Category Archives: Steak House

Featured City Post: Harris’ in San Franciso

the not-so-sightly front of Harris'

For the last ten years, my family has held our Christmas Eve celebration at Harris’ Steakhouse in Nob Hill, and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. What has changed, however, is my selection off of the standard menu of fish, chicken, lobster, and steak. As a child, I always went for the petit filet mignon. Then, when my grandmother came to town and ordered lobster, my menu selection became steamed lobster for 5-6 years. Then, in my figure-watching high school days, I went through a soup-and-salad-only phase. And now, after realizing that I overdosed on lobster and am not a huge fan of steak, I’ve resorted to splitting a salad to start with my sister and ordering the salmon for my main, cooked medium-rare.

Harris’ value lies in its consistency. Each year, as we’re seated in the same large leather booth, a server arrives with buttered toasties and a small ramekin of delicious whipped cheese.

toasties with cheese

After ordering our drinks (generally ice cold martinis or wine), we’re served warm Acme bread and butter, which my family rarely hesitates to devour.

warm bread

Last night, though my sister Justyn and I normally split the baby spinach salad, we went for the mixed greens, which came with jicama, blue cheese, and tomatoes. Simple and fresh, it was exactly the basic salad that one would expect at a longstanding steakhouse.

mixed greens

My mother, as usual, ordered the oysters but did not share. I’m still bitter!

Oysters

My grilled salmon this year was cooked to perfection – just pink enough in the middle but perfectly seared on the outside. My baked potato was loaded with butter, sour cream, and chives, and with the creamed spinach off of my mom’s plate, I was in Christmas Eve heaven.

salmon

my sister's delicious steak

To top it all off we had pecan pie to go, which with tea was amazing. Another December 24, another success!

Grade: A

Location: 2100 Van Ness Avenue (at Pacific)

Website: http://www.harrisrestaurant.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Romantic Date, Seafood, Special Occasion, Steak House

Abe and Arthurs

main dining room

I’m never one to judge a book by its cover, but Abe and Arthurs just undeniably screams Meatpacking, where scene and exclusivity takes priority over quality and value of food. That said, having yet to find a negative review, I was looking forward to trying it as my sister’s restaurant choice for my dad’s visit this week. Up until that point, my only remarkable experience here involved seeing Ed Westwick vigorously smoking a cigarette outside with his groupies. Sadly nothing notable in the celeb-sighting sense occurred this time around, but the food surprisingly satisfied my expectations on its own.

Upstairs area

My dad, my sister and her boyfriend, and Sonia and I were seated in a booth in the smaller area upstairs. My guess is that the downstairs is reserved for larger, more important parties based on the grandiose decor and the fact that every layman I’ve known to eat at Abe and Arthurs has been seated upstairs. The ambience throughout however blended in with the sensual, Vegas club scene vibe, and our waiter helped lighten the mood with his charm (and Sonia didn’t mind his bodacious bod either).

Abe and Arthurs has a solid steakhouse menu with interesting cocktails and appetizers, and the typical sides. The deliciously warm miniature baguettes with cold fresh butter boded well for the rest of our night. We decided to share the appetizer of fried calamari and grilled shrimp, which came with a mango chutney that was delicious. I’ve never seen fried squid paired with grilled shrimp, but for someone as indecisive as me, I loved the variety and the sweet and salty flavors of the fruit and seafood combination.

calamari app

The three ladies all agreed on ordering on the lighter side and went for the branzino with swiss chard, recommended by our waiter as the better of the two fish on the menu. Though I prefer my branzino whole (head tail and everything), this was delicately prepared and perfectly cooked. What really stood out were the sides, and the creamed spinach, which was on the chunkier, more rustic side of the spectrum, was consumed within minutes. The fries were perfect as well.

branzino

For next time

The dessert menu, with chocolate molten lava cake and fill-your-own donuts, was almost a dream come true, but after our drinks and lengthy meal we had to resist. Regardless, my expectations of Abe and Arthurs’ food were pleasantly exceeded. I wouldn’t say it’s a great place to bring your parents if they’re the typical, innocent elderly people I would imagine, but I definitely recommend A&A for a group dinner or for a swanky New York spot to impress your out of town friends. Reservations are surprisingly readily available and easily adjustable. And, even better, you might even see someone from the cast of Gossip Girl!

Grade: A-

Website: http://www.abeandarthurs.com

Location: 409 W 14th St btwn 9th Ave and Washington St

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Fun Group Dinner, Meatpacking, Private Party, Steak House

AC Weekend: Safari Steakhouse

When I signed myself up for a girls’ weekend in Atlantic City, I never imagined I’d end up on a gastronomic tour of what seems like every top dining establishment the New Jersey paradise has to offer.  But thanks to my friend Sara, Margate local and Trump-lawyer descendant, we and three of our girlfriends had the most opulent and indulgent weekend so far this year. The destroyed remains of a 1.5 pound chocolate box resting on my Trump Taj bedside table pretty much says it all.

Our weekend started off with a bang at Trump’s meat-eater palace, the Safari Steakhouse. Tagging along with Sara and her father, the Chef de Cuisine’s respective cousin and uncle, we had an inkling that the service would be attentive. Six courses later, we finally understood what it really means to be a special guest of an Atlantic City chef.  Move over, Las Vegas!

First class treatment aside, the restaurant impressed me from the start with the bread basket’s immediate arrival. Not only was it served just on time, it also seemed like a relic of the Roman times in terms of its abundance. Rolls and parmesan lavash piled high into a beautifully edible centerpiece, and once discovering the irresistible, doughy pretzel rolls, we slowly dented the structure.

As I desperately tried to cut myself off, I was intercepted by yet another form of bread in its finest form: foie gras goat cheese crostini, compliments of cousin Chef Greg. Just when I thought duck liver couldn’t get any more decadent, I was eating it on top of bread and cheese – I felt like I was defying some conservative food law. The crostini itself was carefully toasted and buttered, and the acidity of the balsamic glaze perfectly cut the full-bodied flavors of the toppings. After one bite, I knew right away that we were on our way to AC excess.

After a few glasses of wine, my stomach space began to shrink, but that didn’t stop me from digging into Chef Greg’s next act: hot, earthy, french onion soup in a ceramic dish sealed with browned, glossy gruyere cheese. I could only think of my father, who prides himself on being an onion soup purist – classic and unadulterated, this undoubtedly would have earned his stamp of approval.

Dazzled by these riches of cheesy goodness, it became difficult to remember what I had actually ordered. But before I could even come up for air and think, out came the chilean sea bass with jumbo shrimp scampi and roasted potatoes. The fish was light and straight forward, but the real beauty lay in the layer of buttered bread crumbs and the creamy sauce surrounding it.

As if we hadn’t been spoiled enough, our server next arrived with a tray of miniature sauce pans holding diamond-shaped wedges of puff pastry – the chef’s take on individual seafoodpot pies.” The scallop and crab were flawlessly cooked and simmered in a thick seafood broth that could have been described as either a dieter’s worst enemy or a vacationer’s best friend. Let’s just say we got along quite well.

Once we properly configured our overload of food, which included perfectly sauteed asparagus, sweet mashed potatoes, and filet mignon, not one inch of table cloth peered through the sea of edibles. After pausing to assess the feast, a sense of excitement and overwhelmingness rushed over me. How could I even attempt to tackle this?!

Probably to my detriment, I somehow always find a way. Everything was delicious, but surprisingly, the asparagus stole the attention of the table. Chefs rarely get asparagus exactly right – being so inconsistent in density and thickness, they require close attention while cooking. These had just enough bite and seasoning, and were a perfect compliment to our heavy main courses.

Despite our professions of fullness, we knew based on the present performance of the chef, we couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to sample his interpretation of dessert. With diehard chocolate and cookie fans about, we ordered the chocolate mousse cake and the cookie basket. The chocolate cake rested a few feet away from me, but nothing could prevent me from disregarding my manners and reaching across Sara’s way to take bite after bite of it. The ganache was silky smooth and perfectly sweet, as was the cake itself. It may not have had as many layers as the chocolate cake at Strip House, but it was definitely on par in terms of quality.

After spending quality time with the cake, I devoted my attention to the cookie basket, which was edible in its entirety. While most of our crew was wowed by the oversized, tuxedo-decorated chocolate strawberries, I couldn’t stop tasting the double chocolate crackle cookies and buttery pecan squares.

I eventually followed my friends’ good examples and put my fork down, sad to be at the final stage of the meal but relieved to allow my stomach to rest. The dessert truly merited devouring, but with a night of carousing in mind, we just couldn’t go on. It’s a shame that carrying left-overs in the casino isn’t in style.

After a few days of reflecting on our meal, I can confidently state that dinner at Safari was my most extravagant steakhouse meal ever. Best of all, it was the most appropriate way to launch our Celebration of Women weekend – it was indulgent, excessive, and finished off with chocolate…just as I want every future trip to be.

Grade: A

Location: Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City

Website: http://www.trumptaj.com/safaristeakhouse

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Fun Group Dinner, Steak House

Strip House

I am not a huge meat eater, but I LOVE steakhouses. I love the sides, the bread, the massive desserts, the suave, swanky dining rooms, the caricatures on the wall, and the memories of childhood dinners out that it provokes. When my parents told me to book a place for our dinner with the grandparents, I immediately thought of Strip House. I had heard rave reviews about their steak from meat connoisseurs, and realized that steakhouses are the perfect please-all option for my family, which consists of people with a wide variety of food preferences. Non meat eaters can order fish or lobster, and the steak lovers obviously have a wide range of choices.
From the outside, with a tacky neon sign and a faded red awning, Strip House looks more like a …Strip Club than a steakhouse. But inside the mood is sensual, mystical, and very New York – a more swanky version of the typical Palm or Wolfgangs. The host was very accommodating of my special request for a round table, which is key for a party of 6 or more. My family and I were seated in the center of the dining room, in plain view of our server and the bus boys, perfect for a high maintenance group.
Bread basket was great – wide variety included an onion roll, a french roll, some crackers, and a few other options that kept us busy with our drinks for the first half hour. To start, my grandmother and I shared a bib lettuce salad with tomatoes, blue cheese, bacon, and red onion. I love steakhouse salads because they are generally served ice cold. This salad was delicious and definitely fit the steakhouse salad build. I also tried the caesar salad, which wasn’t the classic caesar salad I expected, but still flavorful, chilled, and tasty.
My father ordered the shrimp cocktail, which usually is the last thing I would like to eat, but I couldn’t resist a taste because the shrimp looked so fresh and plump. They were delicious – probably some of the tastiest poached shrimp I’ve had. And who knew you could differentiate shrimp cocktail?
I decided to skip the red meat for my main – I know, I’m a disgrace to a steakhouse. Unfortunately, the ONLY drawback on the menu was the lack of variety in the fish options. Generally, steakhouses have at least 3 – 4 solid seafood dishes. I had a choice between the seared tuna, which is pretty generic, and the Red Snapper, which doesn’t usually appeal to me. I opted to try something new and went with the snapper, and it was actually quite delicious. The skin was crispy, the base of bacon and potatoes was flavorful, and the fish was perfectly cooked.


Obviously, I tried the steak (my grandmother’s, since she is the only other person in the family who likes their meat medium rare), and the center was perfectly tender, savory, and juicy; the outside a crust of meaty flavor.
My sister ordered a seafood platter for her main, and it was massive.
The sides were equally amazing, and probably the most memorable, decadent part of meal (save dessert) – cream truffled spinach and crispy goose fat potatoes. Crazy! A few bites of those definitely put me over the edge.
But my fullness didn’t stop me from ordering dessert. Prior to coming to Strip House, I had seen pictures of their famous chocolate cake on Yelp, and I made it my mission to order it whenever I finally got a chance to dine there. I couldn’t resist…I ordered the Strip House famous chocolate cake, the warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, and the profiteroles for the table. Each dessert was RIDICULOUS. Our entire table almost freaked out in awe and surprise of the portion sizes. The cake was probably 6 inches high – a piece fit for the entire family, with 24 layers (my aunt meticulously counted) of dense chocolate ganache. Holy man it made my night.

The profiteroles was more like one gigantic pastry vessel of a bottomless supply of hazelnut and chocolate ice cream, also delicious, and the warm chocolate brownie was everything a warm chocolate brownie should be – damn good and a solid reason for my existence. I am honestly obsessed with dessert…it’s not a proper meal without it.
So, after the grand finale show of dessert, including THE BEST chocolate cake of my life, no lie, it was hard to even consider giving Strip House anything but a rave review. But, when my father professed that his steak blew that of Harris’s in San Francisco out of the water, I knew that the restaurant was an overwhelming success. The service was great, the food, from the sides to the steak to the dessert was phenomenal, and everyone of my family members left full and happy. The next opportunity I have to book a restaurant for a date, a special event, or a fun group dinner, I will undoubtedly consider Strip House.
Grade: A
Address: 13 E 12th Street between 5th and University

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Filed under Business Meal, Parents in Town, Romantic Date, Special Occasion, Steak House, Union Square

Minetta Tavern

Considering the excessive hype around Keith McNally’s Minetta Tavern since opening, I’ve been shamelessly trying to make a trip to make a judgetment myself. I had heard particularly rave reviews about the burger and the steak, and though I’m not a huge meat eater myself, the detailed descriptions by die-hard Minetta-meat fans were close to convincing me to convert. The only thing stopping me? Intimidation due to the fact that scoring a table here is apparently close to impossible, no matter what time or day of the week.

Then God decided to reward me for my patience. Hankering for a quintessentially New York dinner spot last night, I proposed a dinner at Minetta Tavern to my friend Adam who was in town from London. He came up with the genius idea of asking his hotel concierge to book us a table, and within minutes came back with confirmation of 7:30pm. When I received this news via email, I almost jumped out of my desk chair in ecstatic surprise. Was there a cancellation? Was it a joke? Whatever the reason, I couldn’t wait to have a chance to experience the wonder described in every review!
Minetta Tavern sits between a line of shady bars and ethnic restaurants on MacDougal street, and with its unremarkable exterior and neon lit sign, it blends in quite well. The corridor past the entrance, however, leads you decades in the past to a time of heavy cocktail drinking, dark red leather booths, wooden trims, and mysterious engagements. The only thing missing is a cloud of smoke and a smug Don Draper.

The restaurant, while packed, was surprisingly quite tame. Our party of four was seated upon arrival with immediate drink and bread service, and the noise level was definitely manageable. The menu is simple and to the point, with straight forward French-American fare so charactistic of all McNally restaurants. Fortunately, there were quite a few specials that struck our fancy, two of which we ordered as appetizers for the table: the jumbo lump crab cake and the fresh mozzerella that the chef had apparently been creating all day.
The crab cake was perfect – delicate on the inside with large lumps of crab meat, and just lightly sauteed to give it a crisp service. The warm corn and cherry tomato salad really brought out the subtle sweetness of the crab, and as a whole, the dish was perfectly well rounded. The mozzerella was equally delicious – firm, wholesome, and savory coupled with sweet red peppers and dandelion greens.
Entree decisions were not easy. Of course, I had been dying to try the burger and the steak, but I knew I’d be disappointed with a full plate of meat. So yes, I ordered fish at a restaurant known for its burger and strip, but I only made the decision knowing that I would at least be able to try the dishes, since they were ordered by my friends. That said, the grilled dorade with braised artichokes was incredible. The skin was perfectly crispy, and the fish delicate and flakey. The artichokes were meaty and stood up well to the light filet. If I return, I may have to succomb to ordering this again.

The other dishes were of course incredible too – the tavern steak came out in a shape I had never seen, but was tender, SO flavorful, and perfectly cooked. The sweet cream butter added an extra richness to the meat, and the fries, which are Keith McNally’s specialty, were unsurprisingly hot, crisp, and delicious.
I had one bite of the Black Label burger, and that was enough. I could see how it would be a dream for burger fans – the meat is incredbily soft, tastes aged, and almost buttery. But it’s incredibly rich – I wouldn’t be surprised if butter was a key ingredient in the ground meat – and is definitely not for the half ass meat fans like myself.
For dessert, we were close to ordering the souflle, but requiring 20 minutes to prepare, we decided to past and opt for the “Chocolate Dacquoise,” which was shaped like a cake but reminiscent of a hazelnut meringue tiramisu. It was definitely sweet, decadent, and delicious, and paired well with our extra side of dulce de leche ice cream (not featured on the menu).
All in all, the meal was memorable, and I suspect the reasons why there’s a month long wait to get a table. The restaurant is sexy. It’s efficient. It’s old school. It evokes nostalgia. The menu is a crowd pleaser. The cocktails are stellar. But above all, Minetta Tavern isn’t just any restaurant in an even playing field – it’s a Keith McNally – a work of art and almost guaranteed success in the competitive world of New York city restaurants.

Regardless of the causes of reservation competition, I’ll be back the next chance I get.

Grade: A
Website: http://www.minettatavernny.com
Address: 113 Macdougal street between West 3rd and Bleecker

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Filed under Business Meal, New American, Sex & The City Swank, Special Occasion, Steak House, West Village

Balthazar

I can confidently say that Balthazar is one of my all time favorite New York City restaurants. With such bustling energy, a beautiful, aristocratic-brasserie setting, bright lights and constant action, it’s so quintessentially Manhattan, and I thrive off of its pulse. The food is equally thrilling – with a something-for-everyone menu and a list of to die for desserts, one really can’t complain about its menu options.

Balthazar impresses tourists and locals alike, so I decided to bring my New York native father and my California dreamin’ mother for their first night on the town. They, like I and the rest of our group, had an amazing experience. Though my parents would have appreciated a lower volume level, they adapted to Balthazar’s vivacity quite quickly, and were soon enough yelling over the noise to boast about their dishes. And, our Argentinian server was an angel – on a packed Friday night, she accommodated every one of our requests, gladly took back a cocktail that was not to my liking, and served desserts on the house without explanation. Considering the extreme difficulty in scoring a Balthazar reservation, the place is surprisingly unpretentious, which is best demonstrated by the incredibly friendly wait-staff.
First thing’s first: Balthazar’s bread is melt in your mouth, as is its cold french butter. The bread is as fresh as bread can be – cool, soft, and dense – a great indication of Balthazar’s food quality as a whole. Deciding what to eat was the toughest part of the night, but I narrowed it down to my sister’s favorite frisee aux lardons salad, a chicory salad with warm bacon shallot vinaigrette and a poached egg, and the grilled brook trout with warm spinach and lentil salad. The bacon salad was just about as decadent as a salad could be, and with a perfectly poached egg and crispy pieces of bacon, could be a perfect meal for brunch.
The grilled brook trout was a good light, basic choice, but nothing spectacular. However, I don’t blame the chef for my lack of interest; I blame my decision making skills. I was hoping for something a bit more flavorful, but the trout came out exactly as described on the menu: grilled, simple, and light.
My mother loved her boulliabase (one of the specials); Sonia seemed thrilled with her roasted leg of lamb; my sister described her pumpkin ravioli as “heavenly”; and my dad was more than overwhelmed by the quality and deliciousness of his duck confit (see smiles below).

Unfortunately, my Eli’s steak was undercooked, but the waitress’s profuse apologies and willingness to bring him a new one made up for the damage.
The desserts were more than just the “icing on the cake.” Oh my. They were nothing short of incredible. The profiteroles with generous scoops of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge poured table-side, the warm chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream, the perfect pot de creme…these all remain in my memory as some of the best, most well-executed desserts I’ve had in New York. I’d return just for dessert and go home a happy camper.
My family is a tough crowd to please, so leaving a restaurant complaint-free is quite a rare occurrence. Balthazar seemed to master the art of becoming a Bellsey favorite, however, which means that for every future NY family gathering, I’ll be on the phone to book a reservation before it’s too late. Wish me luck!
Grade: A
Location: 80 Spring Street between Broadway and Crosby

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Filed under Business Meal, French, Fun Group Dinner, Parents in Town, Soho, Steak House