Category Archives: Midtown East

Covina

My wife and I went to Covina with another couple and tried a bunch of things from the menu. Check it out:

First, huge and great selections of cocktails. Definitely imbibe when you go here.

We started with the pork belly, which was nicely braised and tender.

The shrimp and polenta was a perfectly cooked and really tasty dish.

This pappardelle pasta was slightly overcooked for my liking, but the pork and veal “white bolognese” was incredible.

Next up, pizza! We did both the spicy honey pie and the fontina with Brussels spouts pie.

The spicy honey pie was miles ahead of the competition. I could eat three.

We also tried their famous Big Mac style burger.

The bun was a little hard, perhaps heading towards dry or stale, but the burger itself was masterful. I really enjoyed it.

On the side we had truffle fries and charred broccolini. Both were good, although there was really no char to the broccolini.

For dessert, we did the bread pudding and the pumpkin mousse. Here, the mousse was better. It was awesome!

COVINA
127 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016

Ristoro del Cinghiale

This week I had the opportunity to meet and dine with Dario Cecchini, the world famous Tuscan butcher from Panzano.

You may have seen him on food and travel shows. The man truly loves life, and, of course, meat.

He, alongside Montefili wines, hosted an amazing meat fest at the new Tuscan restaurant Ristoro del Cinghiale. Each course was paired with one of Montefili’s wines.

This first course was simple but delicious. That’s ricotta and “tuna” made of pork. Somehow it tasted like really great tuna. Amazing!

There was also some really flavorful salumi.

Next was a pair of pasta dishes. Gnocchi with sage and mushrooms, and garganelli with a wild boar bolognese sauce. The garganelli was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a while. Very tasty.

Next, the meats! The first dish to come out was a rack of wild boar that also included spare ribs.

The chops were absolutely incredible. Such a nice flavor. But the ribs stole the show. They were seasoned with a dry rub that included cayenne and fennel seed, which just blew me away. Best ribs ever.

And this “Bistecca Fiorentina” porterhouse was one of the most perfectly cooked steaks I’ve seen in my days of eating beef.

Here, the preparation and flavoring is all about the wood-fired oven and the herbs, the true Tuscan style.

If the steak was aged, I couldn’t sense it. But the tenderloin was incredibly tender, and the strip side was delicious. Again, perfectly cooked – great grilled crust and pinkness from end to end. 9/10.

Now that’s what I call a high protein plate! There was also some spinach and crispy potatoes, as you can see. I really shouldn’t gloss over those potatoes – they were so fucking good!

Dessert was a delicious slice of pecorino cheese topped with black truffle.

I’ll be going back here in the next week or so to try more of their menu; perhaps the half pig head and the sweetbreads parmesan. I think it goes without saying that I highly recommend this place. Their chef seems to be really nailing the spirit of Tuscany. He definitely did Dario proud.

RISTORO DEL CINGHIALE
122 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016

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

Royal 35 Steakhouse

Royal 35 Steakhouse overall score: 81

My wife and I came here with another couple. We got to try a good amount of stuff, so let me get right to it.

Flavor: 8

We had both the porterhouse and the rib eye. Both came in at about 8/10 for flavor.

Both were cooked to my liking of medium rare with a good crust.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

All of the standard steakhouse cuts are available here. They are all dry aged on site, and prime.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions are good, and on par with all the other major steakhouses in the area. For the price, you get a good value here.

Price: 8

Pricing is average for the area, with some good values here and there in terms of portion size and quality. You won’t feel like you got banged out.

Bar: 7

The bar is a small stretch near the front of the restaurant, separated from the lounge area and the main dining room. They make a nice martini.

Specials and Other Meats: 8

There were definitely some specials that the waiter read to us, but we were set on what we wanted from the main menu, so we didn’t pay too much attention. By way of alternative meats, they offer veal and lamb.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

We started with the bacon, half a strip each:

Here I am cutting it with an awesome new knife that I will tell you about soon:

 

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Next was the crab cake. This was killer! Easily one of my favorites in the city. Go get this!

We also tried the baked clams. These had a bit too much breading, so they ate a bit dry. Otherwise nice flavors.

There was also this nice wedge salad. Simple and delicious.

For dessert we had the butter cake. I had high hopes, considering this is my favorite dessert at Del Frisco’s, but here it was a bit too dry.

Seafood Selection: 7

There’s a lot to choose from by way of seafood entrees, but since I only tried the clams so far, I can’t really opine other than on those.

Service: 10

Impeccable. The staff here is amazing all the way from top to bottom, front to back. That’s the way it should be.

Ambiance: 9

I really loved the decor and set up here. They made the most of what would otherwise be a challenging space. There are some awesome booth tables on the way leading back to the main dining room, and the main dining room has super high ceilings with elegant wallpaper and wood trim. Very nice.

ROYAL 35 STEAKHOUSE
1 East 35th St
New York, NY 10016

Massoni

Eight dollar cocktails at happy hour was a great way to start this meal.

Followed by half price apps, like this heirloom tomato and watermelon salad. happy hour goes until 7pm too, which is great.

I couldn’t resist ordering this double patty Italian style burger, with fontina cheese, spinach & arugula, crispy pancetta and pickled cherry peppers on a potato bun. Awesome!

But the pizza stole the show. This one was topped with pepperoni, cherry peppers and honey. This crust was amazing too, Detroit style.

I highly recommend this spot for the burger and pizza.

MASSONI
11 E 31st St
New York, NY 10016

La Pecora Bianca

My buddy from the Gotham Burger Social Club and I came in here with the intention to split a burger and a pasta dish, but things escalated quickly into a pretty big lunch.

We started with an Aperol spritz, still desperately clinging to the last tendrils of summer.

We went with the gramigna pasta (short n’ curlies). This is made from the einkorn noble grain.

It was served with grumbled sweet Italian sausage, red pepper flakes and broccolini. I loved this! So much better than the popular broccoli rabe and orecchiette versions that you see a lot lately. Here’s a shot of it after a light parmesan cheese snowfall.

We also had a side of eggplant parmesan to go with it. I typically despise the skin on cooked eggplant, but this was a unique preparation in which the skin on the ends of the eggplant acted like cups or little bowls for the cheese and sauce. Delicious.

Here’s that beautiful burger:

It’s two patties made of short rib and brisket, then topped with fontina cheese, crispy pancetta, pickled pepperoncini and calabrian aioli. The bun is outstanding here. It eats like a soft, pillowy ciabatta roll. Perfect for an Italian style burger. It also comes with crispy smushed and fried rosemary potatoes.

I highly recommend this burger. It’s right up there with Ai Fiori and San Matteo as my top three favorite Italian style burgers.

Last up is the hanger steak.

This was a nice and simple preparation. Nothing too complicated. Great flavor, super tender. I only wish it had a better char on the crust and some more seasoning. 7/10.

Great spot. I will definitely be back for more pasta and that burger.

LA PECORA BIANCA
950 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10022

*Note there is another location in NoMad as well.

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

Four Cuts Steakhouse

Four Cuts overall score: 82

My wife and I came here for a quick meal and to take photos for Instagram.

Flavor: 8

The porterhouse was a 7/10. It was cooked nicely to medium rare, but it lacked a bit of seasoning and dry-aged flavor. The strip side had a bit of a chew to it, but still pretty good. The filet side was perfect!

The “sauce” we ordered on the side was the “cherry peppers and onions” selection, which I knew in advance wouldn’t be an actual “sauce” as listed on the menu.

Four Cuts Steakhouse is owned by the same folks as Tudor City Steakhouse, and I recall that I enjoyed the cherry peppers and onions there (it, too, wasn’t a sauce, but, rather, a toping or a side item). I dig it. And these are perfect to use for leftover steak and eggs the next morning.

We also tried the filet “oscar” style.

This was a 9/10.

The lobster meat and hollandaise really worked nicely together with the steak, which was perfectly cooked to medium rare.

I highly recommend that filet, and I’m looking forward to trying more cuts the next time I visit.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

You can see here on the menu that all “four cuts” are represented (not counting the lamb chops):

However, they also offer specials like the filet “oscar,” and this tomahawk that I unfortunately didn’t get to try:

It looked and smelled delicious! The meats hail from Masters, and are all dry-aged for 28 days.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions are large here, and plating is pretty standard in the steakhouse style. Elegant and simple.

Price: 9

The prices here are all very fair. In fact some are a huge bargain considering what neighboring steak joints are charging, much like their sister restaurant, Tudor City Steakhouse.

Bar: 7

There’s a cozy little stretch of bar that was seeing a fair amount of action on a Friday evening. I liked this little guy sitting on there:

Drinks are pretty good too.

First they brought out a vodka martini by mistake, but they knew before I did (I hadn’t sipped it yet). They just brought out a gin martini and told me to keep the vodka one too. Bonus!

Specials and Other Meats: 8

There are definitely some steak items that aren’t listed on the menu. The tomahawk steak and filet “oscar” style that I mentioned above, for example. Make sure you ask what they have. By way of alternative meats, you can go with either lamb or chicken.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

The crab cake was meaty!

The star of the apps were the oysters Rockefeller and the clams casino. These usually come six to an order, but the chef did us a solid and gave us three of each so we could try both preparations.

I also really liked the tuna tartare. Big portion, clean and fresh taste, and simply executed.

Sautéed asparagus with garlic:

Hash brown potatoes:

Sautéed spinach with garlic:

For dessert, my wife liked the raspberry cheesecake best of the two:

But I liked the raspberry creme brûlée. This was a unique take.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s branzino, salmon and tuna on the menu for you non-carnivorous losers out there. But based on the quality of the baked shellfish apps, I would say you’re in very good hands ordering a seafood entree here.

Service: 10

Tony is incredible, and the wait staff is top notch. You really are treated like royalty here. My favorite service aspect of the meal at Four Cuts was the table bread. It comes with a really tasty garlic, olives, capers and tomato oil spread that will blow you away. It’s almost like a “bagna cauda,” but I’m not sure if there are anchovies involved.

Ambiance: 8

This little “mom and pop” steak joint exudes a cozy yet elegant atmosphere that really makes great use of the space. It felt like the right balance between a traditional steakhouse and a local neighborhood joint. Go give it a shot. There’s even free garage parking for four hours right around the corner on 58th Street.

FOUR CUTS STEAKHOUSE
1076 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10022

The Lobster Club

The Lobster Club is the newest venture by Major Food Group (The Grill, Parm, Carbone, The Pool, etc). What attracted me to this joint was their chili oil-, cumin- and Szechuan peppercorn- spiced tomahawk rib eye. You may recall my Szechuan strip steak recipe, where I used a similar flavor profile. Let me just admit up front that mine wasn’t as good as theirs, despite mine looking prettier and my crispy rice being fantastic.

Anyway, let me get to the meal already.

I started at the bar with a great cocktail called the Umeshu Highball: Japanese whisky, aged umeshu and sparkling water.

At the table, my wife had the Jasmine Blossom: Bourbon, plum sake, plum eau-de-vie and sherry. Garnished with a big slice of fresh ginger.

At dessert, we shared the Banana Goto: Japanese whisky, espresso, cacao and banana whipped cream. This went perfectly with our dessert, as you will see later.

The cocktails were all awesome, and I would definitely come back for a drink at the bar, for sure.

Our first course was sushi. This is an entree but we shared it as an appetizer. At $68 this is pretty hefty, but the quality was indeed top notch.

We shared the Sansho Octopus dish next. This was pricey at $28 for a single large tentacle, but it was pretty tasty, and served with some Asian style pickled radish and cucumber slices, as well as what reminded me of a chimichurri sauce on top.

Before the steak came out, they brought out this cool platter of sauces for the steak. None of them were really necessary, given the richness of the steak and the aggressiveness of the flavors, but a few of them went well. Namely, the confit garlic and the chili sauce.

The steak itself was a haymaker knockout punch of flavor. This shit is aggressive, spicy and there’s a LOT of it. You should take my 10/10 score of this with a warning: I happen to LOVE these flavors. The steak reminded me of the tingly beef noodles or the spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xian Famous. That is not everyone’s cup of tea! If you just want dry-aged beef, then go with the porterhouse here. This baby is minimally aged and it packs a wallop of interesting flavor.

The quality was great. Very tender, great cap size, edible fat. It was also cooked perfectly. If you want unique, then go for it. It’s $195 for 46oz (including the bone), and, as I said, it’s aggressively spiced. You may want to split it with three others rather than two just to give your taste buds a break.

The steak also comes with a pair of sides: blistered shishito peppers and grilled king mushrooms (my favorite kind). These were both excellent.

For dessert, we shared the Japanese Iced Coffee Kakigori. This is essentially coffee and cream flavored shave ice. A mountain of it, at that. It paired perfectly with the third cocktail I mentioned up top.

Overall this was a really good meal, but it was expensive. I probably wouldn’t go back, but I’m glad I did go. I needed to try that steak!

I came back here a second time to try the Szechuan steak again with some friends who convinced me that I should have it a second time. This time is was a bit tough. 7/10.

We also tried their porterhouse.

This, too, is pricey at $185. What I didn’t realize is that the flavor is that of sesame, in keeping with the asian theme here.

 

The flavors were nice, but again there was a texture problem. When you are paying this much for steak, they need to be perfect. 7/10.

THE LOBSTER CLUB
98 E. 53rd St
New York, NY 10022

Hillstone

My wife and I tried this place today on the recommendation of a friend of mine who spoke highly of the prime rib.

I give this a solid 8/10. For $46 you also get two sides with it, and the slab of roasty, beefy goodness is very well portioned.

It had a nice cap, good flavor both on the crust and throughout, and they serve it with a great seasoning salt (tasted like a sweet but spicy old bay salt), horseradish cream sauce, and gravy in a tea kettle.

The item that stole the show for me though was this grilled artichoke appetizer that our really nice and helpful waitress Marissa recommended.

The halves were perfectly seasoned, steamed, grilled, and then hit with some finishing salt. Absolutely awesome.

They serve some good crafted cocktails, and the bar is impressive as well.

Not a bad lunch!

HILLSTONE
153 E 53rd St
New York, NY 10022