We rarely go to newly-opened restaurants, preferring to give them time to work out the kinks. We also like to hear opinions from our fellow Hounds who get a thrill from being among the first to try new places. However, itching for a good steak, we decided to throw caution to the proverbial winds and give Steakhouse 85 a chance. This was on Monday, December 1st. I am pleased to report that although open just under one week at that point, Steakhouse 85 provided us with a supremely enjoyable dining experience. In short, it appears we have a winner!
From the moment we arrived and throughout our meal, it was evident that the staff has been through the “Danny Meyer School of Hospitality.” The two perky young women at the reception desk welcomed us warmly. And our waitress, Heather, provided cordial and capable service. She never hovered but checked back regularly to be sure we didn’t want for anything.
A friend who saw the photos we took commented about the space along the bar area, “Wow! A 747 could land there!” Yes, Steakhouse 85 is B-I-G! Behind the reception area, there’s a fairly large lounge with comfy club chairs; the bar, itself, is very long, and there are small tables along its length where you can enjoy a drink before dining; there are two dining areas with widely-spaced free-standing tables, as well as several booths in the front area; at the far end of the room, there’s a glass-enclosed fireplace; there is a very large private party space (I’m not certain, but I think it can be divided); and, finally, for oenophiles, there are wine storage lockers. While the free-standing tables are dressed in white linen, the wood on the booths’ tables has been left exposed. The overall décor is extremely handsome with large windows facing Church Street and lots of wood helping to “warm up” the huge space.
When we arrived at 6:15 p.m., we were the only patrons. But eventually, about half a dozen other tables became occupied. Given our choice of where to sit, we decided on one of the booths. Very comfortable and cozy.
After we placed our order, a basket of bread arrived. The Italian-style bread, which we were told comes from a local bakery, was cut into thick slices, separated, and artfully arranged. It is excellent bread. But I was disappointed to see the young man who served the bread also carrying a dish of olive oil. Regulars on this board know I detest this practice. And, frankly, I think it is totally wrong for a steakhouse! Take that oil away and bring on the butter! Which is what he did when we immediately made that request.
We shared everything we ordered.
First up, a Caesar salad. We appreciated the kitchen splitting the salad onto separate plates. So much easier than having to fuss with it ourselves. The split portions, though not huge, were quite adequate. The Romaine, cut into proper bite-sized pieces, was pristine and crisp. The dressing had very good “Caesar” flavor, but it was a bit too sparse for me (Mr. R. was fine with it as it was), so I asked and received some additional dressing in a little cup. Just a few more dabs covered the greens perfectly. There was a generous grating of Parmesan topping the lettuce, and the mound was crowned with one white anchovy. The menu says the salad comes with croutons, so I was surprised to find, instead, one large slice of garlic bread on the side of the plate. To me, Caesar salad without croutons is missing an important traditional element. The simple solution: I broke the bread into little pieces. Et, voila! Croutons!
Next, our steak. We chose the 18-oz. Cowboy Ribeye, “bone-in, center cut, and well-marbled.” This Munster-sized baby arrived at our table sizzling, with a tangle of crispy fried onions on top. Whoever is manning the broiler at Steakhouse 85 knows precisely how to cook a steak. There was a perfect char on the outside, while the interior was done exactly to our specifications – medium rare. With that char sealing in the juices, the meat was oh-so tender and filled with flavor. I don’t usually rhapsodize about steak, but this was one of the best I’ve ever had!
For sides, we chose onion rings and creamed spinach. No jumble of rings to pull apart here. Rather, they were presented soldier-like on the plate, the giant rings precisely mounted on top of one another, three in each of two stacks. The deep-frying process produced a crunchy coating which was low on the greasy meter. Yum x 6! The spinach was another success. The greens were properly sautéed, and when it came to the cream, as Goldilocks might have described it, there was not too little, or too much, but just the right amount. In short, a delicious balance between the greens and the cream.
For dessert, we had the Warm Chocolate Truffles. If you love chocolate but have had it with the ubiquitous, but tired, warm chocolate cake – or even if not – this dessert is for you! These little round nuggets were dusted with powdered sugar and sat on a small pool of crème anglais. They are deep-fried so that the exterior shell is crispy (but not greasy), while the not overly-sweet chocolate ganache inside becomes oozy. Irresistible!
Mr. R. had a glass of Bordeaux.
The cost for the meal before tax and tip: $78.50.
We’ve always done our steakhouse dining in NYC with Keens being our first choice. Now, I hope that Steakhouse 85 can continue to replicate this stellar first-time experience so that when are at home in NJ and looking for a steakhouse where the food and service are tops, along with surroundings that are attractive and comfortable, we can head just 20 minutes from our house to New Brunswick. With so many other things on the menu piquing our interest – we especially have our eye on the Tomahawk Chop – you can be sure we’ll be back there very soon.
85 Church Street
New Brunswick, NJ
Street parking: Meters go off at 7 p.m. There's a garage directly across the street.
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