Village Prime

Village Prime overall score: 82

UPDATE – THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

My wife picked up a Living Social deal for this steakhouse that gave us $60 to spend on dinner. I think she may have paid something like $20, after applying some promo codes and other nonsense. I had never heard about this little joint until the deal, so the campaign is a success in terms of getting the word out about this place.

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Let’s get into the “meat” of the review here:

UPDATE 4/20/16: I came in again for a press review. I’ve updated this review with italics on the newer-reviewed items. Since my first review, a new chef (Chef Charles) has taken the helm, and many new items grace the menu. The score, in total, has increased from 73 to 82. That’s a seriously great improvement!

Flavor: 8
I had the 18oz bone-in rib eye.

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It wasn’t as tender or flavorful as some of the steaks I’ve been eating lately, although it was certainly cooked to a perfect medium rare. No question about it.

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It was well rested, and had no bleed out. The texture was a little rubbery in parts, but the fat cap was good, and I ate everything except for a few bits of gristle.

The steak sauce went nicely with the few pieces of the seafood tower that were worth eating (see review below). It was less tomato and more hearty and brown, like an A1. I kinda liked it.

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On a second visit for a press meal, the rib eye was listed at $58 and 22oz. I gave it a try. It was much more tender and juicy. It had some bleed out that wasn’t present last time, since this is grilled rather than seared in a pan (as you can see by the grill marks), but the flavors were a lot more robust and enjoyable. I bumped the score up a point from 7/10 to 8/10.

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Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
You’ve got porterhouse, filet, strip, rib eye and skirt on the menu here. Not a bad showing for a small joint.

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This hit all the basics and added one or two flourishes for good measure. While the selection is there, however, the quality fell just a bit due to the flavor review. Kind of a bummer considering that this is apparently all prime beef.

On my second visit, the quality of the rib eye was improved. The cap was larger, and the meat was more tender and juicy. I increased the score here from a 7/10 to an 8/10.

Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions are pretty good for the price, with the exception of the seafood tower (discussed below, but now removed from the menu). The plating is nice and has a modern yet classic, and modestly elegant presentation.

On the press visit, I noticed that the plating was markedly improved. Everything is beautiful to look at.

Price: 7
At $46, the rib eye seemed to be priced right for a smaller mom and pop type steakhouse, but I was a little bummed when it didn’t deliver the flavor I had hoped for. But that wasn’t really the issue in terms of price. For the steak, I didn’t feel ripped off. But the seafood tower “for two” was a complete waste of money at $62. The four shrimp were great, as well as the four oysters and four mussels. We ate those first. By time we got to the mushy, weird-flavored small lobster tail and mushy, shell-ridden crab  meat, we figured it was sort of too late to send it back or complain on the spot. Had we tasted that stuff first, maybe we would have sent it back. The lobster and crab were both mushy and grainy, as if the texture of the meat had broken down somehow. Maybe it was old or not properly cleaned. Also, mussels are cheap – a few cents each at the most to purchase fresh. Seeing mussels in place of something nice like littleneck clams on a seafood tower like this is pretty much bullshit. FOUR???!? If this had a dozen mussels it would still be a fucking rip off. At $62 we felt completely taken when the “market price” bill came to the table. Not only was this the skimpiest seafood tower we have ever ordered, but it was probably the most expensive as well. A third complaint on price has to do with the cost of a glass of amaro. A full bottle of Amaro Nonino costs about $40, depending on where you purchase it. I noticed that the menu listed a glass of this average, common, easy to find amaro at $34. What the FUCK is going on here? It was priced higher than all of the scotches on the menu. Unbelievable. Either that’s a really bad typo, or someone has no idea of the actual value of this digestif. Fuckin’ $34… Anyway, I didn’t even order that but I felt compelled to discuss it. The overall take away for price here is that we felt like we overpaid even WITH the $60 off Living Social deal. Here’s the bill, before the $60 came off:

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On the press visit, I noticed that the Amaro Nonino pricing was fixed, and the seafood tower had been pulled from the menu. WOW! I suddenly feel that all of my work here on the website actually matters. The people here at Village Prime must have actually read my review. I bumped the price score up from a 5/10 to a 7/10. The rib eye is still a bit overpriced at $58, but with a flavor score of 8/10 it isn’t criminal.

Bar: 8
There’s a small bar up by the street, with seating for about six people. There’s also some tables up there that are oriented to be somewhat part of the bar area. The wine list is extensive, there’s a good selection of beer, both in bottles and on tap, and they make some interesting cocktails. These were the “Meet Me Here” (lowball) and the “Fig Blossom” (martini glass) cocktails.

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They also offer happy hour specials and dollar oysters until 7pm.

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Specials and Other Meats: 8
In the back, There was a chalk board listing a bunch of specials. Some of the items on the board overlapped with the menu, or contained different information than what was on the menu, but the specials were mostly in the realm of apps, sides, drinks and non-steak entrees. For other meats, they offer veal and lamb in chop form.

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This chalkboard is no longer featuring specials and cocktails. It now features a nice image of a cow with the various beef cuts outlined. As the old board contents were a source of confusion, I think this was a great change. Once the new menu is fully implemented, they can always go back to featured specials and menu items here. The score here increased from 7/10 to 8/10.

My wife tried the “duck two ways” this time around. The breast was a bit overcooked and under-seasoned for her liking, but the confit leg was very good. The slight dryness that was present in the leg was not taking away from the flavor or enjoyment.

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Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
This fire roasted octopus app was delicious. It was charred crispy on the outside, cleaned of all skin and suckers, and tender on the inside. This was probably the highlight of the meal. It was served on a bed of Mediterranean-spiced bean puree or a hummus-type of thing, with some pepper relish and micro greens. Very tasty.

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We also tried the tartare trio, which came with small portions of beef, salmon and tuna tartares. The beef was elegantly served with a raw quail egg on top, ready to rock:

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The flavor had a hint of mustard, but it wasn’t as successful as other beef tartare dishes I’ve had. Perhaps it needed a bit of cracked black pepper or salt.

The salmon was fresh, but didn’t jump out in terms of flavor.

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The best of the three, surprisingly (for me, anyway), was the tuna tartare. It had a good texture and fresh flavor, expertly dressed.

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Along with our steaks we had the creamed spinach. This was heavier on the cream than some recent steak joints I’ve been to, but it wasn’t overpowering. It also had a nice bread crumb topping to crisp it up a bit. That was a nice touch.

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This banana bread pudding that we had for dessert was another highlight of the meal. It was nice and warm, with a scoop of ice cream on top and a drizzle of caramel.

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On the second visit, the score increased here from a 7/10 to a 9/10. This time we tried some of the new items and apps that Chef Charles has improved upon. First was this crab cake:

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It had a nice crisp all around, and was chock-full of crab meat. While not the lump style of meat (it was shredded), this cake had a ton of great flavor.

Next was this incredible beef tartare. This was a huge improvement over the beef tartare I tasted last time. It was dressed and chopped perfectly, and the quail egg added a great smooth and velvety fatness into the meat. This has to go down as one of the best tartares in the city.

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We also tried this eggplant stack as an appetizer. It is currently on the entree menu, but it will be moving over to the small plates menu, which I think is a great fit for it. The eggplant is sliced super thin and crisped up like a potato chip. It is then layered and stacked with goat cheese and a fig marmalade. Absolutely awesome. My wife HATES eggplant and even she liked this dish. It was nicely balanced with that hit of sweetness from the marmalade and goat cheese. Wonderful.

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The desserts were improved on the second time around too. While I tended to like the older banana bread pudding better, the new ginger bread and lemon curd pudding was super unique and offered a great and balanced contrast of flavors. 

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In addition, these tiny biegnets were a fun addition to the menu. They were filled with a caramel sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Their size was the real display of skill here. They are smaller, so the crisp on the outside is in a more pleasing and balanced ratio to the soft dough inside. These were our favorite dessert between the two.

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Seafood Selection: 8
There’s a lot of nice looking seafood items on the menu here: cuts of fish, nice apps, etc. Now, the octopus was great, but the seafood tower was pitiful. Recall from above all the nasty bits. And this was a whopping $62:

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That shows inconsistency to me. So buyer beware if you dive any further into the sea at this joint. Maybe the fish entrees and pasta items featuring fish would be better? You decide.

Since the bad items have been removed from the menu, I have increased the score here from a 7/10 to an 8/10. I’m very happy to see that the restaurant is making good changes based on constructive criticism.

Service: 9
The service here is good. The wait staff all wear nice formal white shirts and ties, and they all seemed pleasant and helpful. The meal was nicely paced as well – not too fast, not too slow. Table bread was offered and even replenished when finished. It was warm and soft inside, and crusty outside. Very nice.

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The new bread basket is similarly warm and tasty, but it now contains a mix of both savory and sweet bread, served with a light herb and veggie butter.

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Ambiance: 9
Village Prime has done an amazing job with the decor and look of this place for a small West Village spot. The music was old fashioned, classic jazz and good dinner music. There’s a faux-beamed ceiling made from high quality wood and paneling, a dark wood floor, nice booth seating and a few tables up the center. Dim filament bulb lighting casts a warm glow across the dining space. There are nice wall sconces and accent wall panels that change up the decor from becoming too monotonous. The bathroom is really nice too, aside from the urinal that didn’t seem to flush properly.

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VILLAGE PRIME
302 Bleecker St.
New York, NY 10014

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