Category Archives: Other Cuts

Bevy

Bevy is the new restaurant that took the place of The Back Room at One57. My wife took me here for an early birthday dinner. I was excited to hit this joint, because they have rib eye fat cap steak on the menu (deckle, aka spinalis dorsi), as well as a bison rib eye. We tried both.

We started with the rib eye cap steak as a shared appetizer. The portion size is 8oz, so this was perfect to share as an app.

This was perfectly cooked, super tender and amazingly flavorful. At $48 it’s a bit pricey, but totally worth it given the quality. 10/10.

Both the rib eye cap and the bison rib eye hail from Fossil Farms. I’ve encountered these guys at food shows in the past, and the quality is superb. I hope to work with them in the future and feature some more of their proteins here on the website. Especially the exotics.

Anyway, we ate the rib eye cap steak with some crispy lemon oyster mushrooms, which they sent to us on the house!

This is a reprise of a dish that used to be on the Back Room menu, which I really liked. It’s just as good as I remember. It’s also really damn beautiful.

Several menu items were carried over, actually. I was glad to see that many of the good ones remained.

But now for the big guns. The 40oz, 28-day dry-aged bison rib eye. It’s actually two chops on the bone.

It comes with a vinaigrette dressed frisee salad and asparagus. But the plating is gorgeous. We actually fanned it out a little so you can more easily see the perfectly pink interior.

Bison is slightly gamy, but unless you’re looking for it, you probably wouldn’t notice a flavor difference between bison and beef.

It’s typically more lean than beef, and sometimes has a more iron-metallic flavor profile than beef. Very good. 8/10.

We ate this baby with sides of paprika dusted steak fries and trumpet mushrooms. Both were great. I was impressed with the crisp on the fries. So good! I usually dislike the massive quarter-of-a-potato style steak fries, but I’d get these again and again, every time I eat here.

The trumpets were good, but I did enjoy the oyster mushrooms more. These were served with minted labneh, which added a nice fresh pop of flavor.

Dessert was great as well. We ordered one, but they gave us two. Great service! In fact, Amanda was a wonderful waitress. She knew her stuff and had great recommendations.

First was this apple pie with a sugar cookie crust. So awesome! That’s vanilla ice cream up front, covered with a nice caramel sauce.

The other dessert was cheesecake with lemon pudding and espresso ice cream. Really tough to choose a best between these two.

I definitely recommend this place. If you happen to carry the “Founders Card,” you get 20% off when you use it to pay.

BEVY
153 W. 57th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10019

Antique Bar & Bakery

Antique Bar & Bakery is a new joint in Hoboken. I know what you’re thinking: Fuck Jersey! But for real, everything at this place is absolutely amazing. And I can’t in good conscience fuck with Jerz: I’m from Long Island, and everyone knows that LI, NJ and Staten Island are all retarded cousins from the same demented family.

Anyway, when you walk in, you feel like you’ve entered someone’s home. It has an old school feel to it. There are a few nice nooks for seating, and a great bar with really nicely fashioned cocktails.

In the back room, you’re basically IN the kitchen, which is really fun to experience. The skylight overhead illuminates the room with a nice, pleasing natural light.

The back wall boasts an insane coal oven that cranks up to over 1000 degrees, and then to the left of that, there’s a cooler area (about 500 degrees).

On the side wall is all your normal kitchen gadgetry like a gas oven, burners, sinks, expediting station, etc.

Okay but enough about that – let me get to the food. Chef Paul Gerard is doing amazing things here. Everything has a sense of familiarity, but also a sense of “newness.” He’s accumulated aspects of Soul Food, Cajun/Creole, Italian, American and French cuisines and balled them up into a delicious, enveloping and immersive experience: especially when you sit in the back near the kitchen (a must-do if you’re anything like me).

We started with a snack of blistered shishito peppers and pickled watermelon. The peppers go into the hot coal oven and finish up really quickly – like within a minute. It’s pretty neat because you can feel the capsaicin in the air once they get cranking. If you sit close like we did, you may sneeze or cough a bit. That’s how IN the kitchen you are. So cool. It makes you feel like you’re part of the staff.

Raw Fennel Salad with Burnt Orange Marmalade: All the burnt items are done right in their crazy oven. They add a great natural bitterness to the food (and cocktails), which cuts the fat and sweetness of any complimentary ingredients. This salad was awesome: crisp, fresh and satisfying.

Hot Oil Shrimp: Incredible dish. Really nice heat from the peppers, and the shrimp retain a lot of shell flavor from being blasted in the oven. Perfectly cooked.

Rice Balls: I mean, these guys even managed to make rice balls interesting, new and fun. The outside is really crisp and the inside is soft and gooey from the provolone fondue. You need to try them.

Fresh Mozzarella: This shit is made to order, right there at the prep counter. You can watch the guy stretch and pull until its ready. It’s topped with some cracked pepper and a few cherry tomatoes. Eat this quickly while it’s still warm, otherwise it can firm up a bit and lose its softness.

Burger: The only slight I will make about this entire meal is that the burger was a bit overcooked for our liking. But the flavor was off the hinges, even though our burger was medium-well. It gets some dry aged fat (carved right off the steaks), some chuck and some flank in the grind – made in house, obviously.

It’s topped with shredded cheese, spicy fries and pickled chili peppers. Despite the shape of the burger being spherical, it really was formed well: Loosely packed and not overworked; hollowed out top bun so it isn’t too tall and unwieldy. This burger has real potential to be one of the best around. I need to come back and try it again, and make sure the temp is pink through the center. Don’t shy away from ordering it just because mine was a bit over.

Whole Octopus: This is a special menu item, which you can order as a half or whole portion. The octopus is treated in a similar way as the shrimp, but it is tossed in an olive puttanesca sauce that really blew me away. It was cooked very nicely too: snappy to the tooth, but not chewy. Great char flavor from the oven.

Whole Fish: This was black bass, and it was really damn delicious. When you cook seafood hot and fast, you retain all that great juiciness in the flesh, so that nothing ever dries out. That’s what happens with the fish here. You can’t go wrong.

Fish Photo Credit: @NYCFoodFOMO

Whole Chicken: Absurdly delicious, and I’m not even really a chicken man. This is plenty big to feed the table.

Dirty Rib Eye: I was amazed. I watched as Chef Paul went through the entire process, and I even got some good video.

First, he broke down a 28-day dry aged rack of ribs that the restaurant got from DeBragga Meats. Antique Bar & Bakery has its own shelf in the DeBragga dry-aging room.

The steaks are allowed to come up to room temperature so that they cook better.

Once they’re ready, they’re coated with coarse salt, slapped on a cast iron skillet, and then popped into that ripping-hot coal oven for about five minutes. This hell-fire licks every square inch of surface area on the meat, giving it a great outer crust.

The steak is then pulled out of the crazy oven, placed onto a bed of herbs, hit with some drawn butter, and then finished in the other oven until the center comes up to the proper temperature.

Finally, it rests for a while before being sliced and plated – sometimes up to 20 minutes. While resting, it gets brushed with more herbs, so you really get that great herb flavor with each bite.

Alright here’s the video. I made you suffer through reading all of that first before linking it, because I’m a dick.

The herbs really make it. In fact, they have herbs drying and hanging all over the back room. It was pretty cool, and reminded me of my dad’s garage, which always seems to be decorated with dangling peppers and herbs from his garden.

Needless to say, this steak is an easy 10/10 for flavor. It’s really unbelievable. I suggest you get out there immediately to try it.

Hard Herb Hanger: Perfectly cooked, great crisp on the outside, and wonderful flavors from the herb roasting process in the ovens. This is a great option for those who aren’t willing to go big with the rib eye but still want to eat beef. Just $23? Awesome. 8/10. We actually had this come out alongside our desserts and we still devoured it instantly. Haha!

All entrees can be consumed with a variety of available sauces. We tried them all, but I really liked the herb puree and puttanesca the best. As for the steaks? No sauce needed. There’s so much flavor on those babies already.

Okay let me address some of the fantastic sides we tried.

Charred Kale with Pickled Chilis: Really nice acidic punch. This is similar to something like collared greens in Soul Food cuisine, only with a new twist.

Blackened Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts: Awesome. This is my new favorite beet dish. And if you’re one of those weird bastards that doesn’t eat meat, then this is the way to go for you. Very satisfying, satiating and fulfilling.

Fava Beans: Holy shit! Traditional French styling here with butter and shallots, and finished with mint, but so great. I kept going back for more of these green delights. Probably because they’re served with Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette, a raw cow’s milk cheese.

Fingerling Potatoes: As I said above, Chef Paul is making things in a new way here. These babies are roasted with dried, aged, shaved Bottarga fish flakes (similar to what you might see being used to make dashi broth, but more specific). It might not sound that appetizing, but it adds such an amazing earthy flavor to the potatoes. Trust me. And with a topping of cheese and that awesome crisp from the hot oven, this side is not to be skipped.

Now on to the desserts. We tried a few, and all of them were excellent, just like every-fucking-thing else in this meal.

Lady Ashton’s Dirty Chocolate Cake: Served family style in a large cast iron skillet, this is one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten. I’m not huge on chocolate either, but I loved this.

Frozen Cannoli: This is essentially a cannoli in sundae form. Incredibly tasty, and equally beautiful.

Dandy’s Decadent Cookie (with sweet milk ice cream): This baby is baked to order, and it is a massive, soft, delicious cookie with ice cream on top. This is my kind of dessert.

Burnt Lemon & Marshmallow Pie: I have a weakness for this type of stuff. It was a great twist on lemon meringue pie.

TCB Sundae: This is based on the Elvis sandwich. Burnt banana bread, caramelized banana, peanut butter ice cream, candied slab bacon, milk chocolate covered potato chips, and all of it draped in gold! Just like Elvis would want it baby! Chef Paul rocks harder than Elvis, if you ask me.

Holy shit. Is that everything? I’m dying to go back here. Get your ass out to Hoboken ASAP. You will thank me.

ANTIQUE BAR & BAKERY
122 Willow Ave
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Alice’s Arbor

Alice’s Arbor is a true farm-to-table concept in Brooklyn by Dimitri Vlahakis (Motorino, La Gamelle, Esperanto). They use products sourced from 13 local purveyors, and fresh pastries and bread from sister restaurant La Gamelle.

The menu features breakfast all day, like this hanger steak and eggs that I had for brunch:

That’s a great meal for just $15. The steak was a perfect medium rare with a nice crust on the outside. The black bean sauce was unique and delicious. 8/10. Eggs were exactly as ordered, and the paprika-spiced potatoes carried a nice comfortable heat.

They also offer signature sandwiches like the Banh Mi Croissant (braised chicken or pork with daikon, carrot, cucumber and jalapeño). We went with pork:

This reminded me a lot of the Thai dish called larb as posed to a classic banh mi. It was savory, pungent and flavorful like larb, only in sandwich format. The croissant was an interesting choice for the sandwich. It ties back to the French colonial and Vietnamese roots of banh mi, but there’s just something about a classic baguette that holds up really well  to the juiciness of these kinds of sandwiches. The flavors were great, but I ended up using my fork and knife to take this baby down. That said, I’d still eat this again for sure.

There’s also an exceptional selection of dinner entrees from the wood-burning oven, like Sullivan County Farms Trout filet over green beans and roasted fingerling potatoes in a lemon brown butter sauce, topped with almonds and capers.

Other favorites include the unique, customizable Mac & Cheese with spiral pasta, cheddar and goat cheese bechamel topped with toasted breadcrumbs (with optional add-ins of pulled pork, truffle oil or jalapeños); or the popular brunch items like crab hash with poached egg, lemon Hollandaise and greens.

Daily happy hour specials from 4p.m.-7p.m. include $5 for draft beer, $6 draft wine, $2 off well drinks and $1 oysters. Awesome deal!

The interior evokes cabin-esque ski lodge decor, perhaps from the northwest: An upcycled vintage vibe with aged brick walls, repurposed wood paneling and driftwood branch light fixtures. Very cool.

I definitely recommend hitting this joint.

ALICE’S ARBOR
549 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11216

Pat LaFrieda Meat Counter

I’ve been fixing to get to this spot in The Pennsy for a while, and I finally had the opportunity last weekend. I organized a bunch of Instagram food savages to come in and shoot pics, sample the menu and promote the LaFrieda brand, which I have come to love so much.

First up, the roast beef sandwich:

This baby is served cold cut style, with bleu cheese, horseradish aioli, pickled red onions and watercress on a toasted semolina roll.

It’s very difficult to choose a favorite among so many selections here. It really depends on what mood you’re in.

Next was the black Angus steak sandwich.

That’s sliced filet mignon with melted Monterey Jack cheese, caramelized onions, baby spinach and au jus on a toasted ciabatta roll. Awesome.

Grandpa’s meatball sandwich is pretty tight.

Tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella on a pressed ciabatta roll. Simple and delicious.

This fucker was intensely flavorful.

Slow roasted pork with broccoli rabe and melted provolone on a ciabatta roll. So juicy!

“World’s Greatest Hot Dog” is a bold claim for a menu item to make, but LaFrieda really delivers with this.

This baby is actually two hot dogs with honey mustard, caramelized onions and hot peppers.

As you can see, the dogs are split and grilled, which is a big win for me. I love that preparation.

And finally, the short rib platter.

This is slow roasted and maple glazed, served with greens and a celery root slaw.

For $15 this has to be one of the best buys in NYC for a steak.

This stuff is fork tender too. I was barely able to pick this up without it falling apart – that’s how soft it is!

Do yourself a favor and get this right away. 9/10.

My wife had the genius idea to pop all the items from the soft rib platter onto one of the LaFrieda homemade potato chips.

Pretty incredible! And wash it all down with fresh lemonade or iced tea from the taps.

PAT LAFRIEDA MEAT COUNTER
The Pennsy
2 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121

Esperanto

Esperanto is a fun, brightly colored Brazilian and South American food joint on 9th and C.

The open and inviting bar boasts a nice selection of unique cocktails, like the mazcalita, made with mescal, lime juice and ginger (right).

There’s even some hard to find Brazilian beers available, like Xingu and Itaipava.

For just $2 you can get these all served michelada style (with lime and tomato juice, which I love).

The first thing that Chef Cesar brought to the table was this really nice country style bread with their house made dipping oil, which is also available for sale by the bottle.

It’s infused with peppercorn, garlic, fennel, red pepper and herbs. It is absolutely delicious. I’ll definitely be going back to buy a bottle of this delicious potion.

My wife and I started with two apps. First was the fried goat cheese salad with cashew pesto.

This was really awesome. I’m usually not a huge fan of goat cheese, but this was so smooth and creamy inside. It was a great contrast to the crisp outside. And that pesto? Green gold!

This next app is far and away the best preparation of mussels that I’ve ever eaten. They’re roasted in a half shell and baked with garlic, paprika, butter and parmesan cheese.

Similar to escargot, this dish really packed a wallop of flavor, especially when you hit it with some of the fresh lime and cilantro. The parmesan turns into a really nice, crust over the top, adding another textural element of crunch.

It’s funny, too, because I was just explaining escargot to someone the other day who had never eaten them. I described it as being like mussels, but baked with butter, garlic and herbs as opposed to steamed in a pot.

We tried two entrees. First was the moqueca, a traditional South American stew made with coconut milk, ginger, cashews and spices.

We chose shrimp as the main protein, but you can also choose snapper or a mix of snapper and shrimp. This dish reminded us of a Thai or Indian curry dish, but less spicy. However, the “fixins” will set that distinction aside some, as this dish comes with a jar of pickled hot peppers and farofa (cassava meal starch, for thickening the stew is desired). Add one or both to your desired levels of spice and/or thickness.

We also tried the Argentinian style grilled hanger steak.

This comes with homemade guacamole and chimichurri sauce, a side of rice, and a side of stewed black beans.

The steak comes out pre-sliced and cooked to a nice medium rare. When you slather the sauce and guac onto a slice of steak, you’re entering a blissful and exciting meat eating experience. The flavors really pop!

For dessert we tried two items; the homemade coconut flan and the chocolate lava cake. I’m usually not a fan of lava cake, mostly because it is never executed correctly and the middle firms up too much. That wasn’t the case here. The inside was warm and ooey-gooey, and the vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to cool down after each mouth-warming bite.

The coconut flan was awesome! It had a really nice firm, custardy texture. It had threads of fresh coconut mixed into the custard too, to offer an additional pop of coconut flavor with each bite.

This was a great meal, and I look forward to going back. Esperanto has daily happy hour specials, and nightly entertainment like bands and DJs. It’s really a great place. They even have a fresh juice bar off to the side of the restaurant.

Give this place a shot!

ESPERANTO
145 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009

Charrua

I came to Charrua with a crew of food influencers to sample some of the menu offerings during their weekend brunch, and take photos for Instagram. Here’s a smattering of what we tried:

Best of the meal goes to the sausages: mild chorizo and blood. The blood sausage was probably the best I’ve ever had.

Empanadas

This chivito (sandwich) was called “El Canadiense.”

It contained filet mignon, bacon, mozzarella, ham, hard-boiled egg, caramelized onion, roasted red peppers, olives, lettuce, tomato and mayo, served with homemade fries. It was good!

The steak was overcooked, but it still had some good flavor despite being gray almost entirely through the center. 5/10.

I also tasted some of the grilled skirt steak on a mixed platter. This was also overcooked, but as badly as the hanger steak. The texture, however, wasn’t quite as nice as the hanger. 4/10.

In short: sausage – excellent; sandwich – good; steak; order it rare.

CHARRUA
131 Essex St
New York, NY 10002

Pig Bleecker

This joint offers some of the most unique and delicious dishes I’ve come across in a while. I went with a group of food Instagrammers to help the restaurant get some pics out to the masses, so we were able to sample a lot of stuff.

First off, the cocktails are really creative.

If you like apertif type drinks, try the Greyfriar or the Donna Reed. I generally shy away from them due to the bitter element, but these were extremely tasty and have me re-thinking the entire class. My favorites, though: Old Smokey, I’m on Fire and Deacon Blues.

Take a look at the food menu.

Everything looks/sounds good because everything IS good. I’m serious. Every item we tried was not only good but often times outstanding. I seriously think this is my new favorite restaurant.

Okay on to the goods. I apologize in advance for some of the pics that I didn’t bother editing. I was primarily concerned with getting just a few to look great for Instagram, in particular the steak, burger and fried chicken dishes.

These little corn bread wafers are a nice change from standard table bread in a basket.

SNACKS

The Pecan Candied Bacon is served in a mason jar. They reminded me of the stuff my wife makes, only without the spicy element.

The Deviled Steak & Eggs is essentially a deviled egg with steak tartare under the whipped yolk. Excellent bites.

STARTERS

If there’s only one thing Chef Matt Abdoo should have as his legacy, it’s his ability to make incredible sauces. These BBQ Chicken Lollipops feature one of those amazing sauces. They are fantastic.

Grandma Val’s Meatballs are really great. Again, that sauce is killer.

This next dish of fried cod cheeks was not on the menu, but they might have been one of my favorite dishes of the night. I could easily eat bucket-loads of these. Nice light and puffy batter, simply garnished with pickled peppers and scallions. Awesome.

I’m usually not a fan of cooked oysters, but the Grilled Oysters here definitely changed my mind.

MAINS

Brisket Ravioli with black truffle butter? Yup. They even shaved a bunch on top, table-side.

Beautiful.

We shared the Bleecker Burger, which is probably now one of my new favorites. It’s in the style of a Big Mac; double patty, special sauce (yeah – it’s an incredible sauce). Nearly flawless in execution. As a friend pointed out, it just needs an element of crisp, whether from the patty or a leaf of iceberg. The house pickles are perfect.

The Linguine Cacio e Pepe and Lasagne dishes were both nicely executed as well, but I didn’t get a shot of either, unfortunately.

FOR THE TABLE

Let me start with the amazing Smoked & Fried Chicken. This is a whole chicken, and it’s expertly breaded and perfectly fried.

I enjoyed this more than Ando and Ma Peche, which seem to be the top of the pack for many fried chicken aficionados.

Again, the sauces that come with this are amazing.

But the waffles with whipped sweet and salted butter were the real show stoppers. I’ve never had a waffle that tasted so good.

The chicken comes with cheesy grits, which are fantastic.

Here comes the big daddy: the Tomahawk Chop with Smoked Beef Rib. Essentially, steak and brisket.

This is an aged Pat Lafrieda cut that has been lightly smoked before being properly finished off as a steak. It’s served with smoked cap and brisket, and another amazing steak sauce.

This steak tastes like a delicious hybrid between BBQ and traditional steakhouse fare.

It’s smokey and sweet, but also earthy and savory. It really blew me away. 10/10.

SIDES

The Mac & Cheese is really tasty, and topped with a cheese powder that will take you back to your childhood.

These Hand Cut French Fries are more like flattened and squashed baked potatoes. Very good, and not the same as the shoestring style fries that come with the burger.

The Utica Greens are made with escarole, which I love to see on menus. This really popped from the smokey bacon and cherry peppers.

Finally, we tried the Anson Mills Grits, which I also liked very much.

DESSERT

Mason Jar Oreo Cheesecake. Velvety and delicious.

Mango Sorbet with Yogurt Chips & Fresh Mango. So bright and flavorful.

Karen’s Key Lime Pie. Perfect rendition of this classic.

Brownie Hot Fudge Sundae with Virginia Peanuts. Decadent.

Buckeye Milkshake (like a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream shake). This is something special. Not only is it gorgeous, but it is filling, yummy and satisfying.

They were all awesome, and overall this was an amazing meal. I can’t wait to go back and try their 155 Steak, a Teres Major/Shoulder Tender cut, so keep an eye out for updates.

UPDATE 4/18/17 – 155 STEAK

This shoulder tender is awesome.

It has all the softness you’d expect from a filet mignon, but the flavor character of a rib eye.

Although it was cooked more like medium than medium rare, it still packed a lot of oomph. It was slightly sweet yet savory, had a good crust on the outside, and was super tender and juicy inside. At just $28, this is a steal. 8/10.

PIG BLEECKER
155 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10012

Stinky Cheese Week

FREE DESSERT ALERT!!!

Stinky Cheese Week is actually a thing! To celebrate, L’Express and Cafe D’Alsace (and all restaurants within the ownership’s group) are offering a special menu of selections that feature various stinky cheeses.

Okay so I said something about free dessert up above… Well, here is the explanation: I was invited in to try some food in order to let my readers know all about Stinky Cheese Week. If you go into one of their restaurants and mention the words “say cheese” and my blog or instagram account, they will comp you with a free dessert! The participating restaurants are Cafe D’Alsace, Le Monde, L’Express, Nice Matin, French Roast (both uptown and downtown) and Marseille.

Below are my reviews for both L’Express and Cafe D’Alsace.

L’EXPRESS
249 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003

My wife and I shared the raclette cheese and salumi platter as an app. This was pretty great. The cheese was stretchy and warm, and the meats were good quality.

I had the rib eye steak frites for my entree. The fries were nice and crisp, and the steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare.

While the steak was thinly cut, this isn’t a bad deal for just $29. The cap was tender and there wasn’t much gristle on it. The roquefort cheese and onion sauce really kicked this thing up a notch too.

My wife had the stinky cheese plate for her entree. Some of these fuckers were really funky!

And for dessert, a stinky cheese panna cotta that had a jam topping. This would have been perfect on a bagel, as the panna cotta was thick and had a texture and flavor similar to cream cheese.

CAFE D’ALSACE
1695 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10128

I started with a glass of mint tea. This was a really nice way to start a cheese-centric meal.

A buddy and I shared the frisee salad with bacon and egg. Very nicely done, and I was impressed with the addition of pork rinds.

For my entree, I went with the hanger steak frites, of course.

It was topped with a melted morbier cheese, caramelized onions and a red wine sauce.

I liked this steak more than the rib eye from L’Express. It had a great texture and thickness to it, and it was cooked perfectly with a nice crust on the outside as well.

The fries were great! Very crisp and nicely seasoned.

My buddy ordered the duck l’orange. It was pretty good but the steak was definitely the winning dish for the entrees.

For dessert, we shared an apple tart with vanilla ice cream. Not only was this beautiful, but it was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend ordering this.

Sel et Poivre

FIRST REVIEW 4/10/2014

Thanks to new friend and fellow food blogger The Restaurant Fairy, I was recently hooked up with a restaurant PR person who is in charge of setting up press dinners for restaurants that are looking to generate detailed reviews and additional news coverage to build customers or put a spotlight on a new/special menu at their establishment. I’m hoping to attend more of these types of press dinners in the future. With any luck some wealthy benefactor will discover me and fund a new career for me in the world of food writing. The goal is to become a professional diner.

Anyway, my first press dinner in this vein was at French joint Sel et Poivre. For you proud, dirty American apes out there who don’t know or care too much about other languages, that means Salt and Pepper.

The restaurant has been in business here for decades. Owners Christian and Pamela are a husband and wife duo who take turns managing the place each night. They’ve been a team here for about 8 years, and for decades prior the restaurant was run by Pamela and her mother. This year Christian and Pamela are celebrating their 25th anniversary so be ready for some special menus coming this spring/summer season.

The atmosphere is very local and homey. Walls are adorned with old black and white photos of family travels. There’s a classic, clean French bistro feel to the place, and the 65-person seating capability is intimate without being stuffy or crowded.

So how’s the service? Amazing. Waiters here aren’t just people toiling away at their job. These are men with long careers. The newest employee other than the bar staff has been there for 7 years, and veteran waiters have loyalty in the 25-30 year range. The chef has been there for that long, and the staff still manages to keep the menu interesting and new while always retaining the classics that some people have been coming back to eat for years. Impressive, and that speaks volumes about the management and quality of the joint. Christian himself is a stand-up guy. A class act. He’s funny, talkative, approachable, kind, warm, inviting and a great host. Within moments of talking with him you feel as if you’ve known him all your life.

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Located on Lex at 64th, the customers range from shoppers, to business people, to tourists. But their bread and butter are the locals, some of whom come in several times per week for specific dishes that they’ve been enjoying for generations. One family has been dining here for 4 generations. Even the landlord eats there, who has had the building property in his family since it was a cow grazing pasture in the 1600s. I’m serious.

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Okay so on to the good stuff. Note that the portion sizes in my pics are all smaller than the actual menu items (except for the desserts). Press dinner portions are typically smaller so that more stuff can be tried. Here’s what we had:

First was a celery root remoulade with red beets. There was a distinctly Mediterranean flavor in this dish, likely because of the cumin spicing. I enjoyed it. It was a cool, refreshing way to open up the taste buds.

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Next we had wild striped bass with artichoke hearts, fennel and black olive lemon oil. The fish was perfectly cooked with its crisp skin still intact. This was also very Mediterranean in its flavor profile. Light and fresh. And I must say that the artichoke was one of the best preparations I’ve ever had outside of mom’s home cooking.

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Steak was next. An aged sirloin to be exact. It was juicy and flavorful, had a nicely seasoned crust, and was cooked to a perfect medium rare.

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The beef was served with two sauces: roquefort and poivre.

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I only took a pic of one because they looked and tasted similar to me, though one was clearly more peppery. Both were drinkable, however. They went especially well with the cone of crispy and savory fries that came with the steak. Delicious.

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Next was a bit of offal! Veal kidneys with an amazing mustard sauce, boiled potatoes and spinach.

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Kidneys aren’t for everyone. This was my first time eating kidney. It was a bit mealy and chewy in parts, but the flavor was delicate and nice. The sauce did a great job of bringing out the game flavors without letting them overpower you. I ate every bite!

For dessert we had classic French creme brulee and chocolate lava cake.

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They were both very nicely executed, well-balanced, and not overly sweet. The cake came with some fresh whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, and the brulee had a nice consistency and great caramelized sugar on top.

Last, I should also note that the wine selection here is extensive. Having broadened the scope from French and California wines to include stuff from New Zealand and South America, Christian and Pamela have modernized their wine selection to stay on pace with an increasingly knowledgeable caliber of diners. This is probably because Christian is also a sommelier, so he knows what pairs well with the dishes outside of French-only wines.

I look forward to going back for lunch or dinner to try some of their other amazing menu items, like frog legs, or to try their classic French daily special dishes (Bouillabaisse Monday; Coq Au Vin Tuesday; etc).

If you like classic French food then this is a great place to go, and they also modernize and freestyle very well with some of their other dishes.

UPDATE 3/8/2017

I went back to Sel et Poivre for another press dinner. We tried a few different items this time, and I was able to meet Pamela, the other half of the dynamic duo behind their French bistro (which is now coming up on its 28th year in business).

The celery root and beets were just as good as I remembered, this time more artistically plated.

The fish soup was really fun. It comes with a plate of toasted baguette slices, roue and shredded Swiss cheese. The idea is to spread the garlicky, spicy roue onto a slice of bread and they sprinkle the shredded Swiss on top. Then, you float it in the soup and let it all melt together and combine into a velvety consistency.

It was delicious. The fish was clearly present, yet subtle and not overly powerful. I could easily slurp down a few bowls of this.

The brook trout was really nicely cooked and had great flavors from the shaved almonds and tangy white wine and lemon sauce.

It was prepared skin-on, but I felt that it could have used a bit more crisp on the skin. Perhaps because it was plated skin-down, the skin lost some of the crisp it might have developed while cooking. Otherwise this was an excellent dish.

This lamb rib was perfectly cooked. So juicy and tender, with a nice mild game flavor. The outer edges were coated with peppery spices that penetrated deep into the meat. My favorite dish of the night.

I was excited to see the steak come out (sirloin). While I had already tried it in the past, this time I was able to see the full portion size – with a beautiful pre-sliced presentation – on a bed of mustard-based peppercorn sauce.

It was a perfect medium rare execution!

This baby still had all the same qualities as the last visit, only this time there was only the one sauce and a more pronounced peppercorn crust. Further, the last time featured an aged cut, while this one was not aged, as far as I could tell.

The fries that are served with the steak were golden and crispy.

Dessert was nice. We tried some profiteroles and a berry tart.

The berry tart was gorgeous, and was easily my preferred dessert between the two.

SEL ET POIVRE
853 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10065

Ikinari Steak

Formerly the location of Prime & Beyond, Ikinari switches up this dedicated steak spot from Korean to Japanese, only this joint lowers the price tag “big league” and creates a casual, standing-only environment.

What a great bargain for good quality meat! All of their beef is choice grade from Aurora Packing in Illinois, and wet-aged at least 40 days. Most importantly, the beef is cooked properly and treated with respect. But what’s surprising is that, for a “fast food” style joint, this place can actually compete with mom and pop restaurants (and even some big name steakhouses) on quality and flavor, for sure. And definitely on price.

Here’s how it works: You pay 8-11 cents per gram, telling the butchers exactly how thick you want your cut of steak. They offer filet, sirloin and rib eye.

Naturally, I had a proper sized steak cut from each:

I’m fat. Here’s what my bill would have looked like, had this not been a press/media event:

There are a variety of sauces and condiments to use for both your salads/sides and steaks. I was prone to keep hitting the wasabi.

The Ikinari sauce is thicker and sweeter, while the hot steak sauce has a little bit of spice and is a thinner liquid. Both are soy based.

The onion and pepper dressings went nicely with the radish salad. This was a small size:

So after choosing your cuts, the guys cook it up for you and you wait for them to bring it over to your standing/eating area.

Very casual! The steaks then come out sizzling on a cast iron plate with corn and onions.

Here are some more shots of that sirloin:

They serve the steaks rare, so that you can continue to cook it to your desired temperature directly on the hot skillet. I pretty much left mine as-is.

Here’s the filet:

Freaking HUGE for just $27.

And cooked perfectly inside.

My rib eye was cut a bit on a diagonal, and thinner than the other two, but no matter. It was excellent, and since I ate all of these steaks myself, like a real man, I didn’t mind so much.

The filet was tops, with rib eye close behind (if not tied), and sirloin next. If I had to put numbers on them, they’d all be in the upper 70th percentile for flavor, especially if you add some of the earthy sauces into the mix.

When you think about how much steakhouses are charging for on-par and sometimes lower flavor scores than these, it makes you question the entire steak scene!

Another thing worth mentioning: the pepper garlic rice was wildly tasty! It even had bits of steak thrown into it, and it also comes out on a sizzling cast iron plate.

Mix it all up and then let it sit and sizzle, so that a good, tasty crisp develops on the bottom of that rice.

Essentially, this place is everything that you wish Tad’s could be. You go into a place like Tad’s (do you even go in?) with high hopes and a hunger for steaks while you’re on the go. But, without question, it fails you, every time. The meat sucks, and  it’s cooked like garbage.

Ikinari won’t let you down. I’ve eaten hundreds and hundreds of steaks in this great city, and I can tell you that this is a fantastic value, striking a bizarre but fascinating and attractive balance between steakhouse quality and budget dining. Give it a shot! Just don’t go there when your feet ache, because, as I said earlier, STANDING ONLY!

IKINARI STEAK
90 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003