Category Archives: Other Cuts

Catch Steak

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.

Catch Steak overall score: 94

Flavor: 10
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
Portion Size & Plating: 9
Price: 9
Bar: 10
Specials and Other Meats: 8
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
Seafood Selection: 10
Service: 10
Ambiance: 10

CATCH STEAK
88 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Barcelona & San Sebastian

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:

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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Here’s a quick video of the presentation and slicing:

 

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Some scraps left after eating:

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)

La Mejillonera

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.

La Vina

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.

Bar Martinez

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.

Txalupa

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.

Izar Pasteleria

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.

Loco Polo

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.

Karrika Taberna

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.

Kutixik

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.

 

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Urgulleko Polborina

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:

 

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Bare Bare

Talk about AVERAGE! Everything here was just meh, but this place is always on pintxos lists for tourists. Pass.

MARINELA (SS)

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.

 

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KOKOTXA (SS)

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.

TXULETA (SS)

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!

 

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EL ASADOR DE ARANDA (BCN)

This place specializes in suckling lamb, as well as beef chops. We went big on a feast here so let me get into it right away.

Excellent marinated olives and gherkins came to the table.

This beef bresaola with arugula, tomato juice and truffle was awesome.

The roasted piquillo peppers were just okay – not on the Lomo Alto level.

Awesome cheese platter – hard to choose a favorite among four great selections.

This crispy blood sausage was incredible. Awesome texture and crunch, really nicely cooked, and not greasy like many tend to be.

This fried egg dish was fun as well, though I didn’t eat much of it. I was saving room for all the meat.

Hot stone beef!

This cut comes out sliced thin and ready for searing. If I had to guess, this was some part of the chuck.

The meat sizzles away and creates an awesome aroma at your table.

A nice crust develops. 8/10.

Check out the video:

 

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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.

Corn tamales.

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.

Here’s a video of the process.

 

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THAT CRISPY SKIN! You can actually hear it…

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!

House of Prime Rib

House of Prime Rib overall score: 86

I’ve been dying to try House of Prime Rib ever since I had an awesome experience at the similar style prime rib cart joint, Lawry’s, in Chicago. My stop over in San Francisco after to going to Belcampo Meat Camp afforded me the opportunity to finally try it.

Here’s the verdict: NEARLY as good as Lawry’s but not quite there. Read on to see why.

Flavor: 9

The beef here is delicious. A bit more crisp on the edges and a little more uniform cook on the eye, and this would have been a perfect 10/10. I was with a group of three total, so we tried the King Louis (with the bone), the English Cut, and the House of Prime Rib cut.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

Despite being focused primarily on prime rib, this place is pretty great in terms of size and style choices. Unlike Lawry’s, which also offers a rib eye steak and a filet, House of Prime Rib sticks to just prime rib. Makes sense. This is not a bad thing when the prime rib is so good.

Portion Size & Plating: 10

Portions here are big for the price, and for less than $50 you get a big slab of prime rib along with all your sides for the meal, nicely (although not always neatly) plated together.

Price: 10

Amazing meal for less than $50. You really can’t beat it for this level of quality unless you have a Lawry’s in your area. If you finish your prime rib, they’ll even offer you an additional slice on the house if you eat it there at the table (you can’t take it to go).

Bar: 8

This place has a nice fun stretch of bar and serves the full menu there as well.

They make a nice martini and leave the pint glass and shaker top there for you to drain every last ounce of booze from your pour as well. I like that. Perhaps a signature cocktail or a cocktail list would bring this up to Lawry’s level though.

Specials and Other Meats: 7

There are no specials or other meats, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. As I said with Lawry’s, the prime rib is the special. I can dig it.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7

The apps and sides here are a bit lacking in comparison to Lawry’s. The Yorshire pudding wedge was good but a bit flimsy and it had no crisp or texture to it. The creamed corn was delicious though, and I enjoyed the creamed spinach as well. The mashed potatoes are meh, but the baked potato is huge and comes with a shitload of bacon!

The spinning salad here is presented very similar to Lawry’s, similar salad overall, right down to the beets, eggs and house seasoning being used in it as well.

To be fair, I don’t know who did it first: Lawry’s or House of Prime Rib. Either way I love it.

For dessert we tried the English Trifle and the Fantasy Cake (chocolate mousse with cheesecake). Both were great!

Contrast this parfait style trifle with the more cake style trifle from Lawry’s. Both good. But I think I liked this one a little better actually.

Seafood Selection: 8

Another spot where House of Prime Rib beats out Lawry’s is the seafood realm. They have a whole fish item on the entree menu, which is nice for the ladies or the sprawled beta cucks in your dining party.

Service: 10

The people working here are true professionals. The waitresses aren’t 1950’s style actresses like Lawry’s, but they go out of their way to make your meal excellent. The chefs even allowed us to take their photo, and photos of the meat cart as well.

Our waitress overheard us saying that we’d like to try the creamed corn as well. We were trying to decide who would order it with their entree and she just offered it up on the house. Awesome.

Also worth mentioning here is the fact that the prime rib comes with way more varieties of horseradish and cream sauces that Lawry’s, in addition to extra au jus (and the entree slice after you finish). They had mild, medium, strong, tabasco, and pickled horseradish. I loved them all!

Table bread was this delicious warm loaf of sourdough:

Ambiance: 9

This place is great. It feels like you’re dining in someone’s huge mansion-like home. Very similar to Lawry’s in Chicago, only less “grand” in scope and ceiling height. I only dinged them a point here because the dining room was too warm. I was nearly sweating.

HOUSE OF PRIME RIB
1906 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94109

TAK Room

My wife took me to Thomas Keller’s new Hudson Yards eatery, TAK Room, for my birthday. This meal was pretty awesome, so let me get right down to business.

Cocktails

This place has a great selection of classics, spins on classics, and new style cocktails. I went with the “Old Hat” old fashioned. I liked it, but both my wife and I liked her order better (Waldorf Vieux Carre)

We both remarked that the cocktail pricing wasn’t too rapey. And it’s worth noting here that the bar and lounge area is seriously impressive. The bar is backed by windows, offering an impressive view. There’s plenty of lounge style seating near the bar, where you can drink, snack and enjoy the live music on the stage.

Table Bread & Crudite

This was a nice touch; the crudite was cold and fresh, and that butter extruder thing is becoming insta-famous. There are two varieties of delicious house made breadsticks as well.

Green Garlic Agnolotti, Razor Clams, Gremolata

Strong opener, and an easy contender for my best pasta dishes of 2019. It almost had an oreganata flavor to it, with a great balance of textures.

Beef Tartare

This had some freshly shaved horseradish on top of the raw egg yolk, and was really nicely executed.

Prime Rib Cart Service

Take a look at this video of the prime rib service cart:

That’s Snake River Farms domestic wagyu cross, highly marbled and riddled with intense flavor.

This is easily one of the best prime rib orders I’ve ever had. At $110, I would bark about it being too expensive, but it really was worth every forkful. 10/10.

Short Rib Beef Wellington

Check this out:

A beautiful specimen. The short rib was snappy, but super tender.

The puff pastry was perfectly cooked from end to end. Perfect execution.

The only thing I disliked about it was the perigourdine sauce. It had a bitter and almost burnt flavor to it. Luckily that was poured on the side rather than on top of the dish. 9/10.

Champagne Cake, Strawberry Creamsicle Ice Cream

This was a pretty tasty special for dessert (not on the menu), and they generously gave us a couple of glasses of rose champagne to go with it, on the house. Here’s the dessert menu:

Box of Caramel Corn

This comes with your dessert, for the table. Jumbo size pops, very few kernels. Highly addictive.

Views, Decor & Service

Last but not least, one can’t really do a proper review of a joint like TAK Room without speaking about the views, decor and service.

The outer rim of the gorgeous dining room overlooks “The Vessel,” the new scalable art structure in Hudson Yards.

The decor is like a cross between 60’s mod and 20’s art deco. It’s truly beautiful. The service matches the spectacular views and decor, with an impeccably neat, attentive and genuinely nice wait staff. We even saw the likes of Thomas Keller himself, doing one of the prime rib cart services, with Geoffrey Zakarian watching from afar:

One of the managers gave us a quick kitchen tour too, which was really interesting to see. The place is immaculately clean, and they showcase their selection of premium meats in a glass cabinet near the kitchen entrance. Listen carefully for specials, as they were offering cote de boeuf rib eyes at varying sizes.

In summary, this was one of the best meals I’ve had this year, and I look forward to going back to try more beef and even their roast chicken for two. We just need to save up a little bit, because this place is pricey. All in, this meal was $467 with tax and tip. Woof. Here’s a look at some of the pricing:

Here’s a quick update of the minute steak (a thin slice of NY Strip, also Snake River Farms) with fries.

I think a thicker but smaller cut would be better here, and maybe call it a three minute steak. 7/10. The fries were great though.

And a follow up on the burger, which the NY Post called the best in the city.

This is pretty good. Wagyu patty with aged cheddar, LTOP, on a sesame seed bun. I think I prefer a couple of other burgers here in Hudson Yards over this one, but for $24 it comes with those awesome fries, so it’s a good deal. Lunch only though.

TAK ROOM
20 Hudson Yards
5th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Rainbow Room Macallan Dinner Pairing

My wife and I went to the Rainbow Room/Bar Sixty Five as guests of our friend who was hosting a special Macallan scotch cocktail pairing dinner.

The meal started with this “Breakfast for Dinner” cocktail that had some bubbles, blueberry and, of course, Macallan scotch. The garnish was actually blueberries and pancakes. Kinda cool.

This was paired with the two appetizers that my wife and I shared, scallops and peekytoe crab toast.

Next up was this vanilla, ginger beer and scotch cocktail that was garnished with a fresh sprig of rosemary. This tasted like cream soda.

Naturally, this paired nicely with the burger and steak entrees.

The hanger was great. 9/10. Super tender and flavorful despite being grass finished.

The burger was a monster. It was unwieldy to eat as a whole, so I pretty much ate each component separately.

To start off the dessert items, we had this really special drink called The Sixth Borough:

This delicious smoked cocktail is made with rare cask Macallan, 50-60 year old amaro and bitters, charcoal and rosemary. It’s stir-chilled with an ice sphere and then dropped into an ornate gold filigree glass from a chandelier platform that’s a replica of the iconic Rainbow Room. What a special treat!

That paired nicely with the Baked Alaska that I had. My wife had the cheesecake with apple sorbet. I obviously had a taste, and it was delicious as well.

RAINBOW ROOM / BAR SIXTY FIVE
30 Rockefeller Plaza
65th Floor
New York, NY 10112

The Ribbon

The Ribbon is a neighborhood bar and restaurant that serves up an impressive list of chops and roasts. The place is very popular with families, and you’ll see a ton of parents with their kids in there on weekends during the day. In fact I think my table was the only one in the back of the restaurant that didn’t have a child at it (aside from my immature ass, of course).

My wife and I started with cocktails. I enjoyed this Ol’ Thyme Gin, which had pear, thyme infused gin, amaro and lemon.

The Mr. Pimm was light and refreshing, pairing gin with cucumber, lemon, mint syrup and elderflower.

We started the steamed clams and a trio of pate, all of which were excellent. I was just hoping for a little heat with the clams since I saw “peppers” in the ingredient list. Probably just minced bells. The chorizo in there was nice though.

For our mains, we had the two prime ribs on the menu; pork and beef.

The pork was a little bit dry, but the apricot jam was a great way to get the juices flowing.

The 16oz king cut prime rib was great.

Nicely roasted to medium rare. I’m sick of ordering this dish and having it come to me raw and difficult to chew. They do it correctly here. It’s served with a nice jus and a light horseradish cream sauce. At $61 this may seem steep, but there’s no waste on it. Even the jiggly fat bits are edible. 8/10.

On the side we had some sauteed broccolini, which was a nice way to cut the fat.

And for dessert we shared the chocolate chip bread pudding (it comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). This had a nice brulee crunch to it on the edges, which made for a good mix of textures.

I definitely recommend this place, and I’ll be going back there to try more shit for sure. Here’s the William, FYI:

THE RIBBON
20 W 72nd St
New York NY, 10023

Boston Market Rotisserie Prime Rib

This is NOT a belated April Fools joke. I actually went to Boston Market to try their “21 days aged” rotisserie prime rib. The anticipation was building ever since I saw an ad for it in my neighborhood.

I live sorta close to one.

At $16.99 with two sides and cornbread, how bad can it be? The answer: not fucking bad at all! First of all, in a weird way, it was kinda beautiful. I ordered it just like what I saw in the picture, with string beans and mashed potatoes.

I was expecting something revolting, but what I got was really nicely crusted on the edges, with great peppery and savory flavors. The meat itself was good quality, and cooked pretty nicely for a chain fast food joint. I would definitely get this again, especially since it’s a third of the price of many expensive steak joints that just don’t get this dish right. So many places serve a chewy, undercooked, inferior product (despite using superior meats). 7/10. Well played, Boston Market. You have my respect, and my repeat business. Mainly because you gave me a BOGO coupon with my receipt, making a great deal even better.

Somehow, though, I suspect that this might be a hit and miss kind of item across all other locations. I guess we’ll see. Here’s where I got it:

BOSTON MARKET
885 10th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Parrilla Urbana

I hit this joint with my wife and some friends when we were away in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Here’s what we had:

First, a bean and cheese dip with tortilla chips:

Next up, Mexican style roasted bone marrow. You scoop it out and eat with tortillas.

This beef tongue casserole was the star of the night for me. You could eat these with the tortillas too.

The rib eye and chicharrones with guac was really nice too.

As were the blooming onion and the shrimp.

We had a pair of salads to pass around as well. Both were excellent.

We had three main meats. Roasted chicken, filet mignon (7/10 for cook temp issues), and braised beef ribs (9/10). All were great, but I think we all liked the beef ribs and chicken the best.

On the side, we had some french fries and mac and cheese, both were excellent.

We also tried three desserts, one of which was a late addition to my best of 2018 dishes (the corn cake).

That corn cake was insane. We also had chocolate cake and flan.

Even the drinks here are awesome. I was really digging the mezcal cocktails.

As well as the straight stuff.

This was by far the best food in Playa del Carmen that we got to try. If you are ever in the area, go here.

PARRILLA URBANA
Avenida esquina Calle 32 5A
Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710
Playa del Carmen
Q.R., Mexico

Da Noi

My wife and I met some friends for dinner at Da Noi in Islip. Here’s a rundown of what we had.

First, the octopus:

A nice large single tentacle. I’ve had better, but this definitely did the job, and overall is great for Long Island.

Next, prawn with polenta:

A nice head-on fucker. And the polenta was creamy, cheesy and delicious.

Now some pasta dishes. First, gnocchi:

These were heavy, but tasty.

Next, cavatelli.

This came with a pork rags that was really robust.

Then there was pappardelle with meatballs.

Meatballs are always a tough sell on me, and these veal balls did not meet my standards. But the pasta was awesome, as was the sauce.

Now for the meats: first, the porterhouse.

This was nicely grilled but came in at a 6/10 for me, which isn’t terrible for Long Island.

The bone in tenderloin was the better steak, at 8/10.

My buddy ordered his medium, so that’s why there’s less pink in this shot:

My wife’s rabbit dish was very tasty. A bit salty in parts, but over all really nicely cooked. I love seeing this on a menu.

These bison medallions were tenderloin cut, and came out as an app. Nice portion size. These were really tasty. 7/10.

I ended with a perfect creme brûlée.

This is a good restaurant, especially for LI. Go give it a shot. Ask for the bone in tenderloin and get some of those tasty pasta dishes.

DA NOI
301 Main St
Islip, NY 11751

Don Angie

I went to Don Angie with a group of friends, so we tried almost half of the menu. I tried two cocktails; the Uncle Jimmy (Islay scotch, amaretto, bitters and lemon) and the Pinky Ring (bourbon, carpano, galliano and campari). Both were really nice.

We started with the stuffed garlic flatbread for the table.

This was delicious, especially when eaten simultaneously with their chrysanthemum salad, which is probably the best salad I’ve ever had. Easily one of the best dishes of the year (a salad!) – so good, we ordered a second.

The tonnato vitello was really nice and refreshing, made with spicy veal tartare and tuna carpaccio.

For pasta dishes, we first tried a special Sardinian dumpling in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with shaved white truffle.

Next up, caramelle.

These candy packages were a nice mix of sweet and savory. Beautiful too.

We also had their famous lasagne pinwheels. Also beautiful. And with such a thin noodle, they are actually light and delicious.

But the star of the show was the giant garganelli in broken meatball ragu. This was fucking incredible.

It reminded me of my grandma’s Sunday sauce, only with better quality homemade pasta. I crave this daily, and it is at the top of my list for best dishes I tried this year. We also ordered a second one of these since it was so incredible.

We also had the charred octopus. This was a small portion to share among six people, but it was indeed tasty.

The veal “da pepi” was like a Milanese chop. Very tasty and crisp.

Let down of the meal goes to the prime rib braciole.

It was somehow a bit dry, under cooked in parts (the center), and stringy in others (the outer edges). Bummer. I was really looking forward to this. The stuffing tasted like my dad’s stuffed cherry peppers, which was nice. 5/10.

We also had some sides: potatoes and polenta.

For dessert, we tried a bit of everything. The sgroppino was bright and acidic, the fior di latte mochi was unique and tasty, the tiramisu was perfect, and the honey zeppole were nice little versions of the fried belly bombs I loved as a kid.

This place is worth the struggle for a reservation. Get the salad, the garganelli, and the lasagne. You’ll be happy.

DON ANGIE
103 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10014