Primehouse overall score: 91
NOTE: This restaurant is now CLOSED.
Primehouse is a BR Guest restaurant. My wife and I have gone to the NYC location on Park & 27th several times. Overall this was one of my top three favorite steakhouses in New York, but things have changed much since they first opened.
In all my years of devouring animal carcass, Primehouse is one of the best steakhouses I’ve been to in terms of flavor. The seasoning is just right; you never need to add salt, pepper, or sauces to the meat. They seem to take pride in the simplicity of the ingredient and do extremely well at showcasing it in a pure form. This seems to be the case with most BR Guest restaurants I’ve been to as a matter of fact, whether it is steak, BBQ or seafood.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
The main four cuts (strip, filet, porterhouse, and ribeye) are all represented on the basic menu, often in several sizes and forms, such as bone-in or boneless. As the name of the restaurant suggests, they use prime grade beef, most of which is already aged. Occasionally they offer cuts of meat not listed on the menu, such as special aged cuts, but there is an amazing selection of aged meat on the normal menu. I’ve tasted their 40-day aged ribeye, both bone-in and boneless filets, and the bone-in strip; all were fantastic. This place wins the prize for the best filet I have ever tasted to date. On top of having the basic four cuts in several varieties, they also offer alternative cuts like the hanger steak, as well as other types of meat.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
The portions are normal to above average in size. The “real” steaks hover around the 20oz mark, where they should be. The bone-in filet is massive. Plating is simple, but elegant.
Primehouse can be pricey if you go for the better cuts, but you get a lot for your money, and the quality is fantastic. You WILL NOT leave hungry. The food is well worth the price. The fist time my wife and I went, they offered a $75/pp three course tasting which included a slightly smaller sized appetizer, a petit filet, and dessert. In reality it was more like a four or five course tasting because they brought over complimentary bite-sized samplings of their side items and other things the chef was experimenting with. We try to go every time they offer specials like this, since you save a lot of money and still get all of their best food, but unfortunately we haven’t seen it offered much anymore in the past couple of years. Times are tough.
Primehouse has an amazing bar food menu. A few times we were tempted to skip steaks and just sit at the bar and snack on pork belly all night. They know how to mix a drink too, and the martinis are always made well. Not too sweet, not too strong, most of the special drink menu items are unique and refreshing. Great selection of wines, scotches and special cocktails. This is a place you can definitely hang out in. Several large TVs adorn the high-ceiling bar area, and the large windows offer a view of Park Avenue for people watching.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
I’ve really only ever saw chicken and veal on the menu, other than beef. I’d like to see some lamb preparations, or a braised short rib. I know this place can do a great job on those, despite primarily being a place for steak. As I said above, the meats on the regular menu are already pretty damn special, but occasionally the waiter will read off some things that are not on the menu.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
On the appetizer angle, the big eye tuna tartare is probably the best preparation of tuna I have ever eaten. The table-side ceasar is amazing, and so is the carpaccio, and all are good sized. The crabcake was a bit small, but still tasty; I think it was small because the time I got it, it was from the special $75 prix fix tasting menu, where portions tend to be smaller. The tomato bisque was really tasty and smokey. It came with small squares of grilled cheese cut up in the empty bowl, and the server poured the soup into the bowl tableside. Primehouse offers a great selection of raw oysters and shellfish towers that will feed more than one person. For the sides, I wasn’t impressed with the potato-based items (I’ve tried the lobster whipped, duck fat hash browns, and asiago fries), but the creamed spinach and grilled asparagus are great, as are the green beans and mac & cheese. For dessert, the box of doughnuts is absolutely amazing. They are fresh homemade doughnut holes topped with cinnamon and sugar, and they come in a brown Chinese-food container box with a few bottles of “fillings” that you squirt into the doughnuts. Other than a generously filled flight of bourbons or a single malt scotch, that is all I have ever tried for dessert. My wife tried a chocolate souffle once and said it was good. Fuck chocolate – I can’t eat much without getting sick of it. The cold items are good to cleanse the palate.
Seafood Selection: 8
Aside from the multitude of shellfish and seafood in the appetizer section, Primehouse offers a few basic preparations of the standards like salmon, tuna, sea bass, and of course lobster. I’ve never tried, but they look delicious, and the selection is about normal for a steakhouse menu. The seafood towers on the appetizer menu could also substitute as a meal. The smaller “flatiron” size came with four oysters (raw), two clams (raw), half a lobster tail, a lobster claw, a king crab leg, a dish of salmon tartare, about a dozen mussels, and homemade potato chips.
Primehouse is not a traditional style steakhouse with an all-male staff. The waiters/waitresses all know their stuff. They will suggest a less or more gamey steak, or a milder aged steak, if you explain what you like and dislike. They are not out to get you to buy the most expensive item on the menu; they are concerned with making you happy. They are on top of the bread and water refills, and the refreshing of booze. Worth mentioning here is the bread served with dinner. Freshly baked, warm, square bagels – some plain but naturally salty, some with chopped calamata olives inside. And the butter is whipped and soft, easy to spread – not hard like it just came out of the freezer. I could eat these all day. Tableside items like the salad and soup engage the diner in the culinary experience. Occasionally my wife and I will make reservations for special occasions online, and, if you tell them it is your birthday or anniversary, they will sometimes bring over a complimentary box of doughnuts for dessert, a pair of champagne flutes or a small cake with a candle and some writing on the plate. They know how to take care of their patrons. The only down side is that in recent months or the last year or so, some of the nice perks about this restaurant have started to fade away, like a free dessert or drink if you make anniversary reservations, the complimentary tasting-sized sampling of special items or palate cleansers between courses, or the olive square bagel (now they seem to only serve the plain, which is still delicious – don’t get me wrong). This is probably due to the recent economic downturn and its impact on the rising cost of food items, so it is understandable in that sense. A business still needs to make money, right?
Although Primehouse is not a traditional, wood-grained, Rockwell-print-adorned, tavern-like classic “steakhouse” restaurant, I still give it surprisingly good marks for ambiance. Don’t be fooled by the initial appearance of a club or lounge atmosphere. No one is rude, the music is a comfortable volume and a mix of things everyone knows, and the vibe is relaxed; no dress code. The floor is an amazing nod to the mod stylings of the 60s, with bold black and white circles embedded in the tile. High ceilings make you feel light and not so weighed down by the massive meat wad that sits in your stomach as the meal progresses. The crowd is hip and trendy, but not pretentious like some places in the city. It attracts after-workers, young people, as well as daters and birthdayers. Bathrooms are clean and spacious, flatware is clean, white and non-traditional/interestingly shaped, and silverware is robust and modern. Overall Primehouse is a great change-up from the typical steakhouse feel. I was pleasantly surprised, and now I have grown to love it, even though my meat bone still belongs to the classic steakhouse decor.