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Nina C.

Porter House New York

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Thanks for the report, Mark. At least some of the service issues can hopefully be ascribed to the restaurant's newness as they work out their kinks. You compared this restaurant qualitatively to other steakhouses of the creative or traditional modes. How does this one compare price or value wise forgetting about the service issues for the time being?

Prices were in the traditional steakhouse range. For instance, the ribeye was $36, I think the New York Strip was $39, and the porterhouse $78 for two. Those prices are perfectly in-line for a NY steakhouse.

Just a comparison: At BLT Steak, which is obviously in the haute steakhouse genre, the NY Strip is $42, the ribeye $45, and the porterhouse $79. But BLT's side dishes are a dollar or two lower.

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Thanks for the report, Mark. At least some of the service issues can hopefully be ascribed to the restaurant's newness as they work out their kinks. You compared this restaurant qualitatively to other steakhouses of the creative or traditional modes. How does this one compare price or value wise forgetting about the service issues for the time being?

Prices were in the traditional steakhouse range. For instance, the ribeye was $36, I think the New York Strip was $39, and the porterhouse $78 for two. Those prices are perfectly in-line for a NY steakhouse.

Just a comparison: At BLT Steak, which is obviously in the haute steakhouse genre, the NY Strip is $42, the ribeye $45, and the porterhouse $79. But BLT's side dishes are a dollar or two lower.

Thanks, Mark. hopefully, we will get some more reports in a month or two after they have settled in. That should be a better indicator of their ultimate level of quality. At this point it seems that the only reason to choose this steakhouse over others is if one happens to be in the neighborhood or with a family type situation. Hopefully, that will change and it will become more of a standout restaurant. Lomanico is capable of it.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

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I don't know how long it takes a restaurant to get its service polished. These days, the critics don't wait long to start visiting. Frank Bruni's first published piece on L'Atelier de Joel Rubuchon — albeit a blog entry — actually came out while the restaurant was still in its soft opening.

However, I think that Porter House has the potential to be more critic-proof than V Steakhouse. I'm not predicting a rating, but I don't think one star would be a killer, the way it was for V.

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I think Oakapple is absolutely right. I think any decent, non-weird, market-priced steakhouse would succeed in that location. I don't think reviews will much matter.

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The reservationist says all steaks are prime cut and are dry aged for 28 days. Now, we all know prime isn't prime isn't prime, and that prime isn't what prime used to be, but I think it's still promising.

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The reservationist says all steaks are prime cut and are dry aged for 28 days. Now, we all know prime isn't prime isn't prime, and that prime isn't what prime used to be, but I think it's still promising.

All that means is they're matching what the other top steakhouses do.

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I don't have any special insight as to what accounts for the successes of some steakhouses over others. For example, I thought the ill-fated V steakhouse was really good. You'd be forgiven for calling that an anti-insight. On the one hand, the market for steakhouses is so saturated I think it's crazy to open a steakhouse; on the other hand, the market has been so receptive to steakhouses I think it may be crazy to open anything but a steakhouse. In any event, I do feel that Michael Lomonaco has hit upon something with Porter House. It exceeded my expectations and I think it may have a bright future.

I think it's hard to categorize Porter House using oakapple's two-tiered taxonomy of steakhouses, where all steakhouses are either manly or chick-friendly. I think that may be because, despite its name and the primacy of steaks on the menu, Porter House is not exactly a steakhouse (the taxonomy may also be incomplete). Lomonaco, when I spoke briefly with him, seemed to be in agreement: the phrase he used was "an American grill." It lacks neither masculinity nor chick-friendliness -- it's just a generally welcoming place.

Lomonaco doesn't let the steakhouse concept rule him, and he doesn't pander to trends. Porter House has one foot in the past -- there is a bit of a deco supper club feel to the Jeffrey Beers-designed space (the date the martini on the cocktail menu refers to is 1927, and is about half-and-half gin and vermouth, plus house-made bitters and no olive) -- and one foot in modernity, with a nice "casual Friday" feel. This is tracked by the menu, which combines a healthy dose of old-school steaks and chops with contemporary appetizers, salads, sides and a very nice selection of North American seafood (Hudson Valley trout, wild Alaskan salmon, local swordfish from 100+ pound specimens, etc.).

By contemporary I don't mean cutting edge or unusual, but rather simply embracing the modern culinary aesthetic: the lobster salad (actually they call it a lobster cocktail but it's not cold lobster in a glass -- it's really a salad) has little pieces of citrus for counterpoint, the absolutely gorgeous diver scallops are topped with crispy (I assume this means deep fried) parsley, the roasted beets are top-of-the-line, greenmarket quality, the roasted mushrooms are wild and diverse with little done to them. Lomonaco is delivering the flavor of a steakhouse without the primitiveness of the genre or the calculated trendiness of too many of the newer players.

I think "matching what the other top steakhouses do" is a good description of the quality of the USDA Prime 28-day dry-aged steaks. They're prepared old-school: high heat, quick cooked, plenty of exterior char with a steep slope of doneness towards the center -- the converse of how Craft does its steaks. (Actually I'm sure converse is the wrong word.) Noteworthy, however, is that the New York strip is butchered (in house from the whole short loin) and served on the bone. This, to me, is a major plus: it elevates this New York strip above what a dozen other steakhouses are producing using similar quality meat and similar methods but a boneless cut.

I'd characterize the prices as quite reasonable. Just as the $40 entree is becoming a meme, Porter House hasn't got a single entree that's over $39, except the porterhouse for two, but it's less than $40 per person. I should say the beef porterhouse, as there are four other porterhouse or porterhouse-style offerings on the menu: veal, lamb, pork and monkfish. Given the location and view, and Lomonaco's status as an established television chef, and the quality of the food, he surely could get away with charging more. I think you get good value at Porter House.

There are several sauces available for the steaks, made to order in small batches. I tried a couple and they were very good, though I preferred my steak unadorned because it was better. As far as I can tell there's no charge for the sauces, which is a relief in this era of radical a la carte pricing. Although, I confess, I didn't see a bill because Lomonaco picked up our tab (how come this couldn't have happened at V instead, where it was much more expensive?).

Lomonaco's cooking is mature, unpretentious and really good. The small format of the restaurant (small at least compared to huge joints like Windows on the World and Guastavino's, where Lomonaco has presided) allows his team to cook seriously. He's not trying to show off or do anything outrageous, and that seems to resonate with the clientele -- at least that's my superficial, casual observation based on looking around the room.

Wayne Harley Brachman, the pastry chef, is also a veteran and isn't out to prove anything or be self-consciously wild -- his style meshes with Lomonaco's (they have worked together before, as have the other key players: general manager, beverage director, chef de cuisine). When he makes a pie it's a pie and you get a slice of it (he is the author of the book Retro Desserts, which is surely the inspiration for the Porter House dessert menu). The trio of puddings is beautiful and technically superb, especially the Indian (as in Native American) cornmeal pudding, which I might take a crack at reproducing for Thanksgiving this year. I strongly disagree with those who didn't like the pineapple upside-down cake. I loved it, especially the freshness of the pineapples even after baking.

There were two bread arrangements placed on our table: first, a plate of flatbreads with fresh ricotta and olive oil, which I thought was terrific (though I added salt -- there is a salt shaker and pepper mill on every table); second, a not-great breadbasket (the white rolls were particularly poor, redeemed only somewhat by a decent olive bread).

We shared a half bottle of '04 Hirsch Sonoma Coast pinot noir, which paired beautifully with both my steak and Ellen's salmon (with nicely al dente lobster risotto). Wine list pricing feels a little steep -- it's the one area I wish they'd come down a couple of dollars, or maybe they just need to fill out the lower end selections a little more.

The servers we dealt with seemed enthusiastic and friendly. That they were also skilled was a nice bonus, but at this point in a restaurant's development what I really look for is positive attitude because that's the foundation of quality service. Porter House seems to have positive attitude in abundance.

There were a lot of media people in the room, and those media people knew about the other media people who had been in -- "Frank has been twice, Cuozzo is writing it up this week, Adam Platt has been in, there's Bob Lape over there . . ." So, expect all the reviews to hit very soon.

The restaurant has, by the way, a website with menus and such (wine list too) at:

http://www.porterhousenewyork.com/


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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Noteworthy, however, is that the New York strip is butchered (in house from the whole short loin) and served on the bone. This, to me, is a major plus: it elevates this New York strip above what a dozen other steakhouses are producing using similar quality meat and similar methods but a boneless cut.

http://www.porterhousenewyork.com/

I agree. Have now eaten the NY Strip twice, and I think it's fantastic.

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I've read that they charge for the sauces...I don't personally know if this is true.

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According to the restaurant, there is no charge for sauces. The confusion on this point comes about because there was a charge on the early preview menus, but they did away with it. When we spoke last night, one of the things Lomonaco explained to me is that he's personally very price sensitive. While Porter House is by no means a cheap restaurant -- every aspect of the food, space and service requires money -- I get the impression that he has tried to limit the nickeling and diming that can occur in steak places, especially the newer ones. I'll certainly be back -- Ellen and I were talking about taking my mother there soon -- as I consider the Porter House value to be good.


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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Having eaten at Porter House, I can say I agree almost completely with Oakapple's review (meaning, I guess, that I was slightly disappointed). So I'll just add a few notes.

As to whether Porter House falls into the "old school" or "chick-friendly" styles of steak houses, it's somewhere in between, but closer to "old school". As soon as we walked in, my date exclaimed (completely unbidden by me), "This room is so masculine!" OTOH, the place does seem less overladen with testosterone than, say, Wolfgang's (midtown -- never been to downtown), and it certainly isn't determinatively primitive like Luger's.

As Oakapple said, while the menu had some "touches", and certainly more seafood than you'd expect, it was still more Old Steakhouse than New Steakhouse in composition.

For the record, I started with the oyster pan roast (my date having forbade me to order the tongue salad). It was good, although it's not going to challenge the Oyster Bar's in the Great NYC Dishes category.

The strip steak was mildly disappointing. It's served on the bone -- a good, and in my experience, unique thing. But . . . well, here's where words (and analytic skills) fail me. Remember how in Frank Bruni's review of Wolfgang's, when he got to the comparison of the Wolfgang's steak with the Luger's steak, his vocabulary sort of failed him and all he could say was that the Luger steak was better? Well, I have the same problem. I am simply unequipped to explain why this steak, while in no way bad, was not quite up to what I expect from top-level NYC steak houses. It tasted good, but it didn't have that overwhelming beefy fatty kick that only the very best steak gives you. I don't want to overstate this: it was very good. Just not tops.

My date's monkfish "porterhouse" looked very good. Excellent really. I certainly had no room to taste it.

Desserts seemed to hit just the right note: slightly-tweaked traditional, but extremely well done. Indeed, if the whole menu were as good, this place would be everything I'd hoped it would be. In any event, I liked my trio of puddings very much.

Service was excellent: very friendly, no glitches. (OTOH, we went very late, when the room was becoming sparsely populated -- and the staff had every incentive to give us prompt service.)

I'd recommend Porter House for what it is: a very good, but not great, steakhouse, that is nevertheless more pleasant a spot than the great NYC steakhouses tend to be.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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Adam Platt reviews Porter House in this week's New York. He awards two stars, although it's a weak two. In the "scratchpad" (the section of the review where he explains his rating), he writes: "We’ll give Lomonaco one star for good, old-fashioned steakhouse style, and another one for good luck."

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The reservationist says all steaks are prime cut and are dry aged for 28 days. Now, we all know prime isn't prime isn't prime, and that prime isn't what prime used to be, but I think it's still promising.

All that means is they're matching what the other top steakhouses do.

And that's a problem?

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The reservationist says all steaks are prime cut and are dry aged for 28 days. Now, we all know prime isn't prime isn't prime, and that prime isn't what prime used to be, but I think it's still promising.

All that means is they're matching what the other top steakhouses do.

And that's a problem?

No, I'm merely saying that it's not "promising." It means they're doing what's expected of them.

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No, I'm merely saying that it's not "promising." It means they're doing what's expected of them.

Ah, of course. Some of the press material I read didn't mention anything about the actual meat, so I became curious (hence the calls).

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Being compared to Outback by the NY Times reviewer in today's food section must hurt - ouch!


Rich Schulhoff

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

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Being compared to Outback by the NY Times reviewer in today's food section must hurt - ouch!

I agree, but I think Porter House will be critic-proof. Unlike V Steakhouse, it doesn't need three stars to survive. Bruni's bottom-line is that the steaks are fine, and that's what most people will be looking for at Porter House.

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Being compared to Outback by the NY Times reviewer in today's food section must hurt - ouch!

I agree, but I think Porter House will be critic-proof. Unlike V Steakhouse, it doesn't need three stars to survive. Bruni's bottom-line is that the steaks are fine, and that's what most people will be looking for at Porter House.

That seems like a fair assessment. And people want the chef to succeed. It should do well as an unpretentious steak house in a building built on pretentiousness.


Rich Schulhoff

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

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I didn't read it as a comparison to Outback and it was a positive review overall.

I thought some of the remarks on STK were genuinely humorous.

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Being compared to Outback by the NY Times reviewer in today's food section must hurt - ouch!

I agree, but I think Porter House will be critic-proof. Unlike V Steakhouse, it doesn't need three stars to survive. Bruni's bottom-line is that the steaks are fine, and that's what most people will be looking for at Porter House.

I agree both with Bruni's assessment and oakapple's assessment.

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A lot of steakhouses -- not just Porter House -- are both critic-proof and foodie-buzz-proof, because such a huge portion of the steakhouse audience doesn't care what critics or foodies think. I have a feeling Lomonaco has cracked that code and created a restaurant with broad-based appeal that doesn't much depend on the approval of the gourmet subculture. I think he would have liked that approval, but so far he hasn't received it. I mean, the restaurant has my approval. It's the first steakhouse I'm planning to visit after the holiday season. But I seem to be in a very small minority on this one.

I didn't read it as a comparison to Outback and it was a positive review overall.

On the one hand, mentioning Outback in the same sentence as Porter House is going to come across as a condemnation to the urban-sophisticate subset. On the other hand, the review was indeed friendly and the comparison to Outback was favorable. I think, whatever Bruni meant by it, it was ill-considered. This is what he said:

Porter House amounts to a generically sophisticated upgrade of the kind of chain establishment found in lesser malls. It’s like an M.B.A. program for beef eaters who did undergraduate work at Outback.

The thing is, I think he's just wrong about that. For one thing, I don't think of Outback as a mall restaurant. There may be a few Outbacks in malls -- not that I've ever seen one -- but most of them are standalone restaurants on highway strips. For another thing, I can think of very few points of similarity between Outback and Porter House that wouldn't be the same for the comparison between Outback and any real steakhouse, even allowing for the "sophisticated upgrade" adjustment. And for still another thing, Lomonaco was certainly not inspired by Outback -- if anything, Outback is a dumbed down version of old-school New York chophouses (like "21" where Lomonaco was chef around the time Outback was founded) with a faux-Australian look: the walls are covered with boomerangs and surfboards.


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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