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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The beef was served with two sauces: roquefort and poivre.
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.
Next was a bit of offal! Veal kidneys with an amazing mustard sauce, boiled potatoes and spinach.
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.
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.
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
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!
Wolfgang Puck just opened up a new location of his steakhouse “Cut” in downtown Manhattan. Of course I had to check it out. A buddy and I came here with our ladies to get down on some steak.
We were able to sample three different cuts: rib eye, sirloin and tenderloin. All three hailed from Creekstone Farms, and all three were bone-in.
The rib eye here is a solid 8/10. It felt a bit small for 20oz, but as you can see it had a great outer crust.
Inside was perfectly cooked. Check out the cut:
Where it fell short, for me, was the cap. There wasn’t much to it, unfortunately. The eye was delicious though, and I think it was the most flavorful cut of the night. I didn’t get pics of the other two.
I’m giving the tenderloin a 9/10. It had that same great sear and same great cook temp. The flavor was excellent for a tenderloin, too.
The sirloin was not marketed as a NY strip or strip loin, so I am considering it to be an “other cut” for categorization purposes. In all likelihood, it was probably a strip, but one can never be certain without actually doing the butchering oneself. This was an 8/10. Again, same great crisp and cook, and the flavor was nice for a lean cut, though I did prefer the rib eye and tenderloin over the sirloin.
As for the sauces, well, each steak comes with a free sauce on the side. There are about six to eight to choose from. We tried a bunch: house steak sauce, bernaise, creamy horseradish, and yuzu. While I prefer my steak naked, the best of the lot was the horseradish. Their house steak sauce was a bit aggressive on the tarragon (I think that’s what it was in there – not rosemary).
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
This place is truly amazing in terms of available cuts and quality. A quick scan of their menu reveals that they not only offer all of the main steakhouse cuts in various sizes, but you can also choose by farm. They offer stuff from Kansas (Creekstone), Illinois (corn-finished), Ithaca New York (grass-finished), and Snake River (American Wagyu). On top of that, they feature legit Miyazaki beef from Japan as well. You can even order a tasting that will give you 4oz from various farms, that way you can actually taste the difference between them. Currently, they only do this with the sirloin – not the rib eye. Honestly I don’t think any other steakhouse has this extensive of a selection.
As if the cuts of beef for steaks aren’t enough variety, they also feature wagyu beef short rib and wagyu beef sashimi. Amazing.
Oh, and they bring the shit out to show you, too.
Portion Size & Plating: 7
Portions could be a bit larger here for the pricing. I understand the cost of high-end beef, but at $88 for 9oz of American wagyu rib eye, you are getting ripped off. If that’s what I am going for, I will happily just head the fuck over to Del Frisco’s to get 23oz more wagyu beef for an additional $7 (32oz, $95). And that fucker is a clear 10/10 score on flavor – one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten.
See my rant on portion size above for some weight here as well. But in addition to that issue, I felt that some of the items were way overpriced for what we were getting. In particular, the marrow app, the tortolloni, and the mac and cheese.
The bar is pretty cool, and there are some great cocktails and booze selections available. However the prices are a bit too high (a non-alcoholic “mocktail” was fucking $14), and I was hoping for a more street side experience. The bar is just off the lobby of the apartment building / hotel with no view of the downtown streets, so the vibe is slightly off a bit.
Specials and Other Meats: 9
There are no off-menu specials, with the exception of an addition that was not yet printed – another offering of steak. But there’s chicken, pork and lamb for alternative meat selections, if for some reason you are avoiding all the tasty beef on the menu. The app selections also feature veal tongue, suckling pig, and bone marrow flan. Really interesting.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
We tried a bunch of stuff. Let’s get right down to business.
The mac and cheese was really tasty, but insanely overpriced at $16. Apologies for not getting a photo of it.
The suckling pig and pork belly was excellent. Not as salty as I was expecting, but really nicely plated. Also overpriced at $25 for six cubes that were the size of large Las Vegas gambling dice.
Bone marrow flan was very nice, but overpriced and small in size. It was similar to the creme brûlée from Beatrice Inn, only savory.
Broccolini was fantastic. I highly recommend this item. Topped with shaved cheese and adorned with roasted tomatoes, one cannot possibly go wrong.
Tortolloni was overpriced for seven small dumplings. They were nice and mild though, which is exactly what my wife wanted.
Doughnuts dessert came with about six doughnut holes, all the same flavor (granulated sugar coated). Some of the purees that came with it weren’t that good (sweet potato), but the ice cream was nice.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s lobster, “loup de mer” (branzino), cod and sole on the seafood menu here. Scallop preparations, hamachi, a crab and lobster cocktail and a tuna tartare can be found on the app menu. Not too shabby, though I didn’t notice any oysters or clams.
One thing worth noting here is that you can add a variety of nice items to your order (for a fee, of course). But you can add a fried egg, white truffles, blue cheese, mushrooms, garlic, bone marrow, etc. to the steaks you order.
Bread is on point. The table receives a basket of mini pop-overs (we got a second basket) and five different style dinner rolls/breads to choose from with a nice whipped butter. All are delicious. My advice is to fill up on bread and share a really good, high end steak.
This place suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. There are two huge panels on one wall that show a kind of cheese-bag conversation between a chef and a woman. We surmised that this had something to do with how Wolfgang Puck met his wife, and it turned out we were right (our waitress overheard us talking and confirmed it when we asked).
The dining room was vast and dark; a bit too sexy for my liking. And the random neon lighting at the bar felt a bit too “Miami Vice.”
The Four Seasons Hotel
99 Church St or 27 Barclay St
New York, NY 10007
At first, I thought I was just going to taste some cocktails made with Woodford, but it turned out to be a nice sit-down meal. As a result, I am offering my sincere apologies for these shitty photos that I had to snap with my phone.
The joint is classy inside, and the walls are lined with derby hats as lights. Of course, I wore my derby hat to fit the scene.
The food here is top notch, and the manager, Nick, is a great guy. In the future he may do some large format “beast feasts” on the menu. I’m really looking forward to that. But let me get down to what we sampled.
Spicy steak tartare. This stuff is good! But the chilies will knock you on your ass if you aren’t equipped to handle the heat like a real man. I loved this dish.
Crispy calamari. Amazing crunch on these, so perfectly cooked.
Double cut bacon. Very nice braised texture. Really awesome.
Loved the side addition of pickles on the plate as well.
Now on to the entrees. We tried their burger, which is nicely customizable in terms of cheeses and toppings. The patty is nice and thick, but the burger doesn’t feel too tall or large. It eats neat too, and the flavors are dynamite.
Chicken parm with bolognese sauce. Wow! Beef and chicken living in harmony together.
Nick sources his beef from DeBragga and LaFrieda, so whatever he is offering will be excellent quality. He even offers a culotte on occasion. On this night, there were two different cuts of steak frites offerings. The first of two steak frites: the hanger with chimichurri sauce.
This baby was cooked so perfectly. Nice and tender inside, pink all the way, with a nice charred crisp on the outside.
The strip steak frites was deceivingly great. I thought for sure I was going to like the hanger better, but the sauce on this was perfect.
These pics don’t do it justice, but the cook temp on the strip was proper. It looks like medium but it was really somewhere between medium and medium rare.
Both of these come in at a strong 8/10, but if you want a 9 or 10 point experience, you should order the hanger steak frites with the au poivre sauce rather than the chimichurri. That combination is fucking incredible.
Dessert is on point too. We tried creme brûlée, apple pie and cookies. No idea how I had room for dessert, but somehow I managed. Probably because this shit was delicious.
I highly recommend this place. It just opened a few weeks ago or a month or two ago, and the menu changes up from time to time depending on whats good and fresh. The prices are very affordable and the quality is excellent.
THE BLACK DERBY
310 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10014
Little Frog is a new French bistro that just opened up a few months ago on East 86th street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. I came here with a bunch of food enthusiasts and bloggers for a press dinner. Here’s what we tried:
This flatbread comes nicely packaged and warm inside of a paper bag with the Little Frog logo stamped on it.
It may not strike you as a particularly French item, but lamb meatballs here are served with a dollop of labneh (a Lebanese style of cream cheese) and a host of Mediterranean spices, paying tribute to the old French colonies in North Africa, no doubt.
It’s tough to compete with Mom’s homemade meatballs, but these were tasty nonetheless.
Duck Liver Foie Gras:
Beautiful and delicious. Super smooth texture, nice and velvety. If you like this sort of thing, please get it. This was my favorite app.
Can’t go wrong here. The thick slices of tender, braised bacon sit on a bed of delicious lentils. This is a winner, so I shot it twice.
I’ve had more tender tentacle in my day, but that doesn’t mean that this was tough by any means. The dressing was perfect and the flavors really popped.
This is served with lemon sabayon and capers, but it sits on a bed of crispy quinoa that really adds an awesome textural element to the dish. It stands out as a really great app.
Beets & Kale:
This salad was simple and tasty. Far be it from me, the meat guy, to praise a salad, but this hit the spot after dipping into some of the more meaty apps earlier.
Okay now onward to the entrees. We started with this incredible duck flambe.
This is one of the better duck dishes I’ve had. The meat was super tender and tasty, and the skin remained crisp and flavorful, with all fat rendered out nicely.
The steak au poivre is a top sirloin cut that’s smothered with peppercorns and then topped with gravy. Ours was cooked to about medium, but it still remained very juicy from the gravy. Also, the tenderness of the cut surprised me; I’m usually apprehensive about top sirloin, but this was good stuff. 7/10.
The Coq Au Vin was a bit dry at the outer edges, but the tenderness and juiciness of the inner meat made up for it in spades.
A few of us claimed that this was the best entree of the night, though the others were ready to throw down in a pitched battle to defend the duck.
If you’re still hungry, get the ice cream sundae for multiple diners. It comes served in a massive bowl, complete with a lit sparkler shooting out the top. I took this shot after the sparkler was removed:
A food photographer buddy of mine, Ben (check out his IG page), invited my wife and me to come along with him and a few other food influencer folks to Fish Bar, NYC’s newest floating dining room, which sets sail up and down the Hudson so people can enjoy some spectacular views of the skyline and Statue of Liberty while they eat.
It was a windy night, and bitter cold, so I didn’t want to fight with my settings too much to get all the good night shots. But I did get this fun shot of Jeff (FoodMento) giving some love to Lady Liberty.
In fact, this is probably the best free way to see the Statue of Liberty. Skip the Staten Island ferry “tour” and do this instead.
This shoves off from the same dock area as (and is owned by the same company that runs) the North River Lobster boat. While it is also free to ride, the Fish Bar boat offers a nicer view and a much more elegant menu.
We tried a lot of stuff, since there were six of us at the table. Let me get right down to it.
Drinks: Every cocktail we tried was incredibly strong. While that may be a good thing for those looking to get tanked, I was a little turned off by it. If I want straight alcohol, I will order a bourbon or a scotch. Shit even a martini.
Charcuterie Board: This was a home run. For $28 you get a lot of really nice sliced meats. My favorite was the spicy salami, which was almost like a chorizo.
Cheese Board: This was another win. There was a great selection of high quality cheeses. The only think missing was something of the oozing variety, like a super soft brie.
Mezze: This platter included classic Greek spreadables like hummus and olive tapenade. All of them were good.
Arancini: These rice balls were crisp on the outside but lacked a robust enough flavor on the inside to really justify getting them again. It just needed a pop of something, perhaps a truffle oil or something more earthy.
Oysters: These were lightly batter-fried, which goes against my religion for oysters. In any event they were still pretty good. A bit pricey, but enjoyable.
Ceviche: It was refreshing to see this made with actual fish instead of shrimp or scallops. Topped with fried plantain chips, it was a nice presentation that featured the vehicle for delivering the ceviche into your gullet.
Octopus: This was pretty good. It didn’t come in as my favorite, but it certainly wasn’t a failed menu item. I always get worried about octopus and whether it will be cooked properly when i see it offered, but that wasn’t a real concern here.
Mussels: These were a little disappointing. They didn’t taste bad, but they did have a slightly burned taste, almost as if the shells were sitting against the metal of a hot pot for too long. I think that flavor permeated the sauce and then that got all over the exposed mussels.
Burrata: This had a good hint of truffle oil to make it pop. The cheese was soft and velvety. Very nice.
Risotto: This was decent. It had some good flavors from the various seafood and sausage components, like a paella, but it didn’t stand out as anything incredible to me.
Calamari: These babies were delicious. They were served with sliced and fried cherry peppers, which gave it a spicy kick without going too far. I really liked this dish.
Crab Salad: This lump crab meat salad was pretty tasty. All around good quality. No complaints, but then again nothing that really made it stand out from the pack. The plantain chips from the ceviche would have actually worked well here.
Grilled Vegetables: This was served to us in error, as we didn’t order it. The array wasn’t bad, however, with the exception of the odd tasting broccolini that was included.
Squid Ink Spaghetti: I had higher hopes for this, being we were on a boat with a seafood-heavy menu. The sauce was basically just like melted butter with the flavors of shrimp or lobster shells infused. On the plus side, the pasta itself was cooked nicely and wasn’t overpowering with the ink flavor. In addition, the seafood that was mixed in with it was perfectly cooked.
Skirt Steak: Unfortunately this was under-seasoned and unevenly cooked. Part was overcooked, and part was correct at medium rare. The meat itself wasn’t tough or low quality; it just needed a bit more finesse. 5/10.
Branzino: This fillet was the big winner of the night for the entrees. The skin was nicely crisped on the outside, and the flesh was cooked just right and remained tender, juicy and flaky.
Walnut Cake: We were all pretty excited for this, but I think it sort of missed the mark or didn’t meet our expectations. I guess, perhaps, I was expecting more of a pie type item, like pecan pie. That’s my mistake though, not Fish Bar’s. In any case this was similar to a pound cake in flavor and texture.
Chocolate Ganache: This was the winner for dessert. The layers inside were nicely diverse and the chocolate itself was rich without being too overwhelming.
In short, I’d definitely come back here for the fantastic and free views of NYC from a beautiful small cruise ship when the weather is nice. And I’d certainly sit down and enjoy some charcuterie, fine cheeses, calamari and branzino any day.
Beatrice Inn is a cozy West Village chophouse that’s headed up by Chef Angie Mar, who made her bones under April Bloomfield and other big time chefs before striking out with her own meat-centric restaurant. Actually, you may recall an earlier experience I had with her food at Meatopia last year. She was roasting wild boar that day, and it was delicious.
Just thinking about the fucking awesomeness of that day again gives me a chubby… If you haven’t seen it, jump out to that link above and scroll through some of the pics. It was a meat eater’s heaven.
Anyway I’ve decided to treat this review as a kind of “sneak peak,” since I know with a high degree of certainty that I will be back again in the near future to try other items, and also to make sure my wife tries what I consider to be one of the best dishes in the city (I hope the suspense is killing you).
Another caveat I will mention here: I was struggling with whether to categorize this as a steakhouse or just a standard restaurant that happens to be very meat-centric. You’d think that after rating over 100 steakhouses and 60 steaks at non-steakhouses, I’d have a better grip on this shit. But Beatrice Inn is a different kind of joint, and it threw me for a loop because it’s not just about the beef; it showcases a shitload of variety in terms of animal proteins. It may not matter to avid readers who actually pay attention to my words over the numbers, but squeezing this review into my ranking system yields an artificially low score due to the constraints of my imperfect ranking system. Another reason I decided to treat this as a steakhouse is because what Chef Angie is doing is pretty unique, and she’s kicking some serious ass in a world that’s heavily dominated by male chefs. Now, you know me: I’m not one to get all “women’s lib” when talking about female chefs, but aside from Ruth Fertel (founder of Ruth’s Chris), she’s really the only other woman that comes to mind who owns/operates a restaurant that is almost 100% meat, steak, animal carcass, etc.
Last caveat: I was dining with a large group of people when I came here, most of whom I did not know very well, so I would have felt awkward taking my time shooting photos of everything the way I normally do. No one wants to eat cold food! Next time I will make sure the photos are more numerous and better quality.
So let’s (finally) get down to business…
This flavor score is an average score between ONLY the two cuts of beef that we tried; the 60-day dry aged cote de boeuf, and the 20-day dry aged wagyu hanger steak. It does not include the other items we tried, like the duck and pork shoulder, which I discuss below in the “other meats” section. Once I return to try more beef items, this score is likely to shift upward, since I saved one item that I really want to sink my teeth into for when I return with my wife (the 127-day whisky dry aged tomahawk rib eye, as seen on The Meat Show).
But anyway, back to the delicious shit we actually did try.
First the cote de boeuf:
This was served with roasted garlic, marrow, blistered blackberries, charred prawn butter and thyme. It had a really unique woody, smoky, charred flavor to it that grew on me as I continued eating. I had never really tasting anything like it before. It was well-rested and cooked to a beautiful medium rare with minimal grey-banding and hardly any myoglobin “bleed out.”
Since we shared this with a table of seven, we asked the kitchen to slice it up, which they gladly did for us.
While there wasn’t much spinalis dorsi (fat cap) on this cut, I didn’t really expect it due to the long dry-aging time. Remember: dry-aging beef causes it to lose nearly 30% of its weight, and then you have to trim the bark off, which, unfortunately, sometimes happens at the sacrifice of some cap meat.
The real star of our beef entrees was this 20-day dry aged wagyu hanger steak. It seems that this was the table favorite for the beef.
Dedicating less time to aging this cut is smart, since the hanger itself isn’t very big to begin with; any longer and you may risk having to trim off too much bark. Also, with a cut like hanger, which is normally pretty well-marbled to begin with, you are really doubling down on the intensification of flavor that you get from the dry aging process. The result for this cut is amazing. It’s one of the best hanger steaks I’ve had. It was super tender and juicy, and perfectly cooked. The beef flavor really stands out here as well, since it was wisely prepared in a more simple manner, with shallot butter and thyme. After all, they don’t call this cut the “butcher’s steak” without good reason!
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7
Take this number with a grain of salt, as it skews low due to the limitations of my review categories. Beatrice doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly into the “steakhouse” genre, but since they offer so many wonderful animal proteins, I had to include it as one. While Beatrice only offers one traditional steakhouse cut (rib eye, in two forms) and one “other cut” (hanger steak), they really knock the shit out of the “quality” aspect to this section as well as the “other meats” category below. Most of the beef, from what I understand, comes from Pat LaFrieda, who is a standard bearer for high quality beef, especially in the Northeast. No filet. No strip. No porterhouse. I probably wouldn’t order those anyway, given all the other goodies that grace the menu here.
Portion Size & Plating: 10
Portions are generous and plating is beautiful without getting into the pretense of tweezers and excessive plate-wiping. It’s exactly what you want from a nice meal of this type.
I think our table enjoyed a bit of a discount since one of the people we were with is best friends with the chef. In any case, given the pricey location of the restaurant and the high quality of the menu items, it’s only natural that this place can be expensive. Luckily there are lots of “for two” or “for the table” items available that can be shared to defray costs. And the hands-down best item I tried (see “other meats” below) is a mere $27 entree. So there’s really something for every budget here. Even the high rollers can enjoy truffle- and duck egg-topped burgers for $90, or a whisky dry-aged steak that’s about $600 for a 50oz tomahawk.
This joint was jumping even as we were leaving after 11pm on a Wednesday. The bar is ground floor level and feels like a speakeasy. There are some seats in a lounge type spot by the windows, and a warm fireplace at the end of the bar. In fact there are fireplaces all over this joint! I love it. The cocktail menu is really special too, with lots of unique takes on old classics.
I recommend the smoked Manhattan, which fills the room with a really woody aroma every time someone orders it. If you want something more refreshing and crisp, try the Big Poppa, made with truffled gin, citrus and egg whites.
Specials and Other Meats: 10
There aren’t enough points available to award here. Only 10? Here’s a list of the other meats on the menu: applewood smoked rabbit for two, milk braised pork shoulder, lamb wellington for two, chicken for two to four people, roast duck flambe for two to four people, beef cheek, braised oxtail, and whatever other specials the chef is working on in the kitchen that day or week. It’s fucking amazing.
We tried the roast duck flambe. Here’s how it comes to the table:
It had a really nice smoked flavor and is served with cherry jus, fingerlings and lyonnaise.
Once the presentation is made with the flames, they take it away and chop it up for easy consuming.
The absolute best item we tried, and what I submit to be one of the best pork dishes I’ve ever had, is the milk braised pork shoulder with jasmine rice soubise, hen of the woods mushrooms and sage.
Chef Angie has been making this dish since she was 15yrs old, so by now it has been perfected to perfection, or whatever status is even more perfect than perfect. It was bright, savory, juicy and soul-satisfying. You really need to get it when you come here, and I’m really fucking sorry that I didn’t shoot it.
We also tried the game pie, which contains wild boar, lamb, venison, pearl onions and fingerlings inside. But the suet crust is something I’ve never experienced before. It’s essentially a pie crust made with rendered beef fat, so it’s crispy and meaty, harder than a normal pie crust and a shitload more satisfying to eat. It should also be noted that the entire pie is formed around a marrow bone for good measure. Because why the fuck not? I didn’t snap a pic of this but a friend of mine who went there recently got a great shot. My description begs for an image, so I’m sharing her pic here:
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10
I apologize for only shooting the fries and tartare, but I’ll get on it next time. Everything we tried was amazing. We started with the chicken liver pate.
It was smooth and creamy, served with a blackberry sauce and whole grain mustard that were the perfect pairing for the pate when spread onto delicious toasty bread.
The lamb tartare was really nicely executed. It was mild and had none of that gamey flavor that you might expect. Dotted with blueberries, it had just the right amount of acidic pop to it.
The truffle fries were cooked to a perfect golden crisp, and went well with our aged beef selections.
For dessert we shared an apple “croissant” (for lack of knowing the exact term) that was topped with vanilla ice cream and a foie gras caramel.
It was really amazing. The croissant was crispy but soft, warm and delicately “appled.” I was really tempted to get their famous bone marrow creme brulee as well. Next time!
Seafood Selection: 8
Beatrice Inn offers halibut and branzino by way of the sea, which we didn’t try on the first trip (see update below). But we did start with some west coast oysters that were crisp, creamy and fresh. They came with a really interesting horseradish sauce that had a kick of spice to it, perhaps the same kind of smoked spice flavors you get in something like nduja or chorizo. It was wild. Anyway, while that was technically an appetizer, I figured I would talk about it here since I didn’t try any seafood entrees.
Top notch, really great service here. Everyone is dressed in classy, old-fashioned attire, like you’d expect at a legit steakhouse. Water glasses are filled promptly, the food comes out at the right pace and temperature, and waiters/waitresses are attentive and know their shit forwards and backwards.
I described the bar area up above, but the rest of the joint is just as impressive. There are two rooms off the bar. One is a large dining room and one is a semi-private elevated area with a massive fireplace and a skylight. You feel like you’re in an inn or old fashioned town home, but laid back and comfortable as opposed to stuffy.
I highly recommend trying this place ASAP. It’s been a hot, trendy spot for a while now, but I can certify that it’s with good reason. It’s not pretentious like other places that trend hard in the food scene, and the food is “fuck you” delicious – every damn bite of it.
I went back twice since the review above. One the first visit, we kept it simple and got a burger. It was great, but I think it needed a crunch element to make it really pop. The 45-day dry aging process really does impart a great flavor to the meat, and the use of a mild brie for the cheese is genius.
On the third visit (yes, I like this place a lot), we tried a nice variety of new shit. To start, we went with these deep-fried dates that were stuffed with cured ham. Really fun and delicious.
We shared a few entrees as well. First, the branzino en croute. So nicely cooked. For one diner, this was the favorite item of the meal.
Yes, its a fish cooked inside a bread crust. So good.
Next was this braised rabbit for two. This was enough for three or four, for sure. The meat is so plentiful on this, which surprised the shit out of me.
We also went with the 30-day dry aged rib eye, since I wasn’t super stoked about the 60-day last time. This was perfect.
I only took a point off because it was a bit on the thin side. But the texture, flavor and cook temp were all remarkable.
We also had this roasted squash on the side. It had a sweet flavor profile, so I was wishing we added a scoop of ice cream to this and ate it for dessert.
We did enjoy the bone marrow creme brûlée for dessert, however, it was a bit light in terms of the portion size. I’d say that you get about two or three tablespoons worth of custard inside the marrow. I wanted at least double or triple that amount for the price we paid.
In the end, I took a point back for price (dropping from 10 to 9), and gave a point back for flavor (rising from 8 to 9).
We scored a Gilt City deal for this place: $79 gets you two cocktails, two apps, two entrees and a shared dessert.
We started with the charred octopus and veal tartare. Both were well executed and tasty.
The octopus had a great snap to it, yet it was still very tender.
My wife picked the pork tenderloin for her entree. I thought it could have had a third medallion of pork, but since it came with some shank meat and belly meat, I guess it wasn’t a big deal.
I had the roasted skirt steak (Creekstone Farm), though I could swear it looked and tasted more like a hanger steak. It had a great outer crust from the roasting process, and it was cooked to a perfect medium rare inside. However, both this and the pork entree lacked salt. Luckily there was a small bowl of flake salt at the table for adding. 8/10.
For dessert we shared this chocolate mousse cake. Very nice.
As it turns out, the general manager remembered me from when she waited tables at Vic & Anthony’s. That earned us a complimentary glass of bubbly! So nice.
I scored a limited run Groupon for Tavern on the Green that was just $89 (plus a coupon code discount on top of that) for a four course meal for two.
We started with salads. I had the iceberg wedge. While the blue cheese dressing was a little bit watery, the other components of the salad were great, especially the diced tomato and bacon.
My wife went with the caesar salad. I’m not sure if you can see it, but it was plated with some little anchovies as well. Pretty good salad.
She also had the sea bass with roasted leeks and mashed potatoes. The skin was crisp and the fish was cooked nicely on the whole, though I had a few bites that were slightly overcooked.
My wife went with haricot verts for her side item. These were crisp and buttery, lots of flavor.
I went with the sirloin steak, 12oz, dry-aged, with creamed spinach, roasted fingerlings and au poivre sauce.
I was suprised at how tasty this shit was. I was half expecting some throw-away cut of steak with tons of gristle, but it was really nice. 8/10.
Here’s the gravy getting poured on top:
I mistakenly chose the roasted baby vegetables as my side. These were terrible. Bland. I should have gone with the creamy whipped potato option instead, but I thought it would be an overload of potato items since they were already in both entrees.
The shared carrot cake for dessert was flavorful and moist, but it sort of had the texture of a fruit cake. I didn’t mind it because I love carrot cake, but my wife, who is a baker, wasn’t too impressed.
Good deal. If it ever comes up again, grab it.
TAVERN ON THE GREEN
Central Park West & 67th Street
New York, NY 10023