Category Archives: Other Cuts

Oka

Some of you might remember my recent review of The Crimson Sparrow, up in Hudson, NY.

That was one of the best meals I had all year in 2017. Well, now the Chef/Owner has a Japanese-inspired small plates izakaya joint over in Murray Hill called Oka, and the meal I just ate there is likely to be one of the best meals I will have this year.

A little bit about Chef John McCarthy, which I have shamelessly jacked from the Oka Website:

John is a former lawyer who left a legal career to attend the French Culinary Institute. After graduating from FCI at the top of his class, he worked for Chef Wylie Dufresne at wd-50 for several years, ultimately becoming Chef Wylie’s research and development cook. John is also a certified sake sommelier, and has spent a considerable amount of time in Asia. He lived in South Korea for three years when he was in high school, and he typically travels to Japan at least once a year to either stagiaire or travel for food and drink research and development. For the past two years, he has partnered with Chef Hiroyoshi Amano to prepare two dinners for Outstanding in the Field at the foot of Mt. Fuji for Fujisan Winery.

Not only does he know his way around sake, but he has also crafted some really nice cocktails and curated an impressive selection of spirits as well.

In addition to the impressive cocktail and spirits menu, there’s also a really great happy hour from 5:30-7:00, during which the listed items are just $5.

I was happy to see one of my favorite Japanese beers on that menu, Orion:

Okay so let me get down to business. My wife and I tried a bunch of stuff here. Everything on the menu looked so good that it was really difficult to decide what NOT to order.

Okay so first, the baguette:

This unassuming dish was a great way to open up the meal. The shio kombu butter with smoked salt was wild and invigorating, and the perfectly grill-toasted Balthazar bread was excellent and fresh.

We actually dragged some of it through our second plate, which was the salmon roe with yeasted sunchoke puree and sunchoke chips.

I’m in love with all things sunchoke, so I jumped at this right away. This dish would make for a perfect light breakfast. It was just the right balance of smooth from the puree, pop from the roe, and crunch from the chips.

Just when you thought a Caesar salad couldn’t get exciting, John McCarthy serves you one that is.

This is Romaine lettuce with smoked Caesar dressing, nori panko, anchovy, crispy baked parmesan chips, and shaved, dried bonito flakes. For those of you who are all about that nice fish flavor in a proper Caesar salad, this is all you. It was bonkers.

Next up, steak tartare.

This was easily one of the best tartare dishes I’ve ever had. It stands out among the competition for its notably unique flavor profile. Chef John brilliantly swaps out some of the more standard tartare ingredients for things like pine nuts, gochujang and shiitake to bring this traditionally French dish into his Asian comfort zone.

This next dish was simple but so delicious. Deep fried maitake mushroom, seasoned with za’atar and served atop a smoked dijon mustard sauce. If for some fucked up reason I ever have to give up meat, I would need to consume a lot more fungus like this to try to fill the void. It was meaty, savory, and satiating.

This is grilled baby squid with charcoal garlic oil, kewpie mayo and micro daikon.

The charcoal garlic oil was really something special here. Very simple cook on the squid, but lots of complexity in the sauce.

These giant grilled head-on prawns were massive!

The simple preparation of soy, ponzu and citrus salt allowed them to really shine for the superb products that they are. Make sure you suck the juices out of their heads!

I really dig rice cakes. This Korean version is like gnocchi, only made with rice flour instead of semolina and egg.

This preparation is kinda like mac and cheese; it’s baked with creamy white cheddar and garlic oil, and then topped with spicy cod roe. It might sound weird, but this and the tartare were my favorite dishes of the night! These were like little pillows of chewy goodness with a touch of crunch on the outside, all in a velvety cheese sauce.

Hamachi collar.

There was so much meat on this baby, and every bit of it was juicy and bursting with flavor. I’m convinced this is the best part of the fish. I loved every bite, and it went well with the soy and yuzu lemon zest seasoning that was on it.

This next beautiful and tasty dish is fried rice with pickled mustard greens and mustard seed. Nothing goes better with fried rice than a sunny side up egg. Bur seriously, how gorgeous is this?

The hits just keep on coming. Buttermilk fried chicken:

All the best, most tender parts here. And that dipping sauce is a chili and black sesame mayo. Really nice.

STEAK!

This was a 30-day dry aged Niman ranch cut, which was grilled up and served with a nice house spice made with dried mushrooms and a bunch of other umami bomb type ingredients. Really flavorful!

And last but not least, dessert:

These are Chinese fried dough crullers with white caramel ice cream on a bed of chocolate coffee crumble. Such a dynamic and interesting combination of flavors.

In fact that’s kind of the theme running through the entire meal. Every bite keeps you guessing, and every dish is not only visually arresting, but amazingly tasty as well.

One final note about this place: I love how casual it is. The food is all stunning and delicious, but there is no pretense or attitude. There’s plenty of space to stretch out between tables, unlike other crowded izakaya spots around the city.

There’s also some great bar seating as well.

I highly recommend this place. Get over there and give it a try.

OKA
439 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10016

Maxwell’s Chophouse

Maxwell’s Chophouse overall score: 89*

I came here with a group of friends to tackle their dry-aged  six-bone standing prime rib roast. Watch this:

If their regular steak selections are anything like that monster, I think this could end up being one of the best steak joints in town. Read on.

Flavor: 10

These guys dry age everything on site, and this roast was aged for two months (61 days). The edges had a great earthy, nutty and mushroomy flavor to them from that aging process.

And as you can see below, the center was cooked perfectly.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

In addition to the four major steakhouse cuts, they also offer that prime rib as a regular menu item, king or queen cut. Everything is graded at prime and dry-aged on site. I also like the fact that they proudly state that the animals are raised on corn, which helps develop all that tasty marbling.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions are all pretty good here from what I can tell. The sides are big enough to share with two people, for sure.

Price: 8

This place is on par with the steak joints in midtown, but the rack of ribs comes in at $80pp and includes sides. That’s a good deal.

Bar: 10

This place has a great long marble bar with elegant surroundings. I would definitely hang here. They mix up a nice martini too, and have an interesting signature cocktail list.

Specials and Other Meats: 8

There weren’t any specials read to us (we had pre-ordered this monster in advance), but the prime rib rack is pretty damn special itself. As far as other meats go, you basically only have lamb or chicken. I can respect that though: focus on the beef!

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We tried a number of items during this feast. I’ll list them all and discuss.

Bone Marrow: 7/10

This had good flavor but there just wasn’t enough of it. The grilled lemons were a nice touch though, and the bread was delicious.

Bacon: 10/10

This is top notch shit from Nueskes. Easily on par with Angus Club or Tuscany Steakhouse, and very close to a top five bacon app.

Mashed Potatoes: 8/10

I’m rarely impressed with mashed potatoes after growing up eating my mom’s, which were butter- and mozzarella- laden trays of pure heaven. But they were smooth and buttery. Very nice.

Mushrooms & Spinach: 9/10

Both simple and delicious. I would get these again for sure.

Chocolate Cake: 9/10

This thing is enormous and can easily feed a table of four for the $25 price tag. In fact, this fed seven people (though we also shared another dessert as well).

Butterscotch Creme Brûlée: 8/10

Wow. Super rich, very sweet, but really fucking tasty. Share this otherwise you might overload on decadence.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s salmon, three-pound lobsters and big eye tuna on the seafood entree menu. I like how this and the chops menu are streamlined and slim, but that means fewer options for you picky assholes out there.

Service: 10

Impeccable. Everyone is attentive, really friendly and knowledgable. The bread basket here is quite interesting, and contains cheese baked flatbreads, chocolate and strawberry muffins, olive bread and other stuff. Very nice.

Ambiance: 9

This place is gorgeous inside. The floor space isn’t gigantic, but the ceiling height is. That really gives the joint a grand and spectacular feel.

There’s also a private dining room, which is where we ate:

I will definitely be back to try some seafood and their porterhouse.

MAXWELL’S CHOPHOUSE
1184 Broadway
New York, NY 10001

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse

Dickie Brennan’s overall score: 76

My wife and I took a trip to New Orleans for New Year. We had been to the Big Easy once before, and I credit this magical town for sort of kicking me in the balls and setting me on my path towards foodyism. We hit so many great spots on that first trip, it was almost as if we designed the trip around the food.

Anyway, Dickie Brennan’s is always talked about as one of the country’s best steakhouses, so I had to give it a try. And I was thorough. I ate three steaks myself, pretty much, and helped with a fourth. See below:

Flavor: 7

Rib Eye: 8/10

This was the big winner here. It had a great crust, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and it was topped (to my surprise) with an awesome spicy Cajun style whipped butter. The only down side was that I didn’t get too much of a dry-aged flavor.

Cajun Strip: 7/10

This is listed as their signature and special cut. It’s a boneless strip that’s cooked with Cajun spices in a cast iron skillet. The strange thing about this particular cut is that it didn’t really bring that much Cajun flavor. I think the rib eye had more because of the butter.

Another strange thing: I don’t think the chef even tried to get a sear on the sides of this cut. It looked like it was cooked the way salmon is usually cooked. You flip once and serve with a hard sear on each side, with nothing seared on the side edges. Fucking bizarre.

I think this is part of the reason why it was undercooked and even cool in certain parts. My buddy ordered this medium rare, but it was served rare.

Prime Rib: 6/10

I had high hopes for the prime rib, but it was a bit of a let down. The meat was well beyond medium rare, dry, and a little bit tight in terms of texture. I did love the horseradish sauce, however, and I was using it for more than just the prime rib.

Porterhouse: 7/10

This was a cut for one (24oz), and I was completely baffled with the way they sliced this thing.

Typically, t-bones and porterhouse steaks are cut in the other direction. This was also overcooked to medium plus as opposed to medium rare. It did have a good flavor, however, and the filet side was very tender.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 6

This joint covers all the basics with some variation in the sizing, and everything is dry aged in house. But my buddies at the other end of the table said their rib eye was super tough, their strip had a massive ribbon of chewy fat running all through it, and they also had temperature issues. I understand that this was a busy weekend for the whole town in the lead up to New Year’s Eve and the Sugar Bowl, but this shouldn’t happen at a high end steakhouse. They need to work on their consistency and control better for quality.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions here are generous, and plating is in the basic steakhouse style: nothing too elegant or pretentious.

Price: 7

While prices here are lower in comparison to the likes of NYC steakhouses, I imagine they come in a bit high for the locals. And given the inconsistent nature of the cooking, it might make people feel they’ve been ripped off if they have the same experience that me and my buddies had. Here’s what our bill looked like:

Bar: 10

The bar here is beautiful, old fashioned and very “old school steakhouse” in nature. I would definitely enjoy drinking here without eating. They also mix up some really nice cocktails, and they make a great martini.

Specials and Other Meats: 7

Chicken, lamb and quail are really the only other alternative meats being offered here, with the exception of a pork belly and scallop dish that seemed interesting. I think a solid pork chop and maybe some veal would round this out to a higher score, assuming they can execute the dishes well.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 6

We tried a bunch of things and had more variety in the execution than I could have ever imagined. Let me get right to them.

Escargot & Bone Marrow: 10/10

This was fucking exceptional. It was easily one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had. Perfectly cooked escargot swimming in a spicy, buttery marrow sauce… Fuck yeah. It was even garnished with a crispy fried oyster for good measure.

Steak Tartare: 5/10

No dice. Too much vinegar dressing on this, despite the meat being tender and cut with a good amount of capers. The deviled eggs seemed like an afterthought.

Pontalba Potatoes: 2/10

I was excited to try these when reading the menu, as they contained ham, onions and mushrooms. However, there was no textural character or crisp to them, and they tasted pretty bland and mushy. I fucking made this fucking dish better when I was fucking eight years old for fuck’s sake!

As you can see from the range of scores on the apps and sides, consistency is still a problem as you work your way through the whole menu. That’s really a shame.

Seafood Selection: 6

There’s lobster, gulf fish and scallops on the entree menu. Not pushing it too much in the seafood department, which I definitely respect to some degree. But sometimes a mother fucker’s chick wants to shove her face into some fish, and wants more variety. I mean, shrimp didn’t even make a presence aside from an app and a gumbo.

Service: 9

This joint was jam packed busy, and what would likely be a usual 10/10 score here was taken down a notch just because of sheer craziness. Everyone was super nice though, and our waiter even asked to shake my hand when he saw that I had completely eaten all three of the steaks that I ordered. It was pretty funny when I ordered; he goes “Man… What are you doin’?” I told him that steak is my life, and to trust me, which he ultimately did.

Also they brought us multiple loaves of French bread when we asked (their table bread), and they replaced our water glasses with fresh new glasses of ice water every time we got even close to halfway done with a water. It was intense.

Ambiance: 10

This place is massive inside, absolutely gorgeous in the old steakhouse style, and really iconic. I didn’t take enough photos of the interior, unfortunately, but you can definitely see what it looks like online if you poke around a bit.

To sum up: I’m glad we went, but I’m not sure I’d go back with so many other great food options in this glorious town.

DICKIE BRENNAN’S STEAKHOUSE
716 Iberville St
New Orleans, LA 70130

The Aviary

I took my wife to The Aviary as an early Christmas present. I booked the five course “Cocktails & Canapes” tasting menu dinner about two weeks in advance with a $100 deposit. The cost is $165pp, with an 18% gratuity added at the end (and tax, of course).

That’s crazy expensive, but this is truly a unique drinking and dining experience. I drank and ate things I never would have even thought about. In hindsight, five cocktails was aggressive (but awesome). I think when I go back, I will just order a la carte.

Here is the entire menu, but I will highlight what was selected for us below in the review:

AMUSE

The first thing to come out was an “amuse” drink – a small shot of tastiness that involved lime, rum, and mint.

A few moments later, our first round of cocktails came out with the first course of food.

COURSE ONE

Drinks: Micahlada (left – and yes, that is spelled correctly) and Zombie Panda (right)

Of these two, the Micahlada was my favorite. This is The Aviary’s take on a michelada (beer, spices and tomato juice), made with soy, coriander, Japanese whisky and Evil Twin beer. The Zombie Panda was tart from the lemon, lychee and pisco, and filled with frozen spheres of raspberry juice to sweeten it up.

Food: Pineapple Two Ways

This was a nice way to get the taste buds popping. That brown stuff at the bottom was a mole sauce. I liked it a lot, but my wife wasn’t too taken with it. The black mint garnish was tasty and went well with the watermelon radish and passion fruit.

COURSE TWO

Drinks: How Does Snoop Dog Use Lemongrass (left) and Mimosa (right)

The mimosa was nice because the fruit juice was frozen into ice cubes, so the drink becomes sweeter and more smooth as it sits.

The idea behind the Snoop drink is that Snoop Dogg ends everything with “-izzle” when he talks/raps, so there is a “swizzle” made out of lemongrass, which is used to mix the drink together:

Food: Kampachi Ceviche

This was bright, light and savory, pulling in southeast asian flavors from Thai green curry, heart of palm and coconut. I really enjoyed the briny broth and the coiled peels of red pepper for spice.

COURSE THREE

Drink: Heart of Stone

This was the best drink of the night, and you get about six glasses out of the container. That container is filled with bourbon, tea, Fresno chili, pistachio and peach. As it sits there, the flavors infuse deeply into the bourbon, so each time you refill the glass it tastes a little different. More spices come out, more sweetness too. Amazing.

Food: Pork Belly Curry

This dish was really good, but it could have been excellent with a crunch element. I think the iceberg lettuce discs were supposed to be that element, but they fell short just a bit. Perhaps a fried shrimp chip or crispy egg roll wrapper would do the trick. But the pork belly curry itself? Awesome. The banana and cashew are excellent compliments to the savory.

FROM THE CHEF

Chawanmushi

They’re experimenting with “all times of day” food here at The Aviary, so this is meant to be a breakfast item. It’s velvety smooth, and the smoked abalone within makes you think you’re eating bacon. The pops of flavor from the pickled huckleberries really brighten and balance this seafood porridge custard dish.

COURSE FOUR

Drink: Memphis Half Step

These glasses come to the table upside down on a charred piece of oak cask, filled with smoke. The aroma is awesome. This absinthe and rye cocktail is super smooth with a hint of sweetness.

Food: A5 Miyazaki Wagyu Rib Eye

Clearly my favorite food item of the night. The meat was buttery soft, and the grilled romaine with puffed rice was a great textural pop to go with it.  That yellow sauce is a yuzu mustard. Possibly the greatest mustard ever. 10/10. Wish I had 16 more ounces of this.

COURSE FIVE

Drink: Boom Goes The Dynamite

This was sweet and warm, almost like a port or brandy. It was made with rum, vanilla, violet and rooibos…  and dry ice for the smoke.

Food: Blueberry

Milk chocolate, violet and buttermilk sorbet make this dessert extra decadent. There were some more spheres of raspberry ice on the plate too, rounding out the meal with a call back to the very first cocktail (Zombie Panda). Really nice.

THE OFFICE

After dinner, our waiter Preston took us on a short tour of The Office, the speakeasy behind The Aviary bar staging area (which looks more like a kitchen than a bar).

Here’s what the inside of The Office looks like:

They have a cabinet filled with really old spirits that you can order as well. Super rare.

I will definitely be back to try this place, as well as the Aviary again. So many interesting sounding drinks and food items to try, like the “Science AF,” which looks like a chemistry set, or the “Wake & Bake,” which is a pillow filled with smoke and a drink made with orange, everything bagel, coffee and rye. I snapped a photo of it before they opened the bag filled with smoke:

THE AVIARY
Mandarin Oriental
80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Salt + Charcoal

Salt + Charcoal overall score: 87

A food Instagram buddy of mine, @NYCFoodFOMO, set up an “influencer” dinner here, so I was able to try a bunch of stuff. I was really impressed with the meats. It was difficult to fit this review into my standard 10-category format, as some sections just didn’t pan out like they would for a larger steakhouse. With that in mind, you should focus more on the flavor category, as well as the specific notes I made about other food items. Base your decision to go here on the substance and “meat” of the review, as opposed to the total number. I really loved every single item that I ate here, and I will definitely be back again. Anyway, check it out:

Flavor: 9

Porterhouse: 8/10. This baby is dry aged for 50 days, so it eats really soft with with a nice outer crust texture for contrast.

The aged flavor was on the milder side, but I really enjoyed it.

Both the tenderloin side and strip side were perfectly cooked and tender.

Miyazaki Sirloin: 10/10. Look at this gorgeous slab of beef.

I mean, it’s rare that you find beef that’s really from Japan, so this is a special situation. They cook and serve this very simply – almost like a sushi dish – with ginger and wasabi.

It packs a lot of flavor, and is incredibly tender. A really nice treat.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7

You don’t have the biggest selection here (porterhouse, strip, off-menu filet, and wagyu sirloin), but the sirloin is highly marbled Miyazaki; the filet is topped with tons of uni; and the other two cuts are dry aged for 50 days. They are in serious need of a rib eye, however.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions are fairly normal here for the pricing, but the plating is gorgeous. Dishes are served in a Japanese aesthetic.

Price: 10

I can’t take away any points since this was a comped meal, and all I had to do was leave a tip. The prices can get steep, however, which surprised me for a steakhouse outside of midtown Manhattan. That’s the price you pay for high quality beef, though, and the Miyazaki is actually pretty fair compared to other places I’ve seen it.

Bar: 6

There’s not much of a bar scene to speak of, but the cocktails are certainly well crafted. I had a spin on an Old Fashioned, and I loved it.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

They offer an off-menu filet mignon that’s topped with tons of uni. I didn’t try it, but I’ve heard mixed reviews. I did, however, try their lamb and duck. Both were excellent, and some of the best I’ve ever had. No shame in taking a break from beef to indulge in these two dishes. Hell, they even work as shared apps if you want.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10

We tried a delicious trio of apps. First was the wagyu and uni roll. This is similar to the item served over at Takashi, with the accompanying shiso leaf and nori paper.

Next up was the uni shooter with poached egg, salmon roe and truffle oil. Delicious, smooth and decadent. I could slam a dozen of these no problem.

Last but not least, the crab cakes. These were generously meaty with a nice lightly breaded crust. Lovely.

Worth noting here: two of the dishes came with these amazing potato cake sides made of dozens of thinly sliced potato. It was buttery, salty and delicious.

Seafood Selection: 9

There’s a healthy amount of seafood on the menu here, as this joint also serves up some killer sushi. We tried a few rolls and loved them all. No pics though.

Service: 10

The service here is outstanding. Everyone is attentive, yet respectful of your space and privacy.

Ambiance: 8

Beautiful rustic wood tones make for a very cozy, warm and inviting atmosphere. I really liked the open view into the kitchen on the main dining floor. While the restaurant is long and narrow, they make good use of the space. And like a traditional steakhouse, there is a private dining room available downstairs, which is where we ate.

SALT + CHARCOAL
171 Grand St
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Mt Kisco Diner

A college friend of mine, Harry Georgiou, owns and runs the Mt. Kisco Diner, which has been in his family for years. He’s taken a bold initiative while at the helm, renovating the space to look more like a beautiful restaurant than a typical diner.

It has a fully stocked wrap-around bar, a spacious and beautiful dining room, and comfortable seating. There’s even an outdoor garden area if you want to eat outside.

But that’s not where his initiative stops. Harry and his staff have gotten really creative with their extensive menu. They’ve taken the quality and craftsmanship of the food up several notches from what you might expect at even a really great diner.

Let’s look a few examples right off the bat.

The Gastro Burger is a 9oz proprietary blend of always fresh, never frozen beef (ground daily in-house), and topped with smoked gouda, bacon onion jam, grilled apple, and roasted garlic aioli, all on a nice pretzel bun.

And that’s not the only great burger that they offer. There are 15 different burgers on their menu, including non-beef options and classic beef styles like this Big Top Burger (melted American and Swiss, and caramelized onions and mushrooms on a brioche bun).

These things are gourmet quality at diner prices ($12-$15). They all come with a pickle, and either mixed greens or fries.

Speaking of French fries, the menu has an entire “frites bar” that features six different styles of French fry. I went with the Herbed Truffle Fries. These things were absolutely perfect! Amazing crisp on the outside, nice and soft inside. Not too overpowering with the truffle, and just the right amount of salt and seasoning from the parmesan cheese. Also really fucking beautiful!

I also got a taste of my forte: Steak! I was skeptical at first, as I would typically never order a steak at a diner. But this is not a typical diner, and Harry insisted that I try their skirt steak. I’m glad I listened.

Not only was this plating beautiful and unique, but it had some awesome looking grill marks on it to boot.

As you can see it came with crispy fried union strings and sautéed garlic spinach.

The interior was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It’s been a while since I had a great skirt steak. This baby really hit the spot!

It doesn’t end there. Nope. I had to try one more of Harry’s menu upgrades: the Grown-Up Grilled Cheese. There are a few of these, but I went with the “Alpine” grilled cheese.

As you can see it comes with a cup of creamy roasted tomato soup, but in-between the thick, toasty, country white bread is where the sandwich starts kicking some serious ass.

That’s crispy pancetta, gruyere, caramelized onions, baby arugula, and tomato with white balsamic vinaigrette. Amazing!

I also sampled some or the more normal menu items as well, like bruschetta and chicken quesadillas.

The execution is still on point. No one in the bustling kitchen is cutting any corners. Everything is made very nicely.

I mean they even have a baker on site, making all the desserts in-house, fresh. And they’re all really beautiful.

I tried a delicious slice of lemon meringue pie that I brought home with me (not pictured), but while I was at the diner, I was anxious to drink one of Harry’s mega-shakes.

These are very popular with the kids these days. This Chocolate Chip Cookie Shake is made with vanilla ice cream, a chocolate swirl, and chocolate chips. Then it’s topped with a nice thick whipped cream and a mini ice cream cookie sandwich. I swapped my chocolate chips out for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.

I’m glad I was somehow able to save room for that tasty and refreshing shake. It was just the right amount of crazy. I know some places are going way over the top with their shakes these days, and I can’t stand it. This was just right.

I really can’t wait to get back up here to try the breakfast selections. You guys should check out their Instagram account to get your juices flowing.

MT KISCO DINER
252 E Main St
Mt Kisco, NY 10549

4 Charles Prime Rib

I agonized a bit over whether I should review 4 Charles Prime Rib within my 10 categories for steakhouses. In the end I decided to review it as a regular restaurant, as I felt the steak selections were so LASER-focused on prime rib that the overall score would be artificially low if plugged into the steakhouse review framework.

But who cares, right? You bastards just want to see the pretty pictures and know whether I think you should eat here.

The short answer: YES! Eat here immediately.

I was here with my wife and two other friends to do a full-cavity search on this restaurant menu’s ass. No gloves. No lube. Raw and dirty. Here’s what we ate:

THE BURGER

We split this as an appetizer, and yeah, I know: We didn’t get it “au cheval” style like in Chicago, with the egg and bacon on top. There were several reasons why we didn’t: (1) Overkill. It would be too fucking tall with thick cut bacon and a fried egg sitting on top of this double cheeseburger. And with the addition of lettuce and tomato? Fuhgettaboutit; (2) One of my friends can’t eat egg yolk; and (3) After I spoke with some friends whose burger opinions I value, it was clear that baconless and eggless was the way to go.

So how was it? Great. It’s crafted in a similar style to Genuine Roadside or Hard Times Sunday, where they serve up classic American doubles. However, at those places you’re paying half the price for something that I felt was just as good, if not better. My opinion: skip the burger. It’s great, but not worth the $20 price tag (fries not included).

THE FRENCH DIP

This isn’t on the menu but it’s often offered as a special for the day, and they pre-cut it for four people (even though we told them they didn’t have to). Thin sliced beef, provolone cheese, great sandwich bread, jus and horseradish sauce.

Verdict: amazing. Get this and split it as your appetizer like we did. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll probably be as amazed as we were.

THE PORTERHOUSE

DeBragga supplied this porterhouse, which was offered as a special for the day. It was only dry aged for 10 days, but it packed a great earthy flavor while still retaining the character of the beef. It was 32oz and $120, marketed as being “for two.”

How was it? 10/10 – perfection. Well, I mean, the crust could have used a slight bit more char on the outside, but the flavor was so tremendous that it didn’t matter. The quality  was insane, and texture was incredibly tender. Served with a Bernaise sauce.

THE “4 CHARLES CUT” PRIME RIB

This is 24oz of bone-in, slow roasted Anderson beef out of Chicago. It cooks for three hours at 250 and then five hours at 125. The result is an incredibly juicy and tender roast.

That’s horseradish cream sauce there in the picture, and the steak also comes with jus. This is easily in my top three for prime rib here in the city, with a very close Keen’s and Burger & Barrel also in that top three. 10/10.

SIDES

Blue Cheese Creamed Spinach: I thought this would be really potent and harsh, only good for a bite or two to add richness to the prime rib, but it was mild and tasty. While I really enjoyed it, it was not my favorite creamed spinach. I would say that it’s worth a try if you fancy yourself a creamed spinach connoisseur.

French Fries: Solid. Not amazing, but not bad by any stretch. They get the job done, they’re nicely fried, and they’re crisp. Served with a garlic aioli.

Roasted Broccolini: Despite the typo on their menu (brocolinni), these were really nicely done. I love this fucking veggie, so I like to get it every time I see it on a menu. These fuckers prepared it just how I do: Simply seasoned and dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic; and then roasted until it’s cooked through, developing a little bit of charred texture on the heads.

DESSERT

Lemon Meringue Pie: Really nice thick meringue on top. Super fluffy and lots of flavor. The pie itself was just right: not too tangy and not too rich. I loved it. I’ve always loved a good lemon meringue pie. And look at those peaks! Also the serving size is tremendous – basically a quarter of the entire pie.

Chocolate Cream Pie: The good folks at 4 Charles Prime Rib brought this baby out for us on the house. I was really blown away by this gesture, not to mention how cool everyone was with the four of us taking photos of the food. I like to think that we weren’t too obnoxious, though. In any case, this was really delicious. The bottom was a sort of Oreo crust, and the whipped cream and chocolate sauce just took that rich, flavorful chocolate pie filling to the next level. Great stuff, and I’m usually not huge on chocolate desserts.

The Damage

Boom. You need to eat here. I can’t wait to go back.

4 CHARLES PRIME RIB
4 Charles St
New York, NY 10014

Osamil

Osamil serves up a really great brunch on weekends. They open nice and early too, at 10:30, so if you’re like me and think that brunch is really just a big breakfast with booze, then 10:30 is right on the money. We went at 12:30 with another food couple that we’re friends with though, so this became our main meal of the day.

The cocktail menu is really fun here. This pink one had watermelon foam and mescal. Very nice.

I also tried a michelada (beer and bloody mix), which was nice.

And we shared this giant punch bowl.

As for the food, we started with some kimchi deviled eggs, which had a nice spice level to them.

Next up was cold uni bibimbap. Essentially this is rice, kimchi, egg, quinoa, onion, nori, mixed greens and other tasty things, mixed up with some uni (wish there was more).

This asian pear salad with candied walnuts was really nice and refreshing too.

The broth for these mussels is incredibly slurpable. I was eating it by the spoonful throughout the meal. And yes there is bacon in there.

And those fries you see there are some of the best in the city. Might be my new favorite, as a matter of fact. They’re dusted with pimento and finished with truffle oil.

Okay so let’s get to the meat. First, spam. I know, I know… but it really is good.

Next, pork belly, lettuce and tomato sandwich. So good!

But here’s the show stopper: grilled prime hanger steak served atop bacon and kimchi fried rice, with a sunny-side up egg. Amazing.

THAT’s what breakfast should be… Not only is it gorgeous but it tasted great too. The steak could have used a bit more salt and pepper, but that’s only if you were eating it by itself. When combined with the rice, you got all the savory elements from the bacon and kimchi working together with the steak, so it’s all good. 9/10.

OSAMIL
5 W 31st St
New York, NY 10001

The Crimson Sparrow

I first became acquainted with The Crimson Sparrow when I hung out with chef-owner John McCarthy at a mutual friend’s party.

We traded social media info and kept up with each others’ food exploits online. I always thought his dishes looked so beautiful and sounded so delicious, but I wasn’t sure when I’d ever get to try them – John being up in Hudson, NY and me being NYC-based.

Well, it turns out that I was scheduled to go on a farm tour in Ghent, NY the weekend before the 4th of July. Upon checking out the map of where Ghent was, and planning how I was going to get there, I realized I would be passing through Hudson. I decided to make a small weekend trip out of this farm tour, and to bring my wife along.

It was a no-brainer, at that point, that I’d be visiting John at The Crimson Sparrow. We first went in for the tasting menu, late in the evening after we finished up that farm tour in Ghent.

I have to say… Chef John is doing some really amazing things here. He’s clearly inspired by Japanese cuisine; its preparation, its focus, its simplicity, its artistry. And while he does highlight a lot of Japanese ingredients, he’s also drawing inspiration from his local environs in the Hudson valley as well, and even dropping some overt hints of French technique and Korean flavors as well.

John has been all over the globe honing his cuisine. He used to be an attorney, but then ditched that for the culinary arts. He’s French trained, but he spent a significant amount of time in Japan absorbing all he could. He even did a 5-year stint with Wiley DuFresne at WD-50 in NYC before deciding it was time to press out on his own.

The Crimson Sparrow offers an a la carte menu, but the big draw for me was this multi-course tasting menu, priced at just $95.

I was eager to dig in when we arrived, just like how I’m eager to write about the meal now. I hope your mouth doesn’t water too much, because after I finish describing the tasting menu, you’ll have to stay tuned and read on for the incredible restaurant tour and daytime snack bites that I experienced the following day.

Course 1: Maitake Mushroom

This was crispy yet meaty, and had great flavors from the black truffle and lemon. The only thing I was hoping for here was maybe a flake of sea salt as a finishing item – maybe some nori smoke on that salt too.

Course 2: Yukon Potato

This Yukon Gold potato was shredded and fried to a crisp, topped with smoked egg yolk, cheddar and sea salt. This was essentially a creamy, smokey nest of potato chips. Awesome!

Course 3: Cucumber Crab

This dish reminded me of a really fucking delicious version of something like tuna salad, or crab salad, if you will. Really light and refreshing. I found myself wishing this was offered as a lunch sandwich on some nice, lightly toasted white bread with shiso leaf. I could eat that every day.

Course 4: Dashi with Purple Potato

The photo doesn’t do this dish justice. It was gorgeous. Purple potato, dashi broth, bonito flakes, and a nori aoli mix together to form a really refreshing cold soup. There were hints of miso and mustard flavors coming through as well. Nicely executed.

Course 5: Enoki Mushrooms

I love enoki mushrooms. These were treated simply and allowed to shine for what they are; cooked with binchotan (a kind of Japanese charcoal). They were dressed with soy and topped with shredded nori and sesame seeds. Perfect, really juicy, snappy like noodles, but textured and satiating like a meat protein.

Course 6: Soft Shell Crab

I had a bad experience with soft shell crab when I was younger. The crab I had was too far along after molting, and some parts of the shell were no longer soft. They were like shrimp shells, and it grossed me out. But lately I’ve been dabbling more into soft shell crabs, because I know they can be really good. Here at The Crimson Sparrow they are excellent. It’s lightly batter-fried and served with a mizuna corn kimchi sauce. There was a nice citrus and pepper-spice pop to this dish. Extremely soft shell, great fry batter.

Course 7: Abalone with Pine Nuts

This dish isn’t on the regular tasting menu. Chef John brought it out special for us. I’m so grateful that he did, because this fucking thing was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my entire life. I don’t say that lightly either.

Chef John first sous vides the abalone with pork belly and dashi. The pine nuts are pressure cooked with liquid from the bacon and abalone sous vide broth. Are you fucking kidding me? Then an abalone liver and squid ink emulsion is put on the bottom of the plate before serving (the black bits in the photo below).

This dish had such a nice buttery, savory, meaty flavor, and the pine nuts were like farro or barley in texture – like an “ancient grain” kind of starch, or beans. Truly amazing.

Course 8: Shrimp Dumplings

The broth/sauce here was killer: lemongrass, ginger and scallop. Really smooth and rich, and the dumplings were perfectly cooked, like excellent seafood ravioli.

Course 9: Hamachi

These slices of Hamachi exhibit simplicity and Chef John’s respect for the protein, while the cabbage, shiso, shiso oil, nori oil and yuzu broth demonstrates complexity of flavor and John’s extremely impressive skills as a chef. This dish represents exactly what he is doing here at The Crimson Sparrow: simplicity and complexity in the right balance.

Course 10: A5 Wagyu Picanha

Picanha is a Brazilian cut of beef, but it’s the same as “top sirloin cap” here in the states, only with the layer of fat left on that we Americans usually trim off.

This dish was not on the regular tasting menu either. The flavor was wild. It’s beef, but it tastes more like foie gras. It’s very rich in flavorful, oily fats. That large layer of fat can still be chewy, even on A5 Wagyu, but at times you can take it down because it gets so soft.

This beef hailed from the Miyazaki prefecture, which is known as one of the best in Japan for producing highly marbled beef. That little pile of magic dust on the side? Kalamata olive salt. So nice.

Course 11: Pork Belly Congee

This was really tasty. Congee is rice porridge. This one was made with porcini mushrooms and chili oil in the mix, aside from the delicious and tender pork belly. This is perfect “pick-me-up” comfort food right here.

Course 12: Aged Strip Loin

Obviously I loved this dish. It was served with ssamjang (Korean black bean sauce), dressed fresh soy beans and endive.

Here’s what the full plate looked like:

Palate Cleanser: Amazake

This amazake is a young sake made with fermented black and white rice and sweetened with ginger. It was creamy, sweet, slightly bubbly, and really delicious.

Dessert: “American Psycho” on a Plate (that’s my name for it)

This beautiful Jackson Pollock / Patrick Bateman mash-up of plating artistry is a sponge cake with blue- rasp- and mul- berries. There were notes of citrus or yuzu, and even avocado cream in the anglaise. Those beautiful red splatters were done with beet sauce.

Okay so that covers the tasting menu. The next day we came back when John was a little less busy to hang out with him a bit. He gave us a cool tour of the restaurant and kitchen.

Here’s the outside:

The bar is outfitted with some cool things that John salvaged from the property when he first purchased it. Part of the property used to be an old Packard auto shop, and another part was a bakery.

The main dining room is gorgeous. It’s outfitted with some antiques that John either found on the property (like the lamps), or items for which he bartered with local antique shop owners to obtain (like the wine cart).

This part of the property was actually a bakery at one point, and this room was the inside of the massive oven. The table was custom made to accommodate the 9 inch floor slope from one end of the room to the other.

A more private room for larger parties is also available to customers.

The kitchen is housed in the space where Packard used to wash and detail their cars. Those windows you see on the right are massive, and there’s a strip of cool bar stool seats where diners can sit and watch all the kitchen action.

John also showed me the Wagyu strip loin that he’s aging in the walk-in. I think this hunk of deliciousness has been going for over 100 days.

John has a rooftop herb garden as well.

That day we also tried some light snacks in the outdoor garden seating area – a gorgeous space.

This is a pork bun. Really nice flavors, and that pork was stewed to perfection.

These soy beans are similar to the beans on the tasting menu that came with the aged beef dish, but served on a giant shrimp chip.

Also, they serve crisp Orion beer for just $5. Great to sip while enjoying a sunny day on the patio.

 

I think that about does it. You guys need to check this place out if you’re ever in the area. I’m dead serious when I tell you that this was the best tasting menu omakase style meal I’ve ever had, and that abalone dish… Holy shit man. Ask for it when you go.

THE CRIMSON SPARROW
746 Warren St
Hudson, NY 12534

Ichiban Nom Nom

I had the opportunity to head to Chef Joe Conti’s test kitchen prior to the open of his yet-to-be-named Japanese omakase restaurant downtown. The great thing about this meal is that I was able to taste a lot of different cuts of A5 Wagyu beef. The highest marbling score there is. Unreal. Since there were a bunch of courses, I’ll get right down to business.

Torched mackerel with pickled daikon.

Fried river fish, uni and river crab.

Giant shrimp/prawn carabineros. Simply seasoned with salt, but their insides cook into a naturally spicy and fatty butter-like substance that will provide you with wet food dreams for the rest of your life. It coats your tongue like a rich prosciutto almost. For real, this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my whole fucking life. They get to about a third of a pound each in weight, too, so they’re substantial. Favorite part of the meal – even better than the beef!

Wagyu skirt steak (8/10) and pork skirt steak. Amazing. Here, the pork out shined the beef just because it was so unique to see this cut here in the states. I want more of it!

Wagyu sirloin (9/10), tenderloin (10/10) and rib cap (9/10). All amazing, but my favorite, oddly, was the tenderloin. It was so buttery soft and tender that it would be impossible to compare it to anything else that came across our plates.

Here’s the tenderloin up close:

Italian panko Parmesan breadcrumb “gyu katsu,” aka deep fried beef strip loin. Amazing. 8/10.

Eel with shiso.

Cold udon noodles.

Ice cream: chocolate, green tea with chocolate chips, and salted caramel. Still some refining to be done here, but over all a great closer plate.

I can’t wait until this spot officially opens. I think it’ll be in the West 4th Street and 8th Avenue area. Keep an eye out! They’re already booked solid for the first few months after they open.

UPDATE: 1/15/18

Chef Joe’s place is called Shuraku, located in the west village. They opened to great success, and I finally got around to bringing my wife there to try the great food. The meal was excellent, and my wife loved her birthday dinner. Here’s what we had:

During the course of the meal we tried three different sakes. The one pictured with the bottle was my favorite, aged for 17 years in barrels. It had a mild smooth scotch flavor to it.

Course 1: tofu.

Course 2: A5 wagyu beef sushi.

Course 3: oyster and king crab.

Course 4: yakitori

Course 5: fish cake with dashi

Course 6: beef and seafood grill.

Course 7: udon with roe.

Course 8: yuzu cheesecake and strawberry yogurt ice cream, with green tea.

SHURAKU JAPANESE GRILL
47 8th Ave
New York, NY 10014