Chuck buys mostly fresh beef, which he ages himself in-house to a minimum of 42 days in most cases. However he loves the flavor of dry-aged beef, especially in the 80-120 day range; he even experiments with really old stuff. For example, when I first met Chuck at Maxwell’s Chophouse, he served me a 500 day dry-aged strip.
This time he served me a 365 day dry-aged strip.
But before I get sidetracked with all of that delicious, mad-scientist shit, let me get right down to the meal from front to back.
The night began with a dry-aged martini. Grey Goose vodka gets infused with 60 day dry-aged beef fat and rosemary. It gets mixed with a little vermouth and simple syrup before being garnished with a rosemary-skewered trio of blue-cheese stuffed castelvetrano olives. Sweet. Savory. Delicious.
While we are on the subject of drinks, the main bar here is beautiful and impressive. Easily a place you’d want to hang at after a rough day at work or even to hit up for some bar grub, like this kickass dry-aged burger.
The grind comes from Debragga since Strassburger doesn’t supply dry aged ground beef at the moment. The burger had a nice funk, was well seasoned and was perfectly cooked.
Okay so back to the rest of the meal…
We started with the house-made bacon and beef fat table bread, which was served with creamy, soft, herb butter.
Everything here is house-made, in fact, from the bread to the bread pudding, from the signature sauces (soon to be bottled and sold) to the signature sides. Even the microgreens are grown by Chef Chuck at his Colorado ranch, Skeleton Ridge Farms.
The first course was a 60 day dry-aged steak tataki sushi roll that was lightly fried. This was fucking amazing and crazy creative.
On deck: even more creativity and deliciousness. Chuck cranked this out of the park. This not your ordinary bone marrow:
The marrow gets roasted, folded with blue cheese to create a mousse, piped back into the marrow bone, and then brulee’d for the finish. A squeeze of charred lemon really cuts the fat with brightness, creating a beautiful and delicate balance. A taste of this will send shock waves through your tastebuds. This is a top dish of the year for me. It’s off menu though, so make sure you tell them I sent you when you ask for it – it’s different from the regular marrow on the menu.
We had a light palate cleanse with this small, refreshing salad, composed mostly of Chuck’s micro greens.
Then we had a Spanish style braised and grilled octopus dish that was garnished with potato, chickpea puree, tomato, pickled onion and greens. Tender and delicious.
The main event for the table was a huge spread of the major beef cuts. We had (counter-clockwise from the bottom right) a 60 day dry-aged porterhouse, a 60 day dry-aged tomahawk rib eye, a 40 day dry-aged bone-in tenderloin, and the 365 day dry-aged strip steak.
Here’s a closer look at that year-long aged steak.
After all the fat and bark was trimmed away from that hunk I showed you up at the top of the review, this was all that was left:
Now you understand why dry-aged steaks cost more. So much is lost in the process! The result is a somewhat vaporous and aromatic punch in the mouth that leaves you with the familiar flavors of mushrooms, truffles, aged cheese, and nuts. Just a few ounces will do fine for this, as it can more readily be identified with a cured product like bresaola or salami than a traditional steak. I like to call it “beef jet fuel,” since it almost tickles the back of your nose – like when you catch a whiff of gasoline, or take on a big blob of wasabi.
The steaks were all awesome. Every one of them was a winner, and you can really taste the care that Chuck puts into the aging process. And Chuck’s sauces really helped to elevate them.
These aren’t your average steakhouse sauces. Chuck’s chimichurri, his vinegar based steak sauce (fuck tomato based sauces), and his horseradish cream are all recipes he developed over decades in the business, from way back when he was 15yrs old and working two blocks from home in his local neighborhood fine dining restaurant, Commander’s Palace. Hell of a place to start. Hell of a place to earn your stripes.
It should be no surprise, then, that he came up with an absolutely killer sauce made from luxardo cherries, rendered trim, drippings and reduced bone broth. This is a sauce that I might expect from an extremely high end meat-centric place like The Grill or TAK Room, to accompany a roasted prime rib or a decadent Wellington.
Insane depth of flavor in that shit. Pure gold. I would drink it.
On the side we had a nice array of creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, lobster mac & cheese, and Brussels sprouts with bacon.
And of course dessert was a blowout with key lime pie, fried cookie dough with ice cream, bread pudding, chocolate lava cake, cheese cake and creme brulee.
What a great spot. Spacious, beautifully decorated, sleek, and with top notch service and attention to detail. The place even does double duty as an event space next door for corporate events, weddings, etc.
Please don’t be dissuaded by the fact that this place is in Jersey. The PATH train to Grove Street or Exchange Place is so fast from either midtown or downtown Manhattan. And Liberty Prime is just a short five minute walk from either station in Jersey City.
I’m going to need to go back there and try some more of Chuck’s amazing cooking. I hope you get over there too!
NYC has entered the era of Catch Steak, a sleek, trendy and sexy steak joint that has some real chops. Chef Michael Vignola, formerly at Strip House and Pomona, proves once again that he is an indispensable asset to the NYC culinary scene. And Catch Steak might be his opus.
The menu that he’s meticulously crafted is filled with both wild feats of cookery and traditional, no nonsense dishes. He exhibits both flare and restraint; fancifulness and humbleness; complexity and simplicity.
He boldly forgoes all other meat protein entrees and focuses solely on beef, save for fish and a plant-based meatless parm dish. There is no chicken. There is no lamb. There is no duck. Beef is the star of the show.
The beef selections are broken down into four sections: Japanese imports; domestic prime; dry-aged beef; and domestic Wagyu cross bred beef.
At first glance, the steak sizes may seem small and pricey. The largest steaks are 24oz porterhouses, and the average size of the cuts range from about 5oz-12oz. But there’s absolutely no waste on these cuts: no “vein steaks” with connective tissue; no gristle. Everything is high end, and trimmed to Michael’s meticulous specifications. Top quality and lack of waste means good value, so the initial sticker shock should be tempered in the mind of the savvy diner.
He sources the beef from many purveyors, but none of them hail from the usual suspects that you might know from the area. If you ask him who supplies the beef, he’ll tell you, “It depends on the cut.”
He spent months vetting each cut from various purveyors all over the country and all over the world. He spent months getting certifications to serve things like true A5 Kobe – with Catch Steak being one of just 11 places in the country that are permitted to serve it.
But the menu doesn’t stop at just one or two cuts from each section. There’s a full range of beefy selections within each, such that any one section would contain enough diversity to satisfy discerning meat connoisseurs dining at any great steakhouse. Catch Steak goes way beyond.
To put it briefly, there are almost 20 steak choices on the menu. My wife and I tried five of them.
First was a duo of imported Japanese selections. Snow beef strip steak, and true A5 Kobe deckle. The Japanese imports are all sold by the ounce, and as such they make great starters for the table to taste and share.
These are treated very simply and grilled on a beautiful hot stone platter that’s been freshly slicked with beef fat. Add fresh flake salt, pepper and garlic ponzu to your liking after it cooks, on your plate.
These were incredible. Both 10/10, but the Kobe deckle was the winner between the two. Both had a naturally buttery aroma from that marbling, which begins to render at room temperature. The deckle had a slightly more tender texture and beefy flavor.
Next was a 5oz soy caramel glazed domestic wagyu strip steak. A truly unique flavor bomb that is unmistakably Michael Vignola. The earthy and savory glaze paired perfectly with the natural sweetness of the meat. 10/10.
My favorite cut of the meal was this 6oz dry-aged deckle.
The peppery maillard crust gave it a great classic steakhouse texture, while the dry aging concentrated the beefy flavors into a walloping punch of “umami.” That aging also succeeded in transforming the most tender portion of the animal into an even more unctuous steak eating experience in this perfectly cooked steak. This was an easy 10/10, and it’s one of my top steaks of the year.
Our final beef selection was a prime porterhouse. This beauty is classic steakhouse fare, where the peppery crust serves as a counterbalance to the soft meat texture within.
While this was closer to medium than medium rare, it still held a ton of flavor and richness. Both sides were very tender, to the point where it would be difficult for the untrained palate to discern strip from tenderloin. The meat was a bit over-salted, but I chalk that up to new restaurant jitters. All of the other cuts were perfectly seasoned. 8/10.
I don’t know how we did it, but we tried a lot more of the ambitious Catch Steak menu.
We started with the roasted peppers appetizer, which is drizzled with 25yr old balsamic, sprinkled with crumbled pistachio, and topped with a dollop of pistachio cream. This was delicious, but I think it could be served with some thin slices of toasted country bread to knock back the concentrated natural salinity of the peppers.
The truffle toro sashimi is absolutely incredible. If toro is your thing, this is definitely a must-order.
Papa’s spicy clams are special. This is a traditional baked clams oreganata dish, but Michael has deftly incorporated spicy nduja into the stuffing, officiating the beautiful marriage between pork and shellfish with his own distinct signature on the nuptial papers. This dish is all him, and it’s killer. If you don’t know Michael’s cooking you’ll know it when you taste this.
On the side we went with three items. The first was actually listed as an appetizer, but we ordered it as an accompaniment to our steak: the potato churro.
This dish will become iconic. The potato is fried into a churro form, filled with sour cream, and then topped with caviar. What an amazing creation. A top dish of the year for sure.
The roasted maitake mushrooms dish is the perfect side to go with your Japanese beef selections. But if you’re like me, you can eat them all day, every day, on the side of whatever is around. I loved these.
Asparagus is a tough veggie to make unique. Here, Vignola has transformed them into a delicious and familiar menu item that many of us enjoy on a weekly basis when we get Chinese take-out: they tasted like sauteed string beans with garlic and almonds! In no way is that meant to be an insult or a triviality. I devoured these!
Dessert aficionados will flip their lid for this Snickers Baked Alaska. It’s large enough to share among four people, especially after going deep into beef for your mains. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s sweet.
This apple cobbler crumble is a house favorite. Inside the pecan strudel there’s a toffee flavored blondie, baked apple and creme fraiche ice cream. Awesome.
Just as impressive as the food menu is the cocktail menu. Mix master Lucas Robinson has curated one of the best cocktail programs around. We tried five drinks from the bar menu and one from the dessert menu. Here they are:
Cafe Disco: Start with this unique take on a negroni, made with cold brew coffee, gin, green chartreuse and campari.
Black & Bleu: This is a savory and earthy mix of miso-infused vodka, dry vermouth, white soy truffle and blue cheese stuffed olives. Very cool frozen copper martini glass too.
Cuffing Season: Wet your taste buds with this stiff pork rind-garnished cocktail, made with fat washed scotch, aperol and amaro. The pork rind is actually pretty friggin’ delicious.
The Glass Slipper: This spicy number is made with rye, Ancho Reyes, benedictine, sherry and absinthe. The rim is cajun salt. My kind of drink!
Up In Smoke: This delicious smoked cocktail is made with rye, yellow chartreuse, dry vermouth and mole bitters. It comes out to the table presented inside a smoke-filled glass lantern box. A delight for the senses with an earthy bottom end from the mole bitters.
Proper Irish Coffee: Lucas’ take on the classic is made with Proper 12 Irish whiskey (of Conor McGregor fame), Colombian coffee, creme de cacao, Ancho Reyes and vanilla salted cream. This hot drink is strong as fuck! A nice balance with those sweet desserts.
The bar area is awesome. Big, spacious, warm and comfortable, yet cool and sleek. I will hang out here and sip those amazing cocktails as often as possible.
The remainder of the space is massive and incredibly well designed. There are two large dining rooms and an upstairs. It has to be one of the biggest restaurants in the city. They spared absolutely no expense in building this place out. Every fixture, every wall, every table is stunning.
That about does it. I’ll be back here for sure. I need to work my way through some more of those amazing cuts of beef. I highly recommend you do the same.
Here’s a run down and guide for all the food I had in Barcelona and San Sebastian. If you followed a link here for a specific restaurant, just scroll down until you see the restaurant name in bold – I did a bulk review here for all of them. In summary, here are my top dishes of the trip:
Mountain and Sea Fideua; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Grilled Prawns; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Roasted Piquillo Peppers; Lomo Alto (BCN)
Mussels in Tiger Sauce; La Mejillonera (SS)
Ham, Cheese, Sardine & Candied Pistachio Pintxos; Txalupa (SS)
Ham & Mushroom Sailboat Pintxos; Karrika Taberna (SS)
Cheesecake; La Vina (SS)
Potato Tortilla; Bar Nestor (SS)
Cream Puff; Izar Pasteleria (SS)
Iberico Pork Shoulder; Kokotxa (SS)
Suckling Lamb; El Asador de Aranda (BCN)
Suckling Pig Tacos; Hoja Santa (BCN)
Vanilla Custard Filled Churro; Random Churro Truck (BCN)
You might notice that the reviews go from BCN to SS and then back to BCN. Very astute of you. That’s because I wrote these in semi-timeline order. We travelled to BCN first, then spent a few days in SS before returning to BCN to finish the trip. In any case, read on and salivate.
TAPAS SIN FRONTERAS (BCN)
We ate here, which was across the street from our AirBnB, to kill some time before check-in on day one of the trip. We got some paella, salumi, and anchovies. Everything here was just mediocre. Not the best way to start the trip, but at least there was some jamon iberico involved.
XIRINGUITO ESCRIBA (BCN)
This beachside paella joint was slammed! There’s a great open-air dining room that overlooks the beach along the Mediterranean Sea, and, as you might imagine, the seafood here is amazing.
The “mountain and sea” paella was visually the star of the show here. Check it out:
But the version that’s made with pasta (fideua) tasted better and had better texture.
We also had some ceviche, guacamole, “pan con tomate,” Galician style octopus and grilled head-on prawns to start.
The prawns were amazing, and one of my top dishes of the entire trip.
The ceviche was just okay, but the guac, the tomato bread and the octopus were all excellent. In fact, that octopus was a close contender for another top dish of the trip. This place was just incredible over all.
Another standout starter was the jamon “air bag.” The crispy cracker-bread pillow gets broken and you eat the ham with it. Awesome.
The highlight of dessert was the pistachio cake with orange sorbet. So delicious!
The other selections weren’t too shabby either, one being a multi-layered combo of dolce de leche and tiramisu, and the other a classic puff pastry and cream combo.
In sum, Xiringuito Escriba is a “must go” spot if you’re looking to eat at the beach in Barcelona.
LOMO ALTO (BCN)
I came across this spot in my research for all things meaty in Barcelona.
This place is all about the beef! Dry-aged, “vaca vieja” (old cow) to be specific. The old cows, some as old as eight years at slaughter, are dry aged for months here, on site. Typically this type of meat is turned into burgers in the US, but here in Spain it is a sought after delicacy.
They offer 12 different breeds of beef to choose from.
Pro tip: say no to the bread. They will automatically bring out bread portions for each person at the table and then charge you upwards of four euro per head at the end. We got them to remove the charge since it was pretty much all stale and we barely touched it. The olives, however, were awesome.
We started with some very meaty items. Tartare, carpaccio and beef tongue. This was a great way to get to know the flavor of dry-aged dairy and old ox meat, which is what these were prepared from. Bold, savory, unique. I really liked all of these, and they came with a pair of nice spiralized potato chip things.
The croquettes were nice as well.
The steak we had was a rib chop from an 8yr old dairy cow that was dry aged for 90 days:
This had some of the most interesting and unique flavor from the dry aging. It tasted like blue cheese. The texture was a little bit aggressive – not tough, but more chewing involved. Some folks love that. Over all I’d say this was an 8/10.
The steak came with roasted piquillo peppers, fries and a salad. The best part of this entire meal was the dish of peppers! They were amazing, and oddly enough a top dish of the trip.
This place is heaven for folks who love dry aged beef, and who also love Spanish beef. A definite must try if that fits your bill. I personally like US beef better, but “when in Rome” … (or, in this case, “when in Barcelona”).
VARIOUS PINTXOS & BARS (SS)
This San Sebastian pintxos joint specialized in mussels and served them something like five or six different ways.
The door handle is even a mussel.
We arrived just as they opened, and as a general matter I found that this is the best way to eat pintxos: Get there early, before the crowds and while the pintxos are freshly made and not collecting bacteria as they sit out on the counter, sans sneeze guards and subject to all kinds of touching.
We tried two mussel dishes: Spicy “tiger” sauce, and wine/herb sauce. Both were incredible, but the spicy tiger sauce (orange/red) was a bit better. Great for bread dipping.
We also had fried calamari two ways: one with shishito peppers and one with a bravas style spicy, creamy sauce. Both excellent.
This unique place was the first and one of our best stops in San Sebastian. It’s definitely worth a stop on your pintxos crawl.
At this place, you need to focus your attention on the cheesecake.
It’s fantastic. Rich, creamy, and delicious.
One order gets you two slivers, so if you’re planning to hit a bunch of places for tapas/pintxos, you can just get a single order to share among two or three people.
This is one spot that every guidebook will tell you is great.
We enjoyed it, but it was mostly more of the same type stuff that you see at other places. In my opinion, it can be skipped.
This joint had one of my favorite bites of the trip: A ham, cheese, sardine and candied pistachio crumble pintxos bite. It blew me away.
When you need a sweet fix, hit this little shop and get the cream puff. I picked the one that looked like a hot dog shaped bun. It was one of the best bites of the trip.
These pine nut clusters were great as well.
If you need a cold sweet fix, this is your place. They have various flavors of ice cream pops, and you can have them dip the pops into various flavors of chocolate and then sprinkled with various toppings. I went with an oreo ice cream pop, dipped in dark chocolate and then hit with crushed waffle cone bits. Awesome.
We hit this spot on a whim before lunch on our last day in San Sebastian and tried a handful of pintxos that looked unique and different from the standard pieces we kept seeing all over the place. Turned out to be a great decision, as that sailboat looking thing (ham and stuffed mushroom) turned out to be one of my favorite pintxos of the trip. Also a great place to have a spritz.
This little spot is essentially a deli/meat shop with some dry goods products for sale as well, but they have a window on the street side where they sell meat cones and sandwiches.
Of course I picked up a cone of ham to walk around with and snack on. The aged flavor was immense on this ham! So good.
My new favorite bar in the world sits on top of Monte Urgull in San Sebastian and overlooks Santa Clara Island and Bahia La Concha. The walk there is half the fun, and the bar itself is in an isolated nook of the castle/battlements of Castillo Monte Urgul. Take a look:
Talk about AVERAGE! Everything here was just meh, but this place is always on pintxos lists for tourists. Pass.
We ate dinner at this seafood joint along the docks.
This was a mediocre meal, but there were a few highlights that were good. This side of asparagus was not fresh. It was canned or pickled.
The grilled octopus was one of the highlights here. It was cooked nicely and had some spicy flavored potatoes with it.
The grilled squid skewers were okay. Nothing special, but not bad by any means.
These prawns were good as well, but not nearly on the same level as Xiringuito Escriba.
The bay scallops were pretty, but a little overcooked.
I enjoyed the baked langoustines though.
BAR NESTOR (SS)
This place is iconic in San Sebastian for all of the main items they serve. Get there at 11:45am and wait to reserve your slice of potato tortilla at 12pm, when Nestor opens the window and starts taking names (they only have 12 slices a day).
It’s one of the best things I ate on the trip. Crispy, gooey, delicious.
Come back at 1pm when they open and sit for a meal. You can reserve a table or spot at the bar when you give Nestor your name for the tortilla. Once seated, they’ll bring out a pair of steaks for you to choose from.
Say yes to the tomatoes; they’re fucking amazing.
Say yes to the peppers; they’re great, too.
The steak itself is 8/10. There’s not as much dry-aged flavor as Lomo Alto in BCN, despite the restaurant and street smelling intensely “dry-agey” and beefy-delicious. That aroma – that Spanish “vaca vieja” – is unique and intoxicating. It doesn’t always translate to flavor, but this cut was more tender and had a better crust than Lomo Alto, so it evened out.
Two slices of potato tortilla, tomatoes, peppers, steak, and two glasses of wine: €63.80.
What an experience! Here’s a short video of the process.
We did the market tasting menu at this Michelin-starred restaurant. It started off with some fancy breadsticks.
Then a trio of snacks – seaweed cake, creamy fish puff and a relatively flavorless bite of something that I can’t seem to remember at the moment (the orange thing).
This white tuna ceviche was fresh and delicious.
I really enjoyed this grilled calamari dish as well.
Kokotxa means cheek in basque, and this hake cheek was a delicious bite for the restaurant namesake.
The crispy skin hake filet was great as well – probably one of the best bites of the meal.
But the star of the meal for me was the iberico pork shoulder, and it was mainly why we chose the market tasting menu instead of the chef’s tasting menu (it wasn’t on that menu). One of the best dishes of the entire trip right here. I wanted three more plates.
The two desserts were both good, and both featured interestingly flavored and balanced sorbets.
Petit fours for the finish:
I definitely recommend Kokotxa if you are in San Sebastian and looking to change up the diet from pintxos. It’s one of the cheaper Michelin-starred places in the area too.
Our final meal in San Sebastian was this chop house. We started with foie gras, lomo (cured pork loin) and roasted piquillo peppers. The foie and peppers were mediocre but the lomo was outstanding.
Another “txuleta” (chop/steak in basque, and the restaurant’s namesake) was consumed here as well. This one had less aged flavor than both Bar Nestor and Lomo Alto, but it was nice and tender. In fact, it was more tender than both of the others, so we evened out again at an 8/10.
Having loved the hake cheeks from Kokotxa the night prior, we went in on two styles of them here as well. Bad move. Should have gotten more meat. The fried ones weren’t as battered or seasoned as I expected, and they were also a little soggy (not crisp). The sauced ones were even worse – they were slimy and seemed almost undercooked.
DINNER AT HOME (BCN)
One of my favorite things about travel in Europe is just hitting the local supermarket (Mercadona) and snacking at home for a meal. High quality stuff for very cheap!
We also got an extra strip steak just for fun… Another 8/10.
…And some lamb ribs as well. These were incredible! I would have called this the best dish of the night if it weren’t for the next one…
The real star here was the 1/4 suckling lamb; a leg:
This crispy skin, fork tender beauty is fall-off-the-bone soft. Simply put, it’s the best lamb I’ve ever had. This dish is reason enough to book your trip to Spain. Skip the vaca vieja and get this!
For dessert, us adults decided to eat some of what was meant to be for the kids. Ice cream in the shape of a dick, and some chocolate cake with whipped cream and ice cream.
This bottle of sweet licorice flavored amaro type liquor came out with the bill. Very nice digestif.
What a meal! This place is a must on your trip to Spain.
HOJA SANTA (BCN)
Hoja Santa customized a tasting menu for us based on a handful of things we were interested in and pointed out to the waiter on their a la carte menu. This Michelin-starred restaurant ended up being the best all-around meal of the trip.
Here’s what we had:
Trio of snacks: gastronomic/spherized olives and peaches, along with a Caesar salad tostada with chicken skin.
Trio of solid cocktails: michelada, mezcal and margarita foam ball. So cool.
Ceviche with catch of the day white tuna and octopus.
Trio of tacos: conchinita pibil taco puff, beef brisket taco with jalapeño tortilla, and bone marrow with sesame tortilla. All awesome, but the brisket with jalapeño tortilla was incredible. One of the best bites of the meal.
Foie gras mole with thin crispy bread and some sort of quinoa meatball things.
Arabic lamb tacos with tomatillo, avocado and sour cream sauce, radish, limes and crispy flour tortillas. These were incredible, and almost shaped up to be the best bite of the meal if it wasn’t for the final savory dish.
Check out how tender this meat was!
One of my lamb rib tacos:
The final savory bite, and best part of the meal – possibly even the best dish of the trip – were these suckling pig rib tacos with cilantro cream, herbaceous pig drippings sauce, pickled cabbage, lime and fresh corn tortillas with pig stamps on them.
Dessert was a frozen orange foam with amaranth, custard and some kind of tahini-like sesame butter.
And finally, and most impressively, corn ice cream with goat cheese, caramel and chocolate truffles. One of the better sweet bites of the trip.
I highly recommend Hoja Santa – you should definitely hit this spot on your trip to BCN.
RANDOM CHURRO VENDOR
These stuffed churros from a churro cart by the famous Gaudi park “Park Guell” (near the Alfonso X metro stop) were awesome. One vanilla custard (best), one dolce de leche (second best) and one chocolate.
Holy fuck I think that about does it! What a ridiculous amount of great food. I hope you take some of my recs if you ever make it over to BCN or SS. Salud!
My wife and I came here for a quick meal before catching a flight to Spain. She had a credit for something like $56 so that covered the steak.
We had the strip steak. It was pretty crappy. No crust, WAY overcooked, and it tasted extremely cheap.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 5
There’s a good selection of cuts here all day long, but the quality of their supposedly high end steaks – for which they are charging upwards of $50 – was pure shit. I’ve had better steaks at Tad’s. What a waste of time and money, and my wife’s’ restaurant credit. Had I known the steak would be this bad, I would have just gotten apps or she could have kept it for drinks at the bar.
Portion Size & Plating: 5
This seemed very small for a $50+ steak. Thin, flimsy. I expected a little thickness for a strip steak. The size of the spinach side was too small for the price as well. Plating was basic and as I expected though.
Given such poor quality of the steak, even with the discount my wife had this place was a waste of money. We saved $50+ but still dropped about $70 on other items.
The bar here is actually nice. Big. I would definitely have a drink there again, and the cocktails were pretty good.
Specials and Other Meats: 7
There were no real specials read to us, but I didn’t expect much from a steakhouse in the airport. As far as other meats go, the standard chicken and lamb were there I think.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 5
We started with a wedge salad. It was massive – an entire head of iceberg lettuce. Great blue cheese crumble and dressing. Nice fried onions. I would have liked more bacon though.
The sautéed spinach was shitty. Watery, flavorless and a very small portion for the price.
Seafood Selection: 7
There’s standard steakhouse seafood fare here. I didn’t try any so can’t really rate it.
Service was good albeit a little slow toward the end. Nice waiter, and he seemed to know his meats as well.
For an airport eatery, this place was pretty nice inside. Open space, nice furnishings, and, as noted above, nice bar.
BOBBY VAN’S TERMINAL 8
JFK Airport, Terminal 8
New York, NY 11430
A few weeks back some friends and I were discussing steakhouses, and one friend randomly mentioned this spot – a spot which I have been meaning to try for years now, but never got around to it. Same for him – always wanted to try, but never did. None of us had particularly high expectations going into this, as it’s a small spot with bargain-friendly pricing in a traditionally bargain-friendly area. My buddy and I were both shocked that we both actually wanted to try it, so a few of us got our schedules in order and made it happen, almost purely for research purposes. Here’s what went down:
We had the rib eye and the porterhouse for two. Both could have benefitted from some seasoning, but overall everything was cooked perfectly to medium rare and tender all over. They definitely cook with butter, which you can smell and taste, but it isn’t overpowering like some places. The steaks were also well-rested before they were served, with little to no bleed out.
We also tried their burger. I forgot to dress it up with the lettuce and tomato that comes on the side, but this 10oz beefy patty was cooked perfectly to medium rare and the bun help up nicely to both the cheddar and the burger juices. Like the steaks, it just needed salt.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
All the major cuts are well represented here, and the beef is Certified Angus Beef, from Performance Foodservice. There was no dry-aged flavor coming through, so, if I had to guess, they are doing wet aging.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions here are pretty big. The porterhouse clocks in at 45oz, the boneless strip and filet mignon are 12oz, and the rib eye is 16oz. They even offer a smaller t-bone (20oz) and a petite filet (8oz), which comes with three jumbo shrimp. Plating is pretty basic. Nothing too fancy. White plate, watercress garnish.
The prices here are awesome. That giant porterhouse for two is just $79. The rib eye is $40. We ordered so much shit and felt like we got away with murder. For what you get here, this place is a great deal.
The cozy five-seat, elbow-shaped bar may be small, but it sees a lot of action. It’s stocked with a really great rum and scotch selection. Upon seeing the nice rums they had, I decided to order a rum old fashioned for my first cocktail. I was not disappointed.
They mix a nice martini to boot. I noticed that several people ate their dinner at the bar, either solo or with their companions, throughout the evening.
Specials and Other Meats: 9
There’s pork, duck, chicken and lamb. No veal, but this is a great spread for a small spot. I almost never see good pork at steak joints these days, so I had to try some. We went with the braised pork shank as a mid-course, and it was cooked perfectly tender. The risotto was a little soupy, and tasted like chicken stock a bit, but I would definitely order that again in a heartbeat.
In addition to the pork shank they also offer a rack of ribs and center cut chops. I asked about specials but only recalled that the soup of the day was a split pea with bacon.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7
We had the fries, the sautéed mushrooms and the creamed spinach as far as sides are concerned. All were pretty good, with the creamed spinach being the standout of the three. The fries needed salt (like the burger and steaks), but they had a great crisp on the outside.
For dessert, we had the cheesecake, which was rich and creamy. They don’t make the desserts in house, but I don’t mind if the stuff they serve is tasty.
See the seafood section below for notes on the app that we tried.
Seafood Selection: 7
There’s bass, salmon and rainbow trout on the entree menu here, as well as shrimp, scallops, calamari, crab cakes and mussels on the app side. We tried the bacon wrapped scallops app and they were pretty good. I was shocked that the bacon was crisp all the way around – no rubbery spots – and the scallop was still cooked properly. They just had the flavor of something that was pre-made and frozen.
Our waiter was great. I don’t think he was used to seeing such heavy orders from a small group of three, so we kind of shocked him. He was great though, knew his meat and made good recommendations.
Bread here is a basket of basic dinner rolls with pre-packaged butter. The rolls are served nice and warm.
A steakhouse with outdoor seating in NYC is a hard thing to come by. This place has it.
The interior is basic for the type of structure that it’s in – just a stretch of seating along one side of the room, with the bar and kitchen entry doors on the other.I’m glad I finally came here. Now I know I can go back when I want a good bargain with a nice mom and pop neighborhood feel. It reminded me a lot of Murtha’s back home, only better.
WEST SIDE STEAKHOUSE
597 10th Ave
New York, NY 10036
I’ve been dying to try House of Prime Rib ever since I had an awesome experience at the similar style prime rib cart joint, Lawry’s, in Chicago. My stop over in San Francisco after to going to Belcampo Meat Camp afforded me the opportunity to finally try it.
Here’s the verdict: NEARLY as good as Lawry’s but not quite there. Read on to see why.
The beef here is delicious. A bit more crisp on the edges and a little more uniform cook on the eye, and this would have been a perfect 10/10. I was with a group of three total, so we tried the King Louis (with the bone), the English Cut, and the House of Prime Rib cut.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
Despite being focused primarily on prime rib, this place is pretty great in terms of size and style choices. Unlike Lawry’s, which also offers a rib eye steak and a filet, House of Prime Rib sticks to just prime rib. Makes sense. This is not a bad thing when the prime rib is so good.
Portion Size & Plating: 10
Portions here are big for the price, and for less than $50 you get a big slab of prime rib along with all your sides for the meal, nicely (although not always neatly) plated together.
Amazing meal for less than $50. You really can’t beat it for this level of quality unless you have a Lawry’s in your area. If you finish your prime rib, they’ll even offer you an additional slice on the house if you eat it there at the table (you can’t take it to go).
This place has a nice fun stretch of bar and serves the full menu there as well.
They make a nice martini and leave the pint glass and shaker top there for you to drain every last ounce of booze from your pour as well. I like that. Perhaps a signature cocktail or a cocktail list would bring this up to Lawry’s level though.
Specials and Other Meats: 7
There are no specials or other meats, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. As I said with Lawry’s, the prime rib is the special. I can dig it.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7
The apps and sides here are a bit lacking in comparison to Lawry’s. The Yorshire pudding wedge was good but a bit flimsy and it had no crisp or texture to it. The creamed corn was delicious though, and I enjoyed the creamed spinach as well. The mashed potatoes are meh, but the baked potato is huge and comes with a shitload of bacon!
The spinning salad here is presented very similar to Lawry’s, similar salad overall, right down to the beets, eggs and house seasoning being used in it as well.
To be fair, I don’t know who did it first: Lawry’s or House of Prime Rib. Either way I love it.
For dessert we tried the English Trifle and the Fantasy Cake (chocolate mousse with cheesecake). Both were great!
Contrast this parfait style trifle with the more cake style trifle from Lawry’s. Both good. But I think I liked this one a little better actually.
Seafood Selection: 8
Another spot where House of Prime Rib beats out Lawry’s is the seafood realm. They have a whole fish item on the entree menu, which is nice for the ladies or the sprawled beta cucks in your dining party.
The people working here are true professionals. The waitresses aren’t 1950’s style actresses like Lawry’s, but they go out of their way to make your meal excellent. The chefs even allowed us to take their photo, and photos of the meat cart as well.
Our waitress overheard us saying that we’d like to try the creamed corn as well. We were trying to decide who would order it with their entree and she just offered it up on the house. Awesome.
Also worth mentioning here is the fact that the prime rib comes with way more varieties of horseradish and cream sauces that Lawry’s, in addition to extra au jus (and the entree slice after you finish). They had mild, medium, strong, tabasco, and pickled horseradish. I loved them all!
Table bread was this delicious warm loaf of sourdough:
This place is great. It feels like you’re dining in someone’s huge mansion-like home. Very similar to Lawry’s in Chicago, only less “grand” in scope and ceiling height. I only dinged them a point here because the dining room was too warm. I was nearly sweating.
HOUSE OF PRIME RIB
1906 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94109
I tried this joint on their grand opening with a couple of food Instagram buddies of mine. This place is so new, they don’t even have a website or a menu online anywhere. Keep in mind that this place is not even really open yet, and this was served to us during their grand opening friends and family party. I have a feeling the experience will be much different and much better on a second visit.
We tried both the porterhouse and the rib eye. I actually liked the strip side of the porterhouse the best, since it packed a lot of dry aged flavor. One friend liked the filet side, and another liked the rib eye the best. So we all had our differences. Overall, though, I gave both an 8/10. Both steaks were ever so slightly overcooked from medium rare to medium, but all is forgiven when the flavor is good.
This burger is a steal at just $18.
Fries are sold separately at $7, but all in $25 isn’t too bad at all for a half pound dry aged steakhouse burger with fries.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
The beef here, I believe, is all from Strassburger Steaks, all dry-aged and USDA prime. They have all the basics and then some.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions here are on par with all the midtown steak joints, as is the plating. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
With portions for one ranging in the mid to upper 40s, the prices here are under the norm by almost $10 a portion. That’s a good deal.
There isn’t much of a bar to mention here, but the cocktails are good, they have a nice happy hour, and there’s lounge style seating and occasionally live music in the hotel lobby that’s connected and adjacent to the restaurant.
Specials and Other Meats: 7
There were no specials to speak of on this occasion (aside from the haps hour specials noted above), but we did get to try the chicken parm. I wasn’t impressed with it, but I do believe they’re still working on some items. In terms of other meats available, there is both veal and lamb. A pretty fair showing. On a second visit, they did read some specials off to us.
On a second visit I asked for the veal chop but they were out (they didn’t have it on the first visit either), but we did try these nice lamb chops. Three double bones.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We started with the sizzling Canadian bacon and the steak tartare. Both were very good, and worth getting again. We also tried the Caesar salad, and shared a bunch of sides: truffle creamed corn, steamed broccoli, creamless style creamed spinach, and a raw tuna dish served in a martini glass. For dessert we had a trio: a chocolate mousse type of cake, carrot cake (my favorite of the three) and cheesecake – with schlag of course (which was more like standard whipped cream than the thick, lightly sweetened stuff I’m used to).
On a second visit I tried the baked clams, which were great.
Here are those desserts:
Seafood Selection: 6
There’s a good deal of seafood on the menu here, but I was only able to try the tuna martini thing, which didn’t really make me very excited (though it was beautiful). Next time I’ll try a fish entree or some more of the raw shellfish and cold appetizer stuff. That’s really where I think they will shine as far as seafood. On a second visit I had another sushi item and was disappointed.
I imagine their proper sushi will be top notch too. They even have a sushi bar in the dining room with counter service.
The staff here is awesome. It took a bit to get our bill to us, but other than that, we were treated like royalty and all the servers and staff were attentive, friendly, and knew the menu inside and out. Table bread is a nice Italian style bread, but the butter could use a whipping or a warming. I also didn’t see a proprietary steak sauce on the table yet (which I don’t care about anyway, but it’s nice with bacon sometimes).
The decor here is still in the process of coming together. They’re awaiting some wall art (and hopefully new chairs). The space is in the back, behind the hotel lobby, and sunken down a few steps into a grand dining room. Really beautiful spot, cozy yet elegant. There are even a few tables out front for dining outside.
I look forward to coming back to try some more dishes in a few weeks.
This place has been on my list of must-do steakhouses since the list began. I’m a little ashamed that I hadn’t gone until just last night. I don’t know what the fuck took me so long to get my ass over here, but, in any case, it finally happened. Here’s what I thought:
My wife and I tried two steaks. First, we shared the bone-in rib eye.
We both remarked that this was cooked perfectly the whole way through, with a great crust all around.
There was just a bit of seasoning missing. Perhaps just a little more salt would have bumped this up a bit. 7/10.
The second steak we tried was the porterhouse.
This baby was good. The filet side was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the strip side was full of powerful dry-aged funk. The filet side had less character than the strip side, and the strip side had more tooth to each bite.
Served in the Luger style, the Wolfgang’s porterhouse comes out broiled on the top of the steak only, with the bottom being in contact with the sizzling hot plate. While they were judicious on the use of butter (not too much, thankfully), I do prefer my steaks broiled or seared on both sides. In any case, this was a really good rendition of that style, and it was cooked expertly to medium rare throughout. 8/10.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
You’ve got porterhouse, strip, filet and rib eye here. The basics. All of the beef comes from the midwest and is aged in-house, and it’s all USDA prime grade.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions here are in line with what you might expect at all the major midtown steakhouses, and the plating is standard as well. Nothing fancy.
The prices here vary from the $50-$60 range per person, which has become pretty much standard for the area. Not bad when you consider that they are nailing the cook temps here, and putting out some good grub.
This bar is iconic. The arched ceiling throughout the restaurant really gives you the feeling that you’ve stepped back in time, to the old days of dank, dimly lit taverns. I was actually shocked to learn that they only opened in 2004. I was almost expecting something like the 1920’s.
The cocktails are great too. We tried “The Black Manhattan” and a standard gin martini. Both expertly made.
Specials and Other Meats: 7
There were no specials read to us, but then again we were pretty much dead set on what we were going to order anyway. That may have signaled to the waiter that he didn’t need to get into it with us. In any case, the only other meat available here is lamb. Fuck that other nonsense anyway. I respect that. Unfortunately, though, for scoring purposes, that means I have to take some points.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We started with a round of littleneck clams and oysters on the half shell. Both were tasty and fresh, cleanly shucked and void of debris and odors. The clams come eight to an order, which is nice. The oysters, six.
We also had a slab of their bacon.
I’m happy to report that this blows away Luger’s bacon, which is always fucking burnt. This was nice and thick, rendered well, crisp and meaty.
On the side, we had two types of spinach: sautéed and creamed. The creamed spinach is my favorite style – “creamless” creamed spinach. So velvety and buttery. That was the better of the two, but both are definitely up to snuff.
For dessert, we shared a slice of pecan pie with schlag. Very nice. Hot and sweet. The schlag was a good balance to the pie. Without it, it would’ve been too sweet.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s sea bass, salmon, tuna and lobster on the menu. These seem to be industry standard in the steakhouse world. Occasionally you see swordfish, or some shrimp scampi preparations from time to time.
The servers here are all awesome, and everyone – the bartenders, the hostesses, the managers – is really looking out for you. I loved it. Classic style on the wait staff, bowties and all.
As I mentioned above in the bar area, this place is absolutely iconic. The arched ceilings can cause the room to get pretty loud when the place is crowded though, so make sure you expect that going in. I didn’t mind it at all. It felt welcoming.
4 Park Ave
New York, NY 10016
YES! This is the steakhouse inside the gentlemen’s club called “The Executive Club,” formerly of Penthouse fame. For many years I had heard – all bullshitting aside – that this really was a great steak joint. Adam Perry Lang is rumored to have designed and built the aging room that’s there on site. So how did it fare under my intense scrutiny? Very well, actually. See below:
I tried both the porterhouse for two and rib eye for two. The porterhouse was a 9/10, and is probably in the running for one of the best porterhouses I’ve had for 2019.
The rib eye, 8/10.
Both had great aged flavor and were cooked almost perfectly, but the porterhouse just came out on top in terms of that aged goodness. Also, I felt like the rib eye was a bit small as being marketed “for two.”
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
I’ve heard that the beef here is from Master Purveyors in the Bronx, though they did not confirm. Those guys have been very consistent in terms of quality, from my experience. The dry-aging is done on site here in a proprietary aging room, but they did not reveal how long they age the meat. No matter, though, because that flavor was definitely present and pleasant. Next time I go, I’d like to do a tour of the aging room. Prime quality all the way here, and the basics are all covered in terms of the cuts.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions are fair. As noted above I thought the rib eye for two was a little small, but otherwise they were fine. The plating is upgraded a bit from the standard basic steakhouse style, with some flare for the apps and sides.
My meal was free, as this was a press event, but the prices were pretty fair for steakhouse fare. I was expecting a heavy uncharge being in a strip club, but that was not the case at all. There may be some price holding as, from what I understand, this joint may be a members only kind of place. I have to check up on that though. Don’t hold me to it…
I was only privy to the bar upstairs by the Robert’s dining area, which was a small seven or eight foot stretch without any actual bar stool seating. Mainly this seemed like a place to either stand and drink while waiting to be accosted by a dancer, or just a staging place where the bartenders can mix up drinks to later be distribute via waitresses to the various tables. In any case, they did mix a good martini, and if eye candy is what you’re after at a bar, then what better place is there to be than a strip club?
Specials and Other Meats: 8
There weren’t any specials that I was aware of, but then again this was a press meal with a somewhat set menu. As far as other meats go, they offer veal, chicken and lamb. One thing I did enjoy, oddly enough, was the rigatoni pasta with fresh ricotta and tomato sauce. Not sure if that’s a special or just another type of entree, but it was tasty and had a good level of spice to it.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We tried a bunch of items, some of which I didn’t shoot (like the creamed spinach, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes). First was the hamachi crudo. I liked this.
Next up, tuna tartare with quail egg. This was delicious as well.
The shrimp salad was bland and somewhat flavorless. Pass on this one.
However, the shrimp cocktail was incredible. These gigantic shrimp were meaty, perfectly cooked and robust with that great shellfish flavor. Get this.
The crab cake fell into the world of averages. Not bad, not great. It was crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside, however, which are two big and important characteristics of a crab cake.
We skipped dessert since we were full, so I can’t comment on that.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s a bunch on the menu here (tuna, salmon, sea bass, lobster), and from what I tried of it in the appetizers section, I think they would do a good job with mains.
The service here is great. All of the staff is very attentive and they explained the menu and beef cuts correctly, even to the extent that they discussed the dry-aging processes. The chef is also really great and visited with us throughout the meal. He bounces back and forth between the NYC location and Atlantic City, however, so I hope he leaves the kitchen in trusted hands when he isn’t around.
While the “surroundings” are indeed pleasing to any heterosexual male, the “restaurant” itself isn’t quite separated from the club other than the fact that it’s upstairs. There are still girls walking around looking to cash in with dances, and I suppose if you wanted you could see the main stage and pole from anywhere up there. That’s not a complaint – just an observation that this place is different than a standard steakhouse or restaurant due to the nature of it being literally inside and not separated from the strip club.
The Executive Club
603 w. 45th Street
New York, NY 10036
For our New Year’s Eve dinner in Playa del Carmen, we went to Sonora Grill Prime. They offered a set menu price fix meal. Here’s what we had:
The first items to arrive at the table was a baked bean and cheese dip with tortilla chips, and an array of dipping sauces.
And our drinks. Here is my wife’s lychee martini.
First, a pumpkin and squash soup (which was velvety smooth and really delicious) as well as a dried fruits salad with blue cheese (which was also great – I want dried fruits in all of my salads now).
For the entrees, there was a choice of roasted chicken, fish (I forget which kind) and beef. Obviously I got the beef, which was a filet mignon.
Mine was grilled and cooked nicely to medium rare, despite the waiter informing us that all of them would be cooked to medium. I guess they really wanted to streamline the process in the kitchen.
I was glad mine came out medium rare, as all of the beef here is good quality shit from the US.
My buddy’s filet, on the other hand, was taller and skinnier than mine – a completely different shape. And it was rare. He wasn’t pleased with it, but I liked mine at 8/10.
My wife tried the fish. It was “fishy” as they say, but not quite as aggressively flavored as something like a Long Island bluefish. I thought it was fine.
The dessert was bread pudding, and we all liked it.
If I am down here again, I would like to try some of their steaks from the regular menu. When I made the reservation here, I did not know they were offering a special, limited menu. I guess I should have known better, since that’s pretty much what every restaurant does in NYC.
I’ve decided to save a full 100-point review for this spot until I return. For now, I just scored the steak on its own.
SONORA GRILL PRIME
Calle 12 Nte 251
Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720
Playa del Carmen; Q.R., Mexico