My wife and I were recently invited into Nice Matin to help promote their Provencal menu in their celebration of Bastille Day.
I’ll say this: Nice Matin is the best French joint in the restaurant group’s ownership among other French joints (L,Express, Cafe D’Alsace, and Le Monde).
We tried a few small bites and drinks from that menu, and, of course, the strip steak frites from the regular menu.
First, we started with some Ricard, which was sponsoring the evening’s French kick-off night. Some diners win goodie bags, and you can enter for a chance to win a trip to France.
Squash Blossom Beignets:
All of those were on the special menu, and all were really good. I think the favorites, for me, were the onion tart and the tapenade, but the squash blossoms were really light and tasty and the mussels were really nice.
The steak was a solid 8/10. The meat was super tender, and I really only took points off because the cook was a little bit over what I asked (medium rare).
The fries were perfectly cooked, but the addition of the Provencal herbs (like lavender) was a little bit aggressive.
For dessert we tried a sesame panna cotta and an olive oil cake. Both were really great, both flavor-wise and texture-wise.
Also, really nice bread here. Warm and tasty.
I definitely recommend this joint for anyone looking for some good classic French fare in the neighborhood.
I cooked one up at home yesterday and these babies are incredibly tender and delicious. They’re lean, juicy, and packed with a really nice but mild flavor. For the one pounders, you just need some salt, pepper and garlic powder for the seasoning. Then sear in a hot pan with butter for about three and a half minutes per side. Let rest, and then slice.
My wife picked up a nice Gilt City deal for this joint that gave us $200 to spend for something like $100. I had heard great things about the burger here, so I figured it was time to check it out now that there was a flash deal at play.
The cocktail menu is pricey at $18, but very nicely crafted.
We shared that burger (the “White Label Burger”) as an app. The patty is an aged beef blend; the cheese is fontina; and it’s topped with a tomato jam and dijonnaise.
They cook it nice and rare, so you don’t lose any of that aged funk to the heat. It’s a potent burger, and part of me still loves a classic roadside American burger better, but this is kinda like having a steak between a bun. Definitely nice.
And like any good French joint, it’s served with frites.
These were pretty good, but not quite on the level of Boucherie, which has now become my benchmark standard, to which all French fries must be compared.
We also tried the calamari stuffed with lobster and rice.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much lobster to this dish. In fact, I couldn’t really find any or taste any in the bites I had. In any case, the tomato sauce was nice, as was the cook on the squid.
My wife had some rabbit, truffle and cheese ravioli for her entree. This was a small portion size for $25, but they at least warned us ahead of time that it would be.
They were excellent. Each raviolo seemed to be partitioned, with one side having the rabbit, and the other side having the cheese.
Of course, I had steak.
This was served with some dressed watercress, but I quickly brushed that bullshit aside. I sliced it up so you could see the perfect cook temp on this prime NY strip steak.
This was actually a steak frites, so it came with more fries and a peppercorn au poivre on the side. Well, I asked for it on the side so I could get this intense shot of foodpourn.
Did you just bust? Because I did.
I ate every bite. It was a great little steak. I didn’t detect any aged flavor, and I assume they would have advertised that if it were the case. Not too bad at $44, but on par with the Jubilee rib eye steak frites that I had just the other day for $40. 8/10.
We shared a lemon tart with basil ice cream for dessert. This was really pretty, and tasted a bit like a key lime pie with the herbaceous basil ice cream on top. We liked this a lot.
Oh and I should mention that this place also brings out an amuse at the beginning, as well as petit fours at the end. I only snapped the amuse, which was a tiny popover style bread with a truffle cream filling. The dessert capper was a chocolate hazelnut bite.
On a second trip, I came in to promote the burger for the Altamarea Group, as well as to try some other items with a group of Instagrammers. Here’s what we had:
Escargots served on bone marrow.
Squid ink spaghetti.
Those rabbit epaulettes again. So good.
Wild boar strozzapreti.
The White Label burger.
Tomahawk rib eye. This was a 10/10 – absolutely perfect.
Atoboy is a new Korean fine dining joint with a new concept; you choose three dishes for a $36 tasting with a bowl of rice. The menu is set out in three sections, which are somewhat similar to an app, salad and entree breakdown. You choose one of each, but can add additional items from each section at an upcharge of $9, $12 or $15, depending on which section you’re choosing from. White rice and some kimchi (both cabbage and tomatillo varieties) comes with your meal, but they also offer a seasonal rice for $2 extra. Currently, the seasonal rice is a white rice that’s been mixed with powderized nori.
The portions are a little small, but they’re all really well executed and delicious. Since I came here with Jay from The Dishelin Guide, we sampled an extra entree item as well as a dessert in addition to our three courses each. Here’s what we had:
Eggplant with snow crab and tomato jelly. While this doesn’t look pretty or even sound particularly appetizing, it was actually pretty tasty. I’m generally not a big fan of eggplant to begin with, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Littleneck clams with avocado cream, rice crackers and gochugaru (red chili flakes). This was pretty good. I’ve never had clams with avocado before. It was pretty interesting. The rice crackers gave the dish a nice dynamic texture.
Next was grilled avocado with horseradish, cotija (hard cow’s milk cheese) and trout roe. I’ve never had grilled avocado before. I just assumed doing anything to a ripe avocado would result in guacamole due to the softness. Perhaps these are grilled while they’re still a little bit hard to avoid structural breakdown? In any case, this was a tasty and healthy dish.
This next dish is highly recommended, and was one of my favorites of the night. Squid rings, stuffed with pork and shrimp, then topped with salsa verde. The squid was perfectly cooked and tender, and the stuffing gave a nice salty and fatty flavor. Plus, it was really pretty.
Now we move on to the big winners from this dining experience; the entree selections. We started with crispy pork jowl on a bed of barley, ssamjang (spicy and sweet sauce/paste) and romaine.
The crispy skin and under-layer of fat were delicious, and as I bit down into the meat beneath, my mouth came alive with salivation. Great dish!
Next up was the brisket with melted foie gras, garlic and ginger. This was really hearty and delicious. The beef was super tender and can rival any top notch BBQ brisket you might find out there at a pit smoker competition (though this one was admittedly not prepared the same way with a smoker – it’s just the same cut of beef).
Our last entree item was the strip steak. This came with a tofu skin and celery salad, and everything was lightly dressed with sesame oil.
The steak was super tender and flavorful. They marinade the steak with kiwi to allow the enzymes to slowly tenderize the meat before it is cooked. That may be the reason why there was a healthy amount of grey banding around the edges of the meat.
The outside could use a slightly better crust, but I imagine they need to be careful not to overcook the steak, as it isn’t very thick. This was a big success though, overall, and it tasted like wagyu. 9/10.
For dessert we tried this black raspberry cake with hazelnut and pistachio, which was garnished with fresh blueberries. This is the only dessert that’s made off-site by another pastry person. The texture was almost like mousse, and the look reminded me of Italian tri-color cookies. Very nice.
Although expensive at $80 each after tax and tip, this was a satisfying, unique and delicious Korean fine dining experience.
Occasionally you come across a meal that changes the way you view particular food items. I’m a steak man. Clearly, this is known. I’ve eaten hundreds of cuts in my endeavor to find the best that NYC has to offer. I thought I’d pretty much seen it all in the world of steak. What else could there be, aside from some aged wagyu, or something completely ridiculous and rare? But just when I was starting to get a little bored and comfortable with my favorite food, Petrossian Chef Richard Farnabe came through with a completely unique and utterly genius steak offering.
The cut itself is something with which we steak aficionados are familiar; a 28-day, dry-aged strip loin (NY Strip). This lean cut hails from Four Story Hill Farm in PA. But Chef Richard’s preparation is what sets it apart from the panoply of great meats in the city of this cut’s namesake; it’s cooked to a perfect medium rare all the way through, and topped with bone marrow and caviar.
Caviar? Why would someone do that, you ask? Well, having eaten it, I have a hypothesis: The natural brine and salt content in the caviar compliments the aged taste of the meat in a tremendous way. Aged beef has a certain flavor profile to it – earthy, funky, and highly concentrated. The caviar, being naturally salty and funky in its own right, is the perfect pairing with this kind of meat. It helps bring out those aged characteristics while also providing a juicy pop and briny burst to each bite.
And, as you might expect, the marrow adds some nice fat flavor and texture back into the lean cut of beef. It really is a brilliant conception. In my opinion this is probably one of the best strip steaks you can find in town. 10/10.
It’s accompanied by a semi-raw, ice cold asparagus salad. This adds some acidity and fresh green flavors to the meal, deftly balancing the punch you’re getting from the steak.
And that’s not the only beef I tried. On the appetizer menu, they offer A4 wagyu topped with grilled sturgeon.
This comes with a pickled quail egg and some caviar as well, along with a little crispy potato cube. When eaten together (beef and fish), you are experiencing that same beautiful pairing of earth and sea, one enhancing the other. The sturgeon had a flavor that was reminiscent of a good, Japanese style grilled eel. The slightly candied or caramelized, almost sweet top coating on the sturgeon pulled out a lot of those rich beef fat flavors from the steak. Another 10/10. For the record I believe this was sliced strip loin, but since it’s A4 wagyu, I will include it in my “other cuts” section for catalog purposes.
Now that I’ve gotten the most important things out of the way, let me briefly discuss the remainder of the meal. After all, the rest was just as impressive as the meats reviewed above. Even the table bread and drinks were nice.
Petrossian explores elements of both classic French cuisine and Russian/Eastern European cuisine, and there is a healthy presence of caviar and smoked fish in the dishes, aside from having a robust stand-alone caviar menu. The starting amuse, for example, features both French technique and Russian cuisine, along with both caviar and smoked fish.
What exactly are you looking at here? Three items.
(1) The lollipops are smoked salmon with cream cheese foam dipped in beet foam to make a shell;
(2) The cubes are savory caviar marshmallows;
(3) The spheres are chocolate foie gras truffles with gold leaf.
These concise, decadent and dynamic bites set the tone for the entire meal. Petrossian is truly one of the few great places to indulge and splurge with a high quality meal where it’s actually worth the money, and where there is no pretense, no elitism and no unnecessary vegetable worship.
The next item that came out was a terrine-like foie gras brulee with smoked sturgeon and a pomegranate Guinness drop. It came with a little bread puff but I really enjoyed this by itself.
The Guinness drop was spun sugar and candy-like in flavor and texture, and the foie brulee was rich, creamy and deeply flavorful.
My wife’s starter was the Petrossian sampler, which contained various smoked fish items and caviar. Everything I tasted on this plate was delicious in addition to being beautifully presented.
Her entree was a special: baby pig, which consisted of an assortment of meats from the animal, including kidney, ear, rib, and crispy skin. There was also a croquette and crispy hash made from the meat as well. I tasted a bit of everything, thankfully, because I definitely would have ordered this if the steak wasn’t on the menu.
In particular, I really liked the kidney, which was skewered on a sprig of rosemary. That little touch of presentation/technique added a great roasted herb flavor to the meat. Absolutely outstanding. It almost reminded us of Japanese yakitori.
Our sides were sumac pomme souffle, which were like little puffed potato chips, and a bowl of sauteed wild mushrooms with herbs.
These items went perfectly with our meat courses.
Dessert was a lot of fun as well. We had beignets with a multitude of injectable sauce bulbs, and a smoked wood ice cream chocolate ball, which was covered in chocolate sauce at table side.
The beignets were very light and crisp, and my favorite sauce was the pistachio. The chocolate ball was rich, creamy and decadent. Really smooth and tasty.
And then these little guys came out with the check: chocolate truffles and marshmallow cubes, both plated on a bed of dark chocolate morsels.
With Chef Richard at the helm, Petrossian has skyrocketed back into NYC’s short list of high end restaurants that discerning diners simply must experience at least once. I was extremely impressed.
My wife picked up a Gilt City deal for Le Rivage, with which we shared a 62-day dry aged, bone-in Creekstone Farms/Pat LaFrieda New York strip steak, two sides, a bottle of wine and a dessert for about $100. Pretty great deal, especially if you can use a discount when buying the flash deal.
Anyway, Le Rivage is a cozy French joint in the theater district on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.
They gave us some nice table bread with whipped butter to start:
And the wine was an 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet blend that was actually pretty good.
The long, 62-day dry aging process imparted a bit of nuttiness and funk to the flavor of the beef. This baby was masterfully prepared. It definitely can hang tough with some of the best steakhouse cuts in the city. Get your ass over here and try it, if it is still available on special. I give it a 9/10. Why not the full 10? I felt like it needed just a hint more salt, maybe just some finishing salt even, but not much.
The steak came with two sauces, so dipping into these added some of that saltiness that I was looking for from the seasoning. The sauces were a wine reduction and a peppercorn:
Our sides were actually very abundant. We ordered broccolini and fries, but they brought out two dishes of fries, one dish of broccolini and one dish of carrots. We had lots to bring home.
I’m a big fan of broccolini, and I cook a mean broccolini at home quite often. I was impressed with it here. It was simply treated with seasoning, garlic and oil. The carrots were buttered and slightly sweet-glazed, and the fries were nice and crisp.
For dessert, we went with the chef’s recommendation, which was a Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie and a sweetened, spiked milk.
So simple, yet so tasty. After chatting with the chef for a bit, we learned that he is best friends with Pat LaFrieda, and that Jaques Torres is his godfather! That’s a serious pedigree, and it shows in Chef Paul’s abilities. He did a great job on the steak, especially.
I definitely recommend giving this place a shot, especially if you like to take advantage of Gilt City deals (not sure if this one is still available), or even just their regular three course price fix specials, which are offered daily for between $25 and $40. Very reasonable.
UPDATE – 6/30/16
I went back to Le Rivage to try Chef Denamiel’s award winning French Onion Soup Burger today. Holy fuck, people. This thing is absolutely amazing. It’s not a surprise that he won the “Judge’s Choice” award in New York City Wine & Food Festival’s 2013 “Burger Bash” with this baby, beating out the likes of burger master Chef Capon in the process.
His patty grind is usually between 60/40 and 70/30 lean/fat, and the beef also comes from Pat LaFrieda, just like the steak I reviewed up above. He seasons the patty with salt, pepper, drawn butter and brown sugar before it hits the grill. After the first flip, he puts on a slice of a Swiss gruyere type cheese called Emmenthal, which melts around the patty to seal in the medium rare juices. This then gets placed onto a butter-toasted sandwich-sized English muffin, and then topped with cognac-reduced confit onions, and then a bechamel cheese sauce for good measure. The top bun is placed on top, and then the French flag toothpick with roasted cocktail onion and gherkin gets popped on. Viola – perfection.
This is definitely one of my new favorite burgers; it really is unique. I walked out with a full belly, but I was still craving another one. Pretty sure I will be back again very soon, especially because the place is close to both work and home.
Burger still on point:
Even my maniac food photographer homies agree:
Croque Madame is stellar!
Quiche is the best I’ve ever had in my life:
You can even buy it frozen, to go, to fire up at home!
And the escargot is executed with perfection:
Garlic bacon frisee salad: amazing. Tangy and delicious.
Beef Bourguignon: hearty and soul-warming.
DECKLE FOR FOUR
This is probably the greatest thing you can eat. The deckle for four is the spinalis part of the rib eye, wrapped and rolled into a pinwheel. It gets quickly seared for crust on the outside, and then finished low and slow like a roast. Call two days ahead for this to reserve it.
Crispo is a gorgeous Italian joint down on 14th Street near 8th Avenue. My buddy and his girlfriend have been coming here for years. I had never heard of it, but when he told me about it, I knew we had to try it out together as a group.
We started with a bunch of apps. For that reason, and because I knew we were also going to eat pasta and steak, I took it easy on the delicious and generously portioned table bread.
First, we had a sampler app trio of speck, aged goat cheese and mozzarella rice balls. The meat and cheese came with dried fig and an apricot/fennel jam. Both the speck and the cheese were great, top quality products.
The rice balls were addicting. You can easily catch yourself popping a bunch of these in a row without even realizing what’s going on. They were perfectly fried to a golden crisp on the outside, and the inside was both firm from the rice yet oozing with delicious melty fresh mozzarella cheese. Not heavy, salty or greasy, which is the opposite of what you sometimes get when these are done wrong.
The next app was a nice, simple fried calamari. This also came with fried zucchini. There was a cornmeal aspect to the breading here, which made for a nice crisp crunch. That’s fried parsley on top, too.
Our favorite app was this crispy pork belly topped with a melted gorgonzola-stuffed fig. Underneath the pork belly was crispy polenta, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
This was one of the most tasty apps I’ve had in a while. In fact, I think this could be an incredibly successful entree as well if just magnified in proportion. Seriously, I could eat this all day. The fat is cut with the acid, and the funk of the cheese takes the flavors off onto a ride that’s more wild than the fucking Great Space Coaster.
So after all of that, we were finally ready for some pasta. This place seems to be somewhat famous for two pasta dishes in particular: the Spaghetti Carbonara and the truffle ravioli. I know what you’re thinking. “Spaghetti Carbonara? I can get that crap at any halfway decent Italian joint.” But here’s the rub: most Italian joints fuck up their Carbonara with cream, making a dense, salty and overly-heavy pasta eating experience. Real Carbonara, from what I understand, doesn’t have any dairy, other than the cheese you grate over the top! The creaminess is achieved via egg yolk.
Break the yolk, mix it around a bit, and you’re ready to rock. Just sprinkle in a green veggie and some crispy pig bits. I must say, this Carbonara was divine, and like none I’ve ever really tasted before. Not only was the pasta cooked just right, but the ingredients were well-balanced, and nothing was too salty. A big problem I usually have with Carbonara is sweating like a pig while I eat, because of all the FFFFFFFFFFUCKING salt that’s usually in it…
The hand made truffle ravioli were nice and al-dente, served in a simple brown butter type sauce, and the portion was large for a very reasonable price. I was expecting like six somewhat large ravioli in the bowl, not a dozen.
Now to the meat. My wife and I shared the New York Strip steak, which was simply grilled and then topped with a mound of red wine reduced onions.
The steak was cooked perfectly to medium rare.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the onions (I’m a purist), I did find myself going into them every so often out of an enjoyed curiosity. The meat itself was nice, tender and flavorful. 8/10.
The steak also came with parmesan herb fries. These were really crispy, and the parmesan acts as a cheese-funk seasoning that replaces the standard salt. Very nice.
Last, we had some creme brûlée, pot de creme and pistachio gelato. I didn’t snap the gelato pic for some reason, but I did pull the trigger on the cremes (the two come in one dessert order – bonus).
I was blown away by the quality of the food here, the service, the ambiance and decor, and the portion sizes. I’m ashamed that this place never made it onto my radar in all its years in operation. But not just that: the prices are really fair. All of the food described here, plus about two or three alcoholic drinks per person (wine, cocktails, beer, after dinner drinks), plus a round of coffee for everyone with dessert, only came to $105 per person, with tax and tip included (we had four people at the table total). I was shocked.
Needless to say, I’ll definitely be back here, because there is a lot of shit on the menu that I want to try (like the pork shank).
Meat 201 is an advanced examination of the four major cuts of beef that you’re likely to see at a steakhouse. The four major cuts are Filet Mignon, Strip Steak, Porterhouse and Rib Eye. For more general information about these cuts, and for information about other cuts of beef, please see my MEAT 101 and MEAT 102 posts.
Etymology: There is some difference of opinion on the origin of the word “Porterhouse,” with several restaurants and cities claiming to have created the name. For example, Martin Morrison served large T-bones in his Pearl Street (Manhattan) “Porter House” around 1814.This history was popular in the late 1800’s, but some say a Cambridge, Massachusetts proprietor by the name of Zachariah B. Porter added his name to the steak. Still, others argue that the Porterhouse name stems from various 19th Century U.S. hotels or restaurants called Porter House, such as the Porter House Hotel in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Anatomy: The Porterhouse is a cut of steak from the short loin portion of the animal that contains both strip loin and tenderloin meats. See the highlighted portion in the diagram below:
It is cut from a lumbar vertebra that is sawed in half through the vertebral column.
The downward prong of the “T” is a transverse process of the vertebra, and the flesh that surrounds it (spinal muscles) makes up the meat of the Porterhouse.
Essentially, it is a large T-bone steak from the rear of the animal that has two different types of meat (tenderloin and strip loin), one on either side of the “T.” In the picture below, the strip loin or Strip Steak is on the right, and the tenderloin or Filet Mignon is on the left.
The small semicircle at the top of the ‘T’ is half of the vertebral foramen, which is the name of the hole that passes through each vertebra for housing and protecting the spinal cord. They run the whole way up the back, all the way up to the brain of the animal.
The anatomy of a Porterhouse differs from that of a T-bone only in that the Porterhouse contains a larger portion of tenderloin than its T-bone counterpart.
This is primarily due to the fact that Porterhouse steaks are cut from further in the rear of the animal, from lumbar vertebrae, where the tenderloin is much thicker. Experts differ, however, on how large the tenderloin must be to differentiate a Porterhouse from a T-bone. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications state that the tenderloin of a Porterhouse must be at least 1.25 inches thick at its widest, while that of a T-bone must be at least 0.5 inches.
Here is a shot of a short loin with multiple vertebrae still intact and not portioned out into individual Porterhouses and T-bones.
You can see on the left there is a good sized, thick portion of tenderloin. That thins down as you move the the right, and seems to disappear by time your eyes reach the far end of the cut.
Just to drive home the anatomy a little more, here is a great excerpt and image from Russ Cooks:
“Up close and personal, this is where the T-bone fits.
The black line across the top of the two T-bones pictured here is the outside (top of the back) of the steer. You can see the T-bone in the schematic illustration higher up on this page as the topmost part labelled Rib. Above the ribs, what you touch if you pat the steer’s back, is the New York strip. Beneath the ribs is the tenderloin from which a filet mignon is often cut. T-bone steaks cut closer to the shoulder are known as Porterhouse while those cut closer to the loin are just T-bones.”
Preparation: Most times, T-bones and Porterhouses are either grilled, seared in a pan, broiled or blasted with high heat in specialty steak ovens made for charring the outside of the meat without over-cooking the inside. Butter is essential, and heavy seasoning is important as well. Herbs and garlic help boost the flavor too.
Flavor: Since this cut contains both the Filet Mignon and the Strip Steak, I refer you to the flavor sections for those cuts below, with a notation that the bone being left in often adds a more robust flavor while helping to retain tenderness and juiciness. These are very popular items at steakhouses because they can be cut large enough to feed anywhere from two to four people. Additionally, with two different types of meat in one steak, one can vary the flavors that one experiences with each bite.
2. Filet Mignon
Etymology: Filet, in culinary terminology, means boneless. Mignon, in French, means dainty or small. As such, this is a steak ideally suited for chicks: small/dainty, and with no bone.
Occasionally on a steakhouse menu you will see a “bone-in filet.” Given what I just mentioned above, that phraseology is completely self-defeating and confusing, as it simultaneously means both “bone-in” and “boneless.” However, it seems this sort of language is becoming commonplace. If it were up to me, I would prefer “bone-in tenderloin” to be listed on menus instead. There is no wording conflict with that phrasing, and it is an accurate description of what is being presented. In other words: all Filet Mignon is tenderloin, but not all tenderloin is Filet Mignon.
Anatomy: Traditionally, a Filet Mignon was cut from the anterior end of the tenderloin. In the beef chart image below, you can see a portion of the tenderloin section highlighted in red.
That is where Filet Mignon was typically located, though most butchers label all steaks cut from the tenderloin as Filet Mignon (this allows for larger portions). The tenderloins run along both sides of the spine. They taper from thick, in the posterior of the animal, to thin in the front.
In their unbutchered form, they contain what’s called the “silver skin” still attached to the flesh. This is a thick connective tissue that is pretty much inedible. When butchering the full tenderloin, you will want to slice that off (it is NOT tender).
While this next photo is a repeat shot of a lamb vertebra Barnsley chop (the mutton chop from Keen’s), the anatomy is exactly the same for beef. This will illustrate exactly where the filet comes from. Essentially this is a double porterhouse, with a filet and a strip on each side. In addition to understanding the Filet Mignon, this image is useful in demonstrating the anatomy of the Strip and Porterhouse cuts as well, since they all come from the same place – the vertebrae of the animal:
Preparation: Preparations of this cut vary greatly. You may see this cut sliced thin and pounded flat, served raw for carpaccio. You may also see it finely chopped for tartare. A simple pan sear with butter and herbs, however, is probably the most common preparation.
Yet another style is Chateaubriand, which is a large section of the thick portion of the tenderloin that is roasted boneless, then sliced and served with a reduction sauce.
There is also Beef Wellington, which is a portion of tenderloin that has been coated with pate and then wrapped in puff pastry dough prior to cooking.
Flavor: Widely considered the most tender and least fatty cut of beef on the animal, the flavor should be uniform from one end to the other, with very tender and soft texture the whole way through. There is hardly any fat content in the standard cut of Filet Mignon. Some chefs will wrap the filet in caul fat (a lacy, fatty, web-like membrane that surrounds the stomach of an animal) before cooking. The webbing melts away during cooking and imparts a fat flavor into the meat. But it is more common to use things like butter, or to wrap a filet in bacon to add the fat flavor into the meat.
3. Strip Steak
Etymology: According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, this steak is marketed under various names, including Ambassador Steak, Club Steak, Hotel-Style Steak, Veiny Steak, Kansas City Steak and New York Strip Steak. Delmonico’s offered Strip as a signature dish way back in the early 1800’s. Due to the cut’s association with NYC, the New York Strip Steak name was born.
Anatomy: The Strip is cut from the other side of the tenderloin, across the vertebra on the T-bone or Porterhouse.
Also known as strip loin, the Strip Steak is cut from the short loin part of the animal, from a muscle that does little work, like the Filet Mignon. It is generally more tender than the similarly situated but more posterior-located sirloin section of the animal. While it is essentially the same kind of meat as sirloin, the muscles in the rear do a bit more work than the short loin, so can be a bit more tough.
Preparation: For me, the Strip is best at medium rare, to preserve the tenderness and reduce any mealy or grainy textures that can develop from overcooking. It is always best to get a really great quality cut for this chop, something prime+, as all the intra-muscular fat, or marbling, will become soft and the muscle will tenderize all over. You will often see it marinated or rubbed with spices, to impart additional flavors, but grilling and broiling in the traditional style is fantastic as well, especially with butter and herbs. It can be served bone-in or boneless. Leaving the bone in will impart more flavor and help with the cooking process, since the bone conveys heat into the center of the meat while locking in juices. At home, marinade this puppy in something like soy sauce and garlic, and slap it on the BBQ for a few minutes on each side and you will have the perfect home-cooked steak.
Flavor: This cut contains fat in levels that are somewhat in between the tenderloin (virtually none) and the Rib Eye (plenty of good, melty fat). Like the tenderloin, there is little variation throughout the cut, so the flavors and textures are more uniform for the Strip Steak, unlike the Rib Eye which has varying textures and flavors from one end of the cut to the other. The texture of a Strip can sometimes be a little bit grainy or mealy, and a bit more tight than a Filet Mignon or a Rib Eye – especially if it’s cooked too much.
4. Rib Eye
I’ve saved the best for last. The Rib Eye is the most ultimate of steaks, period. It is an awesome cut of beef.
Etymology: The etymology on this is pretty self-explanatory. The “rib” part of the name is because this cut of meat is connected to a rib bone. The “eye” part of the name is a reference to the circular, more centrally located portion of the cut that is more uniform than the outer portions of the cut. You will likely see the Rib Eye steak, or rib chop, called by many names.
For example, the Cowboy Rib Eye is a bone-in version of the cut:
There’s also the Tomahawk Rib Eye, which is so named for its resemblance to a Tomahawk-style hatchet. When butchered, a long “handle” of rib is cut clean to expose the bone (it is “Frenched,” as they say), and the steak meat is left at the end of the handle to form the hatchet blade:
Here’s a shot of my buddy; he’s about to get clobbered with a Tomahawk Rib Eye by Chef Josh Capon at Bowery Meat Company:
There’s also the Delmonico cut, otherwise known as a Scotch Filet. Applying what you’ve learned here, you can probably guess that this cut is boneless (filet means “boneless” in French). Delmonico’s claims this cut as their own because they named a house special boneless cut Rib Eye steak after their restaurant, way back in the early 1800’s when they first opened.
Anatomy: The rib section of beef spans from ribs six through twelve, and, obviously, hails from the rib section of the animal.
Rib Eye steaks are mainly composed of the Longissimus dorsi muscle (the “eye” portion of the steak) and the Spinalis dorsi muscle.
The more anterior your cut, the more Spinalis you’ll find in the steak. The Spinalis is the coveted cap of meat that wraps around the fatter end of the steak and usually has much more marbling than the rest of the Longissimus eye, or interior of the steak. That “fat cap” is also sometimes butchered away from the remaining eye.
Highly skilled butchers know how to remove it from its position across an entire standing rib roast section of ribs, so as to keep it all together as one giant cut. But then that ruins the rib chop, in my opinion, since you’re taking away the best part. Some steakhouses have taken to tying several Spinalis cuts together in a spiral formation to create an all-fat-cap steak. Bowery Meat Company has one such cut, which they call the Bowery Steak:
STK also offers one on special from time to time:
The Spinalis has a more intense marbling, and, thus, much more flavor and tenderness. If you are so bold, the next time you order a Rib Eye at a steakhouse, ask for an anterior “chuck side” cut that has more of this fantastic Spinalis muscle.
Preparation: There are a ton of ways to prepare a rib steak. The most comon forms are searing in a pan, grilling, or broiling. Another common method of preparing this kind of meat is roasting. A “standing rib roast” is a section of Rib Eye steaks that has not yet been portioned into individual steaks.
When this rack of ribs is roasted slow and low to a pink medium rare, the end product is called Prime Rib.
It then gets sliced out into portions for individual consumption. This is a mammoth cut that we got from Burger & Barrel:
I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is Yes: Prime Rib and Rib Eye steak are the same exact thing. They are just prepared differently, using different cooking methods.
Cheaper cuts of rib steaks are actually the most common type of beef found in Philly Cheesesteaks as well. The meat is cut super thin and then cooked on a flat top with cheese, onions and other toppings, then shoved into long sandwich bread (incase you’re an asshole who has no fucking clue was a cheesesteak is).
Side Bar: is a Philly Cheesesteak better than a Cheeseburger? I think so… Man… Now I’m hungry for both…
Flavor: This steak has a high fat content, and that makes it very important to have a quality cut of beef, or an aged cut of beef. In high quality and aged cuts, this fat will render out or melt away much easier during the cooking process. This will impart a tremendous amount of flavor into the steak, and it will leave the remaining flesh with a very tender and soft texture. Don’t be afraid of the fat. Fat is not the same as gristle. Fat is good. Fat is your friend. Any good butcher will get the gristle off and leave the good fat behind. And when that good fat is REALLY good, it’s like having a delicious beef jelly with each bite of steak.
As discussed above, the Rib Eye is really like having two steaks in one (The small Spinalis or fat cap, and the larger Longissimus eye). The Spinalis is soft, tender, has lots of fat flavor and sometimes develops a crisp during cooking. The eye is more dense, but still well marbled so that it retains intense flavor. The eye is more uniform than the Spinalis. So: two steaks in one, kind of like the Porterhouse. Plus, there’s a nice, meaty beef spare rib to gnaw on at the end, if you order a bone-in chop.
Since there is generally more fat and marbling in this cut across its entirety, you will get better flavors than with the tenderloin or Strip, in my opinion. Clearly, high fat content is not for everyone. If you want to avoid fats in your diet, then go with the tenderloin. I actually really enjoy the flavor of fat. Fat, now, is sometimes referred to as the sixth flavor sensation. There were always four: (1) savory, (2) sweet, (3) bitter and (4) sour. “Umami” claims to be the fifth, and is meant to encompass the earthy, funky, fermented flavor sensations that you experience with mushrooms, truffles, aged beef and blue cheese. I just dislike the word “umami,” so I use “earthy” instead. The sixth is “fat,” apparently, as decreed by various food people who get paid to sit around and do these things. I’m not sure how it works, but I seem to be able to recognize a distinct sensation on my tastebuds, along with a buttery flavor and slippery feel, whenever I eat shit like pork bone ramen or a Rib Eye steak. Maybe there’s something to it?
Anyway, I hope this was an informative and educational post for you meat minions out there. Knowing this shit, I think, is very important.
Our last meal was a great one, and this joint represents probably the only real-deal fine dining establishment we went to (with Koa’s coming close behind).
We celebrated our anniversary here in style, and had a really great waiter named Justin, who chatted with us about the all-natural grass-fed steak purveyors on Maui, and the Idaho aged beef guys with outposts in San Diego, which is where they get their meats. That naturally lead to NYC steakhouses and this blog, which he actually took the time to browse between check giving and check paying (when all the convo started).
We started with some awesome cocktails. Mine was a tequila, honey and smoked salt drink, and my wife’s was a jalapeño vodka and cinnamon syrup drink. Crazy good.
For starters, we had the “cake walk,” which was a trio of lobster cake, crab cake, and tuna cake. All were good, but the tuna was more like a tartare than a cake. Fine by me.
My wife had a chili relleno for her app. It was served with a blue corn crust and surrounded by a tomato sauce that tasted like homemade chili, and stuffed with cheeses, corn and all sorts of seafood goodies.
My entree, was, of course, the largest steak on the menu. They didn’t have rib eye but they did have a decently sized boneless NY strip steak. Pretty nice for 14oz.
I wasn’t crazy about the red wine reduction sauce, but the meat was good quality. It would hang tough in NYC, I think, though certainly not in my top 10. It was cooked perfectly to medium on a skillet – nothing fancy, just real technique:
My wife ordered the coffee crusted rack of lamb. This was a little gamey for my liking, but it was cooked nicely and the crust had a nice flavor, though not as strong in the coffee department as I might have expected.
We planned to skip dessert, since we wanted more Ululani’s before our trip home, but Justin brought us out a triple berry pie on the house.
This was awesome. The berries were smooth, fresh and delicious. The pie crust was crispy and covered with granulated sugar that gave it an awesome texture.
And then the management came by and took a nice photo of us. They even gave us a card from the staff for our anniversary.