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Club A Steakhouse

I know what you’re thinking: “Another steakhouse? Wake me up when it’s over.”

Actually, that’s what I thought when Club A Steakhouse opened two years ago in a part of town that already had plenty of them. We paid a visit the other night on the spur of the moment, when our original Saturday evening plans fell through, and Club A was available on OpenTable at short notice.

From 1977 to 2008, the space was Bruno, a Northern Italian restaurant that appealed to the Upper East Side moneyed set. The owner, an Albanian named Bruno Selimaj, decided that it was time for a makeover. Whoever suggested the name “Club A” needs to have their head examined.

Luckily, it’s the only bad decision Mr. Selimaj has made. He is a gracious host, and still in charge. The man knows how to run a restaurant.

The menu follows the “Luger-plus” model, with thick-cut Canadian bacon and sliced porterhouse for 2, 3, or 4 people as centerpieces, but with much more variety, better service, and a much more comfortable room than Luger itself.

We started with the bacon to share (below left)—surely the most inexpensive appetizer in midtown at $5. The kitchen divided it in two and sent out both halves on separate plates, each with its own serving of the house steak sauce. That’s not bad for $2.50 per person.

The porterhouse for two ($94; above right) was dry aged prime, a very good example if not the best I’ve seen. If we are to pick nits, it was cut a bit more thinly than I would like, and the chef erred on the side of rare, rather than the medium rare we’d asked for. It was a shade larger than the typical porterhouse for two, and we took a good bit of it home.

The side dishes—Five Cheese “Truffle” Mac ($10) and Sautéed Asparagus ($11) were both perfect.

I haven’t yet seen the steakhouse that serves a complimentary bowl of grapes on ice after the meal (right). I wonder where they got that idea? It wasn’t a comp, as we saw it on every table. After that, who needs dessert?

As part of the renovation after Bruno closed, the walls were redone in bordello red. The wall is covered with photos of past guests, perhaps the room’s least attractive features. But the tables are large and comfortable.

The restaurant has one of the best collections of wine decanters I’ve seen, and every bottle is decanted. Service is attentive and first-rate.

Although we got a Saturday night 8:00 p.m. reservation with ease, by 9:00 the room was nearly full. We are guessing that Club A has a cadre of neighborhood regulars, as there has been little publicity to speak of. It deserves to be better known.

Club A Steakhouse (240 E. 58th St. between Second & Third Ave., Upper East Side)

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

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