Wagyu,” “pasture-raised,” and “grass-fed” are just a few of the righteous buzzwords circulating like wildfire among the city’s beef-eating community. To experience this artisanal-beef revolution in all its variegated, slightly ridiculous (and ever more expensive) forms, visit the big, boxy dining hall at Craftsteak, where you can gnaw on corn-fed beef aged for up to 56 days; virtuous, though slightly gnarly, slabs of grass-fed steer from Hawaii; and eight varieties of grilled and roasted Wagyu, culminating in the pinkish, alarmingly fatty grade-eleven Wagyu, from Miyazaki, Japan (it costs a whopping $30 an ounce). My choice for the best artisanal cut of the year, however, is the spicy, beautifully charred, Cajun-rubbed rib steak, at Michael Lomonaco’s Porter House New York, which opened, not long ago, on the fourth floor of the great Time Warner Center food court. This $41 rib steak comes from Brandt Farms, in California, famous, among carnivores, for its herd of fat, corn-fed Holsteins. For maximum caloric effect, supplement your chop with Lomonaco’s oyster pan roast (a luxurious amalgam of poached oysters, smoked bacon bits, and tarragon-flavored cream) and a vat or two of cheesy, crisp-topped gratine potatoes.
Sparks Steak House is still my personal choice for a traditional beef feast in midtown Manhattan, but if you’re in the mood for something slightly newer and more radical, book a table in the polished, walnut-covered dining room at Quality Meats, on West 58th Street. At this racy new Alan Stillman outlet, corn creme brulee and bowls of buttered edamame (with mint) have replaced the usual appetizers, although the house specialty remains an impressive, Rabelaisian-size 64-ounce double-cut rib steak, carved tableside into thick dinosaur slices, for two. The equally monolithic, beautifully aged “Tomahawk Chop” is the only reason to visit Texas chef Tim Love’s otherwise gloomy new Flatiron establishment, The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro—but it’s reason enough. Jeffery Chodorow’s new Kobe Club, in midtown, features absurdly expensive tasting “flights” of properly tender (though not always sizzling) Wagyu beef and lots of samurai swords dangling from the ceiling, though if you’re searching for a nightclub-style steakhouse that your girlfriend might possibly enjoy, that place is STK, in the meatpacking district. The different cuts of beef come in petite packages (six ounces of skirt steak for $18); the menu is stocked with decent, even artful non-steak options (skate topped with shiitake and brown butter, lamb chops glazed with mint); and as you pick at your dinner, you might even catch a glimpse of Jessica Simpson (a rumored patron on one of the evenings I was there), sipping her evening pot of herbal tea.