NYC’s Minetta Tavern: I Don’t Get It

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After hearing raves about the $42 Bone-In New York Strip and the (sorry, not going to pay it) $104 Dry Aged Côte de Boeuf with roasted marrow bones, and after finally wrangling a reservation at the über-trendy Keith McNally joint (at 5:30pm on a Sunday, mind you), I am left disappointed. I’m starting to think that hype is just hype, and magazine editors simply need something new to talk about on Twitter.

I have admittedly never been a frequent patron of restaurateur McNally’s outfits–highly designed bistro recreations like Balthazar, Pastis, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar–which cater more to visual appetites than physical ones. The food always seems to be an afterthought (burgers and frites, oh my?), making way for the “see and be seen” element that is clearly the priority for McNally fans, and something which Vanity Fair ed-in-chief Graydon Carter’s restaurants (Waverly Inn, Monkey Bar) also seem to embrace. Any place that refuses to put up a website, has an unpublished phone number for months on end, and takes reservations through a members-only email address should just call itself what it is: a private club. (And, yes, a friend of mine with the coveted email took me to Waverly Inn once. It was fine, but it just felt like everyone was waiting for Lindsay Lohan to stumble around the corner.)


But back to Minetta. Upon arrival, we were squeezed into a corner booth in the bar area. Fun for people watching, but it felt like we weren’t allowed to eat with the grown-ups in the more ample back room. We started with the beets dressed with fresh chèvre, endive, walnuts, and shaved onion. The dish delivered on its promise, though the chèvre had a suspicious creaminess that felt like it could have been squeezed from a tube.


As we waited for our entrees–the New York strip and the Black Label Burger, made with dry-aged beef cuts and topped with caramelized onions–first one diner near us sent back her lamb dish, and then another sent it back too, complaining of too much fat and overall inedibility. Omen? Check.


While I’ll admit it was the first time I tried dry-aged beef, and I’d been alerted to its “funky, intense flavor,” the burger was tender and well-made–though I’m not sure I will be a dry-aged beef connoisseur anytime soon. The (medium-rare) New York strip, on the other hand (pictured at top), arrived with what looked like an inviting flavor-infused char to it, but sometimes what you see is what you get: the exterior tasted like ash, and the interior defied you to find a piece that wasn’t wired with gristle. Perhaps I should have taken a cue from the waiter, who asked if we’d like the kitchen to pre-slice the strip for us, and had aggressively suggested the prime rib special. Liberal amounts of salt and pepper were added to the steak.


Another highly recommended dish was the decadent Potatoes Anna, scalloped potatoes steeped in duck fat. It was fine, but the flavor didn’t rationalize the calorie flush. Cue salt and pepper here, too.

Ending the meal achingly full (potatoes and French fries made up the balance of what little meat we could extract), we skipped dessert, sipped the rest of our wine, and people-watched from our knee-knocking corner booth. Does seeing Steve van Zandt (and his ubiquitous bandana) count? It’s 8pm by now, after all.


Other NYC restaurant reviews:
Colicchio & Sons: What’s New Is Old
Eleven Madison Park: French Laundry Wanna-Be
Peter Luger v. Strip House: The Steak-Off
Motorino v. Kesté: Neapolitan Pizza Pie-Off
Locanda Verde: Swing and a Miss
Maialino: Danny Meyer Does It Again
Marea: Do Your Homework
Great Jones Cafe: Best Wings In The City
Apiary: Hidden Gem
Seäsonal Restaurant & Weinbar: Who Knew?
Brooklyn’s Fatty ’Cue: Malaysian BBQ
La Esquina: VIP Mexican Food?

Apr. 26 2010 |
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