Mark Joseph overall score: 82
Mark Joseph is a well known steak joint down by NYC’s South Street Seaport. The word among steak-folk is that one of the owners was formerly employed with Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn, but then left to start his own legacy. As it turns out, a fellow carnivore friend of mine knows one of the other owners or investors in a roundabout sort of way through the butchery and meat packing industry; my friend worked for a meat company that one of the owners ran. It is comforting to know that the pedigree of this place is firmly grounded in the meat biz. This rating comes on the heels of my second time eating at this fine establishment. Groupon had a great $25 for $50 offer recently so I jumped on it in hopes to refresh my meat senses in order to give this place a thorough review.
My first time here, my wife and I got the steak for two (porterhouse). It comes out on a sizzling hot plate, cooked a little under from what you ordered. The plate is so hot that you literally finish cooking the slices to your liking right on the plate. Now, this is tradition in the spirit of Luger’s, and it is cool from a theatrical perspective, but not cool for other reasons. I am not a fan of it. Why, you ask? The meat has not had a chance to rest when it is sliced. This creates a pool of blood/juices under the steak that ruins the crisp texture of the bottom while draining it of moisture, rendering the meat dry if you don’t scarf it down ASAP. It tasted good enough though, so there’s that. This trip, I went with the ribeye to truly test Mark Joseph’s mettle. It was good. Crispy outer edges and crust – perfectly cooked – well rested, well seasoned.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
This place is pretty bare-bones. Porterhouse for two, three or four; a “sirloin,” which I assume and hope is a real strip at a place like this; a bone in ribeye (thank God they had the sense to leave the bone in), and filet. There’s nothing wrong with a bare-bones approach to steakhouses. I appreciate it, actually. If a place is willing to really focus their skill on the basic four cuts and make them perfect, then that is something to be proud of. This is what Mark Joseph strives for. They offer the “chopped steak” as well, the large, glorified, bun-less hamburger, but I think it is a wasted menu item. Throw a skirt on there, or another dead animal other than the steer. They DO have lamb chops though, which I always am tempted to order at steakhouses but refrain from doing so. The quality is all prime, dry aged, so that is a feather in the cap.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
The portions are healthy here, at 28oz for the bone-in ribeye, and 16-20oz for filets. Plating is basic; hot white plates; nothing fancy, yet it still remains elegant.
The steak for two is $82, which is fair in comparison to other high end NYC steak places. At $51, the ribeye is a bit on the high end. Eight oysters ran us $17, $16 for the tuna app, $10 for sauteed spinach, $12 martinis (after tax) and $4 per slice of bacon. Our total bill was $204 – and special thanks to Groupon again for knocking that additional money off.
Nice bar. Three TVs (30-40inch flat screens), friendly bartender that mixes a good martini (filled high with fat olives), great scotch selection, and close to the seaport (nice environment).
Specials and Other Meats: 7
Aside from seafood, the only other meat Mark Joseph offers is lamb. I appreciate the gesture. The place basically says “fuck you” to chicken and other pussy meats. I think a cherry pepper pork chop or maybe something more game-oriented like venison could make a showing though and MJ would still keep that macho attitude. As for specials, there were none. Oh well.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
I can’t for the life of me remember what I had the first time we went here, so all I can do is judge based on this last visit. MJ seems to take the approach of “simple is better” or “showcase the quality of the ingredients” with their apps. They are all delicious. We had oysters on the half shell (creamy, crisp & cold), a slice of bacon (freaking AWESOME here – I even buttered it – yup – buttered bacon), tuna tartare (nice solid sushi grade chopped chunks, no fatty whiteness – nicely seasoned/dressed – very simple but yummy), and sauteed spinach (very nice – better than their creamed spinach, which I do recall that we had the last time we went). For dessert we had the apple crunch pie, but it was not crunchy. It was served with a scoop of whipped cream that had me fooled into thinking it was ice cream at first. A point off for false advertising on the lack of crunch.
Seafood Selection: 7
Tuna, salmon, lobster, and (kick his ass) sea bass are the entrees to consider if you are going vaginal here. The appetizer menu is riddled with great looking shellfish too; clams of every preparation (including raw), chilled oysters, and multiple preparations of tuna, crab and shrimp. My wife got the lobster tails, which were done very nicely.
Service is top notch. Well dressed in the traditional white shirt & bow tie, attentive but not annoying, and they know their meat. Sometimes I like to test them on their knowledge, but there was no need; the waiter immediately told me all about the ribeye when I asked how big it was. A good note here: the bartender remembered my drink order after I sat down. When I first get to a steakhouse, I like to order a drink at the bar, assess things, etc. When the waiter put my order for a second martini in, the bartender remembered, and asked the waiter if it was the same customer. Nice touch. I like that. The table breads were a nice assortment of raisin pumpernickel, slices of rye, onion bread buns, and standard dinner rolls – all toasty and warm. The butter was cool/cold, but it was whipped so not that hard to spread against the warm bread (and bacon).
The owners took the Luger concept and made it more upscale. The dark wood furniture is contrasted with the bright white linens and curtains. Yet you don’t get a sense of pompousness or over-elegance. It is the right mix of manliness and culture; like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a tuxedo. The bathrooms could use a little work – they are standard bar type bathrooms, but with a good smell and some interesting Yankees memorabilia.
261 Water St.
New York, NY 10038