AJ Maxwell’s overall score: 76
UPDATE: AJ MAXWELL’S IS NOW CLOSED!
I used to love this joint. I have been here, I think, four times. My wife and I used to get $20 and $40 gift cards in the mail from them randomly, simply by virtue of them being a newly opened restaurant that was loyal to new customers. I dig that. We were happy the first few times we went, but this review is based on a much different dining experience.
My buddy and I each had ribeyes – their supposed “signature” dish. We were both a bit disappointed. We experienced tough meat in the central portion of the ribeye (no marbling), and an overall lack of flavor or seasoning throughout. It wasn’t bad, but certainly not on par with my prior experiences here and steaks at other joints. My buddy ordered medium rare and it came to him rare at best. It was VERY undercooked. Bad. I’ve had the ribeye before, and it was better. I’ve also had the filet and braised short rib, which were better than average.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7
AJ offers porterhouse for two, three or four, ribeyes, all manner of filet, and even some specials – like a bone-in filet (the conundrum). Score for that. To top it off, they have a killer pinot braised short rib. My feeling is that they are passing off high quality choice for prime, or using low quality prime (if that is possible). There is just not enough flavor going on in the cuts – likely due to lack of aging, or lack of quality marbling. At least not like I remembered from previous visits.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions are on the heavy side, which is good considering you aren’t getting the best flavor or quality. At least in this respect you get some good poundage for your buck. EAT UP and SHUT UP.
Too high. For $55, I expect my ribeye to be fantastic, especially when it is marketed as their signature cut. I’ve had better tasting ribeyes for $40 on Long Island. Know your role, AJ. You are slipping. For six oysters ($17), 2 ribeyes ($55 each), the cheapest bottle of wine ($??) and a trio of appetizers ($21), the total came to about $150 each (tax and tip included). Better off hitting Del Frisco’s around the corner for that cost.
The bar is great, and the bartender, who is a regular fixture there (his name escapes me at the moment), is really friendly. He will get you whatever you want (such as a steak or a double espresso), and mixes a really good martini. The bar room is cool because it sits right along the windows of 48th street – nice place to hang, especially after a hard 60 hour work week.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
I’m always happy to see alternative meat on the menu. AJ’s is good with that. They always have a nice non-traditional cut, along with the braised short rib and pork/chicken/veal cuts.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 6
Let me say, the six oysters we had were fantastic… but the fries were sub par (I’ve had better at the diner around the block from my house), the creamed spinach was blah (it lacked seasoning and was a little watery), and the mac & cheese was something on the boxed level. No crumbs, no meat folded in, no burned crisp to it… absolutely no texture. Over all a disappointing app experience (aside from the great, cold, fresh oysters [which were a little overpriced at $17 for 6]). The oysters even came with a nice little basket of hot sauce, fresh horseradish, crackers and other sauces.
Seafood Selection: 8
Honest – I didn’t really pay attention to anything other than the appetizers – they had lump crab, lump lobster, a good shrimp selection, and fantastic oysters. Viewing their menu online shows a normal type selection for the vaginal non-meat items.
Our waiter was awesome – good guy, knew his meat, helpful. That’s all I ask for. He didn’t push anything on us, nor did he leave us lacking anything throughout the meal.
As a relatively new corporate type steak joint, AJ’s is a bit lackluster in terms of charm, but it is nicely decorated and set up. I think with more time it will come into its own, or start to develop its own character… but right now it is just a very plain type of space. It is nice and open, high ceilings, etc… but basic. The bathroom urinals are cool because they have a foot-pedal flush, so you don’t have to dirty up your hands anymore after they just cupped your balls. That’s always a plus.