BLT Steak

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One needs to use caution when going to a fusion restaurant—the marriage of counterintuitive culinary traditions often leaves your taste buds in a state of confusion. At BLT Steak, however, Laurent Tourondel, the former chef at seafood standout Cello, has combined two of the great culinary styles: American steakhouse and French bistro. The result is yet another New York steakhouse that should be penciled in to everyone’s shortlist.

As one always should, we started with some cocktails, which were well worth a try. Our choices included a delicious 1874 Manhattan (made with Woodford Bourbon and bourbon-soaked cherries) and a crisp, well-made Vodka Gimlet (with just the right mix of lime juice and cordial). They helped wash down the delicious smoky salted almonds—the kind of bar nuts you would expect in an upscale joint. The ambience of the place, with its long zinc bar and elegant décor, is jovial.

Walked to our table by the friendly and accommodating hostess, I was struck by the sharp contrast between the subtly luxurious décor and an almost overly casual clientele; polished macassar ebony tables and soft suede banquettes were juxtaposed with a spate of diners dressed in jeans and T-shirts—hardly a transgression one would encounter at a Sparks, Keens or even the formidable yet casual Peter Luger.

While discussing the ambiance at the table, not one but two sommeliers arrived. With their help, we decided to be a little adventurous and chose a 2001 “Limoid Cior” from Garretson in California. It is an interesting wine, made solely with the Roussanne grape (normally used as one of the varietals to blend Chateau Neuf du Pape). The wine, unfiltered and served slightly warmer than normal, was tropical and had a slight effervescence. For a pre-dinner snack we were given duck mousse with port, which was good but was overshadowed both literally and metaphorically by the enormous popovers. Although a touch gimmicky, you can’t argue with the great taste.

The appetizers were excellent renditions of standard steakhouse fare. The oysters (Kumomotos, Malpeques and Blue Points) were fresh, crisp and briny. The crab cakes were made with celery and served with celery mayonnaise, and while they were tasty, our Maryland native felt that they were a bit heavy on binder. The star, though, was the foie gras terrine, served with figs and walnuts and a Mache salad. In combination with the distinctive wine and the fragrant brioche toast that it came with, it was a rich-tasting and luxurious appetizer.

The Angus beef steaks are dry-aged for 28 days then cooked at 900°. When we asked our impressively Gallic waiter how they got the oven that hot, he replied with a shrug, “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t stick my head in there.” Duly noted. The beef was tender, but failed to stand out among the exceptional side dishes. Along with the meat, diners have a choice of sauces (a nod to the bistro tradition). We tried three: peppercorn, horseradish and three mustards. But fish lovers won’t feel left out here. The fish (an Arctic char with chowder) was delicious, light but rich, flavorful but subtle—it really showed the chef’s aptitude for cooking fish.

The sides, however, were what really stood out during the meal. As one of my dining companions put it “the sides rock and roll” and we all agreed. We tried Baked, Fried and Sautéed, thrice-cooked potatoes with bacon and cheddar (which were described by our waiter as “outrageous”—your cardiologist would agree!); creamy spinach (a salty but good version of the steakhouse staple); brussels sprouts with bacon (a good combination that was well executed), and sautéed hen o’ the woods mushrooms.

We paired the main course with two wines. The first was a 1997 Chateau Giscours, which had a loamy scent to it—there are other less charitable ways to describe it—and opened up to be a somewhat disappointing Grand Cru Bordeaux. It reminded me that, unfortunately, to get a good Bordeaux experience you need to spend some money. Not so for our second choice, a 2001 Merlot from California, called “Opolo”. It was perfect steakhouse wine, big enough for the meat but with a little finesse.

The wine list is fairly well thought out, though it is pricey and thus there are certainly better choices at the higher end of the price range: a 1990 Sociando-Mallet at $224 stands out. The list does, however, have some adventurous wines at the middle of the price range that are worth a try: for example, the 2000 Cabernet, Glen Carlou “Grand Classique” from the Paarl region of South Africa at $87 and the 1998 Priorat, Rotllan Torra, “Amadìs” at $85.

Stuffed after the bounty of entrées and sides, it was hard to image having room for dessert, but your intrepid reviewer rallied the party. And we were not disappointed: the peanut butter chocolate mousse was delicious, with a decadent center and crisp crust; the key-lime pie with yoghurt ice-cream was tart and sweet and a pleasant palette-cleanser; and the bourbon ice-cream served as both after-dinner drink and dessert, was interesting and well worth a try.

As I left the restaurant after a pleasant dinner, I asked myself why, in a city full of the greatest steakhouses in the world, you would spend your money at this particular restaurant, and the answer is this: those who want to enjoy an excellent steak but are tired of the staid, sometimes crusty, atmosphere of the traditional steakhouses in the city, would enjoy the classy respite offered by BLT Steak.

Felix Leslie is a corporate lawyer in New York City

The Restaurant Review

The Restaurant Review is meant to be of service to our readers – many of whom do not live in New York City, but regularly travel here on business. Thus we hope to help food lovers, who aren’t able to keep on top of the culinary renaissance that seems to exist here in perpetuity, find that perfect striped bass or porterhouse. Comments and suggestions for future reviews are welcome at: richard.bravo@incisivemedia.com

The lowdown

Address: 106 East 57th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues, New York City, 10022
Telephone: 212-752-7470
Decor: French bistro meets American steakhouse
Service: Attentive and courteous
Sound level: Boisterous but not overwhelming
Price: Appetizers, $9–22; Entrées, $21–48; Vegetables & sides, $7–10; Desserts, $9
Hours: Dinner, Mon–Thu, 5:30pm–11:00pm; Fri–Sat, 5:30pm–11:30pm; Sun closed. Lunch, Mon–Fri, 11:45am–2:30pm
Credit cards: All major credit cards accepted

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