June 4, 2007 | Favorites

    Steaks Worthy of the Road Food Warrior

Heavyweight contender at Trattoria La Tradizionale. Photo: Steven Richter

    Where do we go when the Road Food Warrior craves steak?
Strip House is our first choice. My resident carnivore likes the heroic 22 oz. rib eye ($42).  I usually share a 16 oz. sirloin strip ($41) with a friend. For us, “rare” is the only way. The goose fat potatoes are a must.  And one towering triangle of the house’s old fashioned chocolate cake is enough to mute the sweet cravings of six chocolate fans. About the decor:  What can I say?  I look good in red. 13 East 12th between Fifth and University 212 328 0000 
    I take out-of-towners to Michael Jordan’s Steak House on the balcony in Grand Central for the sensational double sirloin (same provenance as the beef at Strip House above) and for a stirring view of the station below and the sparkling constellation of stars on the ceiling above. Grand Central, West Balcony. (42nd Street and Vanderbilt) 212 655 2300
    Shelly Fireman has been fiddling around with what used to be Shelly’s New York across the street -- the menu, the setting, the concept -- but his steaks remain seriously good -- seared and caramelized, meaty, well-seasoned. My guy goes for the 20 oz. bone-in dry-aged rib eye (costoletta di manzo $48), with clams casino to start. At dinner one evening recently, there was a compelling new riff on hashed brown potatoes, crunchy like roesti potatoes, but laced with stracchino cheese, and called Italian potato pie, because the place is now officially Shelly’s Trattoria La Tradizionale.  At least it was five minutes ago. Every once in a while the body just cries out for this much fat and salt and cholesterol.  41 West 57th between 5th and 6th Avenues 212 245 2422
    By the time our bone-in double sirloin for two (32 ozat $82) -- enough for the four of us -- hits the linen at BLT Steak, I usually manage to eat just one meaty slice.  It’s the excess of chef-partner Laurent Tournadel’s giveaways, and the starters that undo me: that luscious chicken liver mousse, popovers as big as a toddler’s head. The obligatory truffled gnocchi.  And who ordered the tower of fried onions? 106 East 57th just east of Park Avenue 212 752 7470
    I set out to challenge the hedge-fundsters prices at Kobe Club and my fussy steak savvy mate and I agreed: We were stunned by the tender, but chewy perfection and couturier char of the thick 16 oz. $48 American “filet” against the less substantial texture of weygu beef, imported or otherwise.  At a second dinner (on our own money, always a sign of true affection), the service was a bit jerky and the same cut was slightly less perfect (too high expectation, maybe), but still wonderfully satisfying. With Lauren’s chopped salad to start, plus a side of hashed browns (outrageously deliciously laced with lobster, chorizo, and crème fraiche) and two glasses of red, we managed to escape -- arteries fulfilled -- with a check that barely hit $130, tip included.  68 West 58th near 6th Avenue 212 644 5623.
    No, I did not leave Peter Luger’s out because of a brain lapse.  True, I rated it way up there in Sizzling Steak Wars, my 1994 roundup for New York Magazine (see Vintage Insatiables). Maybe I was carried away by the shrill bright light and the old uncle-knows-best waiters. For generations of savvy steak eaters, certainly most French restaurateurs (Le Bernadin’s Gilbert LeCoze was one of them), Peter Luger meant steak. Prime meat was scarce then and is scarcer now. I recall vividly an impressive tagalong in l978 with the family’s matriarch, Marsha Forman, and her daughter to the frosty stock room of the Washington Meat Market (when 14th Street was about meat in its original Webster definition). I watched the two women in down jackets under white butcher coats and waterproof boots initial the biggest, fattest, most richly marbled carcasses for delivery to Brooklyn.  “We can afford meat with a lot of waste because we have a low overhead,” Mrs. Forman told me. “My husband charges himself $25 a month rent.”

    But, the truth is, I don’t like my steak sliced for me in the kitchen and I’ve lost my taste for that last minute dousing in melted butter and fat. 

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