The menu here at Primal Cut Grille (Inside the Sapphire 39th Street strip club) is largely the same as the menu at Primal Cut (inside the Sapphire 60th Street strip club). This review is just a photo dump of the items we had there, with reference back to the original review of the 60th Street location (which is now undergoing renovations). Also check out this cool video of their baller’s steak, the Golden Tomahawk:
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.
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…
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!
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!
Chuck buys mostly fresh beef, which he ages himself in-house to a minimum of 42 days in most cases. However he loves the flavor of dry-aged beef, especially in the 80-120 day range; he even experiments with really old stuff. For example, when I first met Chuck at Maxwell’s Chophouse, he served me a 500 day dry-aged strip.
This time he served me a 365 day dry-aged strip.
But before I get sidetracked with all of that delicious, mad-scientist shit, let me get right down to the meal from front to back.
The night began with a dry-aged martini. Grey Goose vodka gets infused with 60 day dry-aged beef fat and rosemary. It gets mixed with a little vermouth and simple syrup before being garnished with a rosemary-skewered trio of blue-cheese stuffed castelvetrano olives. Sweet. Savory. Delicious.
While we are on the subject of drinks, the main bar here is beautiful and impressive. Easily a place you’d want to hang at after a rough day at work or even to hit up for some bar grub, like this kickass dry-aged burger.
The grind comes from Debragga since Strassburger doesn’t supply dry aged ground beef at the moment. The burger had a nice funk, was well seasoned and was perfectly cooked.
Okay so back to the rest of the meal…
We started with the house-made bacon and beef fat table bread, which was served with creamy, soft, herb butter.
Everything here is house-made, in fact, from the bread to the bread pudding, from the signature sauces (soon to be bottled and sold) to the signature sides. Even the microgreens are grown by Chef Chuck at his Colorado ranch, Skeleton Ridge Farms.
The first course was a 60 day dry-aged steak tataki sushi roll that was lightly fried. This was fucking amazing and crazy creative.
On deck: even more creativity and deliciousness. Chuck cranked this out of the park. This not your ordinary bone marrow:
The marrow gets roasted, folded with blue cheese to create a mousse, piped back into the marrow bone, and then brulee’d for the finish. A squeeze of charred lemon really cuts the fat with brightness, creating a beautiful and delicate balance. A taste of this will send shock waves through your tastebuds. This is a top dish of the year for me. It’s off menu though, so make sure you tell them I sent you when you ask for it – it’s different from the regular marrow on the menu.
We had a light palate cleanse with this small, refreshing salad, composed mostly of Chuck’s micro greens.
Then we had a Spanish style braised and grilled octopus dish that was garnished with potato, chickpea puree, tomato, pickled onion and greens. Tender and delicious.
The main event for the table was a huge spread of the major beef cuts. We had (counter-clockwise from the bottom right) a 60 day dry-aged porterhouse, a 60 day dry-aged tomahawk rib eye, a 40 day dry-aged bone-in tenderloin, and the 365 day dry-aged strip steak.
Here’s a closer look at that year-long aged steak.
After all the fat and bark was trimmed away from that hunk I showed you up at the top of the review, this was all that was left:
Now you understand why dry-aged steaks cost more. So much is lost in the process! The result is a somewhat vaporous and aromatic punch in the mouth that leaves you with the familiar flavors of mushrooms, truffles, aged cheese, and nuts. Just a few ounces will do fine for this, as it can more readily be identified with a cured product like bresaola or salami than a traditional steak. I like to call it “beef jet fuel,” since it almost tickles the back of your nose – like when you catch a whiff of gasoline, or take on a big blob of wasabi.
The steaks were all awesome. Every one of them was a winner, and you can really taste the care that Chuck puts into the aging process. And Chuck’s sauces really helped to elevate them.
These aren’t your average steakhouse sauces. Chuck’s chimichurri, his vinegar based steak sauce (fuck tomato based sauces), and his horseradish cream are all recipes he developed over decades in the business, from way back when he was 15yrs old and working two blocks from home in his local neighborhood fine dining restaurant, Commander’s Palace. Hell of a place to start. Hell of a place to earn your stripes.
It should be no surprise, then, that he came up with an absolutely killer sauce made from luxardo cherries, rendered trim, drippings and reduced bone broth. This is a sauce that I might expect from an extremely high end meat-centric place like The Grill or TAK Room, to accompany a roasted prime rib or a decadent Wellington.
Insane depth of flavor in that shit. Pure gold. I would drink it.
On the side we had a nice array of creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, lobster mac & cheese, and Brussels sprouts with bacon.
And of course dessert was a blowout with key lime pie, fried cookie dough with ice cream, bread pudding, chocolate lava cake, cheese cake and creme brulee.
What a great spot. Spacious, beautifully decorated, sleek, and with top notch service and attention to detail. The place even does double duty as an event space next door for corporate events, weddings, etc.
Please don’t be dissuaded by the fact that this place is in Jersey. The PATH train to Grove Street or Exchange Place is so fast from either midtown or downtown Manhattan. And Liberty Prime is just a short five minute walk from either station in Jersey City.
I’m going to need to go back there and try some more of Chuck’s amazing cooking. I hope you get over there too!
NYC has entered the era of Catch Steak, a sleek, trendy and sexy steak joint that has some real chops. Chef Michael Vignola, formerly at Strip House and Pomona, proves once again that he is an indispensable asset to the NYC culinary scene. And Catch Steak might be his opus.
The menu that he’s meticulously crafted is filled with both wild feats of cookery and traditional, no nonsense dishes. He exhibits both flare and restraint; fancifulness and humbleness; complexity and simplicity.
He boldly forgoes all other meat protein entrees and focuses solely on beef, save for fish and a plant-based meatless parm dish. There is no chicken. There is no lamb. There is no duck. Beef is the star of the show.
The beef selections are broken down into four sections: Japanese imports; domestic prime; dry-aged beef; and domestic Wagyu cross bred beef.
At first glance, the steak sizes may seem small and pricey. The largest steaks are 24oz porterhouses, and the average size of the cuts range from about 5oz-12oz. But there’s absolutely no waste on these cuts: no “vein steaks” with connective tissue; no gristle. Everything is high end, and trimmed to Michael’s meticulous specifications. Top quality and lack of waste means good value, so the initial sticker shock should be tempered in the mind of the savvy diner.
He sources the beef from many purveyors, but none of them hail from the usual suspects that you might know from the area. If you ask him who supplies the beef, he’ll tell you, “It depends on the cut.”
He spent months vetting each cut from various purveyors all over the country and all over the world. He spent months getting certifications to serve things like true A5 Kobe – with Catch Steak being one of just 11 places in the country that are permitted to serve it.
But the menu doesn’t stop at just one or two cuts from each section. There’s a full range of beefy selections within each, such that any one section would contain enough diversity to satisfy discerning meat connoisseurs dining at any great steakhouse. Catch Steak goes way beyond.
To put it briefly, there are almost 20 steak choices on the menu. My wife and I tried five of them.
First was a duo of imported Japanese selections. Snow beef strip steak, and true A5 Kobe deckle. The Japanese imports are all sold by the ounce, and as such they make great starters for the table to taste and share.
These are treated very simply and grilled on a beautiful hot stone platter that’s been freshly slicked with beef fat. Add fresh flake salt, pepper and garlic ponzu to your liking after it cooks, on your plate.
These were incredible. Both 10/10, but the Kobe deckle was the winner between the two. Both had a naturally buttery aroma from that marbling, which begins to render at room temperature. The deckle had a slightly more tender texture and beefy flavor.
Next was a 5oz soy caramel glazed domestic wagyu strip steak. A truly unique flavor bomb that is unmistakably Michael Vignola. The earthy and savory glaze paired perfectly with the natural sweetness of the meat. 10/10.
My favorite cut of the meal was this 6oz dry-aged deckle.
The peppery maillard crust gave it a great classic steakhouse texture, while the dry aging concentrated the beefy flavors into a walloping punch of “umami.” That aging also succeeded in transforming the most tender portion of the animal into an even more unctuous steak eating experience in this perfectly cooked steak. This was an easy 10/10, and it’s one of my top steaks of the year.
Our final beef selection was a prime porterhouse. This beauty is classic steakhouse fare, where the peppery crust serves as a counterbalance to the soft meat texture within.
While this was closer to medium than medium rare, it still held a ton of flavor and richness. Both sides were very tender, to the point where it would be difficult for the untrained palate to discern strip from tenderloin. The meat was a bit over-salted, but I chalk that up to new restaurant jitters. All of the other cuts were perfectly seasoned. 8/10.
I don’t know how we did it, but we tried a lot more of the ambitious Catch Steak menu.
We started with the roasted peppers appetizer, which is drizzled with 25yr old balsamic, sprinkled with crumbled pistachio, and topped with a dollop of pistachio cream. This was delicious, but I think it could be served with some thin slices of toasted country bread to knock back the concentrated natural salinity of the peppers.
The truffle toro sashimi is absolutely incredible. If toro is your thing, this is definitely a must-order.
Papa’s spicy clams are special. This is a traditional baked clams oreganata dish, but Michael has deftly incorporated spicy nduja into the stuffing, officiating the beautiful marriage between pork and shellfish with his own distinct signature on the nuptial papers. This dish is all him, and it’s killer. If you don’t know Michael’s cooking you’ll know it when you taste this.
On the side we went with three items. The first was actually listed as an appetizer, but we ordered it as an accompaniment to our steak: the potato churro.
This dish will become iconic. The potato is fried into a churro form, filled with sour cream, and then topped with caviar. What an amazing creation. A top dish of the year for sure.
The roasted maitake mushrooms dish is the perfect side to go with your Japanese beef selections. But if you’re like me, you can eat them all day, every day, on the side of whatever is around. I loved these.
Asparagus is a tough veggie to make unique. Here, Vignola has transformed them into a delicious and familiar menu item that many of us enjoy on a weekly basis when we get Chinese take-out: they tasted like sauteed string beans with garlic and almonds! In no way is that meant to be an insult or a triviality. I devoured these!
Dessert aficionados will flip their lid for this Snickers Baked Alaska. It’s large enough to share among four people, especially after going deep into beef for your mains. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s sweet.
This apple cobbler crumble is a house favorite. Inside the pecan strudel there’s a toffee flavored blondie, baked apple and creme fraiche ice cream. Awesome.
Just as impressive as the food menu is the cocktail menu. Mix master Lucas Robinson has curated one of the best cocktail programs around. We tried five drinks from the bar menu and one from the dessert menu. Here they are:
Cafe Disco: Start with this unique take on a negroni, made with cold brew coffee, gin, green chartreuse and campari.
Black & Bleu: This is a savory and earthy mix of miso-infused vodka, dry vermouth, white soy truffle and blue cheese stuffed olives. Very cool frozen copper martini glass too.
Cuffing Season: Wet your taste buds with this stiff pork rind-garnished cocktail, made with fat washed scotch, aperol and amaro. The pork rind is actually pretty friggin’ delicious.
The Glass Slipper: This spicy number is made with rye, Ancho Reyes, benedictine, sherry and absinthe. The rim is cajun salt. My kind of drink!
Up In Smoke: This delicious smoked cocktail is made with rye, yellow chartreuse, dry vermouth and mole bitters. It comes out to the table presented inside a smoke-filled glass lantern box. A delight for the senses with an earthy bottom end from the mole bitters.
Proper Irish Coffee: Lucas’ take on the classic is made with Proper 12 Irish whiskey (of Conor McGregor fame), Colombian coffee, creme de cacao, Ancho Reyes and vanilla salted cream. This hot drink is strong as fuck! A nice balance with those sweet desserts.
The bar area is awesome. Big, spacious, warm and comfortable, yet cool and sleek. I will hang out here and sip those amazing cocktails as often as possible.
The remainder of the space is massive and incredibly well designed. There are two large dining rooms and an upstairs. It has to be one of the biggest restaurants in the city. They spared absolutely no expense in building this place out. Every fixture, every wall, every table is stunning.
That about does it. I’ll be back here for sure. I need to work my way through some more of those amazing cuts of beef. I highly recommend you do the same.
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
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!
This week I tried out Hudson Yards Grill in my endeavor to eat at all the new joints in the mall over there. Here’s how it went down:
These were great. Super crispy outside, like you’d find on good fried chicken. Tender, perfectly cooked inside. Almost like they were just steamed open. Get them.
Great dry aged flavor without being overly aggressive. I ordered medium rare but it came out somewhere between medium and medium well. I didn’t mind much, since it tasted so good. But that should be noted. Great fries too.
Strip Steak: 7/10
I almost gave it an 8. But not quite. It had good flavor and was seasoned nicely,but the grilling process left it in dire need of a crust. Also it was just not a very impressive cut to begin with. I was hoping for something thicker and with a bone. The potato that came with it was medium rare – meaning it still needed to be cooked more.
Rib Eye: 6/10
This just didn’t have the character or flavor that the strip had. It was a little bland despite being seasoned well. Same lack of crust issue as the strip. It felt like this could’ve been an Applebees steak to be honest. In addition, it was accompanies by eight pathetic string beans, a nice tube of bone marrow and a horseradish cream sauce that would be better suited for a roasted prime rib as opposed to a grilled rib eye.
Fail. This was dry, heavy, and overly sweet. I had high hopes for this but it was a let down.
Great white mezcal negroni, strawberry gin fizz and lavender margarita.
I’d definitely do drinks here again, along with a burger at the bar. Skip the mains and focus on the apps if you’re sitting for a bigger meal though. The steakhouse prices for the cuts of beef here just aren’t worth it.
HUDSON YARDS GRILL
New York, NY 10001
Here’s a run down and guide for all the food I had in Barcelona and San Sebastian. If you followed a link here for a specific restaurant, just scroll down until you see the restaurant name in bold – I did a bulk review here for all of them. In summary, here are my top dishes of the trip:
Mountain and Sea Fideua; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Grilled Prawns; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Roasted Piquillo Peppers; Lomo Alto (BCN)
Mussels in Tiger Sauce; La Mejillonera (SS)
Ham, Cheese, Sardine & Candied Pistachio Pintxos; Txalupa (SS)
Ham & Mushroom Sailboat Pintxos; Karrika Taberna (SS)
Cheesecake; La Vina (SS)
Potato Tortilla; Bar Nestor (SS)
Cream Puff; Izar Pasteleria (SS)
Iberico Pork Shoulder; Kokotxa (SS)
Suckling Lamb; El Asador de Aranda (BCN)
Suckling Pig Tacos; Hoja Santa (BCN)
Vanilla Custard Filled Churro; Random Churro Truck (BCN)
You might notice that the reviews go from BCN to SS and then back to BCN. Very astute of you. That’s because I wrote these in semi-timeline order. We travelled to BCN first, then spent a few days in SS before returning to BCN to finish the trip. In any case, read on and salivate.
TAPAS SIN FRONTERAS (BCN)
We ate here, which was across the street from our AirBnB, to kill some time before check-in on day one of the trip. We got some paella, salumi, and anchovies. Everything here was just mediocre. Not the best way to start the trip, but at least there was some jamon iberico involved.
XIRINGUITO ESCRIBA (BCN)
This beachside paella joint was slammed! There’s a great open-air dining room that overlooks the beach along the Mediterranean Sea, and, as you might imagine, the seafood here is amazing.
The “mountain and sea” paella was visually the star of the show here. Check it out:
But the version that’s made with pasta (fideua) tasted better and had better texture.
We also had some ceviche, guacamole, “pan con tomate,” Galician style octopus and grilled head-on prawns to start.
The prawns were amazing, and one of my top dishes of the entire trip.
The ceviche was just okay, but the guac, the tomato bread and the octopus were all excellent. In fact, that octopus was a close contender for another top dish of the trip. This place was just incredible over all.
Another standout starter was the jamon “air bag.” The crispy cracker-bread pillow gets broken and you eat the ham with it. Awesome.
The highlight of dessert was the pistachio cake with orange sorbet. So delicious!
The other selections weren’t too shabby either, one being a multi-layered combo of dolce de leche and tiramisu, and the other a classic puff pastry and cream combo.
In sum, Xiringuito Escriba is a “must go” spot if you’re looking to eat at the beach in Barcelona.
LOMO ALTO (BCN)
I came across this spot in my research for all things meaty in Barcelona.
This place is all about the beef! Dry-aged, “vaca vieja” (old cow) to be specific. The old cows, some as old as eight years at slaughter, are dry aged for months here, on site. Typically this type of meat is turned into burgers in the US, but here in Spain it is a sought after delicacy.
They offer 12 different breeds of beef to choose from.
Pro tip: say no to the bread. They will automatically bring out bread portions for each person at the table and then charge you upwards of four euro per head at the end. We got them to remove the charge since it was pretty much all stale and we barely touched it. The olives, however, were awesome.
We started with some very meaty items. Tartare, carpaccio and beef tongue. This was a great way to get to know the flavor of dry-aged dairy and old ox meat, which is what these were prepared from. Bold, savory, unique. I really liked all of these, and they came with a pair of nice spiralized potato chip things.
The croquettes were nice as well.
The steak we had was a rib chop from an 8yr old dairy cow that was dry aged for 90 days:
This had some of the most interesting and unique flavor from the dry aging. It tasted like blue cheese. The texture was a little bit aggressive – not tough, but more chewing involved. Some folks love that. Over all I’d say this was an 8/10.
The steak came with roasted piquillo peppers, fries and a salad. The best part of this entire meal was the dish of peppers! They were amazing, and oddly enough a top dish of the trip.
This place is heaven for folks who love dry aged beef, and who also love Spanish beef. A definite must try if that fits your bill. I personally like US beef better, but “when in Rome” … (or, in this case, “when in Barcelona”).
VARIOUS PINTXOS & BARS (SS)
This San Sebastian pintxos joint specialized in mussels and served them something like five or six different ways.
The door handle is even a mussel.
We arrived just as they opened, and as a general matter I found that this is the best way to eat pintxos: Get there early, before the crowds and while the pintxos are freshly made and not collecting bacteria as they sit out on the counter, sans sneeze guards and subject to all kinds of touching.
We tried two mussel dishes: Spicy “tiger” sauce, and wine/herb sauce. Both were incredible, but the spicy tiger sauce (orange/red) was a bit better. Great for bread dipping.
We also had fried calamari two ways: one with shishito peppers and one with a bravas style spicy, creamy sauce. Both excellent.
This unique place was the first and one of our best stops in San Sebastian. It’s definitely worth a stop on your pintxos crawl.
At this place, you need to focus your attention on the cheesecake.
It’s fantastic. Rich, creamy, and delicious.
One order gets you two slivers, so if you’re planning to hit a bunch of places for tapas/pintxos, you can just get a single order to share among two or three people.
This is one spot that every guidebook will tell you is great.
We enjoyed it, but it was mostly more of the same type stuff that you see at other places. In my opinion, it can be skipped.
This joint had one of my favorite bites of the trip: A ham, cheese, sardine and candied pistachio crumble pintxos bite. It blew me away.
When you need a sweet fix, hit this little shop and get the cream puff. I picked the one that looked like a hot dog shaped bun. It was one of the best bites of the trip.
These pine nut clusters were great as well.
If you need a cold sweet fix, this is your place. They have various flavors of ice cream pops, and you can have them dip the pops into various flavors of chocolate and then sprinkled with various toppings. I went with an oreo ice cream pop, dipped in dark chocolate and then hit with crushed waffle cone bits. Awesome.
We hit this spot on a whim before lunch on our last day in San Sebastian and tried a handful of pintxos that looked unique and different from the standard pieces we kept seeing all over the place. Turned out to be a great decision, as that sailboat looking thing (ham and stuffed mushroom) turned out to be one of my favorite pintxos of the trip. Also a great place to have a spritz.
This little spot is essentially a deli/meat shop with some dry goods products for sale as well, but they have a window on the street side where they sell meat cones and sandwiches.
Of course I picked up a cone of ham to walk around with and snack on. The aged flavor was immense on this ham! So good.
My new favorite bar in the world sits on top of Monte Urgull in San Sebastian and overlooks Santa Clara Island and Bahia La Concha. The walk there is half the fun, and the bar itself is in an isolated nook of the castle/battlements of Castillo Monte Urgul. Take a look:
Talk about AVERAGE! Everything here was just meh, but this place is always on pintxos lists for tourists. Pass.
We ate dinner at this seafood joint along the docks.
This was a mediocre meal, but there were a few highlights that were good. This side of asparagus was not fresh. It was canned or pickled.
The grilled octopus was one of the highlights here. It was cooked nicely and had some spicy flavored potatoes with it.
The grilled squid skewers were okay. Nothing special, but not bad by any means.
These prawns were good as well, but not nearly on the same level as Xiringuito Escriba.
The bay scallops were pretty, but a little overcooked.
I enjoyed the baked langoustines though.
BAR NESTOR (SS)
This place is iconic in San Sebastian for all of the main items they serve. Get there at 11:45am and wait to reserve your slice of potato tortilla at 12pm, when Nestor opens the window and starts taking names (they only have 12 slices a day).
It’s one of the best things I ate on the trip. Crispy, gooey, delicious.
Come back at 1pm when they open and sit for a meal. You can reserve a table or spot at the bar when you give Nestor your name for the tortilla. Once seated, they’ll bring out a pair of steaks for you to choose from.
Say yes to the tomatoes; they’re fucking amazing.
Say yes to the peppers; they’re great, too.
The steak itself is 8/10. There’s not as much dry-aged flavor as Lomo Alto in BCN, despite the restaurant and street smelling intensely “dry-agey” and beefy-delicious. That aroma – that Spanish “vaca vieja” – is unique and intoxicating. It doesn’t always translate to flavor, but this cut was more tender and had a better crust than Lomo Alto, so it evened out.
Two slices of potato tortilla, tomatoes, peppers, steak, and two glasses of wine: €63.80.
What an experience! Here’s a short video of the process.
We did the market tasting menu at this Michelin-starred restaurant. It started off with some fancy breadsticks.
Then a trio of snacks – seaweed cake, creamy fish puff and a relatively flavorless bite of something that I can’t seem to remember at the moment (the orange thing).
This white tuna ceviche was fresh and delicious.
I really enjoyed this grilled calamari dish as well.
Kokotxa means cheek in basque, and this hake cheek was a delicious bite for the restaurant namesake.
The crispy skin hake filet was great as well – probably one of the best bites of the meal.
But the star of the meal for me was the iberico pork shoulder, and it was mainly why we chose the market tasting menu instead of the chef’s tasting menu (it wasn’t on that menu). One of the best dishes of the entire trip right here. I wanted three more plates.
The two desserts were both good, and both featured interestingly flavored and balanced sorbets.
Petit fours for the finish:
I definitely recommend Kokotxa if you are in San Sebastian and looking to change up the diet from pintxos. It’s one of the cheaper Michelin-starred places in the area too.
Our final meal in San Sebastian was this chop house. We started with foie gras, lomo (cured pork loin) and roasted piquillo peppers. The foie and peppers were mediocre but the lomo was outstanding.
Another “txuleta” (chop/steak in basque, and the restaurant’s namesake) was consumed here as well. This one had less aged flavor than both Bar Nestor and Lomo Alto, but it was nice and tender. In fact, it was more tender than both of the others, so we evened out again at an 8/10.
Having loved the hake cheeks from Kokotxa the night prior, we went in on two styles of them here as well. Bad move. Should have gotten more meat. The fried ones weren’t as battered or seasoned as I expected, and they were also a little soggy (not crisp). The sauced ones were even worse – they were slimy and seemed almost undercooked.
DINNER AT HOME (BCN)
One of my favorite things about travel in Europe is just hitting the local supermarket (Mercadona) and snacking at home for a meal. High quality stuff for very cheap!
We also got an extra strip steak just for fun… Another 8/10.
…And some lamb ribs as well. These were incredible! I would have called this the best dish of the night if it weren’t for the next one…
The real star here was the 1/4 suckling lamb; a leg:
This crispy skin, fork tender beauty is fall-off-the-bone soft. Simply put, it’s the best lamb I’ve ever had. This dish is reason enough to book your trip to Spain. Skip the vaca vieja and get this!
For dessert, us adults decided to eat some of what was meant to be for the kids. Ice cream in the shape of a dick, and some chocolate cake with whipped cream and ice cream.
This bottle of sweet licorice flavored amaro type liquor came out with the bill. Very nice digestif.
What a meal! This place is a must on your trip to Spain.
HOJA SANTA (BCN)
Hoja Santa customized a tasting menu for us based on a handful of things we were interested in and pointed out to the waiter on their a la carte menu. This Michelin-starred restaurant ended up being the best all-around meal of the trip.
Here’s what we had:
Trio of snacks: gastronomic/spherized olives and peaches, along with a Caesar salad tostada with chicken skin.
Trio of solid cocktails: michelada, mezcal and margarita foam ball. So cool.
Ceviche with catch of the day white tuna and octopus.
Trio of tacos: conchinita pibil taco puff, beef brisket taco with jalapeño tortilla, and bone marrow with sesame tortilla. All awesome, but the brisket with jalapeño tortilla was incredible. One of the best bites of the meal.
Foie gras mole with thin crispy bread and some sort of quinoa meatball things.
Arabic lamb tacos with tomatillo, avocado and sour cream sauce, radish, limes and crispy flour tortillas. These were incredible, and almost shaped up to be the best bite of the meal if it wasn’t for the final savory dish.
Check out how tender this meat was!
One of my lamb rib tacos:
The final savory bite, and best part of the meal – possibly even the best dish of the trip – were these suckling pig rib tacos with cilantro cream, herbaceous pig drippings sauce, pickled cabbage, lime and fresh corn tortillas with pig stamps on them.
Dessert was a frozen orange foam with amaranth, custard and some kind of tahini-like sesame butter.
And finally, and most impressively, corn ice cream with goat cheese, caramel and chocolate truffles. One of the better sweet bites of the trip.
I highly recommend Hoja Santa – you should definitely hit this spot on your trip to BCN.
RANDOM CHURRO VENDOR
These stuffed churros from a churro cart by the famous Gaudi park “Park Guell” (near the Alfonso X metro stop) were awesome. One vanilla custard (best), one dolce de leche (second best) and one chocolate.
Holy fuck I think that about does it! What a ridiculous amount of great food. I hope you take some of my recs if you ever make it over to BCN or SS. Salud!
I used to hit this place way back, about 20 years ago or more. It’s out in Riverhead, Long Island.
This place is known for their special marinade, which they apply to both their steaks and burgers upon request. I always liked the flavor they got with it – definitely some soy and worcestershire happening. The sugars in it make for a really charred crust.
And a delicious puddle of juices at the bottom.
I really like it. For $15 (lunch portion, about 12-14oz), you can’t go wrong. What would be a 7/10 gets bumped to an 8/10 due to the value here.
The patty melt is a pass, however. Unless you switch it up from Swiss to something like American. The cheese was just too overboard.
I loved the 5-olive martini though.
Next time you’re out this way, give Cliff’s a shot.
313 E Main St
Riverhead, NY 11901