The idea of a marinated steak is nothing new. Throw some soy sauce and garlic in a tupperware container, plop your steak in there, and a few hours later you’ve completely transformed the flavor, texture and character of your beef.
Lots of small, usually budget-friendly, run-of-the-mill restaurants that serve steaks will do this to punch up the quality and flavor of their beef. But a true steakhouse, it is often believed, won’t fuck with a quality cut of steak. Just salt and pepper is all you need.
Yet some of the best places in NYC are offering “flavored” steaks. And you will almost always see something like a coffee rubbed filet on a steakhouse menu from time to time. But let this be your guide to some of the good ones out there.
Probably the most commonly seen flavored steak is the “Cajun” steak. Typically this involves some onion, garlic, black pepper and often times something potent like cumin, paprika or cayenne pepper. These spices, when combined, can really make a steak pop and excite the taste buds.
My favorite Cajun steak is at Greenwich Steakhouse. This one comes with a little pool of oils and spiced sauce on the bottom, which I like to drag my steak though for extra pop. They’ll even throw the flavoring onto other cuts if you’d like, but the rib eyes are marinated in the stuff, so I think they might have a bit more deeply penetrating flavors.
For something less “wet” when served, go to Tuscany Steakhouse. This one is only on their lunch menu, but if you ask nice they might hook it up. Especially if you tell them I sent you. It’s excellent.
Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse also does a really nice job on their Cajun rib eye, which is a happy middle ground between Greenwich and Tuscany in terms of preparation and presentation; a little of the oil on the bottom, but still mostly a dry presentation. The great thing about this one is that the dry-aged flavor still comes though nicely.
Smith & Wollensky is thought to be the originator of the Cajun rib eye up here in NYC. In fact, Chef Victor at Greenwich Steakhouse is the one who developed the recipe at Smith & Wollensky before he struck out on his own (Greenwich Steakhouse). Greenwich is much better, in my opinion, but the two are very similar in overall style.
Harry’s offers a Cajun rib eye too, but it tastes completely different from the others up above, which all tend to have the same flavor profile. Harry’s is more earthy and peppery than the exotic spice flavors on the above cuts. Still great, just entirely different.
Another great flavored steak is the chili-rubbed rib eye. You can occasionally find this at Delmonico’s if they’re doing a tribute menu, but the man they pay homage to is Chef LoMonaco of Porter House Bar & Grill. He became well known for creating this spicy and delicious flavored rib eye.
If you’re like me, when it comes to spice, you prefer something aggressive like chili. But not so harsh that is fucks up your entire palate for the rest of the meal. I happen to love Szechuan peppercorn; that numbing heat with a slight burn. There’s just something about it.
I even tried to make a steak with those flavors a while back. But my attempt paled in comparison to the Szechuan tomahawk rib eye from The Lobster Club. This thing is aggressive, for sure, and richly flavorful. It’s tingly, it’s spicy, and it’s perfectly cooked. And when you go, bring the oily sauce home and fry up some leftover white rice with it, and top it with a fried egg or two. You won’t be disappointed.
Another big success is the pastrami rib eye from American Cut.
This baby packs a ton of flavor, so I’d probably split this as an appetizer and then focus on something more traditional as a main course. That peppery pastrami crust is absolutely bonkers, but I prefer it in small doses.
There are lots of others out there that I didn’t try yet, like the chili wagyu sirloin at Char House, or the whiskey dry-aged rib eye and lavender-rubbed porterhouse at The Beatrice Inn. I may need to win the lottery first though to afford those. I’ve heard great things, but I think the whiskey steak starts at about $1000. At least it feeds three people.
HOLY SHIT! THIS IS THE 50th STEAKHOUSE I’VE REVIEWED! I’ve been here once before, but that was before I started doing reviews. I remember thinking it was in my short list of favorites at the time, so I needed to come back and give it the old once-over, JP style. The verdict: not quite as incredible as I remember, but still a solid dining experience.
The flavor here was good but it lacked a little seasoning or salt. My rib eye was cooked nicely, but there definitely was a little bit of bleed-out – like that time of the month when broads start to bleed from their vadges. I think if there was more crust or char on the meat, the juices would’ve been sealed in better. They definitely let the meat rest properly before serving, so they got it mostly right. They DO have a steak sauce here that they pop on the table after you order your food, but it tasted more like a BBQ sauce to me. Perhaps good on chicken, but it would fuck up a good steak, in my opinion.
On a return trip, I tried both the prime rib and the cajun rib eye.
The prime rib was pretty good. 7/10.
The cajun rib eye was good too, but when compared with Greenwich Steakhouse, it just doesn’t hold up. 7/10.
“Plaque Steak” filet mignon for two: 9/10.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
The selection here is all prime, and dry-aged in house – so it is nice quality. You can taste that in the natural flavor, and that might be why they are light on the seasoning. Some places don’t want to tarnish the purity of a nice cut. They have five different styles of filet, four of which come in two sizes. They have single sirloin cuts in two sizes AS WELL AS a sirloin for two and a NY sirloin (strip). Then there’s the Colorado rib steak, a Cajun marinated rib steak, a prime rib, and a porterhouse for two. Last, they have “sliced steak Wollensky” in two sizes as well, which is another sirloin of some kind. That’s a lot of fucking beef to choose from.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
My steak was 28oz, bone-in. That’s a good-sized slab of meat on the bone – like Lexington Steele. I didn’t ask about the sizes of the other cuts. I’m sorry about that, assholes. Plating was basic steakhouse styling.
Prices here range from $45 to $54 for proper cuts of steak. The Colorado rib steak, which I had, came in on the higher side of that range at $53. It’s a bit high compared to other joints. Was it worth the money? Well… I guess. I can say yes if you are a purist. If you are like me, though, and sometimes you want a little crust on your steak, then you might be better off elsewhere for this price range. I did think the crab claw was over-priced, though it was delicious. I was hoping for a little more than one claw – like maybe an entire crab.
The bar here is nice, and it reminded me of Keen’s a little, though not quite as incredible. It has an old feel, it smells like a bar, and the bartender is fancied up with some nice attire and even has an Irish accent. The martini was made perfectly, and came with three unpitted castelvetrano olives instead of your normal bullshit cocktail olives. Very nice – almost worth the $14 you pay for it (before tax & tip). I will be honest though – I hate NYC’s east side, bottom to top, but especially midtown. I never hang out there, and I most likely wouldn’t go there just for the bar unless I lived in that area (which I would never do). So there you have it.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
Our waiter didn’t read us any specials, so I was assuming there were none… until we overheard another waiter take a surf & turf order. I have a feeling my wife might have ordered that had we known about it. It wasn’t on the menu if it was a special – I’ll chalk that up to a service mishap. For other meats, they had braised short rib, lamb chops (which my wife ordered), roasted veal chops, and lemon pepper chicken. The lamb chops were thick and juicy, and cooked nicely – not too gamy. They came with an utterly horrific mint jelly (on the side, thank God), which tasted like melted mint gumdrops – those big, granulated sugar covered ones that you get from a crystal candy dish at your dead grandmother’s house. Mildly reminiscent of tooth paste. Fuck that shit.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7
To start, I had the colossal Florida stone crab, which to my dismay was just a claw and not a full crab. It was absolutely delicious though. My wife had the famous split pea soup, which was very smooth and tasty, but ultimately nothing to rave about. On the side we had creamed spinach. I had heard good things about it here, but I wasn’t impressed. I prefer a leafier creamed spinach in general, but I am not opposed to the pureed type. Here it was pureed, but I thought it lacked punch. It was nice when you slathered it on your meat and took a combo bite though. For dessert we shared a disappointing slice of the bourbon pecan pie. The nutty top part was nice, but the inside was a little too gelatinous and fake tasting. It just didn’t compare to the walnut pecan pie at Sparks.
Seafood Selection: 9
There is a ton of seafood here. In addition to a full array of shellfish and regular fish for cold apps (tuna tartare, clams, oysters, shrimp, crab claws, crab cakes, lump crab meat, lobster, towers and plateaus), they also had a solid fish selection for entrees. Three to thirteen pound lobsters, or lobster tails by the ounce, plus a variety of preparations available for red snapper, king salmon, halibut, Dover sole, and Ahi tuna. There is even a special preparation of Dover Sole Meuniere. But seriously – three different crab apps available here?!?? I almost made some warm jellyfish in my pants. Our waiter told us that the seafood “bouquet” contained 12oz of lump crab meat (Is that a fucking mistake??!? That’s HUGE!), six jumbo shrimp, and lobster (I’m guessing half of a 1.5lb fucker). As I said above, the crab was awesome – just over-priced for a relatively small portion.
The service was great. Well – let me rephrase and elaborate. The hospitality was INCREDIBLE, but the service was just good. First the negatives – and these are very minor, mind you: (1) We weren’t told about the surf & turf item. (2) I WOULD have ordered a beer to go with my steak but the waiter was sort of unseen after he took our orders. I still had half of my martini from the bar when we sat. My wife ordered a glass of wine, but I wasn’t ever asked for a refresher on my drink. No biggie – it saved me $8. Now for the positives: (1) They didn’t charge us for the pecan pie dessert. It was “on the house” as a gift for my wife, since we let them know the dinner was to celebrate her birthday when we made the reservation. That was awesome – especially since we didn’t really like it all that much anyway. It even came with a candle on top. (2) They have a guy opening and holding the door for you on the way out, and he will even hail a cab for you. I thought this was nice and classy. (3) I was given a hot, damp towel after I finished my crab appetizer. Let’s see – what else… the table bread wasn’t warm, but it was tasty – and came with a good variety of stuff to pick at, like the crispy flat bread, raisin nut bread, Italian bread, pretzel bread, and some sesame seed rolls. The butter was a little too cold to spread on anything though.
The wait staff are all dressed nicely – mainly men as far as I could tell – in suit jackets. The decor was that of a traditional steakhouse. It had exposed brick in some parts, and a cream/tan colored paint job on the others, with old photos and artwork hanging throughout. It reminded me of what Ben Benson was like – even down to the bull head meat sign hanging in the main dining room. The bathroom was nice and clean, all marble, with shelves of thick hand towels for drying. Apparently one guy found it nice enough to drop a deuce in there, because he was laying some underwater cable while I was taking a piss. I should have taken a picture of his pants wrapped around his ankles from under the stall door.
UPDATE: EARLY 2019
I now have a plaque on the wall here, thanks to the fact that my buddy is a waiter and the manager remembers me from way back in 2013 when he was at Quality Italian.
It’s right above the entryway into the main dining room. Anyway, a few items to report on:
The lemon-pepper roasted chicken is absolutely fucking amazing:
That is a best of 2019 dish for me.
The oysters and clams on the half were excellent. Nice and fresh.
Another best of 2019 item is the strawberry cake that comes with an ice cream cone. Crack!