Recently, I sampled the BLT experience yet again. Do Laurent Tourondel’s steakhouses kick ass? Yes, they do. Does that accomplishment warrant three stars? Probably not.
We visited on Mother’s Day at around 7:00 p.m. without a reservation. The restaurant was perhaps a little over half full. That fact signals BLT Prime’s limitation, for though the food is excellent, its heavy-handed informality is a deterrent on special occasions. (On most other nights BLT Prime seems to fill up easily—that’s my unscientific observation based on periodic OpenTable scans.)
Some aspects of the service remain incomprehensible. Given that the menu is a loose sheet of paper that obviously must be reprinted frequently—probably daily—why must the specials be printed on a separate piece of paper? And why drop off two copies of the menu, but only one of the specials? And why is the menu also displayed on large boards in a corner of the restaurant where perhaps only 20% of diners can see it?
The BLT restaurants are a carb-o-phile’s dream. First come two slices of country bread, with a terrific pâté to spread. Then come the legendary popovers with soft, creamy butter. At this point, anyone with a normal stomach is already feeling half-full, and the appetizers haven’t even arrived yet. Knowing this would be the case, we didn’t order appetizers and went streat to the steaks.
We were both drawn to the five-pepper crusted bone-in New York strip ($42), one of the daily specials. The mineral taste from dry aging was superb, and the steak had a beautifully charred exterior, with just the right fat content. This was about as good a preparation of NY strip as they come. Horseradish sauce (one of nine offered) complemented the steak nicely. Potato skins ($8) were competently done, but a tad too dry.
Two small petits-fours after dinner were a bonus not normally expected at a steakhouse, though we hardly needed any more calories at this point.
As it was a Sunday evening, we didn’t order a whole bottle of wine, but I noted there were no bargains to be had on the list, and wines by the glass didn’t come cheap either. We each had a glass of the house pinot noir ($14).
With Laurent Tourondel constantly opening new BLTs, he can’t be paying much attention to the existing ones. I’ve paid about nine visits in total to his various restaurants, and they can be maddeningly uneven. Brasserie Ruhlmann, the only kitchen he runs that doesn’t have his initials in the name, is an embarrassment. But at BLT Prime, he left a solid management team in place. It’s a “BLT” still worth visiting, even if Tourondel is busy elsewhere.
BLT Prime (111 East 22nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, Gramercy)