my second trip they didn’t chill the martini glass, and it only came with two olives instead of three. Also noteworthy is that it went up in price by $1. I also noticed that the end of the bar is very close to the ring-up station where all the waiters and servers hang by the registers and computer screens. It can get tight over there, but the lounge seating area makes up for that.
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Specials and Other Meats: 9
Also on the menu is a Colorado lamb rack and a veal rib chop. This place is pretty much beef and seafood only; I don’t really mind so much, but a slab of pork or some chicken would round it out better. I say man up or shut up though. Off the menu, on special, they had something for each course: a spicy crab and lobster salad, the bone-in filet, and grilled asparagus. They also had two types of oysters (east and west coasters). On special for the second trip they also had the bone-in filet again, a dry aged boneless 16oz ribeye, a spicy tuna tartare, and a seafood tower for two. We tried three of those. Mike had the bone-in filet (delicious), I had the spicy tuna tartare (very nice – spicy, cold, wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber, and dressed just right), and the ladies had the seafood tower (though the waiter was helpful in telling us it is cheaper and better to order two seperate towers for one, as you get more food for less money).
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10
I heard a lot of really great things about the apps at Strip House before going, so I was determined to make room for a serious order. It started to become really difficult to choose. Ultimately we went with the roasted bacon for an app. It was amazing, and a good portion to match the hefty $19 price tag. It came with a nice sized arugula salad, perfectly coated with a homemade thousand island type of dressing, with halved grape tomatoes on the side. Next we had the black truffle creamed spinach, which was rich and creamy but not overpowering. You could definitely taste the truffle in there, and it was served in a cool miniature copper pot. Then the creamed corn with pancetta; it was deliciously topped with a crispy crumble, like mac & cheese. And finally an order of the crispy goose fat potatoes. Yum! They seemed to be baked in a ramekin of some kind, because every side of the upside-down-pie-shaped disc was perfectly crisped to a brown color. The potatoes themselves had a rich goosey flavor, with a heavy dose of rosemary infusion. We were temped to order the ripped potatoes too (baked potato, ripped apart and deep fried with a rosemary salt). For dessert we had baked Alaska; chocolate ice cream with layers of pistachio, topped with brulee’d meringue and sitting in a pool of pistachio cream. One thing to note was that the menu online was different than the one at the restaurant (changes for the better, for the most part). One item missing was the house cured beef jerky, which I would have liked to try. For round two the only new item we tried was the ripped potato for an app. It was really crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, seasoned just right. Delicious.  It may have benefitted from a little dish of sour cream on the side though (see a pic under the “portion size” section). For dessert we had the creme brulee (which I thought was more like flan and not as thick as I like it inside). It was okay, but a little too thin for my liking.
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Seafood Selection: 10
Strip House has a nice seafood selection. Shrimp, crab cakes, scallops, and a seafood plateau for apps (along with lobster bisque); Yellow fin tuna and red snapper were mentioned on the menu online, but in the restaurant they had crispy skin Scottish salmon, and a sea bass entree. Solid change up. They also had Maine lobster (2- and 3-pounders) for entrees (along with a lobster linguine). They had a good selection of oysters and shellfish too, but the real kicker was the seafood plateau. Holy shit, my friends. Here is what was on the saucer of goodness: tuna tartare on a bed of seaweed salad; grilled calamari salad; lump crab meat ceviche; shrimp cocktail; a half lobster; a generous amount of Alaskan king crab legs; east and west coast oysters; and littleneck clams. It seemed never ending, and totally worth the $49 price tag. It came with an array of amazing sauces; a home made cocktail sauce that was creamy and generous with freshly grated horseradish; a cucumber vinegar bath; and of course the steak sauce (not with the plateau), which really was amazing with the seafood rather than the meat. Let’s put it this way: it makes Luger’s sauce look like bottled ape shit.
Service: 10
The service was fantastic. The waiters (and waitress) all had old fashioned period piece white jacket tuxedos on, and they all knew their shit when it came to meat, their preparations, etc. They were attentive but not annoying, and EVERY SINGLE PERSON WE WALKED PAST said HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to us, just because we mentioned it when making an online reservation. These people are classy. Our meal came with an amuse too – a shot of hot potato soup that was bacony and smoky as heck. Really delicious, though it could have been a bit smoother. The table breads were not only good, but they were REPLENISHED after we finished them (butter was a little hard though). There was an everything style onion roll with fresh charred onions and spices on top, a crispy raisin bun, and a log of salty bagel bread. The second trip was no different as far as service goes; only this time the amuse was a cool gazpacho instead of a warm potato soup. One bonus was that the waiter informed us it was cheaper and better to order two seperate seafood towers for one instead of the special tower for two – thanks buddy! In the lead up to the meal, a BR Guest PR person on Yelp found my reviews of Primehouse and Strip House, and wrote a nice response email to me. We had a conversation and it came out that I was about to eat at Strip House again that evening. She poked around the guest list and discovered that we were celebrating a birthday, so I knew we were in for some extra attention. As it turns out, they sent us a free slice of 24 layer chocolate cake. See below:
Service here never misses the top marks. When I came with a group of five guys, our waitress Asthma really knew her stuff and was incredible. I even noticed that when the sommelier helped us choose between two bottles of wine, he didn’t try to upwell us on one just because it was $5 more. He actually told us he preferred the cheaper bottle better and told us why. I like that.
Ambiance: 10
When you walk in, you feel like you just entered a movie set, or a place ripped right out of the old days. The walls are a deep wall-papered and patterned red. It is cozy and warm, but elegant. The filigree wallpaper even matches the cloth napkins at the table, and framed portraits of old timey nekkit ladies grace the walls, covering nearly every square inch with history. The cushions on the wall seats are a pillowed red; very art deco. The only thing that seemed out of place was the high-school style speckled large-tile floor. The bathroom was nice and fancy, old fashioned too, but a little small.
On my last visit, I had the filet mignon cooked crispy on the outside and rare on the inside. It was perfectly executed to my specifications.
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My buddies and I tried the burrata app, which was super soft and flavorful. I could eat this every day and never get sick of it.
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As always, the bacon was incredible as well:
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UPDATED REVIEW AND PHOTOS as of 12/4/2015

My wife shared an article with me that detailed Chef Michael Vignola’s new 60oz bone-in filet mignon. At a cost of $183, I immediately took to the phones to set one aside for a group of four meat enthusiasts: me, The Cake Dealer, The Dishelin Guide and Matt Bruck.

Chef Vignola passed the torch off to Chef Andreas Seidel for the evening. Really great guy – Andreas and his team treated us like absolute kings! He brought out some really nice scallop crudo with uni and yuzu cream sauce for us to try. Very smooth and bright.

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We also ordered the large seafood plateau.

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Everything on it was top quality, super fresh and very tasty.

Andreas also brought out some bacon for us to gnaw on. Always a great thing…

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Here’s the filet – that massive hunk of delicious, tender meat – prior to the table side slicing.

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60oz Filet Mignon Slicing & Serving Video:

Standard issue plating at Strip House is this buttery smooth roasted garlic with a sprig of rosemary. I love this…

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Here’s my plate:

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There was a ton of flavor on the outside crust, but that meant I had to cut and portion carefully so as not to have a bite of all center with little seasoning. The meat was super tender and absolutely fatless. It was aged, so any fat that may have been in there melted away, leaving behind a dense, meaty and super soft hunk of beef.

On the side we tried the Pommes Dauphine (tater tots with aged gouda and crispy parsley). These were super soft inside, like mashed potatoes, but nice and crisp on the outside. I am now in love with crispy parsley too. It actually had flavor, which is so unlike parsley!

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We also ordered creamed corn with pancetta. Great side. Probably the best on the menu here.

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The chef also brought out some truffle creamed spinach as well. Very earthy and savory. This went really well when slathered onto the steak with each bite.

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Green beans. Simple, but really well executed.

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Andreas also sent out some crispy goose fat potatoes – delicious!

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The chef also sent out two desserts for us. First was this beautiful Baked Alaska. Watch the service here:

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Really nicely done. You could taste the booze but it wasn’t overpowering, and the marshmallow outside was perfectly seared.

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There was also more of that massive 24-layer chocolate cake!

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Here’s a shot of Team Bald – me and Matt Bruck, with chef Andreas Seidel. Great guy and a great sport!

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STRIP HOUSE
13 E. 12th St.
New York, NY 10003

Quality Eats

Quality Eats overall score: 85

Fourth Wall Restaurants, who’s group includes Smith & Wollensky, Maloney & Porcelli, Quality Meats and Quality Italian, has just opened up this new casual joint.

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Is it a steakhouse? Maybe. I say yes in some ways, and no in others. I’ve decided to treat it like both a regular restaurant and a steakhouse, despite the fact that certain steakhouse review categories will ultimately be scored low due to a more minimalist menu and a completely different selection in terms of meat cuts. They focus on non-traditional cuts of meat here, so be prepared for something unique and different. Also be prepared for that Fourth Wall level of quality and excellence that you’ve come to know and love from them. The word “quality” is purposeful in this group of restaurants. Everything is always good at these places. That’s consistency, people… and I’m not talking about texture.

Flavor: 10
We had the bavette cut and the long bone short rib steak. Both were cooked to a perfect medium rare, both had tons of awesome beefy flavor, and any fat content was completely edible and tasty. Here are some quick angles of the long bone short rib:

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They only allow you to order this cut “pink or grey.” Due to the high marbling and location along the bone, this meat can get chewy if not correctly cooked to either of those temperatures. Clearly I went with pink, and I was a very happy camper. These guys are masters in the kitchen.

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If you’re wondering what it tastes like, think of the really flavorful bits near the bone of your rib eye steak, or the kind of meat you eat with cross-cut Korean style BBQ short ribs. So good.

Here’s a look at the perfectly cooked, beautifully charred bavette steak. Both plates came with a cup of corn creme brûlée – sweet yet savory, and creamy as fuck – and some pickled red onion. I explain a little bit about this bavette cut down in the next section.

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This was nice. It’s a smaller portion, but at $19 it’s a steal because of how delicious it is. The flavor and texture is similar to a hanger or a very soft flank. It gets cut on the bias, against the grain of the meat and muscle striations, to increase textural tenderness.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7
Don’t let the low score here fool you. This place offers more affordable, less common cuts of beef, but the quality is still extremely high. They don’t have a rib eye, a NY strip or a porterhouse. As such, points must be removed for each missing item. Instead, however, they have a bone-in short rib steak (the meat that rides along the length of the bone as opposed to the eye meat. They have a hanger steak, which is relatively more common. But they also serve a bavette, or flap steak, which is an extension of the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks. It is officially part of the short loin section, in the belly of the animal. They also have top sirloin, skirt steak, and a specially prepared filet with mustard peppercorn sauce called the “Don Ameche” – that’s Mortimer Duke from Trading Places! So they make up for not having those pricey cuts. I wonder what made them glorify Don. It’s funny because I always thought a theme steakhouse or restaurant called “Duke & Duke” or “Winthorpe & Valentine” would be a great idea (located somewhere by Wall Street).

Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions are naturally a bit smaller for some of the less common cuts of beef, but the plating is really fun. They’ve got these line drawings all over the plates that match the decor of the restaurant.

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Price: 10
This is the most budget friendly of the Fourth Wall restaurants. The most expensive steak is $29, the cheapest is $19. Wonderful! I think you get your money’s worth here. You save a good amount when you eat here, and while doing so you get to try some steak cuts that you would ordinarily not see on other steakhouse menus. We had two apps, two entrees, two sides, two desserts and three drinks. Our total was $151, before tip.

Bar: 8
This bar has a great selection of unique cocktails, and some more hard to find beers. The bar area was pretty hopping on Friday evening when we went, in the 6:00 to 7:30 time frame.

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Specials and Other Meats: 6
Since the menu is not massive, you’re limited to chicken and pork here in terms of non-beef meats. There were no specials offered by our waitress.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
We did the PB&J bacon. Yes. It’s peanut butter and jalapeño jelly, with bacon. It was stupendously good. The jelly was spicy and sweet at the same time. If moms pack this on a sandwich in their kids’ lunch boxes, those kids will probably grow up to be UFC fighters or something. That’s how badass it is.

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Our other starter was the steak tartare, because what is better to begin a steak meal with than raw steak?

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The toast came with a marrow butter and radishes. The butter was really creamy and beefy, and the radish added a little bit of crunch element and a bright pop to the bite. The meat texture was soft and delicate, very tasty.

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For sides, we first tried this scalloped sunchoke.

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Sunchoke is the root of a sunflower. If you’ve never had it before, it tastes like a mix of artichoke and potato. It is one of my favorite starch-veggie items in the world. This was done beautifully, like a scalloped potato dish with some broiled cheese on top.

We also tried the creamed spinach hush puppies. These were pretty interesting:

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A bit more dense and moist than your average hush puppy, the spinach inside added a juicy element to each bite.

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It was also served with a beef jus mayo for dipping.

The dessert menu offered an array of interesting selections. We went with two ice cream items. First is my burnt marshmallow ice cream s’mores, with graham cracker shortbread, toasted marshmallows and a fudge swirl. Awesome. I declare that burnt marshmallow flavored ice cream needs to be in every grocery store, ASAP. Each bite tasted like a campfire or post-grilling snack.

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My wife had an item called “This Shit is Bananas.” It’s roasted banana flavored ice cream with peanut butter caramel, candied bacon and cinnamon toast. ELVIS HAS ENTERED THE BUILDING!

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I liked mine better, and my wife liked hers better. So that worked out.

Seafood Selection: 7
There’s octopus, branzino and scallops for main course seafood items. However, you have some seafood on the app menu as well, like hamachi crudo, crab and shrimp. Since we didn’t try any of these, I will be using a placeholder score of seven for now.

Service: 10
Our waitress was fun, bright and informative. We never felt rushed or slowed down, and the manager and kitchen staff each visited our table a few times to check in on us. This is the kind of service that I expect and have become accustomed to with Fourth Wall. They’re great people.

Ambiance: 9
This joint does well with the small space. As you stroll past the bar you can go up to a back room area that has more seating. The lighting all over is warm and dim, comforting, but the walls are vibrant and interesting.

The details they put on everything, from the walls to the ceilings, to the cutlery and bathroom tiles, is all fun and light hearted (like the plates above). I like how the M on “Quality Meats” is made to look like it was scratched out or missing on all their logos and signage.

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There’s even some some meat- and drink-related tile work in the bathroom. It’s like an Atari game from the 80’s.

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QUALITY EATS
19 Greenwich Ave.
New York, NY 10014

The Pines

Last month when I was at Meatopia I had the pleasure of meeting John Poiarkoff, the genius chef behind the wheels of steel at The Pines in Brooklyn.

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In our inevitable conversation about meat and steak, I discovered that his carnivorous endeavors at the restaurant were not only out of the ordinary and interesting, but exemplified that rare love of beef possessed only by a true connoisseur.

For example, he explained how the blade steak (aka Denver cut, part of the chuck) on the menu was prepared sous vide style. It bathes for several hours in a sealed bag, allowing the tentacle-like marbling to render down, making the steak super tender before it gets seared off in a pan for a nice outer crisp.

He also mentioned that he had some rib eyes in an outdoor walk-in that he converted into a dry-aging room. When he said how long they were in there, 106 days, I nearly lost my shit. I kindly asked him again. “How long did you say?” 106 days!

He went on to say that they would soon be breaking the rack down into portioned cuts and serving them as special menu items. Needless to say, I was all over it. I made sure to follow The Pines on Instagram and to keep my eye out for any news about that steak. Sure enough, just a few weeks later I saw the post announcing that they were going to be serving those rib eyes. The very next day my wife and I headed over.

To my excitement, the menu was chock full of delicious looking meat goodies. We sipped on a pair of nice cocktails while we wrestled with what to order.

On the left is The Pines, a rye drink with douglas fir (burnt/smoked pine needles for a really nice woodsy, aromatic nose) and yuzu; on the right is the Air & Sea, a gin drink with dulse, lemon and violet.

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We ended up going for three entrees instead of the traditional apps, sides and entrees routine. But before our first item came out, John sent over an order of duck rillettes. This is aged duck served terrine style with a pastrami sandwich theme: dill sauce (it tasted like pickles), a cabbage kraut, mustard and crunchy puffed rye grains.

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This inventive dish threw us for a tasty loop, and it set the tone for what was one of the most fun, innovative and delicious meals we’ve had in a long time.

John paired the duck with this really smooth, clean sake:

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Oh and there was this nice little amuse of carrot soup/puree with sage oil. It had a spicy and smoky kick to it.

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Our first entree was pork jowl. If you’ve never had this, it is essentially bacon from the face of a pig. It’s cured, smoked cheek meat. If you know anything about the cheek meat of an animal, you know that it is some of the most tender and sought after bits of goodness you can find. This tasted like really awesome smoked bacon. It was savory yet slightly sweet, and sat on a pumpkin and cabbage pancake that was somewhat reminiscent of corn bread.

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I could very happily eat that shit every morning for breakfast, though I may be tempted to throw a fried egg on top – you know – because breakfast is the perfect time to eat like a savage barbarian. Anyway this dish wasn’t heavy or greasy like you might expect from bacon. The curing and smoking helps in that respect.

Our first steak dish came out next. After hearing about that blade steak, I couldn’t pass it up.

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John mixed the normal blade steak plate up a bit and served it with some roasted broccoli, braised oxtail and cheesy potato puree.

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As you can see, there’s even a bit of shaved horseradish over the top to punch up the salt and tie the meat in with the potato. Really nice.

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This steak is incredibly good. John has taken a lesser known, less desirable and rarely featured cut and showcased it in a way that will have you searching for it in every restaurant. It’s easily 10/10 for flavor. It was so juicy and tender inside. Perfectly cooked, as you can see, and the sear on the outside locked in all that flavor. It was super crispy on the outside without any part of the inside getting cooked beyond medium rare. Just awesome!

John paired this with a unique and unexpected rose, which had some tartness to it. The cool thing about The Pines is that, if you’re interested, you can learn a lot about the food you’re eating and the stuff you’re drinking. John gets to know all the people who provide his source material. The vintner of this wine, for example, or the farmers and ranchers who provide the meat and produce. He gets to know their stories, and he shares it with diners for a more rich, engaging experience. I dig and appreciate that, and it’s exactly what I was talking about on here recently – that I want to see more of it.

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I should probably mention here that The Pines sources all of its beef from Happy Valley Meat Co., which is based out of Central PA. Both John and his sous chef Neel Patil (the creative force behind the duck rillettes dish, featured above) are extremely modest in that they attribute so much credit for the success of their menu to those farmers. While much credit is indeed deserved by the farmers, it is very easy to fuck up good meat if you don’t know what you’re doing. John and Neel clearly deserve as much credit as the farmers, because they knocked the beef dishes out of the park!

So now comes the big boy – the 106-day, dry-aged rib eye. John explained that the process for these is as follows: First it hits a hot grill for a little smoke and sear, and those lovely grill marks. Then it gets a nice warm sous vide bath. Last, it hits a hot pan to lock in all the juices and get a crispy sear. Thrice cooked rib eye! Here’s a shot of John holding our cut before it hits the pan:

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And here it is after the pan, resting, but before serving. Just look at that gorgeous sear!!!

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While we waited for it to be sliced and plated, John rolled out another pairing for us.

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This wine was truly incredible. He poured us a taste from two different bottles: one that was just opened 30 minutes prior, an another that was already opened for two days.

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The difference was astounding. The freshly opened wine was really nice and flavorful, full bodied and robust without being overpowering. It had a nice round, smooth finish. The wine that was opened for two days had all the same characteristics, but the after taste was of dry aged beef or truffled charcuterie. It was incredible! I kept going at it. It was like having a delicious meat snack with each sip, and it reminded me of the awesome Trufa Seca sausage I had with my latest Carnivore Club box. It paired perfectly with the steak.

Anyway then the masterpiece came out:

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It was plated with grilled Japanese mushrooms, bone marrow, potatoes that were pretty much confit style, and this awesome kimchi cabbage that was finished with rendered beef fat:

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This right here is the best steak I’ve ever eaten at a non-steakhouse, and I can tell you it seriously rivals the best steakhouses as well – it may even be better than all of them.

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I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how incredible this thing was, and I don’t know if it can really compare to anything I’ve had at a steakhouse other than the long bone wagyu rib eye at Del Frisco’s. This thing is really in that kind of league. And look at how perfectly executed this thing is:

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It was so tender and flavorful. Every bite was a “wow,” and the cap was fucking INSANE! I’ve never had anything like it before. I was expecting a lot of game and funk with this meat, but it was just the right subtle amount of “blue cheese” flavor. It came out most when I smeared some marrow onto the slices of eye meat. And the fat around the cap was even softer and more delicious than the marrow.

I don’t know how we did it, but we managed to fit dessert into our guts as well. Probably because what we saw on the menu was new and unique. We had to try something.

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We went back and forth between two and ultimately left it in John’s hands. He came out with both; the chocolate cake, and the miso butterscotch pudding.

The chocolate cake was mildly sweet because it was expertly cut by the cashew and sage ice cream. The pomegranate balanced the whole thing with a nice acidic and tart zing.

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The miso butterscotch pudding is definitely something for the more adventurous dessert person. I seemed to focus my attention more on the celery ice cream than the pudding at first, but that pudding was so freaking good. The ice cream was like a palette cleanser, and the pudding was creamy and velvety – almost like a liquified peanut butter in texture – extremely innovative.

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With dessert, we sipped on a trio of amaro selections, as well as a bitter lemon soda digestif that was made in house. Of these, our favorite was the Brovo #1 (center). It had a spicy cinnamon flavor that was easy to drink. And, as is true with the other stuff above, you can learn all about the people who make these spirits as you dine, because John and his staff are happy to share that information with you if you’re interested, like we were.

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Want to hear something really amazing? This is the kitchen:

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So small, yet so powerful. It is run like a well-oiled machine by incredibly skilled mechanics, pumping out what is absolutely some the finest food in NYC.

Please do yourselves a favor and go here. They may even give you a quick tour of the aging room out back if you ask nicely. Take a look at the ducks and steaks aging away! I think those ducks are at two weeks, and the steak is something like 86 days.

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I went back with a crew of food bloggers and instagrammers for a nice meal around the holidays.

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Here’s a photogasm of everything we ate, which included a duo of rib eyes – one aged for 35 days and another aged for over 80 days.

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Molasses gingerbread cookies stuffed with fois gras and pistachios:

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Kale salad with toasted barley:

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Grilled radicchio salad:

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Roasted broccoli with shaved horseradish:

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Fettuccine with mussels and chilies in a Parmesan cream sauce:

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Presentation of beef!!!

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Post slicing:

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Gnawing on the bone is always fun:

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Dessert 1: bread pudding.

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Dessert 2: herbaceous chocolate ganache.

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We even drank some Japanese whisky from a bone marrow slide!

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Chef John even got in on the action. Marrow luges rule!!!

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THE PINES
284 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215