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THE BEST: Steak in Manhattan


rich
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There has certainly been a tremendous amount of consolidation in the meat packing industry, and a few major conglomerates do own a very high percentage of the processing and packing plants in the country. The figures I saw recently had, I think, four conglomerates controlling 80% of the nation's beef production. But I don't know that it's the case that 100% of USDA Prime comes from the largest processors.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Dinner at the Palm last night (Palm Too, actually) was firmly second-tier, as usual. I don't really understand why. I mean, in theory, the Palm has a system in place (the company runs its own wholesale meat company) that should guarantee a high level of steak. But as usual, the steak had three major flaws: 1) It was soggy in the middle, which should not be the case in a properly dry-aged steak, 2) The exterior was burnt as in incinerated, not caramelized as in delicious; and 3) The fat was not well marbled but was, rather, concentrated in a few massive gristly deposits. Given that two beers, one cocktail, a double steak, two appetizers, a shared salad, two sides, dessert, coffee, tax, and tip cost $200 (no wine), this is not a particularly impressive level of quality.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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this is not a particularly impressive level of quality.

Palm Corp. is more interested in quantity vs. quality these days. Their adversting is geared toward the masses, ie the restaurant has been aggressively promoting "two-for-ones" and other such discounts on the radio and other media (NY Times card etc.). It seems they are going after the Outback crowd.

Maybe their marketing strategy has changed over the years because a decision was made that the restaurants couldn't compete with the "big boys."

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Rich, we were subjected to the "837 Club" hard sell. It was ridiculous, with the waiter intrusively standing over the table and presenting us with an infomercial ("But you get free lobster on your birthday!!!"). This is not the kind of win-win upselling that builds loyalty. It's just annoying.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think Palm did a copycat to Morton's which started their 2-4-1 in 2000 in Chicago; and then promoted it all over US the next year. Palm never managed to get the hard-core Park Ave white-shoe lawyers :biggrin: as regulars

anil

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Dinner at the Palm last night (Palm Too, actually) was firmly second-tier, as usual.

Food, especially steaks, at The Palm is better then the food at Palm Too. Don't ask me why that is because it doesn't make any sense. But I've had that experience 5 or 6 times. And I eat at The Palm pretty regularly as it is my "go to" place for steak (even though it has been replaced in large part by Mitchel London at Fairway.) But it's the same hit or miss thing with steaks from anywhere. You get one where the marbeling is evenly spread and the steak is great. And I'd say that it is a 50/50 proposition at any steakhouse.

As for the 837 club and promotions, I think The Palm has some good promotions. Every August they have a surf and turf dinner of a Caeser Salad, a strip steak, a 3 pound lobster and a piece of cheesecake for 2 people for $99.99. It's a great deal. And they are easy going about it. If you want to increase the size of the lobster to say a 7 pounder, they only charge you for the extra 4 pounds.

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  • 4 months later...

My vote goes to the strip ("sirloin" on their menu) at Spark's as #1 in Manhattan for flavor, quality, and consistency. However, I have recently dined more often at Smith & Wollensky's back bar, mainly because I prefer the casual atmosphere and ability to just walk in with no wait. I think S&W's steaks are also some of the best in NYC for dry-aged flavor, but the quality/consistency of strip cuts isn't up to par with Spark's. I've had some overly fatty and/or stringy strips once in a while at S&W's, but never once a problem in many, many visits to Sparks. On the other hand, I think S&W's has markedly better hash browns, creamed spinach, and other side items than Sparks.

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At the same time, a double-cut strip is almost always preferable -- assuming similar meat quality -- to a regular strip. I think the double-cut strips at both Strip house and, yes, Smith & Wollensky are excellent. Smith & Wollensky is an interesting case because it has quite a range of steaks. The best steaks there are the double-cut strip and the extra-heavily-aged rib that they call by a couple of different names.

Fat Guy, what exactly is a double-cut strip? Also, what do you mean by "extra-heavily aged" rib steak at S&W? Is this cut is aged for a longer period than their NY Strips?

And while I'm at it, do you think I should I pay visit to Bull & Bear, given the Sparks/S&W options down the street? I tried to go some time ago, but it was closed for a period after 9/11.

And thanks again for your outstanding steakhouse review from years past. One of the most thoughtful and thorough food reviews I've ever read. It was one of the first things that caught my eye on your website, and led me to follow (and respect) your reviews thereafter.

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Fat Guy, what exactly is a double-cut strip? Also, what do you mean by "extra-heavily aged" rib steak at S&W?  Is this cut is aged for a longer period than their NY Strips?

A double-cut strip is a strip that's twice as thick as a normal one. So if a steakhouse typically cuts a 14-ounce strip that's 2" thick, the double-cut strip would be 28-ounces and 4" thick with the other dimensions being unchanged. A double-cut strip is typically served for two and sliced into medallions. The advantage of it is that it can be treated somewhat as a roast, so it can be seared moderately and roasted slowly so that it develops the maximum amount of flavor with no actual burning, yet it can still maintain a really nice rare center.

And while I'm at it, do you think I should I pay visit to Bull & Bear, given the Sparks/S&W options down the street? I tried to go some time ago, but it was closed for a period after 9/11.

I've only been there once in the time since they introduced the Certified Angus Prime program. I think for that alone it's worth trying. It's also a really swank room and much more tolerable than a typical steakhouse, and the crabmeat and most of the sides are terrific. I'd be interested to hear additional comments regarding consistency, though.

And thanks again for your outstanding steakhouse review from years past.

Well you're very welcome. It wasn't easy for me to let go of some of those mega-reviews of steakhouses, pizzerias, delis, etc., but the reality is that without constant vigilance and maintenance they grow dated and it's a disservice to leave them online. As my writing career has grown away from restaurant reviewing and more towards general food writing, it just hasn't been possible for me to maintain a significant online restaurant review database. At the same time, I still dine out quite a bit and I still do some reviewing. eGullet provides me with the opportunity to share what experiences I do have, in a contextual manner, and without the burden of maintaining a full-blown database.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oh, and yes, apparently the rib steak at S&W that they sometimes call Colorado Rib (a cowboy rib cut, I believe) and hand-sell when it's available is distinguished by an additional week or so of aging.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oh, and yes, apparently the rib steak at S&W that they sometimes call Colorado Rib (a cowboy rib cut, I believe) and hand-sell when it's available is distinguished by an additional week or so of aging.

I now recall hearing it listed as a special on occasion, but never ordered it. That and Bull & Bear are now on my to-do list when I get back to NYC.

Thanks again for the replies to my questions. :smile:

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  • 3 weeks later...
I now recall hearing it listed as a special on occasion, but never ordered it.  That and Bull & Bear are now on my to-do list when I get back to NYC.

You'll have to let me know how it is; it's also on my to-do list.

Has anyone been to Uncle Jack's in Queens?

:D

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I now recall hearing it listed as a special on occasion, but never ordered it.  That and Bull & Bear are now on my to-do list when I get back to NYC.

You'll have to let me know how it is; it's also on my to-do list.

Has anyone been to Uncle Jack's in Queens?

I'm scheduled to go to Benson's in a couple weeks. I've never been there. Besides the steak and crab cakes, what else is good? Be honest, am I making a mistake going there? (I'm probably spoiled with Lugers/strip house/river palm taste)

:D

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  • 2 years later...

For steak qua steak, my current favorite is Wolfgang's. I had a wonderful steak at the new Bobby Van's downtown, but I've only been there once.

I think BLT Steak and BLT Prime must be on anyone's list for creatively breaking the classic steakhouse mold while still serving good steaks, but I don't think anyone would list them as best for their beef alone.

I tried Capital Grille twice recently (on both occasions, someone else chose it). It flunked the test both times.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Is the standard we're judging against PL? A client had me out to Peter Luger's for lunch last week, and it was an outstanding Porterhouse; I couldn't ask for much better of a porterhouse cooked and aged as it was. I guess some people here have had varied experiences with them, but I get the feeling they take continue to take it awfully seriously there. I'm not crazy about having to ship out to Brooklyn OR about rubbing elbows with so many tourists, and it's dining room is what it is, but I could definitely go there a couple times a year.

For the same money, I would definitely go to MarkJoseph - It's Porterhouse was fantastic. And at least you are in a nicer setting, with a younger staff, and they're more accomodating for someone like myself, who can simply not put down food like a linebacker.

Dylan's Prime was also very very good - I went there last year. Their sides were great, and they don't break the bank as much.

I'm going to check out Old Homestead soon - a good friend of mine just moved into an apartment above it.

Michael Jordan's was good ENOUGH to be eating in Grand Central...

BLT prime is also definitely on my hit list - seems like there are many new steakhouses in midtown which are not being mentioned here..?

Interesting discussion about how 80% of the premium beef is going to Japan - is this really the case? I also thought they stopped importing because of BSE, but I could be mistaken. Some of the best beef I've ever had was supplied to me by my friend who owns some of the best Yakiniku restaurants in Tokyo - check out my personal picture.

All the Kobe beef in town is actually "American Kobe" beef - not from the Matsuzaka region in Japan which is definitely the best I've ever had... but I had this in Japan. I thought there was one Japanese restaurant in midtown that specialized in them...

Edited by raji (log)
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  • 3 months later...

I am not overly impressed with Wolfgang's, yet another Peter Luger tribute restaurant that shares with its parent a debased level of steak. The truth is that almost none of the big steakhouses now serve really great beef. There simply isn't enough great meat to go around, especially now that there are so many steakhouses in the city. They're all buying commodity beef in boxes from big purveyors like DiBragga and Spitler or Masters, if they're not getting it from Sysco or the Restaurant Depot. Peter Luger supplements their boxed supply with some carcasses, I believe, from old-fashioned full-carcass shops like Walmir. Sometimes.

The bottom line is that if you want to eat great steak, you are much more likely to find it in a great restaurant like Craft or Daniel than in any steakhouse. The best steak today comes from small farms and specialty ranches -- Brandt, Snake River Farm, the beef sold through Four Story Farm, and etc. Assume that if the steak isn't identified on the menu that it is commodity beef and a crapshoot, dry-aged or not.

A word about cuts. In any steakhouse, you are much more likely to get bang for your buck in terms of beef flavor by ordering skirt or hangar steak, which now have the flavor you used to find in strips. The ribeye is also far more flavorful, but I have never had the Colorado steak Steven mentions above at S&W. (I've never had a great steak of any kind at any Stillman group restaurant.) My favorite steak meals in the last year have all been cote du bouef for two at good french places like Balthezar or Steak Frites.

OK, all that said, my favorite steakhouses in Manhattan are as follows and not in order:

1. Robert's Steakhouse. Yes, the naked women are part of the appeal, but Adam Perry Lang's nose for great meat, and commitment (almost obsession) with the art of dry-aging separate Robert's from the pack. I also believe that his $125 wagyu strip steak is the best I've had.

2. Sparks. I'm not a huge dry-aging guy myself, and so I love Sparks, which has what I believe is the best beef of all the major steakhouses, even if it isn't dry-aged. I also love the way they serve it, exquisitely brown / black on the outside, perfect inside, unsliced and stark on a plate with no garnish. Also the best hash browns by a country mile, and also the best veal chop by far.

3. Nebraska (Financial District)

This place is off the radar, but the owner spares no expense in obtaining great beef and serving it at what is barely a profit, given the size and quality of the steak. The place is not much for atmosphere, but what steakhouse is? The side dishes and appetizers are among the very best of any steakhouse as well.

These are the places I go to eat the classic steakhouse cuts sucha as strip or porterhouse. For skirt, hangar, and other cuts I will also go to Sammy's (bone-on rib steak, skirt), La Portena (skirt), and Les Halles (hangar).

Hope this helps. Buy my book!

Mr. Cutlets

Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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The bottom line is that if you want to eat great steak, you are much more likely to find it in a great restaurant like Craft or Daniel than in any steakhouse.  The best steak today comes from small farms and specialty ranches -- Brandt, Snake River Farm, the beef sold through Four Story Farm, and etc.  Assume that if the steak isn't identified on the menu that it is commodity beef and a crapshoot, dry-aged or not.

Mr. Cutlets

I am interested in learning more on this subject since it's been my intuition for some time that the meat at finer restaurants, and most specifically Craft, actually tasted much better than that of Peter Luger's, Wolfgang's, or MarkJoseph's (I love Craft's incredible steaks for two--and recommend them to everyone).

My parents are quite close with the Brandts of Brandt beef, and the beef they give to their friends as gifts is the best I've had anywhere. I'm sure it is ultra-select, but I also wonder why more traditional steakhouses don't get in line and use it themselves. I happen to know that Cafe Gray uses Brandt beef, but why wouldn't, say, Wolfgang's? Is there really too much demand (I heard, on the contrary, that these sorts of places were trying to expand their operations and find new customers for their beef), or is it too expensive? I'd like to find out.

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If you want to do the Brandts a good turn, tell your local restauteur about it. It's still not well known. I doubt they could keep the big steakhouses in supply; they only kill about 1000 animals a year. The steakhouses need a steady supply of quote-unquote prime beef, and can't go to artisinal sources like the Brandts to get it. But smaller restaurants can, and should, and if you are or know someone in the business, tell them Mr. Cutlets gives its his meatiest seal of approval.

Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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MR Cutlets - you had me until you mentioned Nebraska steakhouse. I was there a few months ago and it was perfectly mediocre steak. Not bad, but nothing special either. It tasted like a standard prime cut that many supermarkets carry now in styrofoam. I would put Keen's on the list though - with an extra few points for the classic ambiance and scotch selection.

Surprisingly, the best steak I've had recently in Manhattan was at Smith and Wollensky. I went in biased because of the chain status, and that I had read many mediocre reviews. In fact, I went in with the intention of ordering the burger (which is also great) but caved in to the steak in the end. It was truly out of this world. More expensive that Lugers I believe. I think I had a NY Strip special possibly - and it was $43. Pricey, but wonderful.

~WBC

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