Category Archives: Non-Steakhouse Steaks

Esora Omakase

I was recently invited to try a new Wagyu and tempura Omakase restaurant connected to J-Spec in the East Village, called Esora.

This was one of the most incredible Omakase experiences I’ve had. We started with a trio of appetizers: wagyu tartare + uni, scallop + caviar, and tofu.

All were excellent, but the wagyu tartare and uni was possibly the best bite of the night!

Next up was sashimi. More wagyu strip, as well as sea bream and blue fin tuna.

Wagyu sushi? YUP! We got a taste of both Hida and Ozaki strip here. Torched (Ozaki), and raw (Hida).

The tempura portion of the meal was so much fun, and the bites seemed to just keep coming!

Prawn heads (and bodies):

Okra:

Magochi fish:

Maitake mushroom!

Tenderloin wrapped in shiso leaf. Awesome!

Corn:

Scallop:

Squash blossom and Japanese pumpkin:

Sea Eel:

And finally, sweet potato:

We washed that down with a really tasty seafood and mushroom soup, served in a nice tea kettle with citrus (dobinmushi).

Next, we had STEAK! Wagyu strip from Hida:

…and from the Ozaki family brand:

Check this out!

I liked the Ozaki a bit better:

There was also sea bream rice with ikura:

And finally, dessert: earl grey tea panna cotta, roasted green tea, and peach compote.

I highly recommend this place. Make sure to call ahead at least 24hrs before booking. There are only seven seats at the bar with the chef, and there are a limited number of seatings each day.

ESORA OMAKASE
239 E 5th St
New York, NY 10003

Francie

The newly Michelin-starred Francie in Brooklyn was a mix of both great and “meh” dishes. I’m honestly a bit shocked that they received a star, but one or two items that we tried were truly top notch.

We started with the sourdough bread and lard, the duck mortadella, and a duck sausage that was on special for the night.

The duck sausage was the winner of these, but I must also point out that the lard that came with the bread was killer. They should be selling it by the jar. It had a nice hint of lemon to it that cut the fatness just right.

We also tried the barigoule (braised artichoke, fried chicken, mushrooms, egg yolk). This was really unique and tasty, and I’m glad we tried it.

We tried four pasta dishes. Of these, the rigatoni with green garlic and fennel pollen sausage was the best, followed by the tortelli with suckling pig and cracklings (despite the second being slightly too salty). The cavatelli was good for a more veggie friendly option, but the lobster ravioli was a bit of a let down to several of us.

For the mains, we ordered two entrees for two: the rib steak and the dry aged duck crown.

Both were beautifully cooked and presented.

But the duck was the star of the show. Perfectly crisped skin atop a layer of buttery soft rendered fat, with juicy, succulent, pink duck flesh beneath. Big win.

The steak was just meh. There was something sweet going on that didn’t sit well with me – I believe it was a molasses glaze. I still ate a shitload of it, but for the price point of $175 I would never order it again. It was too small in addition to having a confusing flavor profile, especially with the weird maple hollandaise that it came with. 6/10.

Over all, I highly recommend coming here for the duck apps, the rigatoni and tortelli pasta dishes, and the duck crown. Skip on the rest. For drinks, they do make very nice cocktails, but they’re pricey.

FRANCIE
34 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Kimika

Most fusion restaurants are characterized by a big swing, and a big miss. The intentions are usually good, and the concepts make sense on paper, but at bat on the plate, they just don’t have the right swing. Kimika is the exception. Chef Christine Lau VERY successfully marries Japanese, and other aspects of regional Asian cuisine, with high end Italian cuisine. She knocks it out of the park! My wife and I went with another food-obsessed couple, so we were able to try most of the menu.

First off, excellent cocktails! I loved their take on an old fashioned.

To start, we snacked on a bowl of spiced olives, tuna tartare and wagyu + uni skewers. All fantastic.

This squash and sunflower pesto pizzette was an incredible expression of Asian + Italian – also very light and crisp. A great snack.

The “pasta” dishes are where you really see that marriage, though. This shrimp and prosciutto tortellini with mochi in a Japanese broth was probably our favorite bite of the night.

The crispy rice cake lasagna with Italian sausage was up there though, and I’m finding myself craving this as I write…

Even the vegetable selections are all beautiful mash-ups of Italian and Asian flavors, and all of them were great! Our favorite was the charred green beans with olive tapenade and prosciutto (first pic below).

The mains are pretty incredible here. We started with an amazing porchetta. Look at that crispy skin!

Then we moved on to a surf & turf plate, composed of spot prawns that were basted with uni butter, and a killer dry-aged steak with a pickled greens and wasabi spread.

So good! And easily one of the best steaks I’ve had in a very long time. 10/10 – it really brought the funk!

Dessert was also a homerun with the yakult soft serve (our favorite), tiramisu and warm mochi bomboloncini.

I highly recommend this place, and I can’t wait to go back!

KIMIKA
40 Kenmare St,
New York, NY 10012

Hancock Street

Last night I checked out the new joint from Mercer Street Hospitality Group (Lure Fishbar, Bowery Meat Company, etc.), Hancock Street. Everything was awesome, so let me get right into it.

APPS:

The sea urchin on crispy potato was a great bite to start the meal.

We followed this with an absolutely delicious steak tartare.

PASTA:

The squid ink linguine with calamari, crispy garlic, and sea beans was really unique and beautiful.

But the duck bolognese mafaldine was the better of the two.

SIDES:

Excellent fries!

I was even impressed with the veggies. Both the cauliflower and the carrots are worth your time. If I had to choose just one, I’d go with the cauliflower.

MAINS:

The short rib felt more like a grill or broil, or a very fast braise. I expected a more tender, pull-apart preparation. It was still tasty as hell though. 7/10.

The veal schnitzel was the best dish of the night. Amazing flavor profile with the capers and onions underneath, and a beautiful light and airy crisp on the breading. 10/10.

They overcooked the first steak that came out, but they made it right with a second one. It was really delicious, well seasoned, and came as a composed dish with a side of mushrooms. 8/10.

DESSERT:

The rhubarb crumble was a great finish to this great meal!

I would definitely go here again, and I recommend you go as well!

HANCOCK STREET
257 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10014

Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden is a new cocktail bar and restaurant in the theater district that takes its name from an old trolley car that used to run throughout Manhattan and terminate in the area. Their outdoor seating even takes the form of the old railcar, which is pretty cool.

The indoor space is gorgeous. This place used to be one of the House of Brews locations (same ownership here; the other House of Brews is still open). They really did a great job on the remodel.

This joint was initially intended to be a cocktail bar, which is why you see such amazing drinks on the menu, like this Wooden Nickel, a mixologized version of an Old Fashioned, garnished with an ice rose.

I tried four cocktails and they were all dangerously delicious and slammable.

But once the pandemic hit and threw their bar plans into the wind, they pivoted, bringing on Chef Sean to cultivate a cheffed up bar menu that will keep people coming back for more.

We tried four of the apps on the menu:

Saigon Wings

Fish sauce brined, lightly breaded and perfectly crisped wings topped with pickled chilis and micro cilantro. Delicious.

Cornmeal Crusted Calamari

Lime sriracha aioli, mango salsa and queso fresco adorn these crispy delights. Similar toppings as the wings.

Back Ribs

Killer! Black bean sauce and sambal give this an Asian kick, and the crushed peanuts on top really bring it all together for a dynamic flavor profile.

Mussels

This was just a sample size portion that Sean wanted us to try, so expect more when you order. There’s bacon, kimchi and gochujang in the broth. These were really great! I wish we had thought to order the full size.

Next up was the burger.

The DV Railcar Burger is topped with tomato confit, melted white cheddar and marrow glazed onions. While that might sound like a heavy burger, it actually ate very light! Absolutely delicious.

Our other main was the Trees Major steak, which is my favorite cut of beef. It has all the flavor of chuck but with all the tenderness of filet mignon.

It’s very rare to see this cut featured on menus, but I think it makes for the perfect bistro steak, as it’s affordable, tender and delicious. Great for a steak frites dish. Here, it was topped with chimichurri and served with some lightly dressed greens. An easy 9/10.

On the side, we also had this fried maitake mushroom. This thing was awesome, especially when swiped with some of that saffron aioli.

I will definitely be back here to try more of Chef Sean’s delicious creations. I hope you can make it over there too, and help bring the theater district back from the brink of extinction!

DOLLY VARDEN
302 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019

Beetlehouse

A friend of mine’s cousin is the chef here at Beetlehouse, a Tim Burton themed bar/restaurant in the East Village, that delivers quality in both the food/drink and atmosphere/decor departments.

You’ll feel like you stepped onto a movie set when you walk in.

The bar is incredible. I really hope NYC starts allowing people to actually sit at them again soon.

They mix up some really nice cocktails, many of which come to the table bubbling and smoking like magic potions!

This place is definitely for the Burton fans. They even have hired actors walking around the dining room and performing, giving you a show along with your meal.

They currently have a $50 price fix menu, where you get an app, an entree and dessert. We started with the pork belly and the Fanta sesame wings. Wild flavor! They even have root beer and Pop Rocks flavored wings.

Between those two, we preferred the pork belly. It was just so tender and flavorful. It even comes plated up on a bed of tasty grits, like a composed entree!

For entrees, we had the filet mignon and the burger.

Both were cooked perfectly, as you can see below:

Between these two, we preferred the burger. I generally don’t love egg on a burger, but I went with the way it was presented on the menu and it really worked! Delicious. The fries were perfect by the way. Highly recommended.

Dessert was the same for both of us – a pudding of sorts, with crumbled chocolate cake, whipped cream, and Nerds candy. I fucking loved it, and ate both mine and my wife’s.

This place is a blast. The menu is basically bar food that has a fun twist, so don’t expect something like Per Se. We felt that both the wings and the filet could have benefitted from a hit of salt, but otherwise all good. I’d definitely go back for the pork belly and the burger. They also have some topped french fry appetizer items that I want to try, now that I know the fries are absolutely perfect.

BEETLEHOUSE
308 E 6th St
New York, NY 10003

Quality Bistro

Quality Bistro opened back in January, if I recall, right when I started a hellish new job with insane demands on my time. Then, of course, the entire city went into lockdown from Covid-19. Somehow my work-life balance got even worse. I’m only just now finally beginning to break away from the +60 hours/week grip of this gig, to get back out there and review restaurants for you savage bastards.

Anyway, the point of that bullshit preface is really just to say that I’m excited to finally write about a new(ish) joint that I’ve tried, especially one that’s serving some awesome food.

Quality Bistro is the newest restaurant in the Quality Branded restaurant group. You know them from my previous posts about Quality Italian, Quality Meats, Quality Eats, Maloney & Porcelli (rest in peace) and Smith & Wollensky.

Here’s my quick video run down of those spots, if you haven’t seen it:

First of all, this new place, Quality Bistro, is totally decked out. This is easily the most gorgeously decorated space in the entire Quality Branded suite of restaurants. High ceilings, beautiful booths, decor and tables – really on another level. They spared no expense. So when you go here, make sure you request a table inside. I recommend the booths in the room on the left when you walk in. The bar is sick too (hopefully some day soon we will be allowed to sit at one again).

The menu is decidedly French, which makes sense given the “bistro” restaurant name. But like all their other restaurants, they are aggressively beef-forward. I wouldn’t call them a steakhouse, per se, but they get very close to it. They offered five steak cuts when I was there: a filet mignon, a strip, a bavette, a tomahawk and a “cote de boeuf” rib eye for two. We went with the tomahawk, but let me run through the other stuff we tried.

We started with the escargots and the crab cake. The escargots are probably some of the best I’ve had in the city, rivaling Paul Denamiel’s at Le Rivage. Very close competition! And they’re in the shell too, which I love. Order these, and get a dozen because you save $10 when you jump from a half ($19) to a full dozen ($29).

The crab cake is massive. It’s about the size of an 8oz burger patty, thick too. Super crisp, great sauce. I think this would be amazing as a lunch sandwich with pickled green tomato on a brioche bun or a croissant, with a bit more green on top. Absolutely delicious.

Our mid course was the prime tomahawk. This comes slathered with Rogue Creamery smokey blue cheese – a TON of it!

The smell coming off of this thing was so amazing. It filled the massive dining room with funk.

The cook temp was a perfect medium rare. So juicy, so tender, and so packed with flavor. This is an easy 9/10. I stripped the fucker clean!

We chased that with the corn custard brûlée. I had high hopes for this, but it fell short for two reasons: (1) The inside was less custard and more clumpy scrambled egg. This is usually a turn off for me, but the flavor was really good, so I still devoured it. And (2), a bit heavy on the caramelized sugar on top. Too thick for my liking. The flake salt, however, really made the flavors on this pop. I can see this side being a star with a bit more fine tuning.

*SEE UPDATED REVIEW NOTES BELOW!*

Our third course was the Moroccan fried chicken. They serve a whole bird for two in a beautiful tagine with fresh cilantro, Moroccan pancakes and a trio of dipping sauces (spicy honey, Moroccan cilantro chimichurri and citrus yogurt).

The breading is really nicely spiced, with great middle eastern earthiness and aromas.

Absolutely jerkworthy. I’d get this again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m glad we ordered big, because we took more than half of it home. I’m about to eat the left overs right now, and I’m psyched!

Last, we had the apple tart sundae with cinnamon ice cream. This was really good, and big enough to share with your date at just $12. The cinnamon ice cream tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, my absolute favorite cereal of all time!

I guess that about does it for now. I plan to go back and try some of the other cuts, particularly the bavette frites, since that’s a little less common on menus. Definitely give this place a shot. Gaetano, Scott and Roger will treat you right. They provide amazing, clean service here, and you’ll feel safely spaced apart and very comfortable. Can’t believe I have to even mention such things right now…

UPDATE 10/24/2020

My wife and I went back for round two, and tried a bunch more stuff.

For apps, we tried the taste flame, which is the joint’s take on Detroit style pizza + bread service. This was incredible!

Probably my favorite app here so far though, is this tuna carpaccio. Spicy, fresh, and deliciously refreshing.

These jambon beurre bites are pretty damn tasty as well.

This time, my wife went with the branzino. This was perfectly cooked and very flavorful. It comes with a choice of either salad or fries.

I went with the bavette, and also went with the French fries option.

They developed a great char on the outside…

While maintaining a perfect cook temp on the inside…

This was a solid 8/10. Really nicely executed.

On the side, we gave the corn brûlée another spin, and MAN were we glad that we did. As I expected, with the improvements I outlined above, this dish was a star. Much nicer texture inside (real custard-like), and lighter on the sugar top. PERFECT!

So that’s two steaks down, three to go: filet, strip, and rib eye for two. I’LL BE BACK!

UPDATE 7/16/21

Strip steak has a mild aged flavor, but a really nice peppercorn crust. Perfectly cooked throughout. 8/10.

Rib eye for two is great – a solid 8/10.

Lemon chicken is a sleeper here. Amazing dish!

Also really loved the glass for the French Bird cocktail. They should sell them!

QUALITY BISTRO
120 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019

Balthazar

In all my years in NYC, I never tried Balthazar until last night. I had heard all the great stories: awesome steaks, awesome fries, awesome bread. Only one of those is true, but there are other things worth noting.

My wife and I stopped in for a quick meal at the bar. We started with some nice stiff cocktails, and a pair of apps: escargots and steak tartare. BIG FRENCH.

The escargots were awesome. We crushed them quickly. The tartare was average to good, but the slices of toasted bread were awesome. In fact, the Balthazar bread is so good that other restaurants use Balthazar bread for their bread service.

For our mains, we had the burger and the steak frites.

The burger was really good. Nice crust, great flavor, ample cheese coverage.

The steak, however…

… was Applebees level trash. It was cooked nicely, but the quality was average at best.

I can make anything look good, but this was a 5/10 or 6/10 at best. At $42 this felt like a rip off, and I think it was either flank or flatiron. Not strip as I was kind of expecting. The fries were very good, but not quite at awesome level. Go across town to Raoul’s if a killer burger and steak frites is what you’re after. Here, I would stick to the bread, the burger, and the snails. And yes, the fries are still worth trying if you haven’t already.

BALTHAZAR
80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

Oceans

My wife took me to this joint for a belated Valentine’s Day date. This spot has some great seafood. We tried a lot of it, so I’ll get moving.

First, their bread service is incredible. I didn’t take a great picture of it, but the focaccia and sourdough are perfect. They bring it out with a dish of whipped butter mixed with some seriously high quality olive oil.

We started the meal with some fresh uni. This was a bit steep at $38, but it was so damn delicious, seasoned simply with some flake salt.

The stone crab claws were probably the low point of the meal. It was difficult to extract the meat (didn’t come out in good sized chunks), and over all it was just average in terms of flavor. For $25 a pop, we would have spent that $50 on more langoustines or carabineros (you’ll see that ahead).

The octopus with gigante beans was a good dish, but not excellent like some of the others. I would pass on this next time and focus more on the other seafood options.

Here’s one of those excellent dishes now: grilled langoustines.

These were perfectly cooked and incredibly flavorful. Make sure you save some bread so you can scoop out the succulent brains and eat them together like a makeshift lobster roll.

The carabineros shrimp were our favorite part of the meal. These giant, head-on shrimp from Spain are so deeply flavorful that it’s almost hard to explain. That dark red flesh is packed with natural fatty juices too. You’ll want to wipe some bread into that shit as well.

For our mains, we had Japanese snapper and a Niman Ranch rib eye. Both were served as composed dishes with sides of vegetables, and both were cooked really nicely. The steak was a solid 8/10.

For dessert, 16-layer lemon cake. So good with that blood orange sherbet swirl.

I definitely plan to go here again. They have beef tataki and lamb belly pasta on the menu that I need to try, but the daily seafood specials will be difficult to pass up again, I’m sure of it. Go give this place a shot.

OCEANS
233 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003

The Consulate

My wife and I popped in here for brunch and the place was PACKED!

We had a quick, meaty meal.

“The Hangover Burger” is a thick 8oz patty that’s topped with caramelized bourbon onions, blue cheese, pickles and a fried egg.

They cooked this fucker just right.

We also tried their grilled hanger steak and eggs dish, which came with a chimichurri sauce, a mixed greens salad and some roasted potatoes.

Not bad! I’d come back to try some of their dinner menu selections, and I’d probably try one or two of the sweeter brunch items (like the cast iron blueberry pancakes or the French toast).

THE CONSULATE
519 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024