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Parlor Steakhouse

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1600 Third Ave., at 90th St. (212) 423-5888
Sun.-Thur., 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5:30 p.m.-12 a.m.
CUISINE Modern American steakhouse.
VIBE Butcher-shop sleek.
OCCASION UES date; group dining.
DON’T-MISS DISH Tomato and watermelon gazpacho, filet mignon, sour-cream cheesecake.
PRICE Appetizers, $9-$15; entrees, $22-$42; dessert, $8-$10.
RESERVATIONS Accepted.

You need a road map through the menu at Parlor Steakhouse. Here it
is: Order the gazpacho, ask for the filet mignon medium rare, and
finish with any one of Andrea Bucheli‘s
desserts. If you don’t eat meat, order the branzino. If you don’t eat
meat or fish – seriously, what are you doing at a steakhouse? You can
still have a glass of wine and order dessert, which is probably worth
the trek uptown.

Did I mention the desserts? Save room, lots of
room. They’re created by Bucheli, 28, who was a pastry chef at Country
and Fresh before coming to Parlor Steakhouse. Her desserts are
whimsical. She can’t make up her mind, and she doesn’t ask you to,
either.

Each dessert is really two desserts in one. The
sour-cream cheesecake is the tart offspring of cheesecake and panna
cotta, crowned with curls of candied lemon. (It’s also served with
honey ice cream.) The chocolate ganache cake is a collision between
fudge and a flourless souffle, which is the best kind of collision you
could hope for.

Then there’s the hybrid of rice pudding and creme brulée on a crunchy pedestal of candied Rice Krispies. It comes with creme fraiche ice cream. That adds up to four desserts for the price of one. Clearly, too much is never enough.

Now
that dessert is out of the way, let’s get down to the meat. Normally,
I’m a porterhouse girl. The problem with most filets is simple – no
bone, no fat, no flavor. Not this one. It’s just as tender as other
filets, but it has a better burn. That’s because chef Lucas Billheimer fires it quickly in a 600-degree broiler. Somehow, that brings out the personality in what’s usually an impersonal cut.

Billheimer
was the chef de cuisine at Lure Fish Bar. It stands to reason that
someone who understands how to grill fish will do a great job with meat
– something you surely want in a steakhouse chef. Billheimer knows how
to give the porterhouse a volcanic char, with just the right ratio of
crust to fat to bone. (I told you I was a porterhouse girl.) A steak
this good doesn’t need much company. But if you think it looks too
lonely on the plate, order the fried onions or the creamed spinach.

As
you wander through this menu, try to stay on the dry side. Almost
anything with a sauce is way too damp. The lobster roll is positively
murky with mayonnaise. The steak tartare is bathing in béarnaise aioli
and topped with mouth-puckering pickled shallots. It’s also a little
too prim and fussy – steak tartare in a doll’s dress. You’d expect the
heirloom tomato salad to be simple, all about the tomatoes. These
tomatoes arrived in a quicksand of gorgonzola mousse, having already
nearly drowned in a red onion confit.

What Parlor is really
saying is that it doesn’t have to be a steakhouse at all, if you don’t
want it to be. It doesn’t look like a steakhouse – the interior is
sleek, bright and modern. It doesn’t offer a Caesar salad or even an
iceberg wedge. It just so happens the best thing on the menu is steak.
And did I mention the desserts?

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