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Where to Eat 2008


Steaks and Chops

Primehouse New York  

In this fastidious, eco-mad era, my fatso, beef-obsessed friends tend to be focused less on the restaurants in which their favorite sirloin is served than on the idyllic boutique farms on which the best beef cattle are raised. Hence my colleague the Steak Loon’s fondness for the elaborate new steak palace on lower Park Avenue, Primehouse New York. Stephen Hanson’s latest restaurant boasts a bar the size of a small barn, a “Himalayan-rock-salt room” for aging his pricey slabs of beef, and even its own prodigious bull, named Prime, who works tirelessly down at the Creek Stone Farms in Kentucky to sire prime Black Angus beef cattle on the restaurant’s behalf. If you don’t have $49 to spend on the delicious Kansas City bone-in sirloin, the Steak Loon recommends the $24 hanger steak, which is topped with fresh chimichurri sauce. Then supplement it with a sizzling platter or two of “old school” hash browns dripped in bacon fat, a tower of Frisbee-size onion rings, and, for dessert, the imposing bananas-Foster sundae, made with bananas, caramel, tankards of vanilla ice cream, and a shot of rum, all mingled in a big glass fishbowl, with a giant pecan tuile on top.

The best boutique cut of beef in midtown remains the $46 chile-rubbed Brandt Farms prime rib eye available at Michael Lomonaco’s Porter House New York on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center food mall. And the city’s dwindling band of Kobe-beef addicts are presently haunting the cavernous room at Craftsteak in the meatpacking district, where a cool $102 will get you a fix of the legendary twelve-ounce Wagyu strip, shipped direct from the Strube Ranch in Texas. When I grow weary of all this exaggerated steakhouse grandeur, I like to drop in to Perry Street for a taste of the grilled tenderloin (dripped, in a most unhealthful way, with liquid Gruyère cheese), before proceeding to that other noted non-beef joint, Kefi, where a mere $19.95 buys a platter of superb lamb chops, which the wunderkind chef Michael Psilakis serves just like in the old country, with spinach-laced country rice, plenty of frizzled garlic, and a scattering of fresh parsley.

The grilled, bone-in Black Angus strip at Ouest gets my other vote for top steak and chop dish on the Upper West Side, but downtown, in my own neighborhood, the blue ribbon goes to Joey Campanaro’s new spinoff on Carmine Street called Market Table. This frenzied joint has all sorts of accomplished non-steak items on the menu, like short ribs sunk in gnocchi, and an already semi-legendary lunchtime cheeseburger, served with a tangle of fries tossed with Old Bay spice. But when I finally managed to secure a table in the crowded little room not long ago, the dish everyone fought over was the New York strip, courtesy of New York’s great beef wholesaler Pat LaFrieda. You can get the marbled LaFrieda sirloin expertly grilled, over a mess of arugula salad and crispy fried artichokes, at the restaurant itself. Or purchase the same beef cut to order at the restaurant’s market counter up front, then take it home and grill it yourself.

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