Delmonico’s

Delmonico’s overall score: 97

NEW REVIEW (as of 5/3/17):

I’m going to keep this update relatively short and streamlined, since I’ve been here so many times already, as evidenced below. I’m very happy to see that this classic, true NYC joint is still consistently delivering delicious food.

My old score was a 94, but I’ve bumped it up to a 96 after attending a press meal here. Here’s what to take away from it all:

Flavor: This is still a 10, but the 45-day bone-in rib eye is really the true star of the steak menu. The prime Double R Ranch beef has an incredible earthy, nutty aroma that lingers in the air all around the plate. The flavor is powerful and savory.

We also tried the porterhouse for two and the tomahawk rib eye for two. Both of these are about 8/10. There was some slight overcooking here, but the flavor was still nice from the 28-days of dry-aging. On average, though, when you take into account the great signature Delmonico cut, strip and filet options (which I already reviewed way back), the 10 score is solid and reliable. My favorite of all the cuts I’ve tried, though, is that rib eye above. Insane. Anyway, here are some shots of the porterhouse and tomahawk for two:

Portion Size: Now a 9. Meats are well hung here.

Price: I’ve changed the price score from a 9 to a 10. This joint somehow manages to keep big ticket items like lobster and booze relatively affordable. The bar is slinging $10 glasses of Michter’s bourbon, for fuck’s sake! That’s unheard of in a steak joint. Bravo. And they’re still mixing up a delicious martini.

Here’s a barrage of sides, starters and desserts. My favorites of these are the bacon and the wagyu tartare, which I could easily live on if someone told me that I could never touch another true cut of steak again. Both are incredible. In fact, this bacon is my new favorite bacon, ever.

Bacon: this is house smoked and cured, maple glazed, sous vide for days, and then rendered off to absolutely shocking perfection.

Wagyu Tartare: Snake River Farms supplies the top end American wagyu here.

Prawns:

Onion Rings:

Foie Gras:

Corn:

Broccoli:

Creamed Spinach:

Mushrooms:

Baked Alaska: These things sat out for a half hour or more while we shot them and talked with the chef (Billy Oliva), but they still held up: cold creamy ice cream inside, awesomely soft and flavorful outer marshmallow shell. They nail it!

Seafood: This is being bumped from a 9 to a 10 as well. The Lobster Newburg is just so iconic here. It really is incredible. The butter cayenne sauce takes shellfish and seafood to a whole other level.

And the baked oysters are like no other:

Some other items to discuss:

The table bread: Classic warm dinner rolls with nice whipped butter.

Eggs Benedict: this was also invented here (along with Baked Alaska, Chicken a la King, Lobster Newburg and fine dining in general). Caviar on top?!?? Yes please…

Eggs Benedict Burger: Holy shit this thing is decadent. The thick cut bacon is also on top of the burger patty as well as the poached egg. And the English Muffin is slathered with a delicious truffle sauce that will knock your socks off.

180 Year Anniversary: Yeah that’s right. It’ll be 180 years this summer. To celebrate, they’re putting 180-day dry aged beef on the menu. I can’t fucking wait for that!

OLD REVIEW:

Delmonico’s claims to be the first fine dining restaurant in the country. In addition to that interesting bit of history, Delmonico’s is famous for coining the “delmonico steak” cut/term – which is a boneless ribeye (though there is some debate as to which cut was actually used back in the day). That’s right – this place invented the delmonico steak (duh). I’ve been here once before, but it was a while back, so a second visit solidified the experience for a thorough review. This time I got a nice 30% discount from a Village Vines coupon, which was helpful on this man-date with my cousin. After a third visit, things have gone up in scoring. See italics below for updates as of 6/8/12:

Flavor: 10

This place was perfect in terms of flavor. My cousin got the filet, and I got the signature delmonico/boneless ribeye. Just the right amount of crisp and seasoning (salt and pepper – nothing fancy – they respect the meat), and just the right temperature when the plates arrived. The meat was well rested and cooked just right. The filet was ordered rare, and the ribeye was ordered medium. They were both delicious. The strip I had on my third visit was amazing as well. Cooked a little under from what I ordered, but I kinda knew it would come out like that so I went with it, and I enjoyed it. Still perfectly rested, nice and juicy, and packed full of flavor. On my fourth visit my wife and I shared the 36oz double ribeye. I was shocked at how nicely cooked it was. Some places, like Quality Meats, tend to overcook the edges and undercook the middle, due to the thickness of the meat. But this place didn’t suffer from that problem. it was just right. The fat on it was unbelievably delicious. It was like a jiggly, melty pork or duck fat with super-thin crispy brown edges that just melted in your mouth. Sticky and yummy!

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

Delmonico’s has all the basics and then some. They have the signature delmonico steak (18oz boneless ribeye), as well as a 36oz double cut bone-in ribeye (which I plan to get if I go there again). The double porterhouse is about 36oz, and there are also filets (in the 10oz-12oz range) and strips (16oz). The strip, porterhouse and 3-pounder are all listed as dry aged and the strip is listed as prime, but I think all of the cuts are prime and aged. Delmonico’s pretty much just covers the basics, but they do it well. On the third visit they even offered a t-bone in their specials, so I upped this by a point.

Portion Size & Plating: 8 (now 9)

The portions here are normal. As mentioned above, the steaks broke down as follows: 18oz boneless delmonico; 36oz bone-in ribeye; 36oz porterhouse; 16oz strip; and 10oz-12oz filet. The plating was elegant but restrained; good for men, nothing too fancy.

Price: 9 (now 10)

The prices are average to slightly high, but given the exceptional flavor of the steak, it is totally worth it. I thought the foie gras was overpriced and small ($21 on first visit, $24 on fourth visit), but hey – it IS goose liver. We were nice and full, but not uncomfortable, like lions after devouring a wildebeest. That said, I got 30% off through Village Vines, which was a bonus. They also offer the same deal for (aged.) by the way. The total spent for four martinis ($13 and $14 each), foie gras, special oysters, creamed spinach and two steaks came to around $190, tax and tip included. We skipped dessert. On our third visit, we had a party of four and the bill felt like it was less than I expected; probably due to having a 15% discount ala Savored. As a result, I upped the points here a little, since it seems Delmonico’s is generous in terms of offering and participating in price specials and online deals. A fourth trip proved yet again to involve a great deal through the web: Groupon had a four-course meal for two at $50/pp (I think we only ended up paying $92 for the deal too, since there was a coupon code for the coupon – then our bill was only $62 at the end for drinks, tax and tip – incredible deal). Amazing, since there were very little restrictions on what you could order. In fact they even let us grab both the fois gras AND the king crab mac & cheese, both of which are over-and-above items that usually cost more than the other apps.

Bar: 10

Delmonico’s has a really fantastic old-school bar. It is sunken down a few steps from the main dining room, and it has a side entrance through a revolving door off the corner from the main entrance. They serve a great steak sandwich there to boot. This is the kind of bar every steak man or lover of “ye olde tyme” things should visit. It is, simply put, an American classic. One look at the lounge and bar pics on their website should have you salivating for booze and beef. They made a good martini too, despite a missing olive on our second round, but I take that into account more in my service section rather than changing my bar rating. On my third visit, the martini had three olives right off the bat (they learned!), and it was still mixed perfectly.

Specials and Other Meats: 10

In the “other meats” category, Delmonico’s offers a fat veal chop, which is nice, lamb chops, and chicken. Standard plus, I would say. For specials, I would call the 3lb ribeye a special, but other than that, they do offer some off-the-menu items. The Chicken a’ la Keene (served with a pimento cream sauce) is also a signature dish created in the 1880’s and with a rich history: the dish ultimately became known as “chicken a’ la king.” Yes – Delmonico’s invented that dish too! On special, there was a 5lb lobster for sharing (or not!), and some special oysters for an appetizer: three pairs from different regions. We ordered the oysters. On special for round three there were some different items; the “Kobe carpaccio,” a lobster cocktail, cucumber soup, and a t-bone steak for one. Well played for mixing it up; I added a point here. I also got to taste a bite of their famous Chicken ala King/Keene; crispy skin with a juicy and delicious inside. It was almost like duck. Since we pretty much tried all the specials and enjoyed them, I am giving full points here now.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We started with the oysters special. One was briny and fishy, one was normal, and one, called a stingray oyster, was awesome. All were on the small side, however. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: I just expected one or two to be a little larger. Then we had foie gras. It was sort of small, and sat on a hunk of bread that was a little too thick in proportion, but it tasted like the really good, soft, melty fat of a ribeye that you can eat. My cousin wasn’t that impressed with it, and said he probably wouldn’t order it again. I probably wouldn’t either for that price ($21), but I definitely liked it. With dinner we had the staple: creamed spinach. It wasn’t that good: kinda bland. It was made fresh, but it lacked roundness and creaminess. We skipped dessert this time around. On the third trip, we started with grilled marinated octopus. It was delicious, and really nicely presented. Cooked perfectly tender with NO chew, and served in little pretzel-like curls. I also had the “Kobe carpaccio,” which was absolutely amazing; dressed nicely, salted well, and topped with a healthy amount of shaved truffles. I also tasted a small spoonful of the cucumber soup, which was really light and refreshing, and the lobster cocktail was a nice one-pounder. We shared grilled asparagus as well, which was good. Last, on recommendation we tried the famous baked Alaska (apparently the dish originated here as well), which was good but it didn’t change my life. I’ve upped the score from 7 to 9 here. On a fourth visit, we tried the king crab mac & cheese, which was made with a broad spital pasta and folded with light, creamy and melty cheese and cream, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. It was nice! We also had the spaetzl, which was good and firm, made with a crispy pancetta, and peppered with sauteed greens to boot. Delicious. For dessert we also tried the chocolate bread pudding (not so great), and a rice pudding pie (really great). The best non-steak items I tried on that fourth visit, however, were the “Jim Brady Oysters.” Creamy, bacony, cheesey goodness through and through. It changed my entire outlook on whether oysters are permitted to be cooked. They’re fantastic.

Seafood Selection: 9 (now 10)

Lobster, halibut, and snapper were listed under entrees in addition to the seafood towers and shellfish on the appetizer menu. The lobster dish, Lobster Newberg, also a signature dish with a unique sauce, has a great story to go along with it (also originated here at the restaurant). They also offered the 5lb special lobster for two, which seemed like a fun thing to order if you are a giant pussy. My wife tried the seafood plateau appetizer as her main course on our third visit and it was great. It came with oysters, shrimp, lump crabmeat, and lobster.

Service: 10

A quick note about the actual servers here… John, Igor, and Reno are amazing, professional, and seasoned waiters. If you have the good fortune of getting any of them to take your order and serve your table, you are definitely in good hands. The service is great here – really top notch. Everyone knows their meat, and they are right there whenever you need something. Literally – you can see the waiters lined up near the doors to the kitchen watching over the dining room. They stay out of your way, yet they know when you need attention. All male waitstaff, ties: the classic steakhouse experience. The check getting and paying process was fast as well. I’ve dropped a point off here only because our second round of martinis were missing an olive. A martini should always have at least three olives, regardless of size. The olives here are nice and big, fleshy and fresh, but we still must have three. When we ordered our first round, at the bar, they came with three. Our second round, ordered at the table, only had two. My cousin pointed out that it is bad luck to NOT have three. The waiter wasn’t aware that martinis should have three olives, but he quickly remedied the situation and brought over a couple more on a small plate. The little things make a difference. I should also note that martinis are like tits: one is not enough, and three is too many (unlike olives). Heed this wisdom. I had a hard time deciding if I should knock the point off in the service section or in the bar section, but ultimately decided it should be taken from here. And since I didn’t want to take a FULL point off for that minor infraction, I figured it would round out the point to mention that the butter served with the bread was cold and hard (but the bread was semi-warm and crispy). Two half points off make a whole point off. Bread was better on the second trip; nicely seasoned rolls and buns, and also seasoned pretzel-like onion bread with a nice crispy, yet soft outside. Service has gone up to 10 from a 9 because the waiter was dead honest when I asked about the steak special; he told me it was a t-bone, emphasizing that it was NOT a porterhouse because it had a smaller filet side. Also the martini olive situation seems to be fixed.

Ambiance: 10

Delmonico’s is known for its private dining rooms and alcoves, its fantastic bar, and rich history. Both times I ate here were in the main dining room, which is adorned with a huge mural of 1920’s style fanciness, great wood paneling on the walls between windows, wide spacious floor, and high ceiling.  It is very elegant yet still maintains a classic steakhouse feel. It is similar to Sparks in that regard, but without the gaudy mafia overtones. The bathroom, through the bar area, was small, but it had nice dark tiling all the way up the walls, a fresh cinnamon smell, and medium quality paper hand towels (not the thick, cloth-like stuff).

DELMONICO’S
56 Beaver St.
New York, NY 10004

6 thoughts on “Delmonico’s”

  1. Hey, Johnny — new fan of your site and I love it. My Delmonico’s experience was not as good as yours. I dined early, around 7, in a nearly empty restaurant and all alone. They brought out that signature Delmonico steak with so much fat in it I wondered if I was being treated like a tourist or a rube. I left probably 15 percent of the medium-rare (closer to rare, as you note on the slight undercooking) steak on the plate, cutting around what was not marbling but simply gristle. Perhaps a one-off experience? Could be–but a fine steakhouse should NEVER bring out a piece of meat like that. YMMV — thanks!

    1. Damn that sucks! I hope it was just a one-of experience. As an aside, when you spend that much on a steak you should never feel funny sending it back and telling them it was really grizzled. What a shame.

  2. I know this place was mentioned in The King In Yellow, which was from 1895 or so. So the ‘first fine dining’ claim may be legit.

      1. For sure. Most people know it as the basis behind the first season of True Detective, but it predates Lovecraft by 20 years or so. Must-read if you’re into weird fiction/cosmic horror stuff.

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