During the course of the long, tired Atkins boom, chefs of the highest distinction have busied themselves tinkering with the profitable steakhouse formula. So it’s no surprise that Jean-Georges himself has been spotted in the kitchen of his baroque new establishment V Steakhouse grimly broiling gourmet lamb chops and great hunks of prime (though overpriced and indifferent-tasting) porterhouse steak. Former seafood wizard Laurent Tourondel does a better job massaging all this beef into something new and interesting at his own midtown restaurant BLT Steak. His steak tartare has a smooth, dessert-like texture, as do soups like cream of mushroom and clam chowder. But the real key, it seems, is to serve all sorts of things besides plenty of good steak, like Dover sole poured with brown butter, rose-colored lobsters the size of puppy dogs, and crispy roasted chicken, served in a cast-iron pot, with savory deposits of bread crumbs and rosemary stuffed under the skin.
Among neighborhood joints, Ian, on the eastern fringes of 86th Street, is home to the estimable “Dirty Drunken Ribeye” (a tender, deboned piece of meat soaked in sherry, soy sauce, and garlic, rubbed with spices, and glazed with honey), and Landmarc, in Tribeca, produces a very fine version of boudin noir, along with a whole potpourri of other trencherman’s products. For the grandiose Manhattan-steakhouse experience, I’ll still take the New York strip at Sparks, or a few slabs of the porterhouse served by Wolfgang Zwiener and his band of Peter Luger’s apostates at Wolfgang’s, on lower Park Avenue. The room is about four sizes too small, especially on Friday nights, when members of the city’s red-faced steak-house fraternity gather four-deep at the bar. But the steak sauce is an almost exact Luger facsimile, and the serving platters are suitably scuffed around the edges from incessant cooking and tipped forward at the table, in the classic Luger way, to showcase all the sizzling juices. Then there’s the fat, corn-fed, decidedly un-organic steak, which is baked to a proper salty crunch and comes with rafts of creamed spinach, thatches of onion rings, and boats of venerable fried German potatoes tossed with sweet onions.