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BLT Steak

Laurent Tourondel got a raw deal the last time he opened a restaurant in New York. Right out of the gate, the much-lauded Cello earned three stars from the Times, but his backers got cold feet after 9/11. They pulled the plug one night when he was out of town, and he returned to find he no longer had a restaurant.

At BLT Steak, it looks like Tourondel has a winner on his hands. The place seems to fill up every night, and it’s in a part of town where there’s not much competition in the genre. And it’s just close enough to be a suitable pre-concert haunt for the Carnegie Hall crowd.

“BLT” stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, although I believe they’ll actually serve you an upscale version of the BLT sandwich if you visit at lunch time. As the name implies, you’ll get a steak there and be happy. The choice surprised some critics, however, as Cello was best known for its seafood. A companion restaurant called “BLT Fish” is said to be in the works.

A friend and I tried BLT Steak for dinner last Friday night. The restaurant has a split personality, with the décor seeming more upscale than a bistro, but the specials menu posted on the back wall screaming, “Don’t take us too seriously!”

Our table seemed larger than the typical table-for-two, and at first it seemed like we had to shout a bit to hear each other above the din, for BLT Steak is certainly a loud place. However, we needed all of that space once the side dishes started to arrive.

After we sat down, a server brought sliced bread and goose liver paté. This was followed by the celebrated popovers — enormous fluffy pastry balls the size of a barbell — with soft butter. At this point, those with small stomachs will feel half-full already, but there is a dinner to be eaten.

We both fixed our gaze on the heirloom tomato appetizer, and a fine choice this was. The tomatoes were thick, rich, and perfectly seasoned.

Several reviewers had said that BLT Steak was actually a better place for fish. However, we were in a carnivorous mood, so we ordered the Ribeye for Two, with sides of french fries and creamed spinach. We also chose our sauces: horseradish and three mustards. This seemed to us a competent presentation, but nothing to rush back for. Our feeling was that BLT Steak deserves another look…but next time, for the fish.

We ordered a $48 cabernet from the specials board. It too was acceptable without wowing us.

BLT Steak (106 E. 57th Street, between Park & Lexington Avenues, East Midtown)

Food: **
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: **

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