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The Back Room – Reviewed

oysters

Oysters

Hello gorgeous… Talk about a looker: The newly installed, 90-story Park Hyatt is a knockout; the kind of ultra-glamorous hotel New York has needed (I’m tempted to splurge on a staycation in one of their hotel rooms for a night!).  The ceilings soar in this sexy spot, bedecked with beige marble walls and large picture and floor to ceiling windows at every turn.

Looking to grab a drink in midtown?  The Living Room Lounge is the place to do it.  There’s an endless supply of comfy couches and chairs to sink into, as well as an intimate 8-seat bar, to mull over the many spirits and champagnes they have at this cocktail bar adjacent to the restaurant.   I’ve never been to the Park Hyatt in Shanghai, but my husband swears New York’s new Park Hyatt looks a lot like its five-star siblings in Asia. While you’re here, try an order of their Russian Nachos – homemade potato chips pimped out with caviar and creme fraiche.  Then head to the Back Room at One57 for dinner.

mushrooms

Mushroom Salad

This isn’t one of those generic hotel restaurants that try to be everything to everyone because, well, they have to be.  It’s part American Grill, part Steakhouse, with a French-trained chef in the kitchen to boot: His name is Sebastien Archambault from the acclaimed Blue Duck Tavern in Washington D.C.’s Park Hyatt.  Sam Hazen (Veritas) was actually set to oversee the menu until he quit just a few weeks before opening, complaining that the kitchen was too tiny and so was the staffing budget.  While I didn’t get a glimpse of the kitchen itself, I didn’t notice a shortage of staff; the servers were all knowledgeable and swift, so who knows what really went on behind kitchen doors.

Either way, I like what I see in the front of the house.  The dining room is sleek but not over the top, outfitted with tufted leather banquettes, brown leather chairs, wood tables, walls & floors.  At the center of the room is a station where the kitchen turns out savory & sweet eclairs (think eclairs stuffed with lobster salad or pistachio cream) by day and seasonal sundaes by night.  What’s that you say… savory eclairs for lunch?  You heard right.

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon

Upon arrival, you’ll be offered an assortment of breads, including a homemade lavash cracker, flavored with black pepper and pecorino.  There’s a small raw bar selection with exquisitely fresh Fanny Bay and Cape May oysters, and Lobster Cocktail with Louie Dressing.  If your server mentions a special Mushroom Salad, I recommend you order it immediately.  Out from the kitchen comes a wonderful melange of mushrooms four ways, including Enoki and Hen of the Woods, mingled with a mushroom duxelle, arugula and shaved pecorino.  The crowning touch is a generous shaving of Black Truffles – a great beginning to a steak dinner if that’s the path you choose to go.

sundaes

Concord Grape Sundae Station

The menu features an impressive roster of meats, listed under the header “On The Bone,” which includes a Filet, Sirloin, Rib Eye, Veal Chop and Lamb Chops.  All of them are dry-aged a minimum of 48 days, several coming from master butcher, Pat LaFrieda. Let me tell you, I haven’t had a steak this perfectly cooked (medium rare), or this juicy in a long time: My filet came sliced and seasoned with an ample sprinkling of sea salt to tease out maximum flavor.  Take your pick of sauces: Creamy Horseradish, Bearnaise, Steak Sauce or Salsa Verde (my vote is the vivacious salsa verde).  And like any good steakhouse, there’s plenty of sides to choose from; a trio of Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Spinach and Sauteed Mushrooms, tasty Fat-Braised Sweet Onions, or Parmesan Potato Tots. As is practically obligatory in any new American restaurant worth its salt, The Back Room also peddles a Roasted Chicken from Label Rouge Farm, sided by Potato Gnocchi and Roast Carrots.

Of course, steaks aren’t the only game at The Back Room, which offers several seafood offerings, too, with an emphasis on Lobster; Lobster cocktail, lobster salad, and grilled lobster with seasonal accoutrements.  If you’re a vegetarian or eating light, no reason to fret.  Opt for the Farmer’s Vegetarian Plate and a Simple Harvest Salad.   While it’s not particularly light, I dug the homemade Bucatini, a intriguing bowl of pasta, briny with sea urchin, yet perfectly offset by candied lemon, black garlic, fennel and fennel pollen.

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding

As for dessert, there’s a not-so-classic Peach Melba with a Vanilla Semifreddo Basil Cake, a Lemon Bar with Pistachio Nougatine, and an Upside Down Apple Cake.  I couldn’t resist the Concord Grape Sundae; a dreamy and super seasonal concoction, layered with Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Concord Grapes, White Chocolate Powder, and Crushed Peanuts (are you drooling yet?).  Or a luscious Chocolate Stout Ice Box Pudding with an addictive Stout Ice Cream.

I know midtown isn’t exactly a foodie paradise (by any means), but it’s undoubtedly making strides lately.  There’s Betony, Kingside, Milos and now The Back Room.  While The Back Room may be a bit pricier than your average American grill, it’s worth one less trip downtown to eat, especially for a great steak.

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