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BLT Steak


Bond Girl
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Interesting. I wonder how many people share your clearly-expressed opinion that a restaurant turning out great food can deserve any number of stars, depending on various factors including the luxury or inexpensiveness of the ingredients, degree of complexity of preparations, quality of the wine list, and a number of aspects of service, decor, and ambiance. I still probably don't completely agree (partly because I place so much more importance on the deliciousness of the food that aspects of the star system are much less relevant to me than to many other people), though I believe I understand the general outlines of your viewpoint. But that's probably a discussion better pursued in thread on the star system.

In this thread, it's probably much more pertinent for me to ask what you would think the restaurant would need to do differently in order to merit a 3-star rating.

[Edited to insert link.]

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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It's possible to have a minimalist three-star restaurant (Craft), or even hypothetically a four-star one (for example if Ambroisie came to New York it could easily carry a four-star rating), but those places are pushing a relatively cerebral concept of minimalism that goes beyond the apparent a la carte formula. There's an approach, a method, behind what Craft does. It has been expressed in words by the chef -- he has stated the concept as bringing the soloists out of the orchestra -- but more importantly it's apparent in the cuisine. At BLT Steak there's no unifying theme of that sort, just a lot of good stuff prepared in mostly minimal ways. The whole steakhouse concept distraction has, I think, limited Tourondel in his ability to create a more compelling unifying theme for the menu and the cuisine. So I think, without reference to the luxury aspects, the place is fundamentally a two-star concept. And this is no insult: I'm quite certain that if you asked Tourondel what kind of concept he was attempting to create, he would tell you two stars. Four-star-caliber chefs often purposefully create excellent three- and two-star concepts. Ducasse, Jean-Georges, and others do it all the time. I suppose there's always the hope that you'll hit a home run with the Times and get an extra star, but it's not always good to be rated higher than your concept -- two-star places can be tremendously profitable, customers don't expect to spend as long at their tables, they're more likely to drop in without long-term planning, they're more likely to eat there every day . . .

Anchored by a two-star concept, I think Tourondel went ahead with a two-star implementation -- a very high two-star implementation -- on most other fronts. The quantity of waitstaff, the casualness of the presentations, etc. So I think BLT Steak is, through and through, a two-star restaurant in the best sense of the rating. I don't think this is a place where we're looking at a disconnect between cuisine and luxuriousness that forces us to consider pulling the star rating one way or the other to compensate.

Of course, as we've discussed before, the failure of the Times, from the beginning of the Reichl era through the present (with temporary relief from Grimes before he slipped into star incoherence), to clearly articulate the star system and maintain some sort of consistency, has made it a lot more difficult for restaurateurs and customers to read the system in a meaningful way. So, for example, it's insane to have BLT Steak carrying two stars if Spice Market is carrying three. It's equally insane to have BLT Steak carrying two stars if Asiate is carrying one. In a more reliable star universe it would probably be three stars for Asiate, two stars for BLT Steak, one star for Spice Market, and no insult intended to any of those establishments. So it hurts a bit to say BLT Steak should be a two-star, because the three-star Spice Market review is weighing so heavily on the conversation, but I'm not working from that frame of reference. If Spice Market is really a three-star, then BLT Steak is a four-star. But of course that would be nonsensical.

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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Here's what the New York Times had to say at the time:

when Cello, the elegant, three-star French seafood restaurant at 53 East 77th Street, suddenly closed after dinner on Saturday, there were no farewells or last tastes of pancetta-wrapped ahi tuna with foie gras. The 72 employees were informed by telephone on Sunday that they no longer had jobs. Viet Do, a lawyer who said he was hired to dissolve the business, said that money was a factor but would make no other comment.

and

The chef, Laurent Tourondel, found out about the closing on Monday while he was in Caracas promoting Cello. "I felt like a fool," he said. "I'm devastated. I can't believe they did this when I'm out of town. I'm also the president of the restaurant."

More here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/07/dining/07OFF.html

(We had the story on eGullet a day earlier, though, thanks to Bux's source)

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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A restaurant review last Wednesday about BLT Steak, on East 57th Street in New York, incorrectly described the hanger steaks sold to the restaurant by the meat supplier DeBragga & Spitler. They are sold fresh, not dry aged.

Ok, ok, so it's not as bad as previous goof-ups, but it's still worth noting.

Corrections (from the NYTimes DIGEST update for 21 April 2004. Scroll down for the appropriate link.)

Soba

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Just in from BLT Steak:

We are pleased to announce that BLT Steak (106 East 57th Street) will be open for lunch beginning Tuesday April 27th.

Please join us Monday through Friday from 11:45AM to 2:30PM for Executive Chef Laurent Tourondel’s Modern American Steakhouse cuisine.

For reservations please call 212-752-7470.

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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  • 5 weeks later...
My favorite side was peas-with-bacon.

I've now sampled this creation twice. I'm beginning to think Laurent Tourondel's spring-peas-with-bacon may very well be the greatest side dish for steak, ever. Or for a veal chop. Or short ribs. Or soft-shell crabs.

I went ahead and asked for the recipe and this is what I got today via e-mail. I haven't tested it yet (I won't add it to RecipeGullet until I do).

BLT Steak

Chef Laurent Tourondel

Spring Peas

2 tablespoons, diced bacon (small)

1 ½ oz Cipolline Onion, sliced

1 large pinch of sugar

1 oz chicken stock

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

¼ head of Bibb lettuce sliced into ¼ inch pieces

3 ½ oz peas (blanched in salt water and iced)

1 tablespoon butter

Salt & Pepper to taste

1)Sauté the bacon until golden brown.

2)Add the sliced onion and sugar and sauté until caramelized.

3)Deglaze with chicken stock.

4)Add garlic and Bibb lettuce; sauté for 1 minute.

5)Add the blanched green peas and butter.

6)Season with Salt and Pepper

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've now sampled this creation twice. I'm beginning to think Laurent Tourondel's spring-peas-with-bacon may very well be the greatest side dish for steak, ever. Or for a veal chop. Or short ribs. Or soft-shell crabs.

I've only sampled this once and thought it was horrid, artificially sweetened (as indicated by the recipe you've posted, although I suspect it was a VERY large pinch of sugar that they used, as if Cipolline isn't sweet enough) and with peas that have either seen better days or were cooked for too long. Didn't work particularly well with the steak. Could have been an off day, but that's just one of the reasons I wouldn't consider returning.

M
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Went in a group of 6 to BLT Steak last night.

I ran straight from a softball game in the Park to the restaurant. Wanting to freshen up, and look a little less like a sweaty, unshaven, out-of-place downtown slob, in a dining room full of wealthy businessmen and their pleased-to-be-married-to-wealthy-businessmen wives, my first impression was of the Men's Room. The lone stall (there are also two urinals) features a full, floor to ceiling door, so that you step into your own little chamber, which is how it should be (but rarely is). Why, after all, do most bathroom doors not go to the floor? Is the convenience of checking occupancy, without having to knock, worth the aural trauma of glimpsing trousers slumped around strange men's ankles?

The warm water knob on the faucet broke off when I turned it. Oops.

When our group was seated (at 9:20 for a 9:00 reservation) we were brought to a booth in the back corner of the dining room. I'm no booth conneisseur, but this particular set-up provided the most pleasant seating arrangement I've ever been offered for a group of 6. The booth is an oval, and recessed into its own little enclosed chamber, walled on one side by wine-racks behind glass, so that, sitting at the table, the group feels at once in their own private room and, thanks to the perfect sight-line provided by the narrow opening at the entrance to the booth, part of the bustle of the dining room. Thanks to the wonders of the chamber's acoustics, we were as loud and obnoxious as 6 dumb drunk men can be, without even slightly disturbing the uptight looking Upper East Side family sitting six feet from us.

The food was terrific. My take pretty much mirrors the Critics' take and Fat Guy's, so no revelations here, but, at the very least, I'd like to add to the heap of praise:

Starters

Toast with Pate (Complimentary) - A nice kickstart to the festivities. A light, smooth Pate served in two little cups (ramikins?) for the table.

Popovers (Complimentary) - wonderfully flaky pastry-like bread served hot, with a hint of cheese baked in.

Oysters - Kumomoto, Blue Point and Nova Scotian variety. Fresh, good. Kumomotos, perhaps just by luck of the draw, were exceedingly small. Blue Points, which are of course naturally bigger, were swimming in an embarrassment of terrific liquor. Excellent cocktail sauce.

Foie Gras BLT - Hard to argue with this. The smoky, salty crispness of the bacon couples perfectly with the sweeter, fruity notes of the soft Foie Gras. Was served with (I'm guessing here) an apricot mint chutney.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Stilton Cheese and Onions - Very nice, but one's mouth will be cranky if there's available Foie Gras BLT on the table and you're spooning it anything else.

Tuna TarTar - Great. In general, the kitchen was right on with textures all night - the tuna here was just the right firmness, not the sloppy slimy mass you sometimes get with lesser quality versions of this dish.

Main Courses

Roasted Duck - looked great. the guy who was eating it was loving it. It's the one dish I didn't try, though.

Dover Sole - Generous filet of buttery (and covered in butter) tender white meat. The fish supports the richness of the butter sauce well, as the meat is thin, but surprisingly dense (in a good way). A real treat, though I'm not sure why it's priced at $45. Is Dover sole more expensive than aged Prime Porterhouse, for instance?

Prime Rib for Two - Hey, red meat with horseradish sauce is almost always going to be tasty, but this dish was the only one that kinda made me shrug, Enh, this is nothing special. A steak of this quality can be had in endless restaurants in the city. It did not stand out like, well, the star of the show...

Veal Chop - Wow. This is veal from a bizarro planet, a planet where Veal is far superior to redder beef, to, really, any food ever. Generally, I'd almost always prefer the richer, meatier taste of a bull's steak to a calf's, but this parmesan crusted cut of meat single-handedly undid all previous anti-veal bias. Finally, veal delicious enough to fully justify the fact that you're eating baby. Go to BLT Steak and eat this dish.

Sides

Peas with Bacon - I'll side with the people who've said they like this dish. Sweet & Salty.

Creamed Spinach - Solid, but nothing special, at least in comparison to some of the superior options on the table.

Onion Rings - Best onion rings I've ever had. Very light breading with a perfectly cooked, just firm-enough onion.

Asparagus - Thick, meaty spears.

Stuffed Mushroom Caps - Wanted the Hen of the Woods, but they were out. Caps nothing to get excited about.

Desserts

Creme Brulee was excellent as was the much-heralded Chocolate Tart (though the ice cream served with it was surprisingly thin, almost icey, rather than creamy or rich, but maybe that's the idea, given the unrelenting denseness of the tart).

Sundae so-so. But who orders a sundae when the tart's an option?

The little complimentary chocolate petit-fours (apologies for mangled spelling) were delicious.

Drinks

Table shamelessy ordered 3 bottles of the cheapest wine on the menu, a $28 Cotes Du Rhone Domaine Autard. Totally pleasant wine, and a nice way to keep the price down for a bunch of not-so-wealthy dudes.

Service was exceedingly pleasant. Reminded me of the type of laid back but astute guidance provided at Jewel Bako, though, we only sampled one waiter, so, who knows, there's probably a couple duds in the bunch, too.

Everything included, with more than 20% tip, $105 a person, which I think is absolutely fair, if not pleasantly low, considering the quality of food and the fact that we were all stuffed. (I've heard some gripes about portion size, but I don't agree - I'm a huge eater and I was totally satisfied, though it might have been an unfair advantage to be in a large group where variety of dishes supercedes quantity.)

I totally agree with Fat Guy's assessment of the restaurant and the comparisons to Craft. None of the dishes are an intellectual revelation, or culinary paradigm shifting (except maybe for that veal), but it's just damn good, relatively straight-forward eats.

BLT Steak rocks (the food that is. the clientele, most certainly, do not. though they are fun to look at. i love watching an exeter boy, at home for the summer, in his blazer, sitting at a taken-for-granted beautifully prepared meal with his UES parents...am i reverse snob? oh well...)

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Ah! Interesting. Do they describe it as "frozen almond milk" or "almond milk ice cream"? The use of the word "ice cream" might be ill-advised in that it leads one to the expectation of a creamy texture rather than an icey one. Perhaps "almond milk sorbet" would be better. I wonder what Fat Guy and Snausages2000 would say about it if they reexamined their impressions with a "sorbet" paradigm rather than an "ice cream" paradigm.

--

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Bob Lape gives BLT Steak three stars in today's Crain's New York Business:

BLT Steak demonstrates that it is possible to eat many things in a steakhouse without feeling as if you swallowed a Humvee. The new Jimmy Haber-Laurent Tourondel collaboration, in Mr. Haber's former Pazo space, revs up taste buds by adding Gruyere cheese to fresh-from-the-oven popovers. Patrons then purr through a light, imaginative menu that touches familiar meat and seafood bases with style and often delicacy.

... ... ... ...

The site fills to the rafters with guests happily and noisily digging into nine steak and chop variations, and the most popular dish of all-sauteed Dover sole, a $45 entree. Quality costs, and if a splendid single soft-shell crab nestled in pea shoots and bathed in lemon butter is an appetizer choice, it is $18. Add smallish sides at $7 to $9 each and a $9 dessert and you are well on the way to an impressive check before drinks are included.

... ... ... ...

With its light, satisfying approach to today's diet-conscious market, here is one place where you can have your steak and eat it, too.

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Do they describe it as "frozen almond milk" or "almond milk ice cream"?

See http://www.bltsteak.com/ for menus.

Whoops, I copied and pasted the wrong one.

As noted, the web site advertises, "frozen almond milk."

Edited by Bux (log)

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Do they describe it as "frozen almond milk" or "almond milk ice cream"?

"Almond milk ice cream" See http://www.bltsteak.com/ for menus.

Interesting, when I looked at the dessert menu on the site here (warning: pdf file), I saw: "chocolate tart / frozen almond milk." Perhaps this is a recent change?

"Frozen almond milk" does not imply a creamy ice-cream texture to me, but perhaps that is because I know what almond milk is and understand that the "milk" part is properly in quotations. (For the record, "almond milk" is made by soaking almonds in water, it is not almond-flavored milk as in "chocolate milk.")

--

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"Almond milk ice cream"  See http://www.bltsteak.com/ for menus.

Um, the menu I'm looking at online says "frozen almond milk". Am I going crazy?

That's what happens when I cut and paste just as I'm asnwering the phone.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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although it isn't a true "almond milk" it certainly isn't an ice cream. maybe almond flavored ice milk should be the proper name as the recipe includes: milk, honey, almonds.

hope that cleared this up :smile:

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  • 1 month later...

A friend and I tried BLT Steak on Friday night. The restaurant has a split personality, with the décor seeming more upscale than a bistro, but the specials menu posted on the back wall screaming, "Don't take us too seriously!"

Our table seemed larger than the typical table-for-two, and at first it seemed like we had to shout a bit to hear each other above the din, for BLT Steak is certainly a loud place.

After we sat down, a server brought bread and some goose liver paté. This was followed by the celebrated popovers, with soft butter. At this point, those with small stomachs feel half-full already, but there is a dinner to be eaten.

We both fixed our gaze on the heirloom tomato appetizer, and a fine choice this was. The tomatoes were thick, rich, and perfectly seasoned.

Several reviewers had said that BLT Steak was actually a better place for fish. However, we were in a carnivorous mood, so we ordered the Ribeye for Two, with sides of french fries and creamed spinach. We also chose our sauces: horseradish and three mustards. This seemed to us a competent presentation, but nothing to rush back for. Our feeling was that BLT Steak deserves another look...but next time, for the fish.

We ordered a $48 cabernet from the specials board. It too was acceptable without wowing us.

(I could have sworn there's already a BLT Steak thread somewhere, but I couldn't find it.)

[Pan: Yep, there is, and your post is duly merged with it. I found this thread by doing a search of the New York Forum for "steak," title only, 90 days ago or less. I thereby got around the problem that "BLT" is too few characters to be usable in an eGullet search.]

Edited by Pan (log)
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  • 4 months later...

BLT Steakhouse / Recommended

The Internet is a wonderful thing. My wife and I decided to try a high-end steakhouse, as that would be a change from the French or Italian food we usually gravitate towards. We found the restaurant by searching in the vicinity of our hotel and then refining by rating and cuisine. The professional and amateur reviews we read were uniformly excellent and it was within walking distance of our hotel.

Via opentable.com we booked a 10:00PM reservation for the evening of our arrival in NYC. Our flight arrival was slightly delayed with the result that we were ~20min late for our reservation. Even though the restaurant was ~80% full when we arrived, we were quickly seated with a minimum of fuss or problem- a definite plus in my book). As we were waiting for our table, I noticed a nice selection of small batch bourbons and after the stress of travel and our late arrival, my wife and I needed a drink. Once seated, 2 bourbon and waters were quickly ordered and delivered after a moment of levity. Residing in the south, when we order bourbon and water, we receive a highball glass containing bourbon, -ice- and a little water, when we asked our waitress for bourbon and water, she looked at us for a second and then asked if we wanted any ice!! No problem and we quickly learned that in NYC we should ask for our drinks on the rocks, with a little water. This held true throughout our visit. The drinks were substantial and were poured into what looked like 12oz water tumblers. After 2 each, we had relaxed a little and were ready to contemplate dinner.

By the way, were seated against the back wall, at a nice 4 person zebra wood table- in other words we had enough space to be comfortable. From our vantage point we had a view of the restaurant and the other patrons. As we sipped our drinks, it was nice to people watch.

From reading the Internet reviews, we knew to expect a delivery of well-seasoned and smooth pate and then fresh popovers with sweet butter. Both arrived as expected and were as good as the other reviewers had noted. By the end of the meal, we had consumed all of the pate and had asked for more popovers. Excellent.

From the décor and the menu, we quickly realized that BLT was not a steakhouse but rather a restaurant that serves Steak. There is a difference. If you are expecting Peter Luger or Smith and Wolensky redone for a sleek east side crowd, you will be disappointed. On the menu for example, there are more non steak choices than steak choices. BLT is a retro modern styled restaurant catering to people who may not eat steak all the time. In my opinion, BLT is competing more with other high-end establishments in the vicinity rather than other well-known NYC alters of steak.

After our cocktails, we decided against a bottle of wine and instead opted for glasses of wine with dinner-a glass each of a 2002 Arccadian Pinot Noir. As it turned out, this was a nice choice and perfectly suited our meal. We settled on the Caesar Salad, Heirloom Tomatoes with Stilton, Rib Eye for 2, potato gnocchi, grilled asparagus and caramelized Brussels sprouts. The enormous Caesar Salad was very fresh with a correct dressing and nice sour dough croutons. The tomatoes were tasty and were drizzled with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette that was an effective counter to the pungent (and fresh) Stilton.

When our entrées arrived, we were taken aback by the multitude of items; the steak in a large cast iron cooking pan, with the side dishes each in their own cast iron serving pans. We had dishes and pans scattered all over our table and my wife remarked that if we consume everything we would burst!

The steak was perfectly cooked and flavorful, with a full, creamy and very beefy taste. It was obvious that the beef had been carefully aged. Our rib eye was double cut thickness and served with the bone. Just before the meat was brought to the table, it had been cut into easy to handle pieces that facilitated serving to our plates.

The gnocchi were just ok, neither better nor appreciably worse than in other restaurants. The asparagus had been seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and then grilled to crisp tender consistency. Very good. The Brussels sprouts were very small and had been caramelized in a skillet with butter, minced bacon and sweet onion. Excellent.

We did manage to consume most of what had been put in front of us, so we unfortunately had to forgo desert.

The only area I found for criticism was that, while we did not feel rushed, we also did not feel that we could linger at our table all night if desired. I realize this is a minor point, but I like to have a nice relaxing meal at my own pace rather than at the pace of the server or maitre de that wants to turn the table.

Our bill was very reasonable and overall our experience was excellent. Highly recommended.

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rl1856, thanks for that excellent review, and since this is the first time I'm seeing a post by you, I want to also welcome you to the eGullet Society and wish you a very pleasant stay. :smile:

Your review gives the reader a clear idea of what the place is like, and I also thought it was good that you started it off with the "recommended" notation. I may start doing that.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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