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Where to Eat 2003


Super Spud: The salt-baked potato-- with all its condiments-- at Terrance Brennan's Seafood & Chop House.  

The Best of the Gourmet Steaks

Increasingly in this utilitarian day and age, beefsteaks are becoming fodder for gourmet chefs. If you don’t believe me, pay a visit to Terrance Brennan’s Seafood & Chop House, at the bottom of the Benjamin Hotel. After perfecting haute French Mediterranean cuisine, followed by every possible aspect of cheese, the eponymous proprietor has begun dabbling in porterhouse steaks, rib chops, and generous portions of chateaubriand. It’s too early to pass judgment on the establishment—it’s barely been open a month—but I liked the filet portion of my porterhouse better than the fatty sirloin part. All the designer sauces I sampled were fine (ketchup chutney, bordelaise, and horseradish, to name a few), and the most arresting side dish, by far, is the giant, puppy-size Idaho potato, which is unearthed from a hot fleur de sel crust, cleaned by the waiter with a little brush, and served (for the whopping price of $12) with scallions, shavings of Cheddar, sour cream, and, if you wish, real bacon bits.

For a time-tested piece of gourmet beef, however, I prefer the balsamic-basted, charcoal-grilled prime rib ($78 for two) whenever it’s on the menu at Etats-Unis, the tangy, slightly crunchy miso-marinated hanger steak at Union Pacific, or the lunchtime sirloin at Tocqueville, which is sliced into two dainty triangles, charred on one side and rare on the other, and garnished with a hollowed bit of brioche containing a raw araucana egg. Among Manhattan steakhouses, the Boom Era gold standard remains the broiled rib chop at The Strip House, and for a taste of old New York, I always guide my carnivore friends to the hallowed New York cut at Sparks. If you want to spend roughly three times the money, for sheer grandeur, nothing quite tops the grilled Black Angus rib eye, served, according to the menu, “for two or three persons,” at Alain Ducasse. The thrombotic potato gratin is thick as wet cement, the meat is dutifully drowned in a pungent truffle sauce, poured from a silver pot, and the whole mass is served Rossini-style, under a pale, predictably gargantuan flap of seared foie gras.

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