Category Archives: Non-Steakhouse Steaks

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!

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

Kaikagetsu

I recently experienced a really delicious tasting menu at Kaikagetsu in the lower east side that featured some rare and delicious Hida beef from Japan. Not too many places are serving this stuff. Here’s how it went down:

We started with a small plate of assorted bites, each of which was more delicious than the last. Bluefin tuna marinated in ponzu sauce with chopped yam; minced chicken matsukaze with sesame seeds; cooked yam jelly with spicy soy; Brussels sprouts with salmon roe; and baked chestnuts.

This was paired with a really nice cloudy and bubbly cold sake.

Next up was a sashimi course that had some really awesome bluefin tuna, Kanpachi amberjack and Yagara cornetfish.

This was paired with another really nice sake, seen here:

Our third course was a mushroom, seafood and chicken soup served in a tea pot.

This next course was delicious. Super fresh and creamy uni served atop a tempura fried sheet of nori, with a fried taro potato ball.

Now for the beef, which was paired with a whisky and soda lowball.

First was a hot stone preparation of thinly sliced Hida beef shank, with onions, scallions and mushrooms.

This was great. It came with ponzu sauce, which wasn’t really needed, and a really unique smoked charcoal/ash salt. Killer.

Next up was a trio of beef sushi: one with caviar, one with orange, and one on a nori wrapper that was topped with uni.

Mine were all awesome, but a few other people at my table had some chewy beef. I guess they got some not-so-tender pieces of shank.

Finally, there was an array of individual bite-sized desserts (we each got five) along with some delicious, peppery herbal tea.

What a meal! I would definitely go back, especially because that Hida beef is so special. Give it a shot. They also have a really nice bar with unique spirits.

KAIKAGETSU
162 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002

The Stand

Wyoming Whiskey teamed up with pitmaster Tyson Ho (from Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn) for a killer meal at The Stand near Union Square.

To get the juices flowing, we sipped on the Wyoming Whiskey bourbon as well as a cocktail made with Delirium Tremens and the whiskey. Very nice.

We started with a delicious Brazilian style elk tartare that was paired with a herbaceous frozen cocktail called a batida that featured the whiskey.

Then we moved on to a Filipino style BBQ quail with a smoked old fashioned. This course was awesome.

The smoked leg of venison was nice, tender and thinly sliced, served with Bengali spices and a fat washed whiskey sour.

Next up was nori wrapped rib eye and BBQ sweetbreads. An odd combo for sure, but the sweetbreads were my favorite bites of the meal. This was paired with a nori and mushroom infused Manhattan.

Dessert was a nice blackberry and vanilla ice cream pie/crumble with a swig of the single barrel.

I really dug this meal. Most of this is not available on the regular menu at the Stand, but based on tasting chef Harold Villarosa’s cooking alongside Ho’s cooking, I would go back for sure.

THE STAND
116 East 16th St
New York, NY 10003

The Playboy Club

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS CLOSED

The Playboy club in NYC actually serves up some decent grub. The joint is not what you’d think, either. It’s not a strip club or some raunchy spot. It’s more like a classy version of Hooters with a night club in back. Hostesses near the front wear bunny outfits, similar to what you might see as a “sexy Halloween” outfit on the streets of NYC. But the restaurant part of the space is pretty much devoid of that kind of eye candy. I assume they hawk for bottle service in the club and show/stage space in back.

In any case, we came here to check out the food. We started with four apps: tuna tacos, wagyu sushi, crispy fried rock shrimp and beef tartare. Of these, the wagyu sushi was probably my favorite.

For a mid-course we shared the lamb chops with pesto (a little overcooked, but delicious) and the dry aged burger with aged cheddar, black garlic aioli and bacon onion jam (topped with a slider).

We were dipping our fries into that pesto from the lamb. It was awesome.

Last up, a 34oz dry aged rib eye with spicy citrus broccoli and more fries. This was actually a delicious 8/10, and it came with a bunch of nice sauces – my favorite of which was a sweet yet savory soy garlic sauce.

We had this with sides of garlic string beans and a towering phallus of onion rings.

Safe to say we were all pleasantly surprised by the food here. I’d probably go again.

THE PLAYBOY CLUB
512 West 42nd St
New York, NY 10036

Red Hook Tavern

Red Hook Tavern is the recently opened endeavor of famed BBQ pit master Billy Durney, of Hometown BBQ. After mastering regional BBQ, he decided to take on the iconic old school NYC tavern style joint – typically featuring dimly lit wood grain interiors, a great selection of beer, wine and cocktails, a champion burger and a beefy chop or two. Think Minetta Tavern, Chumley’s or even McSorley’s. The outside even kinda pays tribute to Minetta Tavern. Similar font, coloring and shades drawn:

So did Durney achieve that iconic goal? In short, yes. There are some BIG hits here, but there are also some misses as well. Let me get into it so you know what to get and what to avoid.

We shared four starters among four people. We ordered the corn and nduja salad with radicchio cups, the wedge salad with bacon, the chicken liver pate, and the charcuterie board.

The corn and nduja was good, but it wasn’t as spicy as I had expected. In addition, the radicchio cups added a little too much bitterness into the dish. Maybe swapping out for some Bibb would be better.

The big hit for me among the starters was the wedge salad. It comes with a nicely cooked slab of Nueske’s bacon, and a surprisingly fresh pop of dill throughout. This is definitely big enough to share, so get this and share with another.

The charcuterie board was delicious, featuring lomo (my favorite – dry cured pork loin), salami and venison salami, along with a nice fresh slaw to cut the fat. I just wish there was more of everything.

The chicken liver pate was smooth, creamy and delicious. I could have easily crushed this by myself, which is what I recommend that you do. The only issue with that was that the toast was very dry and brittle. That bread needs an upgrade.

We shared four different entrees. We did the pan roasted half chicken, the 45-day dry aged strip steak, the grilled head-on spot prawns and, of course, the burger (we did two of those).

The prawns were overcooked, unfortunately, and that delicious chili, lemon and garlic sauce didn’t really get into the flesh, rendering them kind of bland unless you really dragged them through the sauce. The heads were delicious though. They come three to an order, but the waiter Ryan was awesome and asked if we wanted four pieces so that we could all get one. That’s the kind of service people will remember. Bravo, Ryan.

The Pat LaFrieda steak was very tender, nicely cooked, and had a great crust on it.

The addition of that finishing salt was essential, because it was otherwise just kind of bland in flavor. It didn’t have much punch or character to it, and certainly not much dry-aged flavor. 7/10.

One good thing about the steak is that for $49 it also comes with creamed spinach. I really liked this spinach. Finely chopped, not too creamy.

The chicken was better than both of the above entree items. It came with mashed potatoes and gravy, which was a nice touch, for just $28. The meat was juicy and tender, and the skin was crisp and well-seasoned. Get this!

But the star of the meal was this incredible burger.

Look at how perfectly cooked it is inside:

It comes with three perfectly crisped and seasoned potato wedges, and a half-sour pickle spear.

If you’re not into onions, you can remove yours from the bottom (the burger comes out sitting on top of an onion core slice). I generally don’t love raw onion on my burger, but this onion is somewhat steamed and softened, that way you don’t get that insane vaporous bite that destroys your mouth for two days. It also catches any juices that come out of the burger, making it a perfect flavor sponge that protects the bottom bun from sogging up.

It may look simple and pedestrian, but the bun is brought in fresh from a special bakery; the patty is a great mix of lean and fatty beef cuts that sport a really nice dry-aged flavor; the cheese is perfectly melted down the sides of the burger to create a lovely drape of full coverage – you never want for that melty American goodness; and the maillard sear on the outside even has a nice crunch to it for some texture. What a masterpiece. This might be a new favorite, especially at $22. While I generally prefer fries, the wedges were definitely good. I kinda wanted a couple more though.

The prices here aren’t too bad either.

I highly recommend this place. It’s tough to get a reservation, but if you get there early (or late, for that matter) you can probably score a seat at the bar pretty quickly.

RED HOOK TAVERN
329 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Rezdora

As soon as you walk into Rezdora you’re hit with the sharp, pungent odor of fresh garlic. Another thing you might be hit with is a plate, as waiters scurry to serve the handsome stretch of bar and tightly packed tables in the front of the restaurant. The small and crowded space would normally have pissed me off, but my wife and I managed to get seated across from each other in a corner spot in back with a circular table that was slightly larger than the almost microscopic rectangular tables for two nearby.

I had heard about and seen great things from this place. The chef, Stefano Secchi, had trained under Massimo Bottura, at the Michelin three-star “Osteria Francescana” in Modena; a place that has been crowned the best restaurant in the world a few times, if I recall correctly. Needless to say, I was not let down.

We started with some nice aperitif style cocktails and a few bites of an amuse that consisted of toasted bread with fresh ricotta and a nice Modenese balsamic. We opted to skip the appetizer menu completely. Instead, we shared three pasta dishes and two entrees.

The first pasta was a garganelli-like macccheroni with duck ragu. This was absolutely delicious. Just the right amount of salt, al dente pasta, and a really hearty sauce with properly cooked duck meat well-dispersed throughout.

Next up was my favorite dish of the night, and probably the best pasta I’ve had all year if not in all of my life. “Apertivo in Reggio-Emilia:” Doppio tortelli filled with prosciutto, parmigiano and “erbazzone” greens. These pasta pouches were pleasantly packed with prosciutto. I could eat these by the bucketload. I strongly suggest getting your ass in here ASAP to try these, because from what I understand, this particular pasta item will change with the seasons, whereas some of the others will remain the same if not similar.

The third pasta was the spaghettoni with clams. Spaghettoni is just longer/fatter version of spaghetti. The clams in this were more like cockles (in the oyster family, from what I understand) as opposed to the Little Neck variety. At first we were concerned that there would only be three clams in this dish, based on the shell count, but the sauce was riddled with these little fuckers, sans shells. This pasta was cooked extra al dente. From what I was told, this is the only pasta that isn’t made in house. I’m not sure why that is. In any case, it was our least favorite of the three pasta dishes we tried. But don’t take that to mean it was bad in any way. This was still better than most other Italian joints that sling this dish.

For the first of our mains we shared the braised rabbit leg, which came with rabbit sausage and sweetbreads, as well as a parsnip puree and some roasted baby zucchini. The leg was deliciously tender, falling apart and peeling away from the bone with just the slightest pull of a fork. The sausage was light, yet robustly flavored with spices and herbs. Almost porky but without the grease. The sweetbreads were creamy and crispy at the same time. A beautiful contrast. I highly recommend this dish.

Our next main was the “steak for two.” They offered 60-day bone-in Pat LaFrieda rib eyes in two sizes: 28oz or 32oz. Now, I know what you’re saying: “That’s for two?” Yeah – I agree. That’s small for two. They’re charging $99 for the smaller size as well, which is borderline crazy. However, I was really happy to see that it came with two sides (we chose zucchini and sautéed greens), and was prepared in such a uniquely Modenese way that I felt transported.

Okay so what makes it uniquely “Modenese?” On the bone there is a “Modenese Pesto,” which consists of pork lard, rosemary and spices. It was like sausage butter. Adding a smear of that on a bite of steak here and there made for a real treat. But the meat itself was rubbed with dried mushroom before cooking to give it a uniquely earthy crust. I also detected a hint of finishing balsamic on there as well, as I understand it is common in Modena to eat cooked steak with balsamic (I usually just use it on cold or raw meat salad type dishes). The only spots that had any real dry-aged flavor (a definitively different taste than the mushroomy crust) was along the bone, where less of the pellicle must have been trimmed away during butchery. In any case, that balsamic cut the fat nicely, and the mushroomy crust offered a very unique “steaking” experience on a perfectly cooked and tender cut of beef. 9/10.

This place is a must try for anyone who enjoys good Italian, especially pasta dishes. If you’re adventurous, get the rabbit as well. Now that Summer is over, that is a perfect dish for the Fall. Good luck getting a table though! From what I understand it’s pretty hard. We lucked out and someone gave us theirs (even though my wife had already gone once a few months ago).

REZDORA
27 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003

Wayla

After seeing some pics that my buddy posted on Instagram from this place, I had to give it a try.

My wife and I started with a bunch of appetizers. We tried a trio of meaty Thai dips that came with an assortment of veggies, some pork meatballs wrapped in fried noodles, and a pork jowl salad. Everything was great here, but from those three, if I had to choose, the pork jowls were my favorite. We destroyed all of it though.

Next up was the crab fried rice.

Wow. They dropped about $25 worth of steakhouse quality lump crab meat right on top of this delicious and light-yet-flavorful fried rice. Awesome. This is a must if you are looking for a “starch.”

Then we had the Thai style fried chicken.

I was blown away by this. The flavors, the crispy skin, the juicy-ness.. It was all just working. Get this! It was my favorite dish of the night.

And of course I had to try the strip steak with tamarind sauce.

This came out on a hot skillet and the aroma was nuts.

For $34 this is a steal of a value, and it was tender as hell – cooked perfectly to medium rare. I must admit, I was expecting a shitty experience here. I was dead wrong. Later I learned that this meat is from Strassburger, so it should have been no surprise that it was tender and delicious. 8/10.

For dessert we had a nice fruit plate and a big scoop of coconut pandan ice cream.

Great way to end a great meal. I definitely recommend this place. Go give it a shot!

WAYLA
100 Forsyth St
New York NY 10002