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Les Halles – A Switch Up and a Swing For The Fences

It’s been nearly 6 years since we started what has become the “world’s #1 Steak Club” and one would think at this point, we had even nearly every steak in NYC. Truth be told, we probably never will and that is the beauty of eating great steak in the world’s greatest city. We started with 7 members and have since lost 2 both of whom were replaced with 2 more great members and still remain, focused on our goal of eating great steak once a month while, in the spirit of SC7 member, the Big P.A., “sharing out a night with the chaps.”

November was my month to pick the restaurant and the battle is the same every time; somewhere new, somewhere favored or something completely different. This time around, I decided to switch hit and pick a non-traditional NY Steak House and instead go for a restaurant whose entire menu is celebrated with positive reviews. I thought it was an appropriate move since our special guest for the month was Big Datti Marc, one of the Steak Club 7’s original members. This was going to be Marc’s last big meal in his home town before moving across the country to Las Vegas.

For those not in the know, Les Halles is the restaurant that put everyone’s favorite surly Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” show host, Anthony Bordain into the food spotlight. Choose from either the John Street, FiDi location where the menu is very French in nature or do as we did and make a reservation at the Les Halles’ Park Avenue restaurant located in an area of NYC known as the Gramercy. While still serving a primarily French influenced menu that includes Cassoulet, Clams Casino and Confit de Canard, this location also has an impressive list of steaks. Be sure to get a reservation as it’s, as you can imagine, very popular and tell em Steak Club 7 sent you, our table is #31. That may or may not get you anything but I can tell you that despite them being very busy, the entire staff is not too involved to stop by to find out your thoughts on the food, drink or service.

Everything at Les Halles is great and even the butter and bread appetizer is fantastic!

Les Halles as a great charcuterie that doesn’t just rely on cured pork meats. The Salumi is magnificent but don’t be afraid of pulled pork confit. The texture is not what you’re used to and a little creamy but it’s well worth trying. Personally I never liked pate but that’s because any I’ve had before didn’t taste like this!

It’s not on the menu but ask and be sure to ask VERY NICELY for an appetizer of bacon. ITS STUPENDOUS!!! Don’t expect any sweetness, as the flavor of all natural pork is savory and smoky.  If you are too timid to ask or just want more, you can get the same bacon on the bitter frisee salad. Chopped into smaller bite sized pieces, it’s tossed in a very, very light dressing that provides merely provides a background for the salad. Oh man the bacon!

Each and every steak is prepared with the utmost of care and attention and if you ask for it to be cooked medium rare, expect a steak that practically defines the cooking temperature.  My NY Strip was one of the most tender and well-cut steaks I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

Nearly every dish at Les Halles is served with Frites and there is a reason, these truly “French” fries taste like hot, full-bodied potato chips as opposed to just being a greasy blast of hot starchy grease.

Les Halles gained and maintain their popularity with the highest level of some of the best personal service and quality prepared foods.

4.5 out of 5 knives
-Rev

Bonjour Big Datti, please hold us a table at Delmonico’s.

Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse – Solo Mission

My wife Cara and her mother Evelyn hit me up asking for suggestions on a good steak dinner near New York City’s Grand Central Station. They wanted for the 3 of us to get together for a nice meal to enjoy some family time together. While I would be happy eating granola bars just to spend time with, nothing does it like a NYC steakhouse meal. Fortunately the request could not have been more easy to fulfill. Located right inside the doors on the North and West balconies of the Grand Central Terminal is a delicious steakhouse with an amazing view; Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse.

It’s the ideal location for a grand meal if you commute in or out of the city from the station as it’s literally right there. The views from the restaurant are of the main concourse are spectacular. Known as “the most widely recognizable train terminal room in the world, ” it’s the room through which all traffic flows. Michael Jordan’s sits on the balcony looking out at the amazing star painted ceiling.  There is no shortage of tales, lore and relevance to this very historic and beautiful piece of the New York landscape.  Having grown up and living her entire life in NYC, Evelyn has a treasure chest full of memories and stories about the life of the building.

It’s a great setting to enjoy an appetizer of Warm Garlic Bread in Gorgonzola Fondue. The crispy and warm Garlic Bread stacks up like a Jenga tower while the Fonude provides its moat. The garlic bread is light and savory and when dipped into the thick, creaminess of the rich Gorgonzola Fondue. Be careful, you can ruin the entire meal gorging on this extremely tasty app. But do be sure to dip for the chunky parts!

Both Cara and her Mother chose the leaner and flavorful Filet Mignon steak while I opted for a special of the day. The words barely came out of the server’s mouth before I was fist pumping; “for our specials tonight we are serving a Filet of Venison…” I stopped him right there and with a very excited look in my eyes, I said “I’m going to need that please.” We all laughed and he ran through the rest of the specials although I didn’t hear any of them, as I was lost in thought over my favorite meat. Yes you heard that correct. The guy who hosts the NYC Wing-Off, writes the Burger Conquest website and is a founding member of the world’s #1 steak club, the SC7, prefers Venison over all other meats. Believe me, if venison was more readily available I would’ve started a Venison blog long ago.

The Filet comes served in a red wine reduction and parsnip purée. Ordered medium rare, the plate arrived with 2 pieces of the most perfectly cooked, succulent meat one could ever hope for. My hands were shaking as I quickly tried to snap photos for the blog. It’s a cut of meat that is rich in flavor, very lean, soft and succulent. The burnt edges around the medium rare center really created a monsoon like battle between the two flavors of the cut. I had to slowly pace myself so I didn’t just suck it down without truly enjoying every delicious bite. The parsnips were extra sweet an almost candy like. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the salty meat.

Each of us chose a side to be served with our steak. My wife asked for the Mac and Cheese, Evelyn asked for the Asparagus and I chose a personal favorite, Hericot Verts. They defined the word “fresh.” They tasted as though they had been picked from a welt kept garden on minutes before serving. The beans had a nice snap in the bite. I nearly devoured the entire serving. Michael’s Mac and Cheese is worth the trip alone! It’s creamy in consistency but light in texture. The cheese sauce is very creamy like a thickened, savory cheese soup. This and the Gorgonzola Fondue prove that Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse knows what to do with cheese!

Try as we might, we could not earn credit for being members of the clean plate club at this meal. It was just too much delicious food for 3 people to eat. The waiter passed around the desert menu and the thought alone brought discomfort. Instead of a cake, pie or ice cream, we each selected an after dinner drink to help coat the truly delicious meal.

This one is for you Ada.

4 out of 5 knives
-Rev

Quality Meats – Dressed Up Scoops and Happy Endings

I can’t entirely take the credit for the choice of Quality Meats being the destination for August’s outing.  I generally feel that if you add the word ‘Quality’ to anything then it usually isn’t, ‘Quality Used Cars’ being a prime example.  Yes, I’m cynical but then again it’s a national trait for us Brits.

I was telling new boy Box that he’d be joining on a month that was my pick and that I had a lot to live up to being perhaps the only member of SC7 yet to make a bum steer so it was actually he that suggested we roll through Quality Meats.  Needless to say, after an exemplary example of what a fine New York steak house should be, I’m more than happy to take the credit.

We were seated in a secluded side room, with former NYC mayor Ed Koch a couple of tables over, his presence and the vibe of the place reminding us that we all had to be on our best behaviour this evening.  Not long after seating we were presented with fresh melon lollipops, intended, I’m sure as a palate cleanser .  Not being a fan of melon I decided my palate was cleansed enough already.  Besides, my excitement at seeing a sausage sampler on the specials list was too powerful, and it was all I could do to get the order in quickly enough.

My companions shared my excitement so we ordered two servings of the sausage sampler (containing rabbit, smoked duck, chorizo and andouille, fact fans), I have to say though, we were all pretty disappointed if truth be told.  Not sure how I was expecting it to be served to us, but cold was not what I thought, and bluntly, the flavour wasn’t that great.  In fact there was sausage remaining when the plates were collected, so the esteemed gentlemen voted with remains such were their thoughts of the sausage sampler.  A big avoid.

We went a little off script with the ordering of the appetisers, such were the massive choices available.  Thus, in addition to the usual shrimp and iceberg wedges we ordered crab cakes, New England clam chowder, baby back ribs, a charcuterie sampler… and more.

All the apps were off a very high, dare I say, ‘quality’, standard that served only to enhance the anticipation of the main event.  Much as we love the preliminaries, we are Steak Club 7 and it’s the steak that really has us talking.

As we’d already gone overboard on the appetisers, there was a general, albeit unspoken acceptance that we might as well continue as we’d started so the list of sides ordered was quite vast.  We had potatoes galore – the pan roasted, bubble and squeak and the ‘quality’ potato rounded off with gnocchi and cheese (amazing, of course), yorkshire creamed spinach (so called as it was served in an edible Yorkshire pudding) and just to add the greens (see Mum, I did listen) the buttered edamame finished with a mint salt (delightful).

Hang on, didn’t I mention steak a paragraph or two back?  Clearly I was getting carried away with the memory of the fine sides but don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten… There is a pattern at SC7, Joe C and Jon generally go for the strip (although Jon will sometimes rock the rib-eye), Matty Winks is a fillet guy and then the Rev, the Meat God and I hammer it out for dibs on sharing a porterhouse and tonight was no different.

I was phenomenally happy with the porterhouse (which interestingly isn’t a regular menu item but a special tonight, lucky us).  The taste was full and the temperature was as ordered (medium rare, if you’re interested).  The satisfaction of cutting off a slice and letting the flavour tickle the tastebuds whilst chewing, quite wonderful.

Desserts are a sometimes addition at our meetings however The Rev, whose most recent visit here had only been a week or two earlier, had told us that the desserts at Quality Meats were amongst the best he’d tasted and man was he not joking.

I urge you, should you feel compelled to visit Quality Meats, and really, you should, please, please save room for desserts.  They take it really seriously here and you’re short changing yourself if you don’t give it a go.  The ‘dressed up scoops’ are as good as any dessert you’ll have tasted.  Furthermore, for an expensive joint, the desserts are reasonably priced.  It’s almost like they’re saying “come on now, we know you’re full, and we know you’ve already dropped a lot of your hard earned tonight, but let us send you home with a smile on yer face, for not much money more”.

A true happy ending, indeed.

4 out of 5 knives
-Big P.A.

Nebraska Steakhouse and Lounge

Nebraska Steakhouse and Lounge

Cool, cool.  So, I kind of feel that I’m the guy who drags the crew to new and different places that may be considered “off the beaten path” in search of an alternate steak house experience.  Once I convinced everyone to get on a ferry and travel over a body of water to an old school Italian steak house along the lovely shores of New Jersey.  I insisted everyone get on the Q train in the dead of winter and travel all the way out to Astoria Queens (yes, close to the shooting location of SC7’s favorite film Coming to America) where we experience a Greek interpretation of our group’s savory steak mission.  The trek I planned to find a slightly different take this moth however, took me just a few blocks from my permanent place of residence, in the FiDi (Financial District) of Lower Manhattan.  Despite the short, boring walk…the outcome was equally as exotic.

The evening or our reservation, I received a text message from The Rev who arrived about an hour early (for pre-game cocktails) stating “um, how the hell did you find this place?!?!?!”  I, still in my office, responded in a panic “why???  Is it terrible???”  His reply was simply “YOU’LL SEE!”

I rushed down to the site: Nebraska Steak House.  My intention?  Scope the place out and if necessary, call an audible.  The beauty of Wall St is that there is legitimate steak joints on almost every block.  The Capital Grille, The Palm, Harry’s, Delmonicos, and literally across the street is one of our all time favorites, Bobby Van’s.  I could have easily rallied the troops and head elsewhere to an Ol’ Faithful.

Here’s the first concern we had:

These are two of the first pictures you see on the Nebraska website…and it’s what this place is like upon arrival.

Luckily, the group was enamored by the dark lighting, the pulsating dance music, and the former Czech female body-builder BOMBSHELLS stationed behind the bar.  To my surprise, everyone agreed: “we aint leavin’, we’re here for an experience, WE’RE EATIN NEBRASKA!”

The actual restaurant setting was kinda old school and very comfortable.  Rich leather and oak décor.  I think we all agreed upon seating, we probably made the correct call.  Now on to the food!

First, a wonderful surprise:  Red and green vinegar peppers in a bath of extra virgin olive oil with decent quality bread…and in HUGE quantities for the table.  This went over really well with the crew.  The peppers were very, very good, similar to what my mother who hails from Ariano Irpino in Italia would serve. I was very impressed.

Next up…Kobe Burger split up for the table as an appetizer…delicious!

Tomato and Mozzarella salad:

And an absolutely delicious Seafood Linguine entrée that was easy to share as an app for the table.  Shrimp, clams, muscles, and a very large split Maine lobster tail in a tangy marinara sauce:

Now…steak time!

Mine was a very healthy cut of New York Strip cooked to perfection.  Pink and juicy in the middle with a very nice char on the outer shell.  I was impressed with the technique and presentation, however I did not find the flavor of the actual steak at a level that I have come to expect when paying $50 for a single piece of meat.  All in all I enjoyed.  Here’s a look at the other cuts ordered:

I felt all the sides were exceptional and the peas and onions were really and unexpected surprise…that dish is a MUST ORDER!

Desert time called for the standard espresso and black sambucca for me and The Rev:

Ok, this place was pretty solid all-in-all.  I would say to not let the ambiance up entering fool you, this is first and foremost a steakhouse.  Our service was very good and our food was also.  Be prepared to pay Wall Street prices though, the menu is not scared of putting up big numbers in bold text!

3.5 our of 5 Knives

-joeC

Quality Meats – Solo Mission

Be warned, promising the glory of meat to a member of Steak Club 7 is a gesture taken very seriously. My friend Adam had made such a promise more than a year ago and I intended on making sure he made good. I had to with it out but Adam, being the good and honorable dude that he is, took me and our friend Matt out for Steak. Since Adam was treating, his only demand was choosing the location and he asked to go to Quality Meats. Who am I to argue!??

Matt and I started off with a victory scotch while Adam had a PBR.  The meal began with a sampling of the amazing charcuterie meats and cheeses that Quality Meats offers. You see, Quality Meats actually has 2 restaurants, the full-blown steak house in the back and the counter service charcuterie bar in the front. If you get a table in the full restaurant, you can order from both and I most certainly suggest that you do! You’ll not have a better sampling of Italian Meats and cheeses any where else in the city.

In an attempt to have a serious palette cleanse as well as get in some roughage, we all ordered a salad. I had the Local Farmer’s Salad, overloaded with fruits and veggies while Matt ordered the beet salad and Adam went with his favorite, a Caesar. Mine was robust, bursting with succulent flavors and by far one of the most flavor intense salads I have ever eaten.

Most NY Steakhouses offer their own signature steak sauce and Quality Meats makes their own with a twist. Rather than just bottle it up off site and place it on the table, they bring all the ingredients table side and furiously whip up a batch just for you. While I wouldn’t necessarily suggest using steak sauce on a great steak but this sauce is incredible. Try dipping a few bites or use some bread. It’s a taste you will want to try.

Our amazing, attentive and friendly server put in a heavy suggestion on the NY Strip. As a big fan, there was no need for me to consider otherwise. Matt went with the same and Adam chose his favorite cut, a ribeye. Unlike other steak houses, Quality Meats serves their ribeye bone-in which makes it look like the kind of steak that Fred Flintstone eats. My NY Strip, also served bone-in, was cooked to a perfect medium-rare and exploding with amazing flavors. Quality Meats uses a little more salt in the seasoning of their steak but really, it just makes the tastes more intense. But the combination of marbling and the bone add an intensity to the flavor that you wont’ find in a of other place.

It’s always tough to gauge ordering sides for a meal like this. It’s easy to underestimate the hunger at the table and it’s even easier to over-estimate. It was a celebration so what the hell, we ordered almost all of them! The Pan Roasted Crispy Potatoes were awesome. Imagine thick cut potato chips served still hot and covered in spices. MMMM! TASTY. While I didn’t try the Yorkshire Creamed Spinach (not a fan), the Grilled Asparagus were crunchy and well prepared.  The Corn Creme Brulee and Gnocchi and Cheese were my two favorites. The former was an interesting mix of sweet and salty that worked well against a very savory cut of meat. The latter were rich and creamy providing a different palette than the rest of the meal. I also enjoyed the Broccoli & Cheese Bites but not as much as I would’ve just liked some steamed or sautéed broccoli. You need a little greens with a meal like this.

As we sat holding our full bellies, we agreed, there just wasn’t any room available for desserts. Upon delivering the after dinner menus, our server reiterated that the ice cream at Quality Meats was home-made and worth trying. That was enough nudging for Matt and I to give in and order Banana Cream Pie and Coffee & Doughnuts ice cream. Of course that lead to Sticky Toffee & Cherry Pudding with Almond Ice Cream and a Chocolate Brownie Cake served with Pistachio cream,Yogurt and Raspberries. Each one of them was rich, jam-packed with delicious flavor and unique in its own right. The Banana Cream Pie ice cream and the Sticky Toffee were the stand outs.

If there’s one thing that Quality Meats does well, it would be EVERYTHING! Not a moment or bite of the entire evening was boring or average in any way. Perhaps the name truly does tell all here. Enjoy, you won’t leave disappointed.

4.5 out of 5 knives
-Rev