If you don’t already know about Delmonico’s, then you’re missing out. For over a decade, I’ve gotten pissed off every time I’ve seen TV shows or news articles about steakhouses (both in NYC and throughout the country) that discussed a whole bunch of mediocre places without Delmonico’s even so much as being mentioned. I’m happy to see that trend is finally changing, and people are waking up.
Not only is this joint serving up some of the best steaks in town, but they were first. Yeah. That’s right, Peter Luger fans. This place was the first fine dining restaurant in America, opening its doors in 1837. They invented the “Delmonico” Steak (a boneless rib eye) and Delmonico Potatoes, obviously. But they also invented Chicken a la King, Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg, Egg’s Benedict and Manhattan Clam Chowder.
It’s one thing to be first or to have been around a long time, but it’s quite another to be consistently top notch. While I’ve only been getting down on steaks for this blog for about six or seven years, I can honestly tell you that they’ve always been a top choice favorite of mine, sitting comfortably in my top three to five steakhouses for the entire time. Right now they are first on the leader board, at 97/100 points. The 45-day dry aged rib eye is one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten, and their bacon is hands down the best in the city. My full review base on several visits is HERE.
But anyway, on to the point of this article.
This month Delmonico’s is celebrating its 180th year in operation. Starting on 9/14 they’re offering 180-day dry aged bone-in rib eye steaks to mark the occasion. They’re being served on keepsake plates that you get to take home, featuring the artwork of New Yorker cartoonist John Donohue.
The steak is about 28oz of bone-in rib eye, and it’s magnificent. I was invited in to try it with some other steak connoisseurs.
It has a deep nutty and earthy funk to it, while still remaining juicy and tender. Chef Billy Oliva really nails it. This cut is being offered at $380 and is easily shareable, since you also will need to try some of their signature apps, sides and desserts when you go.
But that’s not all. The restaurant has also invited a bunch of well known chefs to create dishes that celebrate Delmonico’s 180th. This special tribute menu is available from 9/14 through 10/14.
I was able to try a few of these items as well (I focused mostly on the beef-centric dishes, though I did try some others). My favorites were as follows:
Chili Rubbed Rib Eye with White Corn Pudding, by Michael Lomonaco, Porter House.
This steak is in the vein of those cajun rib eye steaks you might see at Greenwich Steakhouse or Smith & Wollensky. It is truly delicious, and I highly recommend it if you’re not springing for Chef Billy Oliva’s 180-day dry aged rib eye.
Tournedos Rossini, by Paul Liebrandt, two Michelin starred chef, author and consultant.
That’s a massive, tender and juicy filet mignon sitting on a potato pancake and sautéed spinach, all topped by some foie gras. This is 100% pure decadence. Awesome dish.
Lobster Shepherd’s Pie, by Danny Meyer, Union Square Cafe.
Nine Herb Ravioli, by Daniel Boulud, Daniel.
Beef Wellington, by Harry & Peter Poulakakos, Harry’s Steak & Cafe.
Paris Brest Profiteroles, by Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery.
I really suggest you get down here between 9/14 and 10/14. I know I’m going back at least two more times this month to try more shit. Get on it, people. This is a rare opportunity to try a wide variety of amazing dishes and steaks. Tell them Johnny Prime sent you.
YES! A new Delmonico’s opened recently in midtown. The original is one of my top joints, so I had to give this place a try.
I had the rib eye (Delmonico steak), and it was pretty much perfect in every way. Much like the original location, the cuts are top-notch, cooked properly, juicy, well rested, crusted nicely and extremely flavorful. It was served with a nice stack of fried onion strings, similar to what they do at George Martin. It was a great way to add a little saltiness with each bite if you wanted. On a second trip I tried the strip steak, and it was equally incredible.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
The selection here is very similar to the original, with the addition of a “butcher’s pick” – I wonder though if that is just the butcher choosing one of their standard cuts, since the item was simply a Delmonico with a dollop of Maytag and served as a composed plate with asparagus. No matter, though, because the quality is fucking ridiculous anyway.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
The sizes are great – slightly on the smallish side, but you can eat every bite. Same as the original location. Plating is basic; neat and clean.
Delmonico’s is always a great buy for your money. The prices are average but the quality and flavor are top-notch – that makes for a really good deal. A single cut of steak tops out at $45, which is great compared to other places that go as high as $55 for a steak.
The bar here is fun. There’s some booth seating across from it in the main entryway, so you can sit and eat in the bar area if you want as well. Lots of foot traffic near Penn Station brings in all manner of people coming in for a drink. The martini was done well too; with three big olives to top it off. And speaking of big… if you’re a breast man, you can sit at the bar and check out the juggy bartender with tits the size of melons bobbling out of her top.
Specials and Other Meats: 9
There were several specials: one from each section of the menu. Duck ragu pappardelle for the pasta item, a grilled salmon for the fish item, the “butcher’s pick” (Delmonico with blue cheese and asparagus) for beef, and a baked apple tart for dessert. As for other meats, they offered chicken – that’s it! And not their classic ala king either – it was another preparation. Now, I am a purist, but they could benefit from a manly pork chop or even a lamb item to round this section out.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
This portion of the menu selection is similar to the original restaurant. We tried the oysters, the creamed spinach, and the classic Delmonico potato item, which was a ramiken of cut up potatoes, skin on, baked with cheese, bacon and spices. it was fantastic. The spinach was just like the other joint: not quite where I like it to be, lacking just a little something. Oysters were absolutely incredible: creamy, briny, and delicious. Only down side is that they did need a bit more shucking to get the meat fully detached from the shell. Also, we dug into the hamachi crudo (bright with blood orange flavor, fresh and light) and “wagyu” carpaccio (deep, rich, and peppery) appetizer items – both were thoroughly enjoyed and we wished we had more. The dessert menu was completely different here than the other restaurant, as far as I can remember. We tried the Boston creme beignets (which were like little zeppoles with a Boston creme flavored pudding and chocolate syrup sauce) and the chocolate hazelnut mousse (which came with a small scoop of coconut ice cream). They were both really fucking decadent and delicious. If it was socially acceptable, I would’ve rubbed the shit all over my balls and sat there for a while in pure bliss. On a second trip I tried the crab cake eggs benedict. I was expecting a hocky puck of soft, lightly bread crumbed crab cake with some poached eggs on top, but instead it was a ball shaped cake with one fried quail egg on top. It wasn’t bad at all – just not what I expected (call it egg benedict – singular – not plural). Also the cake itself was a little hard – too much crisp on the outer egde for my liking.
Seafood Selection: 9
You’re pretty much limited to lobster, day boat cod cassoulet, and the catch of the day for entrees (which was a grilled salmon). But there is a great variety of seafood for starters (both hot and cold) to “tide” this section over. Yeah that’s right. I put the word “tide” in “quotes” in the “seafood” section of my review. Pulitzer. My wife tried the Lobster Newberg this time around, and it was pretty good! She ordered a smaller sized portion, but it still came with a lot of lobster meat. It was flavored with leeks and fennel, and served in a light broth, almost soup style.
As to be expected at a Delmonico’s establishment, the service here is impeccable. Our server, Aaron, was fabulous, and the manager Dennis came over to the table and hung out with us for a bit and told us all about the new establishment and how things were happening with hurricane Sandy and their grand opening. Great guys, the both of them. The table breads were warm and varied from raisin bread, to “everything bagel” flavor logs, to olive bread. And the butter is whipped, smooth, creamy, soft, and sprinkled with a natural salt. Really nice way to start the meal. Only bad thing was that when I placed the reservation online, I said we were celebrating a friends birthday. No one wished him a happy birthday. My experience with online reservations has always been that places make an effort to do a little something when you put notes into the form. On the second trip, Aaron waited on me again, and not only did he remember me, but he also remembered my drink. Now THAT is service…
Inside there are a couple of distinct dining areas on the main floor; one is set up more dim and upscale/modern, and the other is more casual kitchen style, and brighter too. It’s nicely done, but it just lacks what the original location has, which is that rich history. Still – it is very nice for a second location. We had a great time and can’t really say anything bad about it. The bathrooms are nice too – beautiful, unisex, large, single-person/individual shitters with nice thrones, wide, dark, wood-planked floors, and even a small flat screen TV so you can watch something while you piss or shit out your meal.
207 W. 36th St.
New York, NY 10001
I’m going to keep this update relatively short and streamlined, since I’ve been here so many times already, as evidenced below. I’m very happy to see that this classic, true NYC joint is still consistently delivering delicious food.
My old score was a 94, but I’ve bumped it up to a 96 after attending a press meal here (and ultimately to a 97 after more visits). Here’s what to take away from it all:
Flavor: This is still a 10, but the 45-day bone-in rib eye is really the true star of the steak menu. The prime Double R Ranch beef has an incredible earthy, nutty aroma that lingers in the air all around the plate. The flavor is powerful and savory.
We also tried the porterhouse for two and the tomahawk rib eye for two. Both of these are about 8/10. There was some slight overcooking here, but the flavor was still nice from the 28-days of dry-aging. On average, though, when you take into account the great signature Delmonico cut, strip and filet options (which I already reviewed way back), the 10 score is solid and reliable. My favorite of all the cuts I’ve tried, though, is that rib eye above. Insane. Anyway, here are some shots of the porterhouse and tomahawk for two:
Portion Size: Now a 9. Meats are well hung here.
Price: I’ve changed the price score from a 9 to a 10. This joint somehow manages to keep big ticket items like lobster and booze relatively affordable. The bar is slinging $10 glasses of Michter’s bourbon, for fuck’s sake! That’s unheard of in a steak joint. Bravo. And they’re still mixing up a delicious martini.
Here’s a barrage of sides, starters and desserts. My favorites of these are the bacon and the wagyu tartare, which I could easily live on if someone told me that I could never touch another true cut of steak again. Both are incredible. In fact, this bacon is my new favorite bacon, ever.
Bacon: this is house smoked and cured, maple glazed, sous vide for days, and then rendered off to absolutely shocking perfection.
Wagyu Tartare: Snake River Farms supplies the top end American wagyu here.
Baked Alaska: These things sat out for a half hour or more while we shot them and talked with the chef (Billy Oliva), but they still held up: cold creamy ice cream inside, awesomely soft and flavorful outer marshmallow shell. They nail it!
Seafood: This is being bumped from a 9 to a 10 as well. The Lobster Newburg is just so iconic here. It really is incredible. The butter cayenne sauce takes shellfish and seafood to a whole other level.
And the baked oysters are like no other:
Some other items to discuss:
The table bread: Classic warm dinner rolls with nice whipped butter.
Eggs Benedict: this was also invented here (along with Baked Alaska, Chicken a la King, Lobster Newburg and fine dining in general). Caviar on top?!?? Yes please…
Eggs Benedict Burger: Holy shit this thing is decadent. The thick cut bacon is also on top of the burger patty as well as the poached egg. And the English Muffin is slathered with a delicious truffle sauce that will knock your socks off.
180 Year Anniversary: Yeah that’s right. It’ll be 180 years this summer. To celebrate, they’re putting 180-day dry aged beef on the menu. I can’t fucking wait for that!
Delmonico’s claims to be the first fine dining restaurant in the country. In addition to that interesting bit of history, Delmonico’s is famous for coining the “delmonico steak” cut/term – which is a boneless ribeye (though there is some debate as to which cut was actually used back in the day). That’s right – this place invented the delmonico steak (duh). I’ve been here once before, but it was a while back, so a second visit solidified the experience for a thorough review. This time I got a nice 30% discount from a Village Vines coupon, which was helpful on this man-date with my cousin. After a third visit, things have gone up in scoring. See italics below for updates as of 6/8/12:
This place was perfect in terms of flavor. My cousin got the filet, and I got the signature delmonico/boneless ribeye. Just the right amount of crisp and seasoning (salt and pepper – nothing fancy – they respect the meat), and just the right temperature when the plates arrived. The meat was well rested and cooked just right. The filet was ordered rare, and the ribeye was ordered medium. They were both delicious. The strip I had on my third visit was amazing as well. Cooked a little under from what I ordered, but I kinda knew it would come out like that so I went with it, and I enjoyed it. Still perfectly rested, nice and juicy, and packed full of flavor. On my fourth visit my wife and I shared the 36oz double ribeye. I was shocked at how nicely cooked it was. Some places, like Quality Meats, tend to overcook the edges and undercook the middle, due to the thickness of the meat. But this place didn’t suffer from that problem. it was just right. The fat on it was unbelievably delicious. It was like a jiggly, melty pork or duck fat with super-thin crispy brown edges that just melted in your mouth. Sticky and yummy!
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
Delmonico’s has all the basics and then some. They have the signature delmonico steak (18oz boneless ribeye), as well as a 36oz double cut bone-in ribeye (which I plan to get if I go there again). The double porterhouse is about 36oz, and there are also filets (in the 10oz-12oz range) and strips (16oz). The strip, porterhouse and 3-pounder are all listed as dry aged and the strip is listed as prime, but I think all of the cuts are prime and aged. Delmonico’s pretty much just covers the basics, but they do it well. On the third visit they even offered a t-bone in their specials, so I upped this by a point.
Portion Size & Plating: 8 (now 9)
The portions here are normal. As mentioned above, the steaks broke down as follows: 18oz boneless delmonico; 36oz bone-in ribeye; 36oz porterhouse; 16oz strip; and 10oz-12oz filet. The plating was elegant but restrained; good for men, nothing too fancy.
Price: 9 (now 10)
The prices are average to slightly high, but given the exceptional flavor of the steak, it is totally worth it. I thought the foie gras was overpriced and small ($21 on first visit, $24 on fourth visit), but hey – it IS goose liver. We were nice and full, but not uncomfortable, like lions after devouring a wildebeest. That said, I got 30% off through Village Vines, which was a bonus. They also offer the same deal for (aged.) by the way. The total spent for four martinis ($13 and $14 each), foie gras, special oysters, creamed spinach and two steaks came to around $190, tax and tip included. We skipped dessert. On our third visit, we had a party of four and the bill felt like it was less than I expected; probably due to having a 15% discount ala Savored. As a result, I upped the points here a little, since it seems Delmonico’s is generous in terms of offering and participating in price specials and online deals. A fourth trip proved yet again to involve a great deal through the web: Groupon had a four-course meal for two at $50/pp (I think we only ended up paying $92 for the deal too, since there was a coupon code for the coupon – then our bill was only $62 at the end for drinks, tax and tip – incredible deal). Amazing, since there were very little restrictions on what you could order. In fact they even let us grab both the fois gras AND the king crab mac & cheese, both of which are over-and-above items that usually cost more than the other apps.
Delmonico’s has a really fantastic old-school bar. It is sunken down a few steps from the main dining room, and it has a side entrance through a revolving door off the corner from the main entrance. They serve a great steak sandwich there to boot. This is the kind of bar every steak man or lover of “ye olde tyme” things should visit. It is, simply put, an American classic. One look at the lounge and bar pics on their website should have you salivating for booze and beef. They made a good martini too, despite a missing olive on our second round, but I take that into account more in my service section rather than changing my bar rating. On my third visit, the martini had three olives right off the bat (they learned!), and it was still mixed perfectly.
Specials and Other Meats: 10
In the “other meats” category, Delmonico’s offers a fat veal chop, which is nice, lamb chops, and chicken. Standard plus, I would say. For specials, I would call the 3lb ribeye a special, but other than that, they do offer some off-the-menu items. The Chicken a’ la Keene (served with a pimento cream sauce) is also a signature dish created in the 1880’s and with a rich history: the dish ultimately became known as “chicken a’ la king.” Yes – Delmonico’s invented that dish too! On special, there was a 5lb lobster for sharing (or not!), and some special oysters for an appetizer: three pairs from different regions. We ordered the oysters. On special for round three there were some different items; the “Kobe carpaccio,” a lobster cocktail, cucumber soup, and a t-bone steak for one. Well played for mixing it up; I added a point here. I also got to taste a bite of their famous Chicken ala King/Keene; crispy skin with a juicy and delicious inside. It was almost like duck. Since we pretty much tried all the specials and enjoyed them, I am giving full points here now.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
We started with the oysters special. One was briny and fishy, one was normal, and one, called a stingray oyster, was awesome. All were on the small side, however. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: I just expected one or two to be a little larger. Then we had foie gras. It was sort of small, and sat on a hunk of bread that was a little too thick in proportion, but it tasted like the really good, soft, melty fat of a ribeye that you can eat. My cousin wasn’t that impressed with it, and said he probably wouldn’t order it again. I probably wouldn’t either for that price ($21), but I definitely liked it. With dinner we had the staple: creamed spinach. It wasn’t that good: kinda bland. It was made fresh, but it lacked roundness and creaminess. We skipped dessert this time around. On the third trip, we started with grilled marinated octopus. It was delicious, and really nicely presented. Cooked perfectly tender with NO chew, and served in little pretzel-like curls. I also had the “Kobe carpaccio,” which was absolutely amazing; dressed nicely, salted well, and topped with a healthy amount of shaved truffles. I also tasted a small spoonful of the cucumber soup, which was really light and refreshing, and the lobster cocktail was a nice one-pounder. We shared grilled asparagus as well, which was good. Last, on recommendation we tried the famous baked Alaska (apparently the dish originated here as well), which was good but it didn’t change my life. I’ve upped the score from 7 to 9 here. On a fourth visit, we tried the king crab mac & cheese, which was made with a broad spital pasta and folded with light, creamy and melty cheese and cream, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. It was nice! We also had the spaetzl, which was good and firm, made with a crispy pancetta, and peppered with sauteed greens to boot. Delicious. For dessert we also tried the chocolate bread pudding (not so great), and a rice pudding pie (really great). The best non-steak items I tried on that fourth visit, however, were the “Jim Brady Oysters.” Creamy, bacony, cheesey goodness through and through. It changed my entire outlook on whether oysters are permitted to be cooked. They’re fantastic.
Seafood Selection: 9 (now 10)
Lobster, halibut, and snapper were listed under entrees in addition to the seafood towers and shellfish on the appetizer menu. The lobster dish, Lobster Newberg, also a signature dish with a unique sauce, has a great story to go along with it (also originated here at the restaurant). They also offered the 5lb special lobster for two, which seemed like a fun thing to order if you are a giant pussy. My wife tried the seafood plateau appetizer as her main course on our third visit and it was great. It came with oysters, shrimp, lump crabmeat, and lobster.
A quick note about the actual servers here… John, Igor, and Reno are amazing, professional, and seasoned waiters. If you have the good fortune of getting any of them to take your order and serve your table, you are definitely in good hands. The service is great here – really top notch. Everyone knows their meat, and they are right there whenever you need something. Literally – you can see the waiters lined up near the doors to the kitchen watching over the dining room. They stay out of your way, yet they know when you need attention. All male waitstaff, ties: the classic steakhouse experience. The check getting and paying process was fast as well. I’ve dropped a point off here only because our second round of martinis were missing an olive. A martini should always have at least three olives, regardless of size. The olives here are nice and big, fleshy and fresh, but we still must have three. When we ordered our first round, at the bar, they came with three. Our second round, ordered at the table, only had two. My cousin pointed out that it is bad luck to NOT have three. The waiter wasn’t aware that martinis should have three olives, but he quickly remedied the situation and brought over a couple more on a small plate. The little things make a difference. I should also note that martinis are like tits: one is not enough, and three is too many (unlike olives). Heed this wisdom. I had a hard time deciding if I should knock the point off in the service section or in the bar section, but ultimately decided it should be taken from here. And since I didn’t want to take a FULL point off for that minor infraction, I figured it would round out the point to mention that the butter served with the bread was cold and hard (but the bread was semi-warm and crispy). Two half points off make a whole point off. Bread was better on the second trip; nicely seasoned rolls and buns, and also seasoned pretzel-like onion bread with a nice crispy, yet soft outside. Service has gone up to 10 from a 9 because the waiter was dead honest when I asked about the steak special; he told me it was a t-bone, emphasizing that it was NOT a porterhouse because it had a smaller filet side. Also the martini olive situation seems to be fixed.
Delmonico’s is known for its private dining rooms and alcoves, its fantastic bar, and rich history. Both times I ate here were in the main dining room, which is adorned with a huge mural of 1920’s style fanciness, great wood paneling on the walls between windows, wide spacious floor, and high ceiling. It is very elegant yet still maintains a classic steakhouse feel. It is similar to Sparks in that regard, but without the gaudy mafia overtones. The bathroom, through the bar area, was small, but it had nice dark tiling all the way up the walls, a fresh cinnamon smell, and medium quality paper hand towels (not the thick, cloth-like stuff).