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

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Mi Casa

100 Dorado Beach Dr. Dorado, Puerto Rico 00646(787) 278-7217 • http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/puerto-rico/dorado-beach/dining/mi-casa-by-jose-andres

Food by Chef Jose Andres for Mi Casa in Puerto Rico

I don’t mean to come off douchey, because no one needs a Douchey Foodie in their lives and let’s face it, a Ferocious one is already bad enough as is, but if you have the means, I highly recommend a vacation at the Ritz Carlton Dorado Beach Reserve. It is stunning on so many levels you won’t know whether to shit or go blind or just lie on the beach and gorge yourself full of deliciousness, like some wannabe Julius Caesar reincarnate. In fact, I could easily drop a thousand words waxing on about the spa alone, a four-acre, outdoor compound the likes of which you’ve never seen. But that’s for a different blog. So getting back on track, the thing that impressed me the most about Dorado (other than the spa) was the quality of the food at the restaurants, normally a challenge for even the ritziest of island retreats (pun intended).

Enlisting the help of famed chef, Jose Andres as their focal point in the dining scene, Dorado manages to stick the landing like Mary Lou Retton with rock climbing spike boots strapped to her feet, to use a self-dating sub-reference. And I don’t say this lightly, because truth be told, I’m actually not a huge fan of Jose. I typically find his cuisine too tricky for its own good, but Mi Casa is a home run (again, intended) way better than The Bazaar in LA.

Now it doesn’t hurt that we were sitting out on the balcony overlooking the Caribbean waves as they crashed into the rocks whilst a symphony of whistling tree frogs serenaded us, but the inside is nice as well. Just hard to compare to the alternative.

Starting with drinks, the Silver Lightning cocktail is quite nice and refreshing, although I don’t quite recall everything that was in it. Cucumber and a silver rum is about the best I can do. Apologies. I was on vacation, so hopefully you’ll find it your heart to forgive me. The wine selections by bottle and by glass are also impressive and service is pretty impeccable throughout 90% of the resort or more, and at Mi Casa it is no different. Waiters were attentive, elaborate with descriptions and knowledge of the menu and best of all, very forthcoming with the recommendations.

Of the recommends, we went with jamon sourced from black-footed pigs which are apparently only fed acorns. It gives the meat a nice underpinning of nuttiness, and the meat itself is very buttery, silky and delicious. On the downside, the tomato bread they serve it with doesn’t do the meat justice. Would love to see this paired with something more worthy, that actually compliments the flavors of the charcuterie more so.

The other reco we pounced on was the sauteed shrimp with arbol chili (similar to cayenne), poblano peppers, shallots and aged black garlic. It was phenomenal. So complex and layered with rich flavors that it might just be one of the best shrimp dishes I’ve ever had. Granted I’m usually just as happy with a good old shrimp cocktail and some kicking sauce, but that should take nothing away from this remarkable dish.

Our only zag from the recos were the Brussels sprouts, lightly sautéed and served up with dried apricots and a medley of other goodies. Unfortunately, this was the biggest miss of the night though, shame on us. Not that it was bad, but the sprouts were decidedly overpowered by the cots in a pretty big way.

For our entrée, wifey and I split the halibut, which was prepared flawlessly, served over a creamy leek purée that danced with the fish like a ballet in your mouth. The perfect light compromise should you want to save room for dessert, which you do. Trust me. Because it steals the show.

First let’s discuss the casa-shaped chocolate ganache, drizzled with flecks of salt and served up with spiced, candied hazelnuts and a heavenly praline ice cream. It is the richest house I’ve seen since the Breaker’s Mansion in Newport, RI. But as good as it was, the deconstructed key lime pie swooped in and bested it. So inventive with the pie on the bottom, a crumbled, crispy crust through the middle and a burnt meringue on top. So inventive. So magically delicious. But is it an Ultimate? Whoa, mamacita yes it is!

So bringing it home like a champ, Mi Casa is also bringing home 4 knives along with it.

4 teeth

Tavern 29

47 East 29th St. New York, NY 10016 • (212) 685-4422tavern29.com

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This place is three stories of bad. And while it has a nice rooftop bar wedged between two mid-rises (pictured), you can almost feel the impending doom looming over you, because there is virtually no plausible reason why this place should remain in business come 2016, save the house pilsner, which is actually pretty decent. Beyond that it is crapapalooza in terms of food. We’re talking so shockingly bad that I am shocked to see that it raked in four stars on Yelp (higher than Dirty French!). I take that back. I would’ve been shocked had I not already realized that Yelp reviews are absolutely worthless.

And speaking of worthless, don’t waste the energy in your jaw muscles to chew on this stuff. I’ve honestly had better in school cafeterias. From the salsa & chips to the ziti to the dry chicken, to the beef with onions and mushrooms to the veggie spring rolls to the crostinis to an atrocious shrimp cocktail, Tavern 29 managed to string together more misses than a blind man trying to thread a needle with his feet.

But as mother tried to raise me, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, so I will try to counter-balance all of my vitriol with a compliment (even if it’s of the backhanded variety), their dinner rolls are actually pretty decent, but I believe they are pre-packaged, tasting like a dead-ringer for King’s Hawaiian.

And dead is the operative word here folks. As in what this place should be to anyone with a self-respecting digestive system.

1 tooth

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

Anthony’s

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Central Terminal • 17801 International Blvd. Seattle, WA 98158 •  (206) 431-3000anthonys.com

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If you need a bite to eat in the Seattle Airport look no further than Anthony’s. Not that you could look any further, because the facade of this place is so massive it’s almost impossible to see around it. But as sprawling as this restaurant is, this juggernaut still manages to pack ‘em in. Not an empty seat in the palatial dining room. But fear not, because this place turns over its wait list like a famine is coming. And yet somehow the service doesn’t suffer either, well, at least not in terms of speed. You’ll have to take a rain check on the warm and fuzzies though, because this waitstaff is all business. And so is the kitchen, spitting out plate after plate like a well-oiled fish taco machine.

And those tacos (pictured) are actually pretty darn good. We split the grilled Mahi and the blackened halibut and both were solid. Two tacos per order (on a corn or flour tortilla depending on which you fancy) with sizable slabs of fish in them. No skimping here. I also recommend adding avocado and salsa, not to mention Tabasco sauce. They’re not viscerally wow inducing, but for an airport, you’d have to be a heartless bastard not to be impressed.

Our waitress was strong with the upsell as well, convincing me to bite on the lure of a New England clam chowder cup (because let’s be serious for a second, Manhattan style isn’t even an option). The soup was surprisingly good. The clam really popped through the cream, as did the other seasonings, making it one of the better cups I’ve had, especially being that I was so far from the homeland.

Upselling me again (either she was really good, or I’m really easy), I also bit on their old fashioned strawberry shortcake, which proved to be excellent. The shortcake struck that perfect balance between crunchy and moist, and the local Washington strawberries were bursting with fresh-picked flavor. Even the cream was spot on. Clearly homemade and not overly sweet. It might just be the best strawberry shortcake I’ve ever had. I know, I’m conflicted about it too.

And last but not least, the prawn Bloody Mary was tall, spicy, Ketel One-y and prawny. Just the way I like it. The spicy tomato concoction almost acting as cocktail sauce for the prawn garnish.

An all-around impressive, airport food showing Anthony. Bravo sir. Bravo. Consider the below a very strong three.

3 teeth

Five Guys

240 Main St. White Plains, NY 10601 • (914) 422-3483 • fiveguys.com

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Dear 5 Guys,

Lose the peanuts and spend the money on shakes. What kind of burger joint doesn’t have shakes? It’d be like a raw bar serving up shrimp cocktail without cocktail sauce!

That MAJOR gripe aside, the burgers themselves are pretty good. In fact, a lot of East Coasters even claim them to be the In n’ Out Burger of the East. Granted most of those East Coasters are either delusional or simply mind-fucking themselves into believing it, but even with all the wishful thinking in the world, comparing them to the likes of In n’ Out is a VERY generous bridge too far. I mean sure, it’s great that the burgers are better than Burger King, and I’m even happy to give 5 guys the upper hand when it comes to their fries (light years better than the cardboard crap at In n’ Out), but I’d take a Double Double Animal Style any day over 5 Guys. Which brings me to my second major gripe, I don’t like burger places without a point of view. As Ego would say in the movie Ratatouille, “give me some perspective.” I hate “make your own burger” places. If I wanted to make my own burger I would’ve done it AT HOME! I came to you because I just wanted to pick out something interesting off of a menu. Ideally a combination of things that I wouldn’t have thought of.

So, with these two major dings going against it, 5 Guys is definitely not getting 5 Knives.

3 teeth

The Oceanaire

50 S 6th St. Minneapolis, MN 55403(612) 333-2277theoceanaire.com

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Coming from the East Coast, it’s a bit hard to accept that a place so far from any ocean would position itself as such a seafood Mecca. And as no surprise, Oceanaire falls horribly short of the high end seafood restaurants you might find near any coast.

But, within the confines of the Minneapolis comparative, it isn’t too bad. Lots of options. Great for large parties, especially of the business variety. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that its average Yelp star count of 4 is equal to the same star count in the coastal equivalents. Because adjusted by comparison, this place is exactly what I rated it. Particularly if you factor in the hefty price tag.

On the plus side, the service has always been excellent, they have some choice wine options and if you stick to the stuff that holds up to being frozen, for example shrimp cocktail or fattier fishes like salmon, you’ll never see its cracks. Order the swordfish, however, and the mercury in it will be the least of your concerns. Served so overcooked and dry it rendered the dish a complete waste of money. Like if you went to Morton’s and order a filet medium rare and it came back as a charcoal briquette.

Oh and as for the “nice” decor that I keep seeing props for, it’s located in an indoor walkway/mall for Christ sake! I’m not exactly sure what passes for nice these days in Minneapolis, but Oceanaire squeaks by as passable if you ask moi.

2 teeth

Beaudevin

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport 5501 R C Josh Birmingham Pkwy Charlotte, NC28208(704) 359-4318

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For an airport restaurant I would say you would be hard-pressed to find better. The wine by the glass was surprisingly good (Pinot Noir). And the tapas style small plates kept wowing one after another. From the prosciutto & melon to the cheese plate to the caprese skewers, to the bread plate and olives. The only average ones were the shrimp cocktail and the humus. Not bad mind you, just not up to par with their small plate siblings.

And as for the salad mains, I did the grilled artichoke. A solid good. The creamy whipped goat made for a nice complement to the peppery arugula.

Oh, and our server was awesome. Quick, friendly and without writing anything down she didn’t forget a single order from the 6 people in our party.

4 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