Category Archives: Midtown West

Butcher & Banker

Butcher & Banker overall score: 93*

I was invited into Butcher & Banker for a special preview dinner with a group of people from Instagram. This joint has taken over the previously unused space in an old bank vault on the ground floor of the New Yorker Hotel. I was really excited to try out some items from their impressive menu. Check out the details below.

Flavor: 10

I tried two different cuts of steak here. I’ll start with the big boy; the tomahawk rib eye (individual flavor score: 10/10).

This beauty was big, juicy and flavorful.

It was cooked to a perfect medium rare with a really great crust.

While there was a good amount of fat on this chop, the fat was the high quality kind that you can eat like beef jelly. I was loving it. And the generously sized cap was absolutely incredible.

Next up was the smoked strip steak (individual flavor score: 8/10).

This thing was beautifully presented on a circular, hibachi style steel mesh grate that sat atop a cast iron grill pan which was covered in rosemary (that’s where the smoke comes from – firing the herbs up). This, too, was perfectly cooked, juicy and flavorful. However I was only able to try a small piece, and I think I got one of the “lesser” slices that remained, as we shared two cuts among about 10 or 12 people. As such the 8/10 score is tentative, and I’m reserving full judgment on this cut until I can try another during my next visit. What I did have was great, but I imagine a slice from the center would be a perfect score, just like the tomahawk.

I’m giving the overall score for flavor the benefit of the doubt here and awarding full points for flavor. Despite the individual scores averaging 9/10, I just know. Trust me.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10

Chef Scott Campbell sources all of his beef from Pat LaFrieda and a state of the art facility out on Long Island (apologies – the name escapes me at the moment). The cuts available here range far and wide: long bone short rib, tomahawk rib eye, porterhouse, rib cap, coulotte (top sirloin cap), hanger, strip (corn fed or grass finished), filet mignon, and cowboy rib eye. Insanity. And there’s definitely some dry aging going on here – they just didn’t print out the number of days for each cut.

Personally, I don’t care about the number of days as long as I can taste it. Lately I’ve had some dry aged beef that claims to be aged for so long, but the time didn’t translate into flavor. It really all depends on the aging room. Whatever the case may be here, I was able to taste it, and that is a win to me.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portion sizes here are pretty generous, and the plating is artful without being too fancy.

Price: 10

Since my meal was free, I have to award full points here. However, the prices are fair for the area, and reflect normal pricing for a midtown Manhattan steakhouse. There’s a variety of cuts available for the discerning carnivore, ranging from $32 for the budget savvy to $63 for the big spenders (per person).

Bar: 8

The bar is cozy and interesting. Being down in an old bank vault, it can be out of the way or an effort to get to, as it isn’t a visible spot from the street. But I really liked the vibe.

The cocktails are great here, and they reflect a modern twist on the art deco design of the New Yorker Hotel.

Raffles Singapore Sling:

A Proper Manhattan:

Our Bountiful Martini:

Specials and Other Meats: 10

There’s plenty to go around in the “other meats” department. The menu boasts a duck steak, veal, lamb and chicken. But the big star of the non-beef items is the Kan Kan Pork.

The menu description of this dish – “a grand arch of double loin chops, belly and cracklings” – doesn’t quite do it justice. Order it and you’ll know what I mean when you see it come to the table.

It’s garnished with caramelized Catskill apples, and served with an apple cider reduction. There is no other pork dish like it in the city, and nothing even comes close to it. This is meant for two at $41/pp.

I’m not sure if the waiters will be reading off-menu specials each day, but when you have stuff like this on the menu, what else can possibly be “special” in comparison?

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We tried a bunch of apps and sides, so I’ll just rattle it all off and let you know my thoughts about each.

Banker’s Bacon Double-Thick

As you know from following this website and my Instagram account, there are very few bacon apps that can compete with my top five list. This Banker Bacon was delicious though – no doubt about it – and definitely worth getting as an app.

Short Rib Taquitos

I didn’t see these listed on the menu, but they were great. Super tender stewed style beef with a hit of cooling avocado cream inside a crispy shell. Can’t go wrong.

Colossal Shrimp Cocktail

Delicious and big. The fresh shaved horseradish on top was killer.

Calamari, Rock Shrimp & Shishito Fritti

These come with a great wasabi cream dipping sauce and a little bowl of curry salt for personal seasoning. That salt is really something else, and I love the flavor combinations when you dip into the wasabi cream and then finish with a pinch of curry salt. Perfectly crispy and lightly battered, and the shishito is a great touch.

Three Minute Diver Scallop Ceviche

Really light and well balanced. The scallops were meaty and delicate, and the bright yuzu and grapefruit dressing made them really pop.

Crisp Piri Piri Oysters Rockefeller

These were excellent. I usually don’t like cooked oysters very much, but these were almost like just the outside was cooked, with a crispy fried shell encasing the juicy, creamy oyster inside. Perfect with that dollop of creamed spinach underneath.

Roasted Wild Mushrooms

A great blend of fungi, simply treated with butter, herbs and seasonings – and looking beautiful.

Homemade Gelato

I didn’t get a shot of this stuff, but the texture was so rich and creamy. It was awesome. Chocolate, vanilla and bourbon pecan (incredible and unique).

Seafood Selection: 8

I didn’t try any fish entrees, but all of the starters I tried involving seafood were excellent. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to ordering a seafood entree, as there are still so many meat items I need to try when I return. In any case there are scallops, salmon, shrimp and tuna in the seafood entree department – a fair showing.

Service: 10

The wait staff is on top of their game. They know the cocktails inside and out, and they can explain everything on the menu with precision.

Also worth mentioning here is the homemade skillet bread that comes out to the table with a pair of different butters.

Light, airy, and fluffy inside with a buttery and savory outer crust. One of these days I’ll write up a top five table breads list, and I’ll certainly be considering this as a candidate.

Ambiance: 9

What else can be said about an old bank vault? The details in this place are all original and completely stunning.

And the modern touches from the renovation to turn this place into a steakhouse are elegant, yet still warm and inviting.

The space itself is divided into three locations: the vault, the bar/lounge, and the bifurcated dining room. It’s not a large restaurant, but they really made the best of the space. It feels like it belongs, and I can’t wait to go back.

BUTCHER & BANKER
The New Yorker Hotel
481 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001

Soba Noodle Azuma

THIS IS MY 500th RESTAURANT REVIEW!

Not really a big deal, but I figured I would mention that just for the fuck of it.

My wife and I noticed this joint while walking around the ‘hood, and since we are always interested in trying new noodle joints, we figured we would give it a shot.

We started with an order of fried octopus balls – not ‘pus testicles, but, rather, fried spheres with a creamy octopus-based filling.

These were excellent. Super tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Hot though, so careful when you pop these balls into your mouth.

I’ve been on a Japanese fried chicken kick lately, so the next thing we tried was their fried chicken appetizer. For just $6.50 this was a great deal. Lots of good, juicy, tender thigh meat with an excellent golden crisp batter on the outside.

The way to go here is ordering their combination platters. My wife got this combo deal that came with soba noodles, sashimi, tempura and some other nice bits.

You can choose hot or cold soba (she picked hot), and small, medium or large orders are all the same price (S=100g; M=200g; and L=300g). Pictured above is a large.

I ordered a combo that came with soba noodles and a chicken and egg rice dish.

I, too, ordered large and hot.

I think, though, the noodles weren’t the star of the show here, as odd as that seems. All the stuff AROUND the noodles was better. Maybe because we picked hot/soup style? Perhaps the best way to go is cold noodles or tsukemen style (you dip the noodles into concentrated and flavored broth/sauce).

One last pair of things to mention: the desserts. My wife’s combo came with a scoop of ice cream. They were out of black sesame so she picked green tea. It was good but not quite sweet enough for my tastes. I generally dislike all things green tea, so take that assessment with a grain of salt.

That said, I was intrigued by the idea of a green tea tira misu, so I had to order it.

It was amazing. The green tea wasn’t bitter – it was sweet. And when we combined the tira misu with the whipped cream and sweet red beans in one bite, the flavors were outstanding. I highly recommend this for dessert.

SOBA NOODLE AZUMA
251 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019

Yakitori Totto

My wife and I stopped in here for a quick meal since we are both big fans of yakitori. We tried a bunch of shit.

First was the “soft bone,” which is essentially the cartilage found near the breast meat of the chicken. I thought there would be more of this, since it is generally abundant on the animal and a throw-away item in so many cultures. It was tasty though, I must admit.

Next was chicken skin. Since this is grilled, it doesn’t quite develop the crunchy texture you might expect from something that’s broiled, baked or roasted for a long period of time. It wasn’t rubbery or fatty though, so I liked it.

Next up, knee bone. This was probably my least favorite of the skewers, but I know my wife likes the weird crunchy bits, so I’m pretty sure she liked this.

These skewers are chicken oysters, tender lumps of meat found beneath the thigh of the chicken, near the ass. They’re so soft and juicy. One of the best skewers (we ordered two).

Our last skewer was the chicken thigh. These were my favorite. Nice and tender, as expected. Good fat content, lots of flavor.

We also tried both of their fried chicken apps. At $9 these were a little pricey (just four drumettes per order).

This is the regular order – just fried and lightly seasoned, served with lemon wedges.

And this is the flavored version, with a sweet sauce, a grilled shishito pepper and sesame seeds. We both liked this dish better.

Last, we had an order of ikuri: rice with roe. It also comes with a blob of fresh wasabi, shredded nori, shredded scallions, a nice seaweed broth and Korean/Japanese style pickles. Not bad for $13.

We really liked this place. The skewers range from like $3 to $10 (for special meats). Ours were all $3 or $3.50. It all came to $50-something bucks, which I thought was cheaper (and better) than other yakitori joints in the area.

YAKITORI TOTTO
251 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019

Corner Slice

Corner Slice is Ivan Orkin’s foray into the world of NYC pizza. He made an impact in the world of ramen, and he seems to be on the path of impact in the pizza realm too. I stopped there for a quick (and pricey – $4) slice of soppressata pizza, and was impressed. I had just eaten a bunch of burger type shit at Genuine Roadside, but despite being mostly full, I was able to house this slice of deliciousness. Give is a shot.

CORNER SLICE
Gotham West Market
600 11th Ave
New York, NY 10036

Osamil

Osamil serves up a really great brunch on weekends. They open nice and early too, at 10:30, so if you’re like me and think that brunch is really just a big breakfast with booze, then 10:30 is right on the money. We went at 12:30 with another food couple that we’re friends with though, so this became our main meal of the day.

The cocktail menu is really fun here. This pink one had watermelon foam and mescal. Very nice.

I also tried a michelada (beer and bloody mix), which was nice.

And we shared this giant punch bowl.

As for the food, we started with some kimchi deviled eggs, which had a nice spice level to them.

Next up was cold uni bibimbap. Essentially this is rice, kimchi, egg, quinoa, onion, nori, mixed greens and other tasty things, mixed up with some uni (wish there was more).

This asian pear salad with candied walnuts was really nice and refreshing too.

The broth for these mussels is incredibly slurpable. I was eating it by the spoonful throughout the meal. And yes there is bacon in there.

And those fries you see there are some of the best in the city. Might be my new favorite, as a matter of fact. They’re dusted with pimento and finished with truffle oil.

Okay so let’s get to the meat. First, spam. I know, I know… but it really is good.

Next, pork belly, lettuce and tomato sandwich. So good!

But here’s the show stopper: grilled prime hanger steak served atop bacon and kimchi fried rice, with a sunny-side up egg. Amazing.

THAT’s what breakfast should be… Not only is it gorgeous but it tasted great too. The steak could have used a bit more salt and pepper, but that’s only if you were eating it by itself. When combined with the rice, you got all the savory elements from the bacon and kimchi working together with the steak, so it’s all good. 9/10.

OSAMIL
5 W 31st St
New York, NY 10001

Wondee Siam II

Thai Town (Hell’s Kitchen) delivers again with Wondee Siam II. I believe there are three of four restaurants with the same name, but I’ve only been to two of them. This one, like the other, is good.

We started with Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee. Addicting as fuck.

Then we had this really interesting ground shrimp, pork and crab meat thing. It was deep fried in a tofu skin wrapper (contrary to popular belief, I love tofu skin)

My wife had this delicious crispy duck salad dish – clearly the winner of the day.

I had a wide noodle dish with chicken and mixed veggies. Hit the spot.

WONDEE SIAM II
813 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Chong Qing Xiao Mian Noodle House

The quest for great noodles never seems to end in NYC, but when a really great new joint lands in your lap, that quest seems to get shoved to the side while you explore everything the new place has to offer.

My wife and I were walking around one Sunday when we stumbled upon a brand new restaurant with a sign out front displaying an impressive and tasty selection of noodle dishes.

Chong Qing Xiao Mian is a mouth full for a westerner with no tonal linguistic skills, so I like the fact that they just call themselves “Noodle House” for short. I snapped that menu photo and made a mental note that we wanted to try it (we had just eaten).

A week later we went back and loved it. I ordered the homemade beef noodles, and I chose the “peel” style noodle, which is thicker and wider than “facet,” which is more like spaghetti.

Most dishes here are soups, not dry noodles. Generally I like dry better, but here the soups are king. The broth is much better than Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles or Xian Famous. It’s earthy, and muddy with rich spices that lend just the right amount of tingly heat to the dishes. Yet it isn’t dotted with thick, coarse, dry flakes of pepper or numbing peppercorns. It’s strained just enough.

The noodle quality is fantastic as well, easily rivaling Xian Famous. The only drawback for me was the protein itself; the beef. The menu said tenderloin, but it was more like oxtail. That’s fine, but there wasn’t a lot of it, and much of it was the gelatinous or tendon style of meat. Not what I expected when ordering tenderloin. A few other minor hits to mention: there is no parsley (as the menu says); it’s all cilantro, and a few other things you’ll want to ask about to make sure you know what you’re getting. I chalk these things up to translation errors. No big deal.

My wife got the duck noodles.

These were great too, but you need to be patient to pick through the chopped duck and work your way around the small bones.

Another cool thing about this place: 9% discount if you pay in cash.

On a second trip, we started with some fried dumplings. These were excellent.

Three noodle dishes went around this time. First was the Mala noodles (facet style), with ground pork:

Next was the vegetarian spicy dry noodles:

And last, the “Streaky Pork,” which is pork belly:

I think the way to go here is with one of these three dishes. The veggie dry noodles were absolutely delicious. Even without a meat element I was satisfied and full. The other two bowls were absolutely amazing, and it would be tough to choose a favorite between them.

I can’t wait to go back for round three of noodles and try some of the other side and app items, like the seasoned egg, duck wing and steamed buns.

I highly recommend that you go here before it gets too well known and overcrowded with lines out the door. It WILL happen.

CHONG QING XIAO MIAN NOODLE HOUSE
796 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Blue Seafood & Pizza

One Sunday afternoon my wife and I went on a hunt for oysters in the neighborhood. The first place we went to was closed for renovations (they usually have dollar oysters), but we always wanted to try this place ever since we saw it first open.

They had oysters, so we got our fix. Three east coast and three west coast, times two, so we could each try one of each variety.

They were all great and really fresh. The cost goes down as you order more, so this plate of a dozen came out to $3 each, or $36. A bit high considering we were starting off with the idea of paying $1 per oyster, but we were happy with the quality. A few of the varietals normally cost upwards of $4 a piece. We both liked the Kumamoto style the best.

Next up was their seafood pizza.

This elongated beauty of a pie was a bit pricey at $20, but also very tasty. I don’t mind paying up a bit if the quality is good. The only critique here is that the pie could have used some shaved parmesan cheese to finish at the end, and perhaps a sprinkling of some crispy prosciutto.

BLUE SEAFOOD & PIZZA
856 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

9Ten

For years I joked about this place going out of business, because as soon as it opened, the City of New York decided to rip up the sidewalk in front of their establishment while simultaneously renovating the stairway down into the subway on the northwest corner of 57th & 7th.

The whole spot was a shit show, and unless you l knew to maneuver the construction walkway to get to a particular establishment (bar, cleaners, bodega), then you’d be walking by the joint without ever looking. So I used to say “9Ten is going to close on 11Twelve.”

I imagine all businesses along that stretch suffered, but 9Ten must have felt it the hardest since they just opened as the construction began.

It was a diner before, and it’s a diner now. Three years later, and with countless millions of city contract dollars completely milked dry, the sidewalk and subway stairs are open. Business is booming.

It’s very nice inside and the menu prices are extremely fair considering the location.

My wife and I popped in for a quickie before flying out to the Azores for vacation. Here’s what we had:

The Reuben sandwich with French fries.

Not sure why it’s not listed on the menu without the fries, like everything else is, but at $14 this is a great deal. It’s more like a pumped up grilled cheese than a Reuben but I really loved it.

Next up was the roast beef sandwich.

This has melted cheese and horseradish sauce but it is otherwise a cold cut style sandwich. Very nice. Slightly pricey for $11.50 but my wife and I were full between this and the Rueben that came with enough fries to share.

I’ll definitely be back – if not for another Rueben, then to try out the burgers.

9Ten
910 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10019

Sushi By Bou

The concept of a quick and high quality meal is something in which all NYC denizens are interested. Sushi By Bou executes that concept in spades with its 30 minute omakase.

Some of you might already be familiar with the kiosk location of this joint down in Gansevoort Market. Same idea, but this is a dedicated space in a really fun location beneath the Sanctuary Hotel near Times Square.

There’s only room for about 7-10 people inside, but with fast 12 or 13 piece nigiri offerings, you won’t have to wait very long if they’re already full. Enjoy one of the awesome cocktails while you wait.

There’s some great showmanship too. Chef David is an outgoing guy, funny, and enjoys chatting it up with the diners. And in such a small setting, you may as well get to know the people you’re eating with for the next 30 minutes. The scenery is nice too. I enjoyed watching David torch some of the pieces of nigiri.

Here’s some video of him making the wagyuni (uni on top of seared wagyu):

There’s really no point in me reciting what each piece was and giving a review of them one by one. They were all fantastic. Don’t murder me if I mislabel any of these, but I think I did a pretty good job of identifying them all.

Hamachi

Tuna

Shrimp

Golden Snapper

Scallop

Wagyu

Uni

Salmon

Tuna Belly

Flipjack

Wagyuni

Roe

Eel

My favorites, obviously, involved wagyu, uni and roe, but I was also impressed with the scallop and skipjack pieces as well. I highly recommend checking this place out. You won’t be disappointed

SUSHI BY BOU
The Sanctuary Hotel
132 W 47th St
New York, NY 10036