85 Tenth Avenue (at 15th Street)
VIBE: MEATPACKING ELEGANCE
OCCASSION: CLOSING A DEAL (BUSINESS OR PLEASURE)
DON’T MISS DISH: WAGYU BEEF (ANY CUT WILL DO!)
DON’T BOTHER DISH: ROASTED JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE
RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 6.5
As the dirt continues to settle from the onslaught of mega-restaurants fashioned with sky high ceilings, super-sized Buddhas and Asian fusion fancies, the Meatpacking District has overnight become a Vegas-like restaurant row. A disappointing visit to the much-anticipated opening of Buddha Bar (official American outpost of the infamous French hotspot) which included less than mediocre sushi, out of place lamb chops that spoke to neither my French nor Asian sensibilities, and an offensively microscopic droplet of tasteless tuna tartare, caused me to dismiss the Meatpacking District as an aural amusement park with very short culinary legs to stand on.
I had little hope that Craftsteak, which had ironically first opened in Las Vegas, would feel like anything but a virtual experience of what it might actually be like to eat at one of celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s “authentic” Gramercy Craft restauarants. Imagine my surprise when I entered the sexy two-story space to find not a Buddha, gargantuan accent or even DJ anywhere in sight. Separated from the dining room by a impressive bi-level glass wine vault, the dramatic yet understated front entrance lounge with its dark wood tables and simple red votives, dedicated itself to the lunch crowd and evening walk-ins (no reservation necessary) as well as an ice-packed raw bar overflowing with oysters a plenty, shrimp, king crabs and crudo (sushi style fish).
Decked with exposed brick walls, steel columns and a remarkable Hudson River view (catch the sunset), a decidedly airy and masculine main dining room lent itself to a uniquely serene MeatPacking experience. As I sunk into a pillowy soft off-white leather banquette big enough for two and sipped on a glass of Riesling (from a 1000 bottle wine collection), I settled in for a lesson in the finer things of all things beef.
But first, I thought I’d ease my way in with a surprisingly memorable mixed lettuce salad, a blend of freshly-plucked earthy leaves folded into a lively red wine vinaigrette. Then came a silky snapper sashimi delicately dressed in flecked pepper, lemon rind and olive oil, a dish that proved Craftsteak took its seafood seriously.
Now I was ready to delve into the wondrous world of beef, that is if only I knew the difference between corn-fed and grass-fed beef. Luckily for blissfully ignorant carnivores like myself, Craftsteak had a waitstaff of apparent steak sommeliers on hand, eager and willing to break down the lengthy list of meaty choices into digestible terms, according to lineage, feed and cut. I also called the kitchen and got the inside scoop from celebrity chef, Chris Albrecht, which is like talking to George Clooney (if you’re a foodie).
SO HERE’S BEEF IN TRANSLATION: THE ESSENTIALS
**Note the eery comparisons to wine tasting
- CORN-FED BEEF – A rich & sweet beef that naturally varies according to both cut and breed.
- GRASS-FED BEEF – A minerally and deep-flavored beef, typically leaner.
- PREMIUM HEREFORD BEEF (House Dry-Aged New York Strip) – Aged in house, this marbleized and characteristically tender beef is aged anywhere from 28 to 56 days. As it ages, it becomes both increasingly intense and nutty.
- HAWAIIAN GRASS-FED – Evokes mineral notes. A distinctly green, almost oniony flavor.
- BLACK ANGUS BEEF – A marbleized rich flavor, but notably leaner than the Hereford breed.
- WAGYU BEEF FROM SNAKE RIVER FARM (Think the Kobe beef of Australia) – A marbleized succulent and strangely toothsome steak graded on a Japanese scale 5-10, according to marbleization. Tip: The higher the grade, the more $$ signs.
The temptation of Wagyu was too great to resist. I chose to feast on a stunning Wagyu flat iron (grade 6), an intensely flavorful peice of meat. Next was a savory-and-sweet Wagyu filet mignon so tender it rendered my knife virtually useless. Though the roasted Jerusalem artichokes paled against the tasty backdrop of my entree, the crispy hen of woods and smoky morel mushrooms were the perfect complement to a rather civilized steak, a welcome change from the usual weighty sides of creamed spinach and hash browns.
By some miracle still beyond my comprehension, I found room for dessert. A warm pot of rich and velvety thick chocolate souffle accompanied by a distinguished pistachio ice cream flecked with pistachio nuts finished the job.
Until we eat again,