This is a re-post of my original notes first appearing elsewhere:
I just had a very good hanger tonight at BLT Steak--a generous cut which was supposed to have been 10 oz. but was easily 12 oz., prepared to American definitions of temperature (e.g. I ordered my steak rare in order to get a hot red center, medium rare by the European definition I grew up with), a la carte at a not-outrageous $24. The steak was quite good, as tender as some filet mignons I've tasted (I never order the filet for myself) at other high-end steakhouses. cooked over high heat, as evidenced by the charcoal-black charred "crust" that is darned near impossible to achieve without commercial grills and broilers. It had assertive beef flavor, was seasoned correctly (no marinade was evident, which made its expert grilling to maintain a juicy steak more impressive), and was free of the kidney taste that sometimes plague these onglets (some, I suppose, like that trace of kidney taste, but not this diner. I like kidney as much as anyone, but never its taste in my steak). The steak had been properly rested and was presented on a cast iron platter, which helped retain warmth. I ordered a day's special side dish of fried mashed potato balls (so oversalted as to be nearly inedible) and roasted maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms, which were badly UNDERseasoned, made worse by the fact that there's no salt/pepper on the table. Go figure.
The meal began with a server (servers work in teams) presenting a small jar (as in, a small jelly jar) of duck liver mousse encased under a reduced port wine glaze/gelee, served with thin baguette toast points. The liver mousse was a smooth, loose texture quite easy to spread at room temp, and the port reduction wasn't so sweet as to interfere. Quite enjoyable, and the fattiness of the spread certainly awakens the taste buds. Were that I had been offered wine before this came out. More on service later...
We continued the meal with a small seafood platter: 2 "Blue Point" oysters (who knows where on the Atlantic coast they actually came from, since Blue Point has, unfortunately, become a rather generic designation), 2 "Taylor Bay" scallops in an interesting, assertively acidic and delicious mignonette, 2 perfectly poached, tasty large shrimp (U/12 size), 2 little neck clams (aroma and texture indicated freshness, but the taste was a bit washed out), a jonah crab claw (why only one? I haven't a clue) served on an iced platter with 3 sauces ($23). The platter was inexplicably perched on a high stand (what is the point?), so high that we had to lift up from our seats to get a good gander at the food.
An appetizer of bluefin tuna tartare from fish which the overly kiss-assy server touted as being "less than 36 hours out of the water" (really? Blue fin? less than 36 hours off the boat I might believe) was nicely presented, on a individual portion-sized chilled plate set on top of crushed ice, which, again helped prevent the tartare from warming to room temp. The cube of tartare is combined with a freshly cut small to medium dice (excuse the technical cooking term) of avocado, expertly mixed so as to not squish the avocado, topped with flecks of crispy fried onion and kaiware (daikon radish sprouts), then dressed with a balanced lime and soy dressing. Potato gaufrettes accompanied. At $16, I thought this was an excellent value. This dish was prepared with the skill of a chef, or a garde manger cook extremely well-trained, perhaps one ready to take the next step.
Dessert was a slice of chocolate tort; we requested a substitution of ginger ice cream for the normally accompanying pistachio ice cream. It was indeed ice cream, not gelato, and didn't pull any punches on the hot ginger kick, having been made with what tasted like Mexican ginger, not Chinese or the much more fragrant Hawaiian strains. The dark chocolate torte (70%, perhaps) was the texture of a dense mousse, too-generously topped with a layer of ground chocolate (62%, I'm guessing). I was too busy trying to pay attention to my date to try to discern the type(s) and/or maker(s) of chocolate, but did notice that the powdery texture, although intended to contrast with the smooth tort "filling", actually was a distraction. We were too full to sample the mignardise, a half dollar coin-sized take on chocolate chip cookies, dusted with confectioner's sugar "snow".
One week open, the service staff hasn't gotten its act together yet. We were more than five minutes after being seated before the lead waiter greeted us and offered to fetch drinks. During that time, no fewer than four assistant waiters and two floor managers walked by with nary a greeting nor a look at the table to see what might be missing. When we finished the mini seafood platter, a pleasant, smiling assistant removed the ice platter and our individual plates, then replaced the silverware, but it took the assistant General Manager to notice and whisk away the three sauces which we had pulled down to table level (so that we, you know, could actually dip stuff in it). When I finished my glass of Joel Gott's very good house Zinfandel ($11), I wasn't offered another. My after dinner coffee was slightly scorched (especially inexcusable in a French chef's bistro) and was never refilled, despite the same service assistants walking by the table half a dozen times during the dessert course. Lastly, one of those assistant retrieved the signed credit card receipt while I was still at the table. That's one of my biggest pet peeves and, in my book, a major misstep.
The space is light and airy, blond woods, French doors, and paper-shaded lighting accenting suede banquettes the color of Kauai "red dirt" and dark mahogany-colored tabled. The ample patios (there are two) promise the option for pleasant outside dining.
In summary--food looks very promising here. I can confirm that the menu includes the offer of genuine, from-Japan, Kobe strip steak, supposedly A5 (highest possible) graded, at $26 per ounce. Having just prepared real Kobe beef for Thanksgiving dinner, I'm reserving that luxury for another visit, perhaps on a special occasion. The front of the house will have to get its legs under itself to match the quality now being offered by this kitchen.
BLT Steak definitely deserves more visits.
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