Tag Archives: beef

Salt + Charcoal

Salt + Charcoal overall score: 87

A food Instagram buddy of mine, @NYCFoodFOMO, set up an “influencer” dinner here, so I was able to try a bunch of stuff. I was really impressed with the meats. It was difficult to fit this review into my standard 10-category format, as some sections just didn’t pan out like they would for a larger steakhouse. With that in mind, you should focus more on the flavor category, as well as the specific notes I made about other food items. Base your decision to go here on the substance and “meat” of the review, as opposed to the total number. I really loved every single item that I ate here, and I will definitely be back again. Anyway, check it out:

Flavor: 9

Porterhouse: 8/10. This baby is dry aged for 50 days, so it eats really soft with with a nice outer crust texture for contrast.

The aged flavor was on the milder side, but I really enjoyed it.

Both the tenderloin side and strip side were perfectly cooked and tender.

Miyazaki Sirloin: 10/10. Look at this gorgeous slab of beef.

I mean, it’s rare that you find beef that’s really from Japan, so this is a special situation. They cook and serve this very simply – almost like a sushi dish – with ginger and wasabi.

It packs a lot of flavor, and is incredibly tender. A really nice treat.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7

You don’t have the biggest selection here (porterhouse, strip, off-menu filet, and wagyu sirloin), but the sirloin is highly marbled Miyazaki; the filet is topped with tons of uni; and the other two cuts are dry aged for 50 days. They are in serious need of a rib eye, however.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions are fairly normal here for the pricing, but the plating is gorgeous. Dishes are served in a Japanese aesthetic.

Price: 10

I can’t take away any points since this was a comped meal, and all I had to do was leave a tip. The prices can get steep, however, which surprised me for a steakhouse outside of midtown Manhattan. That’s the price you pay for high quality beef, though, and the Miyazaki is actually pretty fair compared to other places I’ve seen it.

Bar: 6

There’s not much of a bar scene to speak of, but the cocktails are certainly well crafted. I had a spin on an Old Fashioned, and I loved it.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

They offer an off-menu filet mignon that’s topped with tons of uni. I didn’t try it, but I’ve heard mixed reviews. I did, however, try their lamb and duck. Both were excellent, and some of the best I’ve ever had. No shame in taking a break from beef to indulge in these two dishes. Hell, they even work as shared apps if you want.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10

We tried a delicious trio of apps. First was the wagyu and uni roll. This is similar to the item served over at Takashi, with the accompanying shiso leaf and nori paper.

Next up was the uni shooter with poached egg, salmon roe and truffle oil. Delicious, smooth and decadent. I could slam a dozen of these no problem.

Last but not least, the crab cakes. These were generously meaty with a nice lightly breaded crust. Lovely.

Worth noting here: two of the dishes came with these amazing potato cake sides made of dozens of thinly sliced potato. It was buttery, salty and delicious.

Seafood Selection: 9

There’s a healthy amount of seafood on the menu here, as this joint also serves up some killer sushi. We tried a few rolls and loved them all. No pics though.

Service: 10

The service here is outstanding. Everyone is attentive, yet respectful of your space and privacy.

Ambiance: 8

Beautiful rustic wood tones make for a very cozy, warm and inviting atmosphere. I really liked the open view into the kitchen on the main dining floor. While the restaurant is long and narrow, they make good use of the space. And like a traditional steakhouse, there is a private dining room available downstairs, which is where we ate.

SALT + CHARCOAL
171 Grand St
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Chimichurri Grill (East)

I was invited to Chimichurri Grill East by the restaurant’s PR specialist to try a special five course tasting menu (with wine pairings and dessert), and to write a review. Let me get right to it!

The restaurant is an elegant, modern and fine dining Argentinian steak house. This is somewhat of a rarity here in the city, as most Argentinian places that I know are more on the pub atmosphere end, and don’t serve actual Argentinian proteins. Argentinian beef is something that people clamor for, so it’s good to know that this place serves the real deal.

Moreover, Chef Carlos Darquea uses family recipes to create the dishes he loves and grew up with. Everything is authentic and from the heart.

His wife Alicia is the wine director, and together they own a sister restaurant, called Chimichurri Grill West (a theater district mainstay for nearly 20 years), which serves the exact same menu but in a different atmosphere.

Here’s what we had:

Course 1: Sweetbreads (Heart)

This was really nice. These veal heart sweetbreads are sliced and grilled, served with a red pepper, parsley and garlic sauce, and featured on a slice of crispy purple potato. Very pretty and delicious. This was similar to something like foie gras.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 2: Beef Tongue Stew

I really loved this warm, hearty and delicious dish. It was reminiscent of homemade beef barley soup. The tongue was diced into small cubes and braised to tender perfection.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 3: Grilled Romaine Salad

The feta, buttermilk and dill dressing makes for a nice creamy compliment with the grilled greens. And the crispy bacon lardon is just perfect.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

We had a scoop of homemade passion fruit sorbet to cleanse the palate. Very nice!

Course 4: Pasta with Seafood

This house made pasta is served with a chardonnay and basil sauce that gets added to a roux and the various seafood juices that Chef Carlos extracts from the seafood used to make the dish; clams, calamari, prawns, mussels and halibut.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 5: Grass Fed Argentinian Rib Eye

This was great. It’s wet aged for 32 days as it travels from Argentina to the US. Chef Carlos finishes this Black Angus steak directly on wood charcoal to develop a great crust on the outside of the meat. It’s even plated with some charcoal, and when you pop the rosemary on top, it smokes and gives off a great aroma.

It was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It had a huge outer cap and a lean eye, likely due to the grass fed nature of the beef.

You’re in for a really nice bite when you combine the caramelized vidalia onions and sauces that come to the table with this dish.

The steak (which was a full sized portion, FYI) also came with French fries. These were perfectly crisp and deliciously seasoned.

Dessert: Dulce de Leche Creme Brulee

Wow. What a great dessert! So flavorful, smooth and unexpected. A great Latin twist on the classic French custard.

That about covers it! I really can’t wait to go back and try some more cuts of steak. The menu here is new/fresh, exciting, and completely outside the box.

They even have nice happy hour specials from 4-8pm, and a great express lunch menu for all you midtown power lunchers. Get on it!

CHIMICHURRI GRILL EAST
133 E 61st St
New York, NY 10065

Guan Fu Szechuan

I recently had the pleasure of dining with a bunch of food friends at this new Szechuan joint in Flushing called Guan Fu. They do an incredible job of showcasing the different kinds of spice that the cuisine is known for (numbing as well as heat), while also developing intense, robust flavors that you can actually taste. Contrast with many other Szechuan joints in NYC that just blow your mouth out with heat and numbness, leaving you unable to actually enjoy the food.

That’s not to say that the food here isn’t spicy. It sure as heck is! But the balance is so well done that it’s quite impressive. But let me get down to business, because we tried 17 different dishes here. There is a lot to discuss…

The first four dishes were cold preparations.

1. Thinly Sliced Pork Liver

This was nice. No mealy texture or gamey flavor. Good heat from the red chilis. Excellent citrus-flavored sauce.

2. Sweet Fried Pork Ribs

These were awesome. Great crispy texture, super tender, and with just a little bit of heat to gently contrast the sweet.

3. Razor Clams

These were served with Mexican green peppers (likely a poblano or hatch variety) as well as some red Thai chili peppers. Great preparation, and the clams were perfectly cooked.

4. Bean Jelly

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The bean jelly was reminiscent of a snappy, thick noodle. This was served with chili oil, peanuts, sesame seeds and scallions.

Okay now onto the warm food.

5. “Water Fish” Tilapia

This was both numbing and heat spicy. The fish was served in an over-seasoned broth so as to get all the flavors into the flesh of the Tilapia. In fact, the sauce/broth isn’t meant to be eaten, as is the case with many of the dishes we were served.

6. Dry Pot Frog

This was another favorite of the night. The frog was so tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. It was served with crisp, fried potatoes and lotus root in the mix too. That textural contrast really blew me away. Just be careful of the tiny bones in the frog meat!

7. Sliced Beef With Pickled Cherry Peppers

This was a really fun dish. The peppers were pickled, but the beef and cucumber cooked in the sauce were both fresh (meaning not pickled). Really nice.

8. Hot Pot

In addition to cabbage and mushrooms, this also contained slices of lamb meat and beef meatballs. Awesome flavors going on here when you mixed it all together, and a little bit of numbness from those famous Szechuan peppercorns.

9. Sweet & Crispy Corn

This was a nice way to knock back any heat that might be lingering in your mouth. These little nuggets were a perfect snack. Juicy inside, bursting with kernel corn flavor, but crispy and batter-fried on the outside.

10. Kung Pao Chicken

This is a famous dish, but done right and as close to authentic as you’re going to get. Lots of heat, really tender meat, and a great contrast of flavors and textures in the stir fry mix.

11. Ma Po Tofu

This is another famously spicy dish from the Szechuan region. The sauce here is a blast of heat and numbing spice, meant to be eaten with rice. I skipped the rice, though, and was just spooning the sauce into my mouth, gulp after gulp. It was great!

12. “Fishy Pork”

There is no actual fish in this dish, but it is made with the intent of giving the diner the essence or flavors of fish. The actual protein here is shredded pork, and it is delicious.

13. Hand Ripped Cabbage With Pork Belly

Bacon makes everything better, especially cabbage. This was a really nice way to get a veggie into the mix other than incorporating peppers and onions into a stir fry.

14. Double Pepper Chicken

Wow. Just when you thought Kung Pao was a kick in the balls, you discover double pepper chicken. The two peppers are green chilis (jalapeños) and red chilis (Thai chilis). But the sneaky spice here is the numbing Szechuan peppercorns that are also worked into the dish. Excellent.

15. Shrimp

These head-on giant shrimp were excellent. They even serve small shrimp where you can eat the shell as well.

16. Green Beans

I love how the veggie comes out last. These were simple and delicious though. A welcome addition to the meal.

17. Fried Sesame Cakes

I’ve had these babies before and I love them. These were filled with a squash mash or paste of some kind. I generally like the red bean or mung bean pastes better (they’re a little sweeter).

That about does it. I really want to come back here and try more stuff, or even just put down full portions of my favorite dishes from this trip, like the bean jelly and dry pot frog. Get your ass out here and try this stuff ASAP!

GUAN FU SZECHUAN
39-16 Prince St
G01
Flushing, NY 11354

Butcher & Banker

Butcher & Banker overall score: 93*

I was invited into Butcher & Banker for a special preview dinner with a group of people from Instagram. This joint has taken over the previously unused space in an old bank vault on the ground floor of the New Yorker Hotel. I was really excited to try out some items from their impressive menu. Check out the details below.

Flavor: 10

I tried two different cuts of steak here. I’ll start with the big boy; the tomahawk rib eye (individual flavor score: 10/10).

This beauty was big, juicy and flavorful.

It was cooked to a perfect medium rare with a really great crust.

While there was a good amount of fat on this chop, the fat was the high quality kind that you can eat like beef jelly. I was loving it. And the generously sized cap was absolutely incredible.

Next up was the smoked strip steak (individual flavor score: 8/10).

This thing was beautifully presented on a circular, hibachi style steel mesh grate that sat atop a cast iron grill pan which was covered in rosemary (that’s where the smoke comes from – firing the herbs up). This, too, was perfectly cooked, juicy and flavorful. However I was only able to try a small piece, and I think I got one of the “lesser” slices that remained, as we shared two cuts among about 10 or 12 people. As such the 8/10 score is tentative, and I’m reserving full judgment on this cut until I can try another during my next visit. What I did have was great, but I imagine a slice from the center would be a perfect score, just like the tomahawk.

I’m giving the overall score for flavor the benefit of the doubt here and awarding full points for flavor. Despite the individual scores averaging 9/10, I just know. Trust me.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10

Chef Scott Campbell sources all of his beef from Pat LaFrieda and a state of the art facility out on Long Island (apologies – the name escapes me at the moment). The cuts available here range far and wide: long bone short rib, tomahawk rib eye, porterhouse, rib cap, coulotte (top sirloin cap), hanger, strip (corn fed or grass finished), filet mignon, and cowboy rib eye. Insanity. And there’s definitely some dry aging going on here – they just didn’t print out the number of days for each cut.

Personally, I don’t care about the number of days as long as I can taste it. Lately I’ve had some dry aged beef that claims to be aged for so long, but the time didn’t translate into flavor. It really all depends on the aging room. Whatever the case may be here, I was able to taste it, and that is a win to me.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portion sizes here are pretty generous, and the plating is artful without being too fancy.

Price: 10

Since my meal was free, I have to award full points here. However, the prices are fair for the area, and reflect normal pricing for a midtown Manhattan steakhouse. There’s a variety of cuts available for the discerning carnivore, ranging from $32 for the budget savvy to $63 for the big spenders (per person).

Bar: 8

The bar is cozy and interesting. Being down in an old bank vault, it can be out of the way or an effort to get to, as it isn’t a visible spot from the street. But I really liked the vibe.

The cocktails are great here, and they reflect a modern twist on the art deco design of the New Yorker Hotel.

Raffles Singapore Sling:

A Proper Manhattan:

Our Bountiful Martini:

Specials and Other Meats: 10

There’s plenty to go around in the “other meats” department. The menu boasts a duck steak, veal, lamb and chicken. But the big star of the non-beef items is the Kan Kan Pork.

The menu description of this dish – “a grand arch of double loin chops, belly and cracklings” – doesn’t quite do it justice. Order it and you’ll know what I mean when you see it come to the table.

It’s garnished with caramelized Catskill apples, and served with an apple cider reduction. There is no other pork dish like it in the city, and nothing even comes close to it. This is meant for two at $41/pp.

I’m not sure if the waiters will be reading off-menu specials each day, but when you have stuff like this on the menu, what else can possibly be “special” in comparison?

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We tried a bunch of apps and sides, so I’ll just rattle it all off and let you know my thoughts about each.

Banker’s Bacon Double-Thick

As you know from following this website and my Instagram account, there are very few bacon apps that can compete with my top five list. This Banker Bacon was delicious though – no doubt about it – and definitely worth getting as an app.

Short Rib Taquitos

I didn’t see these listed on the menu, but they were great. Super tender stewed style beef with a hit of cooling avocado cream inside a crispy shell. Can’t go wrong.

Colossal Shrimp Cocktail

Delicious and big. The fresh shaved horseradish on top was killer.

Calamari, Rock Shrimp & Shishito Fritti

These come with a great wasabi cream dipping sauce and a little bowl of curry salt for personal seasoning. That salt is really something else, and I love the flavor combinations when you dip into the wasabi cream and then finish with a pinch of curry salt. Perfectly crispy and lightly battered, and the shishito is a great touch.

Three Minute Diver Scallop Ceviche

Really light and well balanced. The scallops were meaty and delicate, and the bright yuzu and grapefruit dressing made them really pop.

Crisp Piri Piri Oysters Rockefeller

These were excellent. I usually don’t like cooked oysters very much, but these were almost like just the outside was cooked, with a crispy fried shell encasing the juicy, creamy oyster inside. Perfect with that dollop of creamed spinach underneath.

Roasted Wild Mushrooms

A great blend of fungi, simply treated with butter, herbs and seasonings – and looking beautiful.

Homemade Gelato

I didn’t get a shot of this stuff, but the texture was so rich and creamy. It was awesome. Chocolate, vanilla and bourbon pecan (incredible and unique).

Seafood Selection: 8

I didn’t try any fish entrees, but all of the starters I tried involving seafood were excellent. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to ordering a seafood entree, as there are still so many meat items I need to try when I return. In any case there are scallops, salmon, shrimp and tuna in the seafood entree department – a fair showing.

Service: 10

The wait staff is on top of their game. They know the cocktails inside and out, and they can explain everything on the menu with precision.

Also worth mentioning here is the homemade skillet bread that comes out to the table with a pair of different butters.

Light, airy, and fluffy inside with a buttery and savory outer crust. One of these days I’ll write up a top five table breads list, and I’ll certainly be considering this as a candidate.

Ambiance: 9

What else can be said about an old bank vault? The details in this place are all original and completely stunning.

And the modern touches from the renovation to turn this place into a steakhouse are elegant, yet still warm and inviting.

The space itself is divided into three locations: the vault, the bar/lounge, and the bifurcated dining room. It’s not a large restaurant, but they really made the best of the space. It feels like it belongs, and I can’t wait to go back.

BUTCHER & BANKER
The New Yorker Hotel
481 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001

Merakia

Merakia overall score: 88

Formerly Kat & Theo, Merakia is a Mediterranean and Greek inspired meat house in the Flatiron district. I was invited in as a guest of Instagram influencer @NYCFoodFOMO to take pics and sample the menu. Here’s the breakdown:

Flavor: 7

We had the porterhouse. This baby had a great seared crust on the outside that was nicely charcoal flavored and charred. I enjoyed that aspect of it – you could taste the garlic that was rubbed onto it, as well as the variety of fresh Greek herbs. The meat itself was tender and juicy as well. It was dry aged somewhere between 28 and 32 days, and hailed from either DeBragga or LaFrieda (there was some confusion about this between what management said and what the chef said). The main pitfall for this delicious hunk of beef was that it was under seasoned.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

As you can tell from the menu, there is a pretty nice selection of beef on this otherwise lamb-heavy Greek meat house menu. I was impressed.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions are all on par with similar steakhouses.

Price: 10

Since I ate for free, I have to designate this as a 10. The porterhouse was priced at $120, which isn’t too steep for 32oz, but could certainly be a bit lower. Other steaks are priced a bit high, close to the top end of the normal range at expensive midtown steak joints.

Bar: 9

This joint offers some really unique cocktails.

I really enjoyed the “Metal & Dust.” It even came with a small triangle of home made strawberry fruit leather.

The bar itself was really nice, and I would definitely hang here for drinks any time.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

Lamb is the way to go for non-beef meats. This is a Greek joint after all, and they do it well. We tried three different lamb items.

Lamb Ribs

Avid readers of this website will know of my affinity for lamb ribs. I absolutely love them, and I even sell them. Merakia nails them! Perfectly seasoned, nice balance of crisp lean meat to fat, and nice with a squeeze of lemon and some tzatziki. There are enough to share between two people in one app order (five meaty ribs).

Lamb Chops

This is an entree, and it comes with four nicely sized chops. These were a slight bit overcooked for my liking (more like medium to medium well), and also under seasoned. But damn were they good quality. I still recommend them.

Kleftiko (“mountain thief” lamb stew)

This was the star of the night. If you eat here, you must order this. It is a 200 year old family recipe that the chef has carried down for generations. The story behind this traditional dish is that thieves would steal a lamb and cook it in the mountains, covering it underground in the process to conceal the smoke and aromas. It makes for a nice concentration of flavors. Mixed in with the stewed lamb meat are peppers, herbs, spices, and Greek cheeses. It is served in a sourdough bread bowl.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10

I mentioned the lamb ribs just a moment ago. Those are top notch. Based on that, I’m giving full points here. We were too full for dessert so we skipped.

Seafood Selection: 8

There are some nice looking fish entrees and apps on the menu. We didn’t get to try them this time around, but we will certainly be back for them.

Service: 10

Amazing people are running this joint. Very attentive but not in your face all the time. Eager to make your dining experience excellent. Chef Scalco is very friendly and enjoys talking about his family recipes and the history of the dishes. If you’re into that sort of thing, you will love this joint.

This is what your table bread will look like: nice toasty bread, high quality olive oil and tasty olives.

Ambiance: 9

I was blown away by the interior of this restaurant. Tin ceiling with awesome beams and Edison bulbs up front:

And a cozy, rustic brick-walled and beamed-ceilinged rear dining room with a fireplace.

I highly recommend giving this place a shot – especially for the lamb ribs and kleftiko.

MERAKIA
5 W 21st St
New York, NY 10010

Benjamin Steakhouse White Plains

Benjamin Steakhouse (White Plains)
Overall Score: 85

Guest Review by “Hungry Dad” Hugh Gallon
www.HungryDads.com

As in my prior guest review for BLT Steak in White Plains, it’s important to start by saying that I am not qualified to properly review a steakhouse – at least not when compared to the Carnivore Connoisseur himself. But with steak, as with art, I know what I like. For context, my favorite steak place is Peter Luger, which has a reputation for being overhyped with respect to the steak (but is appropriately hyped with respect to its atmosphere). Also, it’s important to note that my reviews are often through the lens of a parent dining with children, as is the case here. So certain priorities differ from Johnny Prime’s. Nonetheless, I can use Johnny’s well-conceived ranking system as a structure for my ill-conceived opinions.

I wanted steak for my birthday, but a babysitter doubles the price of a steak dinner right off the bat. And a trip into Manhattan with the kids is a suicide mission unless the destination is kid-centric. So my favorite NYC steak joints are just not as convenient as they used to be. I was almost resigned to visiting the local diner for an order of steak and eggs. But then I found brunch at Benjamin Steakhouse in White Plains – owned by the same folks as Manhattan’s Benjamin Steakhouse and Benjamin Prime.

Flavor: 9

Benjamin’s rib eye was great. A nice salty crust and medium rare to my liking. I picked this place because it was close, but also because Benjamin has some genetic history with my beloved Peter Luger, as its owners came from Lugers.

I ordered the rib eye hoping to get plenty of fat and juice, knowing that the NY sirloin or filet minion would be too lean for my tastes (I learned such basics from Johnny’s outstanding Meat 101 and 102). The ribeye was juicy with a nice edge of fat. I would have actually welcomed a thicker strip of fat. I love the fat. When I was a kid, my dad said eating the fat put hair on your chest. Based on the veritable forest I have there, he must have been right.

Side note: I have to remember to ask Johnny if it’d be appropriate to ask a steakhouse waiter for a “fattier cut,” or if that’s weird or stupid in some way. Is a big strip of fat technically bad? It is less meat after all. When I go to a BBQ joint, I always ask for burnt ends of the brisket – which are viewed as inferior by some. But the burnt ends are my favorite. I think asking for burnt ends makes you look like you are “in the know,” with BBQ, but without being too big a douche. I wonder if there are any such questions appropriate for the steakhouse with respect to fat.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

We ended up at Benjamin for brunch, rather than dinner. Fortunately, Benjamin still offered their full menu in addition to a brunch menu. For guys like me, stuck in Westchester with kids, who still want the full steak experience on their birthday, this was a godsend.

The menu offered porterhouse (for two, three or four), NY sirloin, filet mignon, and a rib eye. No wagyu. The steaks are “Chef Selected, Dry Aged in Our Own Aging Box” as per the menu. Johnny discussed these cuts in his review of Benjamin Prime better than I ever could.

I would have loved a porterhouse. Unfortunately, I am almost always eating steak alone. My wife and kids would rather eat salad and breadsticks. So they can have their birthdays at Olive Garden if they want. I should have manned-up and just ordered the porterhouse steak for two and eaten it alone ala “John-Candy-in-The-Great-Outdoors.” But my wallet talked me out of it.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

My ribeye was handed over on a heated dinner plate and I was pleased to see a very generous portion. I had thought perhaps they would send their dinkier cuts up north. Plus, I was there at brunch-time. But this was a nice big steak to satisfy my birthday hunger. I was so relieved when I saw that hunk ‘o meat. My birthday steak quest had ended. And it ended nicely.

I do prefer a “sizzling steak presentation,” which I think may be reserved for the porterhouse. Lugers, for instance, delivers your steak already cut, sizzling, dripping with juices and butter; and the plate tipped up slightly so the juices run into a puddle. I know, I know. As Johnny has taught us, that this can result in overcooking and doesn’t allow your steak to rest. I guess I don’t mind sacrificing some taste for a little razzle dazzle, plus I do like steak a little more on the done side anyway. (See, I told you I lack the credentials to review steak).

Price: 9

The prices were fair for a high-end steak place, albeit on par with Manhattan prices (which is to say expensive). I thought perhaps the non-Manhattan real estate would bring some savings to me. But, I am sure I am paying an upcharge on steaks imported all the way from Manhattan. Also, steak is probably a “prestige pricing” type of item. A place like Benjamin isn’t looking to compete on price. If anything, it probably wants to match Manhattan prices as to convey a match in quality.

Bar: 8 (officially un-reviewed. But to complete the cumulative score, I’ll give it an 8 based on Johnny’s review of Benjamin Prime’s bar, which I assume is of similar quality.)

I’m not a huge drinker. It was brunch. I was with two kids. Suffice to say I didn’t even see the bar. If I was offered a drink menu, I didn’t notice. I was busy keeping my kids from coloring the cloth napkins and sneezing onto the next table.

Since I can’t talk about the bar, I’m going to use this space to describe how great Benjamin brunch was for kids. Make no mistake, Benjamin is not “family friendly,” in the marketing meaning of the term. Benjamin is not “for kids,” in any sense. There was no kids menu. They did not have cups with lids or coloring pages and crayons (we came with our own crayons and paper as per the standard parent eating-out survival kit).

Before we left the house, I called Benjamin with a sincere inquiry as to whether bringing kids was okay. Albert (who answered the phone) said it was fine. I clarified that my kids can strain the limits of polite society. Albert again said it was fine. And God bless him, he was clearly sincere in his reassurance, which meant a lot.

The waiters at Benjamin were pretty formal and proper; as one would expect from an upscale steakhouse. But even the most uptight waiter smiled sweetly when our kids offered obligatory, parentally-mandated “pleases,” and “thank yous.” I observed another table, with a baby in a high chair, who was keeping busy by dropping his toy on the floor every thirty seconds or so. The table was in the path to the kitchen. Waiters, time after time, without issue, happily picked it up and handed it back to the kid without so much as a mild eye roll or subtle grimace.

The food came fast, which is perfect when dining with kids. The check came fast. With the ticking time bomb of children in a restaurant, this is ideal. We did not feel like we were being rushed. Rather, I think Benjamin boasts an astute service staff who recognizes that a quicker meal pace is needed for a family with young children – as opposed to a romantic date, which should take more time.

Towards the end of our dinner Albert came by as my son was writing out his alphabet. Albert kindly chatted us up and made a deal with the kids (after getting our permission). Albert said that if my son got to “Z,” in the alphabet, he’d bring out ice cream sundaes. My son immediately skipped from “G” to “Z.” (True story. He’s his father’s son). We made him finish the whole alphabet, and as promised, two wonderful sundaes appeared, on the house. And truth be told, we got a third, on account of my daughter’s nut allergy (so I got hers when she got her nut free version!).

All of this, and we never even told them it was my birthday.

Again, this is not a kid’s restaurant. It’s a nice place. So I’m not sure you would want to bring any toddler during primetime dinner hours. But for brunch, Benjamin staff was beyond a class-act for us parents – on edge about bringing their kids to a nice restaurant. Benjamin brunch wasn’t too busy and turned out to be a genius birthday plan. I was able to spend that babysitting money on a good steak, without letting my kids ruin a nice Saturday night out for folks just looking to dine in peace.

Specials and Other Meats: 8

The brunch menu was pretty brunchy with pancakes, eggs benedict, chicken ceasar salad, a frittata, and not a lot of meat offerings. A burger and thick cut bacon were the most substantial choices. The full menu does not include the burger, but adds rack of lamb and a veal chop, (double thick, extra heavy cut).

My wife’s burger, ordered medium, was just okay. Perhaps I expected too much. Burgers aren’t on the regular menu. So if a place is only cooking a few burgers a week for a brunch crowd, it’s not likely to be an outstanding item.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

While I am a self-proclaimed novice at steaks, I can confidently speak about sides and desserts. Here’s what we had:

Fries – Benjamin’s fries were good. Thick cut, but not steak fries.

Chocolate chip pancakes – We got these for the kids. They liked them but did note that the dark chocolate chips weren’t their favorite. Naturally, as good parents, we followed up that healthy lunch with some ice cream.

Schalg – To my surprise and delight, the kids did not care for the schlag that came alongside the pancakes. Schlag, for the uninitiated, is a whipped topping, pretty much like whipped cream, but not very sweet and perfectly thick – much thicker than your average Cool Whip. I first got this stuff at Peter Luger and it is my absolute favorite. I ate it alongside my steak as to enjoy fresh. No regrets. To me, a great combination.

Ice Cream – Nothing fancy, but pretty much perfect as far as ice cream sundaes go. Fudge, nuts, and a cherry on top.

Seafood Selection: 8

We didn’t try any seafood. Brunch offered a good number of seafood items including tuna tartar, lobster bisque, crabcakes, and oysters on the half shell. The full menu had Chilean sea bass, grilled Norwegian salmon, grilled yellowfin tuna, 3 or 4 lb. jumbo lobster (broiled or steamed), and lobster tails.

Service: 10

In addition to the outstanding “kid-centric” service discussed above, Benjamin service was top-notch all around. The waiters were proper and distinguished, keeping the service mostly as an official, arms-length affair. Not unfriendly at all. Just appropriately formal. They entertained my wife’s questions, substitutions, and indecisiveness without flinching. Meanwhile, Albert roamed the floor gregariously, making sure everyone was happy. The food was delivered in a flurry by at least three or four well trained servers.

Ambiance: 8

When we got to Benjamin, I had my doubts about Albert’s assurance that it was cool to bring little kids. By all appearance, it’s a place for grown-ups who are looking for a nice quiet, classy meal. White tablecloths. Black bow tied waiters. Big leather-bound menus. Darkly lit. It’s a nice place with all the ambiance of a classically nice steakhouse. Meanwhile, my children can turn Tasmanian Devil in an instant. Strategically, we decided to sit outside. There was no waterfront table or rooftop view. But my kids could be a little squirmier without worrying about upsetting the normal folk.

BENJAMIN STEAKHOUSE
610 Hartsdale Road
White Plains NY 10607

Vermont Beef Sticks

These little chubby, stubby beef and pork snack sticks were tasty.

Tough to choose a favorite between the two, but both were low calorie and satisfying.

I’ll have to keep my eye out for more flavor varieties. I definitely recommend.

DiMario Chicken Stick

This is a pretty good sized snack for just 45 calories.

Not too salty, good texture, and the casing around it wasn’t too thick.

I would definitely eat this fucker again.

Horton’s Jerky

I took this bag of jerky down at the airport while my wife and I were waiting for a delayed flight.

It was a bit tough, unfortunately. I think much of the meat was flank or skirt, which is fine, but it just wasn’t very tender and the fat didn’t soften up too much. It was kinda dry too, and made my jaw muscles hurt to tear and chew at it so much.

Anyway, I’ll carry the rest of this over from my Biltong USA review as well, just so you can see the pics and get the full context:

When my wife and I went to Savannah, we saw this sign and absolutely had to investigate.

It turns out they were selling a lot of Buffalo Bob’s products, and I’ve pretty much tried every single one of them already.

I was somewhat bummed until I saw two other meat snack brands that I hadn’t tried yet. The first was Biltong USA, and the second was this brand, Horton’s, which was local out of Georgia.

Biltong USA

When my wife and I went to Savannah, we saw this sign and absolutely had to investigate.

It turns out they were selling a lot of Buffalo Bob’s products, and I’ve pretty much tried every single one of them already.

I was somewhat bummed until I saw two other meat snack brands that I hadn’t tried yet. The first was Biltong USA, and the second was Horton’s, a local brand out of Georgia.

I had always been curious about Biltong, a popular African meat snack that is similar to beef jerky, only sliced differently. As you can see it is lived in such a way that makes for a more tender eating experience than many styles of jerky.

I really liked this product, and will definitely be buying it again in any flavors I can find. This one was garlic flavored. Delicious.