Entries in Adam Perry Lang (5)


Daisy May's BBQ

Perhaps I’m better off that Daisy May’s BBQ isn’t better located. If it were easily reachable by subway, I’d be there a lot more often, and I’d be doing even worse on my diet.

Daisy May’s is at 46th Street and Eleventh Avenue. They could hardly have chosen a less accessible location in Manhattan. Not even buses go there, and the closest subway is a solid fifteen minute walk away. The neighborhood itself is ugly, much favored by auto repair joints and strip clubs. Despite that, Daisy May’s is clearly not doing badly, but in the East Village they’d be minting money.

But Daisy May’s is where it is, so I seldom go. Our last visit was three years ago, when we had the rack of lamb for two, a special that needs to be pre-ordered. Recently, I saw a couple of blog posts about the Oklahoma Beef Rib (HowFresh Eats, Cynical Cook)—a cut of meat most BBQ places don’t serve—and decided I had to have one.

Unfortunately, the cashier misheard my order, and I got the beef brisket combo instead (photo below). I should have been suspicious, as the brisket combo is only $14, while the beef rib combo is $21.50. I just shrugged, and assumed I was getting an early-bird special, or something like that. Bad assumption.

As you can see, Daisy May’s is still bare-bones, although they’ve now got a beer license, so it’s no longer strictly BYO. The brisket (lower-right in the photo) came with two sides; I chose the mac & cheese and the baked beans with burnt ends. It was all very good, but not worth the long walk from Eighth Avenue.

They clearly had the beef ribs—other diners were eating them, as I looked on with envy. It was just a misunderstanding. Perhaps it was all for the best. I wasn’t that hungry, and the beef ribs are huge. There’s always another day.


The Payoff: Robert’s Steakhouse

Against our better judgment, we took the long-shot bet that Frank Bruni would come totally unglued, and award two stars to Robert’s Steakhouse. But Frank kept his clothes on, and awarded a journalistically defensible one star to the strip joint. Eater, who made the conservative one-star bet at 2–1 odds, wins $2, while NYJ loses a dollar.

  Eater NYJ
Bankroll $2 $2
Gain/Loss +$2 –$1
Total +$4 +$1

Rolling the Dice: Robert’s Steakhouse

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Robert’s Steakhouse. Eater’s official odds are as follows:

Zero Stars: 3-1
One Star: 2-1
Two Stars: 6-1
Three Stars: 25-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: There are restaurants that Bruni has to review (celebrity chef; high-profile opening; famous restauranteur), and there are those he chooses to review. Robert’s is in the latter category. It has been open for a good long while, and is well off the foodie radar. Its inhospitable perch in the Penthouse Lounge at 11th Avenue and 49th Street is hardly likely to draw much walk-in traffic. It would therefore make no sense for Bruni to choose such an unexpected target, only to slam it, so we can expect a favorable review. The only question is: one star or two?

Unless Bruni is totally unhinged, this should be at best a one-star review. Indeed, we stand by last year’s zero-star rating. Great steak isn’t hard to find in Manhattan. So why go to an ugly neighborhood and pay a high premium for what is essentially a commodity item? Of course, if what you really want is a strip club, it’s nice to know a good steak is available, but Bruni reviews restaurants, not strip clubs.

Yet, Bruni’s discretionary reviews—the ones he chooses to write—have tended to bestow two-star ratings. There’s a logic to this. There are probably hundreds of one-star restaurants that the Times will never get around to reviewing. Why pick a restaurant out of nowhere, just to award one star? There’s also the Jeffrey Chodorow angle: show the man what a real steakhouse looks like.

The Bet: We are going out on a limb, and predicting (against our better judgment and Eater’s) that Bruni will award two stars to Robert’s steakhouse.


Daisy May's BBQ

Note: Click here for a later visit to Daisy May’s BBQ.

In 2003, Adam Perry Lang—who had previously cooked at such haute cuisine temples as Daniel, Le Cirque, and Chanterelle—decided to open a barbecue joint. He chose practically the most inhospitable and least accessible location in town: the corner of 46th Street and 11th Avenue, a solid fifteen minutes’ walk from the nearest subway station, and in a rather dingy neighborhood. Nevertheless, ’cue hounds flocked to Daisy May in the belief that no one else in Manhattan had come close to getting it right.

This spring, Daisy May added a small cafeteria-style dining room (it was previously just counter service, take-out or delivery), and they enhanced their menu, with rack-of-lamb for two ($95), half-a-pig or a whole pork butt for six ($200), or the whole pig for twelve ($400). All of these items have to be ordered a couple of days in advance, with a credit card to guarantee the reservation.

In the Times, Peter Meehan warned that it’s a ton of food, although he was in pig-heaven nonetheless. I didn’t have half-a-dozen companions to bring with me, so my friend and I pre-ordered the lamb. It cooks over a low heat for about two hours, and it’s fall-off-the-bone tender by the time it’s served. The rack was higher in fat content than what most restaurants serve, which is what allows it to cook for so long without drying out. Two or three ribs is quite typical for a lamb entrée, so with four between us the portion was ample. Yet, it was so good I was sad to see it gone. It came with homemade barbecue sauce (made partly with lamb gravy) that was out-of-this world.

The dish comes with huge helpings of cole slaw, watermelon, “Texas toast,” and two additional side orders from a menu of about eight choices—I picked the Peaches Bourbon and Cream of Spinach. The sides came in large serving dishes and could easily have accommodated five or six people. We didn’t touch the spinach, and we left behind great quantities of all the others. It is a sinful amount of food, and we felt rather guilty at leaving so much behind (when children are starving in Africa, yada, yada, yada).

The Times warned that service is pretty “bare-bones”, but the bones were barer than I’d imagined. The food is served with paper plates and plastic utensils. They not only lack a liquor license, but even so much as cups or a corkscrew. Unless you’ve pre-ordered one of these massive cuts of meat, service is strictly cafeteria-style, with canned soda all that’s available to drink. Then there’s the very long walk to 11th Avenue. This may well be the best barbecue in town, but I’m not sure how often I’ll walk that far to get it.

Still, on this occasion it was more than worth it.

Daisy May’s BBQ USA (623 11th Avenue at 46th Street, Hell’s Kitchen)

Food: **
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Fair
Overall: *½


Robert's Steakhouse

Note: Chef Adam Perry Lang has since left Robert’s Steakhouse.

Robert’s Steakhouse has gotten some good press lately, including a prominent mention in the Times. One night in early June, I decided to find out for myself if the fuss is justified. The restaurant is located in the Penthouse Lounge, although it is a separate section of the club. Most men go there, I think, to drink at the bar, to look at the strip show, and perhaps to visit a private room with one of the models.

Steakhouse pricing is fairly consistent in the city. The steaks at Robert’s are over-priced beyond reason. There are three options for the solo diner: filet ($51), t-bone ($51) or bone-in strip ($53). All of them are at least $10-12 more than most NYC steakhouses would charge. The porterhouse and ribeye, both available only in portions for two, are similarly over-priced.

The server recommended the strip. At this price, it had better be a strip steak to die for. It wasn’t. Yes, it was a huge slab of meat, probably two inches thick before cooking. And yes, it was expertly broiled. But it was slightly tough and over-salted. Later on, one of the Penthouse models told me that she thinks Del Frisco’s is better — a remarkable admission.

Needless to say, Del Frisco’s is more sensibly priced. It’s also in a far more hospitable part of town — 49th & 6th, rather than Robert’s perch in the hinterlands at 45th & 11th. Indeed, I could easily name a dozen steakhouses serving better steaks at better prices in better neighborhoods than Robert’s.

The over-priced fare was not limited to the steaks. On the wine list, there were no bottles below $75. When I asked for wine by the glass, I was offered “cabernet or merlot”; no indication of vintage or winery. A glass of the unremarkable and unnamed cabernet was an outrageous $17.

Service was merely average. There was an excellent selection of warm bread rolls, but they were brought to the table long after I sat down. My check was brought to the table before I had finished ordering. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Robert’s Steakhouse (603 W 45th St at 11th Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen)

Food: *
Service: fair
Ambiance: fair, but not a place you could take a date
Overall: okay