BBQ ribs: here's the rub
Nellie's Place: Waldwick, NJ

craftsteak: New York, NY

Update:  Craftsteak has closed and changed concepts.

craftsteak lives where Frank's steakhouse used to live, on 10th ave at 14th Street.  Frank's was in the middle of nowhere.  craftsteak is in the middle of Morimoto, Chelsea Market, and Del Posto. Times, they be-a changin'. 

My clearest memories of Frank's include a Mark Fuhrman sighting (that detective related to the O.J. stuff back in the day), their enormous and quite delicious shrimp cocktail, and a bachelor party during which an intense case of sun-poisoning kicked in.  That was the most miserable bachelor party you could imagine.

Frank's has since moved around the corner into the Chelsea Market building, and Tom Colicchio moved into its grand old space, bringing with him a total and gorgeous renovation, a bunch of steak from "artisanal producers," a dry-aging room, and a private dining room that seats 40...although I probably wouldn't choose this room for a bachelor party.

With no less than 14 different types of steak from which to choose, you'd do well to review the menu on their website before going.  When I say "different types" of steak, I'm not talking about the typical steakhouse choices, which generally include several different cuts of 28 day dry-aged grain-fed beef and a tasteless filet mignon.  I'm talking about different cuts of steak, several ages of steak, different producers, and hell, different breeds of cow.  So what's the best approach to ordering?  Simple:  get as many people together as you can and order as many steaks as you can and share them.  A steak tasting menu.  What could be better?  craftsteak seems designed for this approach, and they're more than happy to help you sort that out.

After a very lengthy, frantic, confusing, and ultimately somewhat heated discussion with my three companions, with some help and guidance from our server, we came up with four steaks, trying to cover as much ground as possible:

  • Ridgefield Farm 49 day-aged corn-fed Hereford strip (wait, aren't most cows fed corn?)
  • Hawaiian grass-fed Angus strip (cows in Hawaii.  that's cool.  or is the grass Hawaiian.  shit.)
  • Snake River Farm Wagyu flat iron (grade 6)
  • Snake River Farm Wagyu ribeye (grade 8)

After we all giddily tried the four steaks, and I determined which was clearly the best steak, and my companions all disagreed, I realized that they have no taste.  What can I tell you, the grass-fed Angus was the best.  Hands down.   It was the closest I've come to the flavor of Floretine beef outside of Italy (cut from the chianina cow, which probably also has a different diet than our corn/grain-fed beef here in the US, and most certainly is the to-date benchmark of beef for me):  it was minerally, assertive, beefy, and had herbal notes.  A more interesting piece of beef was not found on that table.  Of this you, and my companions if you're reading, are assured.

I was really looking forward to a excessively-aged piece of meat. The 49 day-aged Hereford was the agiest of the aged.  Perhaps my expectations were way off, but I really expected a minerally beast of a piece of beef.  It wasn't.  It was just pretty good.

I give the Wagyu selections points for being tender, but I just didn't find that they offered very much in the big, minerally, beefy flavor department.  I assume they aren't dry-aged (and I could be so totally wrong there), so it's probably unfair to judge them by the mineral barometer.  But I'm a sucker for the minearlly by-products of the dry-aging process and find it an important element to great beef.

The sides and starters really aren't important when you should focusing on all of this beef, but they're worth a mention because they can be quite good.  Here, in order of best-to-why bother:

  • The tuna tartare evoked the same reaction from my friend and me:  "oh god that's good."  That's tough to say about tuna tartar.  It was probably the combination of the big chunks of super-fresh tasting tuna, and the herbal puree they sat on. 
  • The softshell crabs were of course excellent.  Sautéed lighly with some capers and other ingredients with sour, sweet, vegetal and salty notes.
  • The morels in butter were, well, morels in butter.
  • The onions rings were quite fun, with a big buttery battery coating.
  • The fried zucchini blossoms tasted like fried something.

Wrapping it all up:

The service was very good.  The server seemed knowledgeable as we grilled her repeatedly on the nuances of all of the menu items.  She was professional and friendly as well.  A nice combo, and for some reason one that's hard to find in NYC.  The runners and server also warned "careful, those plates are hot." I love that.  You know you're about 2 seconds away from eating a meal (or, in my case, touching a hot plate), when someone says "careful, those plates are hot."  In fact, I try to say that at every meal, regardless of where I am or what I'm eating.  No I don't.

The kitchen puts a sprig of thyme on every damned piece of beef they send out.  At least they did on the night we were there (although I've seen reports on the internet that suggest you very well may find something else green on top of your steak).   It's silly and makes all of the beef taste like thyme.   I don't buy into garnish for garnish's sake.  And if the idea here is to make everything taste like thyme, well, I have to question that decision when you're there to taste the beef.  Ask for "no thyme."

The meat was somewhat under-salted for my taste.  And don't go expecting that Peter Luger's char-and-butter routine:  these steaks are roasted, and don't have much char.  I think that's quite perfect, as you should be focusing on the flavors of the beef, and not on char and butter.  Maybe they should just serve the beef thinly sliced and raw.  Now that would be an interesting steak tasting menu.

craftsteak : 85 Tenth Ave : New York, NY : 212.400.6699