In recent weeks, the Gobbler has found himself sitting night after night in a succession of new steakhouses, staring glumly at the mounting platters of T-bone and porterhouse along with thrombotic servings of greasy hash browns and au gratin potato. The Gobbler has nothing against these restaurants per se. He enjoys a good sizzling hunk of cow as much as the next fellow. But the presence of so many high-profile new ones on the landscape is an unsettling sign. Steakhouses don't perish in times of trouble; they propagate. This fall, the city's superstar chefs are away opening spinoffs in places like Vegas and Shanghai, and the buzz, to the extent there is any, is being created by aged revivals (like the Russian Tea Room), and new ventures by venerable out-of-towners (like L'Atelier de Jol Robuchon). Into this vacuum, invariably, rush more steakhouses. The recipe for the successful New York chophouse is precise, however, and you tinker with it at your peril. So here is the Gobbler's list of random, highly subjective Steakhouse Commandments.
Thou Shalt Serve a Crappy Shrimp Cocktail. The larger, more frozen, more outrageously priced the shrimp, the more prosperous the restaurant will be. For best results, serve your shrimp on shreds of old lettuce, dressed with a single wedge of lemon.
Thou Shalt Have One Decent Potato Side Dish. Some new steakhouses offer six or seven potato sides. Not one of them, in the Gobbler's experience, is usually as good as a single bite of the crunchy, lard fried German potatoes at Peter Luger.
Thou Shalt Show Off Your Ridiculously Priced Red Wines. Preferably in double-size magnums or larger. The best presentation is at Sparks, where they're tethered by the entrance with little gold chains, like prize heifers.
Thou Shalt Peddle Kobe at Your Peril. As Michael Lomonaco knows, this is a porterhouse town hence, Porter House New York.
Thou Shalt Be Larger Than a Pasta Joint. Like the cattle they consume, New Yorkers like to feed in herds.
Thou Shalt Have Lots of Sizzle. New Yorkers don't care if their beef is grass-fed or dry-aged, as long as it's charred to a crisp. Ask Lomonaco, who had Jean-Georges Vongerichten's V Steakhouse oven replaced because it wasn't hot enough.
Thou Shalt Not French the Bone. The Gobbler's colleague the Steak Loon considers bone-on rib steaks to be central to the New York carnivore's cosmology, and he's right. So no deboned cow, please. Save that delicious intercostals meat for the person who ordered the steak!
Thou Shalt Not Be From a Foreign Land, Whether Alsace or Chicago. V Steakhouse bombed here. Gobbler is sure people go to Morton's, but he doesn't know who they are.
Thou Shalt Serve Very Large, Though Tedious Desserts. Frippery doesn't cut it in a proper steakhouse. When the Gobbler is in a true beef coma, size, and size alone (plus a lot of whipped cream), is what gets his attention.