Empire Steakhouse overall score: 77
UPDATE: THIS LOCATION HAS CLOSED
On a whim my wife and I decided to give this place a try since it was right near work. Empire is run by former Luger’s and Ben & Jack’s staff, so you know there is clout behind what they do.
I had the ribeye, as usual. It was pretty tasty, but there were some quality issues that caused a slight decrease in flavor. See below for full details on that. As for flavor, it had a nice smoky, charred taste, which was enjoyable. It was nicely seasoned too, and cooked/rested correctly. They have a proprietary steak sauce on the table, but I didn’t dig it. It tasted like ketchup and horseradish (cocktail sauce).
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7
Empire covers the basics in a plentiful way. They offer porterhouse for two, three, or four; ribeye; filet; strip; and even prime rib. To top it off there are veal and lamb chops too. The issue is that my particular cut was sub par. There was a good deal of inedible gristle and fat on it that didn’t melt away, and some spots were chewy. I’d guess about 3-4oz. worth was inedible. Also, the bone on it was rather big. Normally I don’t mind that one bit, but this time it took up a good amount of the ounce-age of the steak, so the edible portion size (taking bone and gristle into consideration) ended up on the small size even though it probably clocked in at around 20oz total weight. Maybe I was able to eat 12oz of it?
Portion Size & Plating: 7
For the steak, part of this relates back to the above comments: “There was a good deal of inedible gristle and fat on it that didn’t melt away. I’d guess about 3-4oz worth was inedible. Also, the bone on it was rather big. Normally I don’t mind that one bit, but this time it took up a good amount of the ounce-age of the steak, so the edible portion size (taking bone and gristle into consideration) ended up on the small size even though it probably clocked in at around 20oz total weight. Maybe I was able to eat 12oz of it?” The steak for multiples comes out pre-sliced on a sizzling platter, just like the assholes at Luger’s do, and just like the dunces at Mark Joseph do. I personally HATE this method of serving, because the meat bleeds out and becomes dry, and often it isn’t cooked properly. Anyone who is into steak knows that a steak should be rested before it is cut, not sizzling on a God-damned hot plate like a fucking steak fajita at TGI Fridays (by the way – fajita meats steak in Spanish… so steak fajita is the equivalent of saying “steak steak”). I understand the presentation is fun this way, but guys… come on… you are fucking up the meat! The creamed spinach, bacon slabs and creme brulee were the right sizes, but the oyster app was $14 for six pieces (see price section below), and the chilled seafood platter only had two shrimp, a fist full of lump crab meat, and a small lobster. To top it off, the shrimp and lobster on the seafood platter were utterly flavorless. The crab meat on it, however, was great.
The price wasn’t too bad considering we had a full meal in a NYC steakhouse. The total bill with tax and tip included came to about $175. The ribeye was $43, the seafood platter was $27, bacon by the slice was $4, and martinis were $13. As I mentioned above, however, the oysters were a little pricey, the steak was not the best cut, and the seafood platter was a bit lacking; so you pay a little less because you are getting a little less I suppose.
The bar is small but neat, modern and clean. The martini was a little heavier on the vermouth than I normally like, but they did have raspberry caipirinhas for the wifey to sip on. The best part about the bar was the free home made potato chips that tasted like steak meat.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
Empire has a prime rib for people who are too puss-cake for the ribeye. They also have lamb and veal chops to round out their selection of carnivorous delights. On special there was… nothing! Oh well. Not that big of a deal.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
My wife had the seafood platter for her entree, and that was flavorless in the two shrimp and small lobster section, but great for the lump crab meat portion. The oysters were creamy, crisp, cold and fresh, but they were over priced. We also had the bacon slabs, which were “Canadian” style and tasted a bit more like ham than real bacon, but it was still yummy. On the side, we had creamed spinach, which was really great – almost exactly the same as Wolfgang’s, which are my favorite (retained the spinach flavor, not too salty, not heavy, yet still creamy). For dessert we had creme brulee, which was basic and standard… and good! I love me some creme brulee!
Seafood Selection: 9
Empire has a really fantastic selection for seafood. For entrees they have sea bass, salmon, tuna, sole, lobster, crab cakes, and shrimp dishes. For apps they have the usual lump crab meat, crab cakes, lobster cocktail, shrimp cocktail, clams, oysters, baked clams, fried calamari, and a seafood platter. Excellent. From what we tried, however, we were only half pleased (loved the oysters and crab meat, didn’t like the shrimp and lobster so much), so I took a point for that.
Our waiter was a little aloof and quiet, but I don’t mind that so much. One of the other waiters actually had the courtesy to apologize to my wife when the group he was seating bumped into her twice, HARD, without even acknowledging the mishap. That was nice of him. The waiters all have red vests with bow ties on top of white tux shirts, all male. The bread basket was the same exact basket from Wolfgang’s: fennel and salt loaf, nice rigid french bread, and some poppy and onion rolls. Unfortunately one of the waiters knocked the french bread out of the basket when he was setting up our oysters. My wife likes French bread, so that was more her loss than mine.
As mentioned above, the waiters all have red vests with bow ties on top of white tux shirts, and they’re all male. The decor is elegant and modern, but not over the top. Everything is neat and clean, including the bathroom, which had nice off-white marble tiles all over. It was a single person toilet with thick paper towels set upon the marble counter tops.
36 W. 52nd St.
New York, NY 10019