Wolfgang’s Steakhouse

4 Park Ave. New York, NY 10016 (212) 889-3369 • http://wolfgangssteakhouse.net/parkave/

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Just when you think you’ve been to every steakhouse in the city you learn that there are more. Like Wolfgang’s. And apparently there are four of them! In Manhattan alone! Who knew? Okay, just me? Well, did you also know that the founder was a former waiter for many years at Peter Luger? Oh… You knew that too. Okay then. Apparently I need to get out more.

Well, for those of you not in the know, Wolfgang is an entire chain of steakhouses, not just in New York State. That said, I have only been to the one on Park Avenue and if that location is indicative of the entire franchise, I have to say, he learned well from Peter.

The first thing he learned, obviously from someone else, is that décor adds to the experience. And while it might’ve been more of a happy accident, the ceilings are absolutely stunning (pictured). My best guess is that it was an old subway station entrance/exit, judging from the tile work.

Servers are your usual steakhouse suspects, career lifers who come on strong and confident but yet somehow manage to come off likeable at the same time. Not sure about the Somm, however, didn’t need him because I managed to find the diamond in the pricey rough on the wine list, the Turley Fredrick’s 2013 Zinfandel. It’s a keeper. And it’s maybe one of a dozen reds under a C note.

Kicking off the food stuffs, I gotta say that the bread was a bit of a miss and certainly not worth filling up on. There will be plenty of other things worthy of that. For example, the bacon, which is so massive and so fatty that one slice is easily enough for two people, if not three. Otherwise it’s a little much on top of chasing it with a steak. On the lighter side, but still quite good are both the shrimp cocktail and the oysters.

For steak, I went with the rib eye, and it was perfection. Cooked spot on medium rare and bursting with salty, butteriness. Whereas the filet mignon tasted like it was stolen from an airplane tray. First Class mind you, but from airplane tray nonetheless.

For sides, all of them were solid. From the creamed spinach and potatoes to the asparagus and onion rings. None of them epic, but all very nice supporting roles.

Sadly, we pressed our luck at the end though, going with a Key Lame Pie. Typo intended. Serves me right for getting greedy with the gluttony.

3 teeth

Spoon and Stable

211 N 1st St. Minneapolis, MN 55401(612) 224-9850 •  spoonandstable.com

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The food scene in The Mini Apple has officially arrived. Not that there haven’t been gems here and there over years. But now the level of the game has risen so high, at so many restaurants, that I can safely say that Minneapolis can compete with almost any city I’ve ever been to.

Case in point, on a Monday friggin’ night, this place had an hour wait and not an empty seat at the bar. And for good reason. The chef, Gavin Kaysen, is James Beard winner and a former disciple of Daniel Boulud. But not only did he learn a thing or two from Danny Boy, judging from the décor, he picked up a few tricks from Jean-Georges as well, because this place is tres chic. On old horse stable from 1906 turned to gold with white brick walls, wrought iron details, a divided light wine cellar in the center of the dining room, and a long wood bar overlooking the kitchen as a unique twist on a chef’s table, which is where we sat.

Beyond having front row seats to an episode of Iron Chef, the other plus to sitting there is that you not only get recommendations from the waiter, but from the cooks as well. And to quote Quagmire “Giggity, giggity!” were they spot on with their suggestions.

The first reco being a dish we would’ve never thought to order in a million years, yet turned out to be the best of the night, the Autumn Vegetable salad. The centerpiece is an orgasmic disc of squash placed over a bed of spelt berries, pecans and figs that were marinated in red wine vinegar and cloves all pampered in a buttermilk dressing. Need to add this one to Ultimate Salad.

The other recommended starter was pretty damn great too. A bison tartar folded into a harissa aioli and topped with cilantro and radishes. Then served with socca chips as your utensil for piling on the remarkably seasoned meat.

For entrees I had to go with the lamb shank since wifey don’t play that, and while good, it was definitely the most mortal dish of the evening. Fall off the bone moist, and served with yellow eye beans, artichokes and an herb salad that was a bit junipery. The other entrée, however, was a marvel of pasta technological advancement. The Raviolo al Uovo is a single, softball-sized ravioli that contains a sunny side egg inside it! And its magnificence is only magnified by its preparation, with Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, pecorino and brown butter.

Even the side dish was wow-worthy taking an old staple like creamed spinach and making it new again with the addition of a Midwestern guilty pleasure, fried cheese curds.

And finally, the pumpkin custard dessert was an awesome seasonal finish to a meal that won’t soon be forgotten. The custard itself being just okay, but when you had with the apple cider sherbet and the candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds)- look out!

Just eat here already would you! So I don’t have to keep going on and on about it. And I’m not just saying all of this because of the Willet bourbon and Amarone are making me all lovey-dovey. Although it is helping.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Creamed Corn

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I think the thing I love the most about eating at steakhouses is the fact that you get to eat your vegetables like a kid again. Creamed spinach, creamed corn, mashed potatoes- you name it, everything is so jacked up on sugar and butter you don’t even know where the veggies end and dessert begins. And that’s exactly why these two corns of the cream are Ultimates with a capital U.

Mastro’s – Los Angeles, CA

Within the tapestry of creamed corns I’m really not sure if I’ve ever had a bad one, to be honest. That doesn’t exclude the possibility for there to be ones that are even better than great, however. And this is where Mastro’s steps in to claim it’s rightful ownership of the pedestal. A simple, faithful recipe without much to it beyond béchamel, salt and pepper. But apparently that’s all it takes to blow you away.

Quality Italian – New York, NY

As if creamed corn weren’t decadent enough, the folks at QI felt the need to go one better and brulee the stuff. That’s right, the same creamy, corny goodness you’ve come to know and love is then topped with a crackling ceiling of melted sugary sweetness, turning what was once considered a side dish into the main event.

Manny’s Steakhouse

825 Marquette Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55402(612) 339-9900 mannyssteakhouse.com

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So, apparently the Morton’s Steakhouse in Minneapolis closed down, and that’s not even the bad news. The really bad news is that Manny’s is the consolation prize. A poor man’s Morton’s if ever there were one, not that Morton’s is the end all be all of steakness either, but it’s still better than Manny’s.

Manny’s isn’t exactly bad, however, there’s just nothing amazing about it. It’s your run-of-the-mill steakhouse food you’ve eaten at least a hundred times over, with nothing impressionable enough to make a memory. You’ve got your Caesar salad, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail and seafood towers. Your New York Strip, Rib Eye, Porterhouse and Filets. The same old sides like mac and cheese, creamed spinach and baked potato.

But, if an old school steakhouse is what you’re craving in the twin cities, then I recommend The Strip Club in St. Paul. If that’s still not an option for you, however, then best of luck with Manny’s. It’s nothing spectacular and nothing terrible, just smack dab in the middle of steakhouse mediocrity. Good for large parties and testing out the elasticity of your stomach’s lining.

2 teeth

BOA Steakhouse

101 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401 • (310) 899-4466 • innovativedining.com/restaurants/boa

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If you heard that it’s a great place for star spotting, I’m afraid that’s the other one. This one is just for a good steak. Although the last time I was there, we did see Jon Favreau so go figure. And while it’s no Mastro’s, if you’re craving a steakhouse experience on the West side, I would look no further. That said, I wasn’t actually THAT impressed with the steak itself to be honest. The blackened sea bass was a bit of an eh as well, granted as gargantuan as that hunk of fish was, I found it impressively well cooked.

The goat cheese baklava, however… Thank you Yelpers! Would’ve never thought to order it without your reco. But my god is that thing good! Best dish of the night. Both times I’ve been here. So flaky and creamy and nummy nummy.

As for the Caesar salad, it’s good. But, it’s just a Caesar salad at the end of the day. And the heirloom tomatoes don’t exactly wow either. The blue crab cocktail on the other hand is quite money (belated Jon Favreau sub-reference). Second best thing of the meal.

In terms of sides, the chipotle lime corn is definitely the clear winner, followed by the truffle cauliflower. The creamed spinach, was just okay as was the squash medley. And while the truffle cheese fries aren’t terrible, they are terribly gut-busting, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to make room for a 50+ dollar steak.

For desserts, skip the crumble. The maple, bacon Bonut (get it? BOA’s branded version of the Cronut) was a table-pleaser, although WAY too bready to truly be compared to its namesake. The cookies and ice cream were another table fav. Followed by the S’mores.

As for service, while friendly, it’s a tad on the slow/spotty side. The view is stellar, overlooking the ocean. And the decor is clean and modern. So all in all a solid good. But definitely shy of great.

3 teeth

 

Montmarte

158 8th Ave. New York, NY 10011(646) 596-8838 montmartrenyc.com

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After seeing the burger get rave reviews I had to taste it for myself (mainly because I have trust issues). And while it doesn’t quite make my “Ultimates” it is very impressive nonetheless.

First, it has all kinds of French going on. There’s creamed spinach and Bearnaise sauce and in lieu of a bun they use toast, which had me a touch skeptical I must concede, but the outcome was trés bon! Such terrific contrast in textures between the tender, perfectly medium rare meat and the hard, crunchy toast.

And the herbed frites that accompanied the burger weren’t too shabby either. Served with a airy mayo-like condiment instead of ketchup or Dijon, again, true to the bistro-like atmosphere.

Then, for dessert, we split the chocolate fondant, and this was a bit of a letdown I must say. Nothing worthy note. In fact, you can get a better one at Le Pain Quotidien.

The physical space is actually very small indoors, done up in the usual French bistro fashion with art all over the walls, dark wood and white. But with such a tiny dining room, the art starts to feel a bit all over the place thematically speaking. But I’ll let it slide, because you really shouldn’t be sitting inside anyways. The garden is the place to be. So much nicer and charming.

And service was very friendly, making it the most un-French-like attribute in the restaurant. KIDDING! I love the French. We kid with those we love.

But did I love Montmarte? Not yet. But let’s just say it’s a very strong like.

3 teeth

 

Strip House

15 W 44th St. New York, NY 10036(212) 336-5454 • striphouse.com

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Apparently the one in Union Square has better décor, but the charm of the one in midtown is its old school, dated, meat-joint-of-yore vibe. The other thing the décor has going for it is its play on words. The “Strip” house also happens to be decorated with hundreds of black and white photographs of strippers from back in the day when it was still sexy to get naked for a living, not tragic.

For service, we were taken care of very well by a gigantic Romanian gentlemen I’ll refer to us Lurch. Now, I’m not just saying that the service was good because I’m worried about him crushing my skull like the Spaniard in Game of Thrones the other night. He was actually quite good. And good-natured, because trust me, we’re not an easy bunch (no news there). And after a bottle or two of Amarone? Dare I say assholes?

Now…. Let the gluttony BEGIN! First, the onion bread alone is worth a bow, far outshining its pretzel bread cousin. But even the onion bread wouldn’t hold the spotlight long as the sweet corn chowder amuse bouche took center stage and let’s just say my bouche was very amused.

After that, things trickled back towards Earth as the shrimp cocktail, the bacon and the spicy tuna tartar all fell squarely in the land of “good but not great.”

But the rollercoaster was far from over as we surged upward for one of the best bone-in rib-eye’s I’ve had. And a bone in filet that wasn’t half bad either. But the true star of the table was the creamed spinach. Only one or two others have ever dared to compare.

On the downturn, the mac and cheese is a big pass. And the goose fat potatoes, while saliva-inducing in name are just “eh” in execution.

In the solid good realm, I would put the creamed corn and garlic string beans.

And for dessert, skip the red velvet (it’s dry) and the cheesecake (it’s no Junior’s). But very much do the shit out of the chocolate brownie. It’s hella-good. Especially when you down it with some 40-year Quinta port.

So now comes the 20 million dollar question, how’d I feel after all of that food? Well, I think this will answer it best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXH_12QWWg8

3 teeth