Food Writers Continue to Be Confounded by Steak

At Sparks, the sizzle matches the steak.
At Sparks, the sizzle matches the steak.haha Photo: Jennifer MacFarlane

Details recently put out a list of “The Best New Steak Houses in America,” and it was not inaccurate. Most of the places across the country that delight enlightened meatheads made the cut: Cut in LA, Michael Mina’s butter-crazed Stripsteak in Vegas, and Robert’s (ill-served by an unrepresentative piece of choice beef in the picture) are indeed among the best going. But writers and diners alike are too happy to be served a big steak to gauge it accurately, which makes all steakhouse features unreliable at best.

Reading Frank Bruni exult yesterday that the porterhouse at Luger’s is “the most breathtaking” anywhere only underscored the point. Since Luger’s buys from every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and cooks steak exactly the same bad way as a dozen of its rivals, it’s obvious that this can’t be true. The editors at Details are likewise misguided: They use a picture of chuck ribs for KO Prime in Boston, not realizing that the things are never served in restaurants except as hamburger, and single out places like Quality Meats (exactly the same steak as Smith & Wollensky) and BLT Steak, a restaurant explicitly inferior to its sibling, BLT Prime. The steaks must have been good when they went, because steak, especially when lathered with butter, is good. But when advising people to spend hundreds of dollars, flashy images or received wisdom simply doesn’t make the cut.

The truth is that the best steak is rarely to be found in a steakhouse, due to the volume they’re called upon to do. But if we had to make a list of the top steakhouses here in New York, it would certainly exclude Luger, Quality Meats, BLT Steak, and most other crapshoots, and stick with places that go to the trouble to set up costly, complex infrastructures, Tim Love’s pipeline to the so-called “Texas Superprime” being one example and Adam Perry Lang’s carefully cultivated relationship with Master Purveyors in the Bronx being another.

Our short list, based on steak rather than sizzle, is as follows:

Robert’s Steakhouse (Penthouse Executive Club)
BLT Prime
La Portena (Jackson Heights)
Strip House

The Best New Steakhouses in America [Details]

Food Writers Continue to Be Confounded by Steak