I had a very good dinner at L Tourondel's BLT Steak last night. Having experienced with regret the closing of the chef's Cello, which I had liked very much, I am delighted that he has brought us BLT Steak.
BLT Steak does have a different positioning than Cello: offering diners more options (in the form of a lot of meat dishes, the possibility of salads, some dishes that are a bit more French-bistro in style), the separation of vegetable and other sides from the main courses (like Craft, in some ways), the ability of the diner to choose the saucing for certain main dishes. With the menu at BLT Steak, a diner who prefers less bistro-style cuisine can craft a progression of dishes that achieves that purpose; other diners with different preferences can obviously also find dishes to their liking.
I must admit that I still miss many things about Cello -- the dedication to seafood, the glorious Arman sculptures both inside and outside the restaurant, the slightly more formal aspect of the dining room service there, and obviously the fish preparations. But, if Chef Tourondel has chosen the BLT Steak format, I am simply glad that he is cooking for all of us again :) He remains in my eyes a better seafood chef than Ripert, andhas, although I prefer Blue Hill's cuisine of Dan Barber/Michael Anthony, my second preferred cuisine in NY at this point.
I was originally not going to write until I had accumulated several meals at BLT Steak, but I had such a favorable meal and am so happy about Chef Tourondel's return that I have decided to provide a short recap after all.
I sat at the bar, but ordered from the main restaurant menu. The restaurant is very nicely decorated, with a black and white and other neutral-colored theme. Beautiful white blossoms in the main dining room. I can see myself going to BLK Steak quite a bit...
I began with a glass of Deutz, and decided to craft (no pun intended there) an all-seafood meal. I began with the crab cake appetizer, which was a slightly-breaded-on-the-exterior crab cake that had nice moist lumps and shreds of crab inside. Appropriately, no saucing on the crabcake itself, but a mayonaisse-and-Dijon-mustard-based creamy saucing for the nestled celeryroot juliennes on top of which the crab cake was placed. There were sprinkles of an orange-colored powder that might have been a mild type of pepper, but this was appropriately limited in the mouth taste of the dish.
Then, a simply wonderul dish. I ordered the Sauteed Dover Sole. Surprisingly (in the best possible sense of the word), the sole is sauteed whole and was presented to me as a whole sole (with the head area removed). The bar team members, who were very professional and informed about the restaurant's food (including the food on the main menu), had asked me whether I wanted the fish with bone in or bone out. Of course, I opted for bone in, which led to the presentation of the fish whole (but without the skin on either side). The pristine flavor of fresh sole set my taste buds aflutter :) The fish was appropriately cooked, and its flesh was somewhat (not entirely) firm, the way good sole should be. "My sole", which it had become at this point, was glorious-tasting :)
Upon ordering the sole, I had left the choice of saucing up to the chef's suggestion. He appropriately utilized the caper brown butter saucing. Oooohhh, how yummy-- the saucing had an appropriate amount of acidity, both from what I believe was lemon jus coupled with the butter and from the included whole capers (which conferred an acidity melded in with saltiness). However, against the acidity, there was the gloriousness and goldenness of the butter, but it was not the typical butter taste, but one many times more refined and subtle. I have not tasted this delicious a sole dish in the US before this one :)
Very interestingly, while the head portion of the fish had been removed, there were still portions of the fish flesh close to the head that Chef Tourondel had left intact and that communicated a darkness from having been close to the head of the fish.
And, as if things could not get better, BLT Steak had a 1/2 bottle of 1999 Chassagne-Montrachet, Ramonet (one of my favorite producers) available (under $60) :) This Chassagne-Montrachet was somewhat less smokey than certain other Ramonet Chassagnes I have tasted. Its goldeness and richness were appropriate against the acidity of the saucing of the sole dish.
I ordered creamed spinach ($7 or so) as my side for the sole. It arrived in a little metallic pot-like container, and had an interesting slightly heavier (in a positive way) texture than most creamed spinach because of the chef's use of Gruyere in limited amounts in the saucing.
Even though Chef Tourondel is no longer collaborating with my preferred NY pastry chef and peanut butter rice crispies are no longer on the menu (please alert me to post-Atelier whereabouts) and even though I generally dislike dessert as a category, I was tempted by the steamed banana bread pudding and rum raisin ice cream. I had that with a glass of Coteaux de Layons, which matched the dessert well. The dessert was nice. The banana bread pudding resembled banana bread slightly in texture, but it was very moist. It was a large serving too, being presented in a container that had a perforated piece of wax or similar paper above it that had protected the moisture evaporation during steaming. The rum raisin ice cream was good too.
The sommelier and other dining room/bar team member assistance was very good.
Key excerpts from main restaurant's menu (bar area has a slightly different list of offerings; main menu is also available at the bar).
-- Shrimp cocktail
-- Steak tartare
-- Grilled foie gras BLT
-- Stone crab
-- Seafood platter ($55/95, with oysters, crab, shrimp, clam, etc. on a humongous three-tiered stand)
I am not sure whether there were additional ones (probably) in the appetizer list.
-- Various I did not copy, including roasted beets and fresh goat cheese. Prices ranged from $10-15
-- White mushroom/truffle oil $11
-- NE clam chowder 12
Meat and Poultry
-- Many, many cuts of steak, including: Hangar steak ($24), Kobe flat iron ($26 -- sounds promising).
-- Braised short ribs 28
-- Rack of lamb 34
-- Veal chop 36
-- Surf and Turf 48
-- Moulard duck breast 27
-- Lemon-rosemary chicken 22
The above meat and poultry items are served with the diner's choice of a sauce: Bernaise, peppercorn, red wine, three mustard, blue cheese, horseradish. Obviously, some sauces would better match certain preparations than others.
Fish and Shellfish
-- Poached salmon steak 24
-- Grilled tuna 28
-- Spiced swordish 30
-- Sauteed Dover sole 34
-- Broiled Maine lobster, 3.5lbs! $58
The above fish and shellish items are served with the diner's choice of sauce: tomato bernaise; ginger-ketchup; cilantro-mayonnaise; soy-citrus; caper brown butter
Various mushroom preparations are ordered as separate sides
Various potato preparations as well
Various vegetable preparations
Desserts not copied