Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Porterhouse in a Fine Dining Setting at Angus Club Steakhouse

A meal at Angus Club: thick-cut poterhouse steak, hash browns, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and peas & onions.
"So do you just drop a giant porterhouse on the table?"

I was in the lower level of the new Angus Club Steakhouse, where co-owner Margent Maslinka was giving us a tour. We had stopped at the Chef's Room, a beautiful and intimate private dining space for ten with a custom-made round oak table and imported leather chairs. It looked like the setting for an elaborate fine dining meal.

"Pretty much," he said, grinning.

The first-floor dining room (photo courtesy of Angus Club)
For me, the scene perfectly captured the Angus Club concept. The setting has an intimate fine-dining feel to it: the tables are spaced apart, the service is polished, and the the decor is elegant and sophisticated. One might expect to be served a parade of dainty high-end dishes.

Instead, Executive Chef Edward Avduli not-so-daintily serves up massive porterhouse steaks on sizzling-hot platters, ample dishes of buttery hash browns and classic steakhouse creamed spinach.

The result is a restaurant that, in my view, should be more appealing than most of its peers, both to a diner looking for a special meal and to the Midtown business community, which I expect will make up much of its clientele. It has the chops to impress the steak-lover (excuse the pun) and the elegance suitable to entertaining clients or a date.

Giant slabs of Canadian bacon, soft enough to cut with a butter knife
When it comes to food, the appetizers include all your steakhouse favorites: jumbo shrimp cocktail, beefsteak tomatoes with onions, Caesar salad, steak tartare, fresh oysters, and an iceberg wedge with blue cheese and lardons.

Fried calamari with romesco
The obligatory giant slabs of Canadian bacon arrived, two slabs to a plate. They were tender and salty, bacon-y and delicious, with a good deep-pink color and charred diagonal grill marks. They were easily cut with a butter knife. I would order them every time.

The other appetizer highlight was the fried calamari, which was tender and crisp, not at all chewy, and fried to a nice golden brown. It was served on a giant platter with a few lemon wedges and some romesco sauce. A little heavy as a prelude to a giant steak, perhaps, but with a crowd I'd drop an order or two on the table. It wouldn't be bad as a bar snack over a few glasses of wine after work, either.

Tuna tartare
A dish of yellowfin tuna tartare was confusing to me. The tartare itself had a French style, incorporating some briny capers, but it was accompanied by an Asian-style wasabi sauce that overwhelmed the more subtle taste of the fish. It was served with toasts that were too substantial to make an effective vessel for such a delicate treat and would have been better replaced with a crisp flatbread; something to serve as a vehicle without adding any weight.

Maslinka had not been planning to serve us the steak-for-two, but in our pre-meal banter we had agreed that the porterhouse is the true test of a great steakhouse. When small saucers were placed upside down on the table for tilting platters, I knew he had changed his mind, and that good things were in store.

Porterhouse Steak for Two
The steak was a thing of beauty: a great crust on the outside, rare and juicy on the inside. The T-shaped bone separated the plump fillet mignon on the one side from the long thickly-sliced sirloin on the other. The platter came out screaming hot, as it should be, to maintain the steak at a good temperature throughout the meal.

Classic buttery hash browns
Maslinka proudly explained that the restaurant's USDA prime black angus beef is dry aged in-house for 30-35 days, which creates a beautiful marbling and an intensified flavor. I believed him.

Accompaniments arrived. The classic steakhouse hash browns were buttery and delicious, with a crisp sear on one side and perhaps a bit too much salt (something I did not think was possible ). A side dish of peas and onions was a surprising highlight: it was tangy, savory and sweet. Creamed spinach was nice and smooth, and although we were told there was no actual cream, I am pretty sure they just substituted butter. Why not.

Coconut tiramisu
A giant fillet of seared tuna arrived looking good and plump, like a steak. The fish quality was great, but the crust was very peppery and it had the same strong wasabi sauce that accompanied the tartare earlier in the meal. Next to it was a fillet mignon served by itself, struggling to compete with the porterhouse for attention but ultimately coming out as the crowd favorite of the night. It was tender and juicy with a wonderful crust on the outside and just the right amount of seasoning.

Desserts were your standard steakhouse fare: chocolate cake, cheesecake, creme brulee, key lime pie. All were competent and tasty but not particularly interesting. The standout was a coconut tiramisu, which was light and moist and flavorful. That would be my pick if somehow you have any room left after the steak.

Angus Club Steakhouse
135 East 55th Street
Tel. (212) 588-1585
http://www.angusclubsteakhouse.com/

Disclaimer: My meal was paid-for as part of an organized press dinner. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. No restaurant is ever promised a positive review.


Angus Club Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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