Event: Dinner at Peter Luger
Addr: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211-6131
Phone: (718) 387-7400
Type of cuisine: American Steakhouse
Time/Date: Saturday Febr 23rd 2014, 18:00
Michelin star: 1
***NOTE – This meal at Peter Luger is listed on the left side of this blog among the other reviewed Michelin starred meals, since it is a Michelin starred restaurant at the moment of writing/posting this review. It goes without saying that the score that I did assign to it IS NOT to be compared with the score of the reviewed meals that you’ll find there (PL is not a fine dining destination). That score reflects my appreciation of PL as a steakhouse delivering a North American Porterhouse steak of world class standard, nothing more, nothing less. And in case you are the kind to believe that it is crazy to praise a place that specialises in just one sort of steak, then you are running straight into an instance where we’ll have to agree to ….disagree: for me, if one thing is done better than anywhere else (the North American Porterhouse cut of PL, in this case), then it deserves to be considered as highly as you’ll consider any other favourite food destination. Japanese people have got this since a long time (a specialist of pork cutlet, specialist of tempura, etc) and I’d rather admire a ‘specialist’ that does its craft beautifully rather than … ‘a jack of all trades” playing it safely.
***Sorry, no pics – Just wanted to eat quietly with no hassle / distraction of photo nor note taking. After all, it’s a steakhouse, so the 1000th picture of their steaks or 3000th picture of their side of spinach won’t make those items look nor taste any better ;p
NY is not far from Montreal, so I recently spent a weekend in NY to see if Peter Luger is still doing great especially after reports from some food journalists about PL losing a bit of its past glory (my 3rd visit here in 6 yrs).
-The Porterhouse: The succulent beef flavor that shone through is a reminder that Peter Luger is among the few great American steakhouses which dry aging technique of the meat is rarely paralleled. They simply have one of the best techniques for dry aging that meat (of course, a secret, but if you know your meat really well, you won’t fail to enjoy the resulting mouthfeel), but there’s more, of course: the sourcing of the USDA prime cuts is exemplary as in ‘being obsessive about where that beef grew up, what was it fed with, how great and knowledgeable is the butcher, how properly aged and hanged was the cut, etc‘. PL is about skills they’ve perfected for years and it shows. One of the few benchmark aged USDA prime Porterhouse (some complain about the sauce that’s underneath the steak…well, this adds to the character of that Porterhouse. If you can’t take it, simply ask them to serve it aside). 10/10
-Their legendary creamed spinach: deliciously rich as usual, though hardly something that anyone behind a kitchen should miss. Still, they do it well, it tastes good and it’s a perfect logical match to that Porterhouse steak 7/10
-Their old fashioned sauce: not too sure how that fares with their patrons, but their old fashioned sauce is not to my taste (I do not find that it pairs well with meat). Of course, a question of personal preference (anyways, the only time I am fine with sauce over my steak is when I eat it French-style as with steak au poivre) , especially since the sauce that’s underneath that Porterhouse largely suffices for me. I won’t score that sauce since this boils down to a matter of personal taste only (I am just not used to pair my steak with the flavor profile of this kind of sauce – a mix of sweet and savoury flavors which, for my palate, had following dominating aromas: horseradish/ tamarind/vinegar/molasse. There are, of course, more ingredients to the recipe, but those were the ones that my palate has primarily detected). I did replicate that sauce at home and after several tries, it now tastes almost like theirs, so that my palate gets used to it. Yep, that is how food works lol: you do not like it, do not ive up on it, just accompany your palate in gradually appreciating it and there will be more power to you ;p
-The fabled side of beacon, which I finally got to try this time (kept skipping that one on the past 2 visits): Decent thick slabs of porky meatyness, but beacon abound in North America, its preparation varying widely in quality and depth of deliciousness from one place to another, so it is hard for me to get excited over their beacon. Certainly not bad, but there are definitely better beacon to be enjoyed across North America 6/10
-The dessert list here features typical classic American steakhouse dessert items (Ice cream, pecan pie, cheese cake, etc). This time, I tried their Cheese cake (7/10) which was as classically well executed as it gets (as expected, New York style cheesecake that was and as I wrote, in its classic version), the schlag that I also tried being just Ok.
PL is what it is, not what you want it to be, which is exactly how things should work: it has its charms (the classic setting), its relative weaknesses (obviously, not a modern trendy fancy steakhouse so if that’s what you are looking for, you’ve knocked at the wrong door + it’s not cheap) , its own character (old world charm). You learn to know what they are, if that pleases you, you go, if that does not fit, then you look elsewhere. I am delighted to observe that PL remains as it is, which means at it has always been, regardless of the pressure that new trends put on our perceptions/appreciations: a classic house with personality.
I have read online arguments about PL being a tourist trap to some (100% pure BS! IMHO) , that they have suffered at some point from a shortage of Porterhouse, that they once had a matriarch who was second to none when it comes to selecting the finest meat and that perhaps her successors are not as diligent as she used to, but I have also spent 15 years in North America, enough time to familiarize myself with most major NYC’s and USA’s steakhouses and came to the conclusion that if PL is a tourist trap, then the definition of tourist trap has evolved into a compliment. There’s no way a serious steak connoisseur would confuse PL with a tourist trap. Has PL delivered the perfect Porterhouse steak on each of my 3 visits (I took the Porterhouse everytime I went there)? The answer is NO. On one particular visit, I could easily name plenty of American steakhouses which Porterhouse was superior. But it’s naïve to attempt to convince oneself about the definitive appreciation to have of a restaurant based on just one meal. You can judge the meal, which I do too and that is fine, but not a restaurant. Which leads me to where I am getting at: on the two other visits, their Porterhouse outshone their major competitors by leaps with effective superior aging technique and far better sourcing of the meat. Are there steakhouses in NYC where I had more fun? Of course Yes. Are there better cost performance steakhouses? Absolutely. But again, ambience and better value have nothing to do with why I like Peter Luger: the quality of its Porterhouse!
CONCLUSION: 8/10 I was impressed to see that PL continues to deliver some of this globe’s finest American Porterhouse steaks. The Porterhouse steak, their star item, remaining as glorious as ever.
Recommended: This great article on America’s current finest steakhouses
I can’t manage — because of a lack of time — the ‘comments’ section in timely manner. So, I’ll publish questions received by emails and that I found interesting to share with you. Off topic comments will be discarded.
Q&A – Peter R says that if PL is a 1 star Michelin Steakouse, then Carnevino in Las Vegas is a 3 star Answer: Peter, I never went to Carnevino but heard that it’s highly regarded in Las Vegas as one of their finest Steakhouses alongside Cut. It’s on my TDL, for sure (there’s also Raku in LV that I would like to dine at). That said, are we comparing apples to apples here: do they serve the Porterhouse cut at Carnevino? Did you try it? As you’ll see in my food report, I was floored by the Porterhouse steak, not by the rest (side, desserts, etc) and it is a fact that as an all-rounder steakhouse (for eg, with not just one type of steak but a variety of them being great, better sides, better ambience, etc ) , there is no shortage of superior steakhouses in the US. But based on the quality of its Porterhouse, I find PL to be deserving of its accolades. Furthermore, PL is not influenced by trends and that, for me, is the key for a restaurant to keep its own character intact. It might not please hipsters, but it adds a lot to my appreciation of a food destination.