Entries in BLT Prime (3)


BLT Prime

bltprime_inside.jpgI previously awarded three stars to BLT Prime, based on two earlier visits—especially my first visit (the second wasn’t so impressive). Three stars for a steakhouse? Was that irrational exuberance?

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?

bltprime01a.jpg bltprime01b.jpg

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.

bltprime03.jpgTwo 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)

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


BLT Prime

Note: Click here for a later visit to BLT Prime, and here for an earlier one.

BLT Prime is the only restaurant in Laurent Tourondel’s empire that’s open on Sundays. I had a BLT craving today [November 20, 2005], so I headed out to the restaurant, arriving at 5:00pm (opening time).

Both BLT Prime and Steak serve a $28 entrée that’s a riff on the familiar BLT sandwich. Here, it’s made with ‘kobe’ beef and foie gras, and served on toasted ciabatta bread. (You’ll find a photo of it at the website of either restaurant.) It’s about the cheapest meal you can have at BLT. I decided to give it a shot. It’s a tasty sandwich indeed, but like the burger at DB Bistro Moderne, a bit of a gimmick. I could barely taste the foie gras, and the beef was nothing special. At the price, I rate it a dud.

I had a couple of other complaints. The BLT sandwich comes with an enormous helping of french fries, but this isn’t stated on the menu. It seems to be the only entrée that comes with a side dish, so I had no reason to expect fries. My waiter happily took my order for a side of potato skins ($7), which left me with twice as much potato as I needed. (Probably four times, actually; either the skins or the fries came in portions far beyond what I could eat alone.) Had I known the sandwich came with fries, I would not have ordered the skins.

By this time in the meal, the server assignments had been re-arranged. My new server came around to ask if everything was alright, and I told her I was a bit miffed that the menu didn’t announce that the BLT came with fries. She remarked, “I would have told you that.”

I was also unhappy with a cocktail called a Tamarind Margarita ($11). It came in about the smallest cocktail glass I’ve ever seen. The drink tasted fine, but one expects a margarita to be a little bigger than that.

On the other hand, the restaurant is generous with extras. When I sat down, the server brought a helping of a wonderful paté and crispy bread. While I was devouring that, one of BLT’s famous popovers arrived. The popovers, first introduced at BLT Steak, weren’t initially offered when BLT Prime opened. I suspect they had some complaints, and now both restaurants have them. (They even provide a free copy of the recipe.) I did not order a dessert, but the kitchen sent out two half-dollar sized hazelnut ice cream sandwiches, which were excellent.

Overall, it was a mixed performance for the restaurant. It is hard to believe that I dropped over $50 for a cocktail, some potato skins, and a glorified BLT sandwich.

Well, despite my misgivings the second time around, I still award three stars based on superior overall performance.

BLT Prime (111 E. 22nd Street between Park & Lexington Avenues, Gramercy)

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


BLT Prime

Note: Click here for a more recent visit to BLT Prime.

I dined at BLT Prime last week. Laurent Tourondel has now refined the BLT formula to a science, and the third restaurant in the chain is a triumph. (See also BLT Steak and BLT Fish.)

We started with two ‘bread’ amuses. The first was a sourdough bread with chicken liver paté. Second was a very fresh, soft garlic bread roll. For appetizers, two of us had the Grilled Double Cut Canadian Bacon ($9). These bacon strips are similar to those at Peter Luger. They aren’t quite as thick as at Luger, but you get four of them on the plate, and they are lightly seasoned. My other colleague ordered the Tuna Tartare ($14), which was also an enormous helping, and he pronounced himself satisfied.

BLT serves its porterhouse pre-sliced, as in the Luger/Wolfgang’s model. Unlike those restaurants, it is offered only for two. As there were three of us, we ordered the porterhouse ($79) and the 12 oz. kobe ribeye ($72). We divided on which was the more flavorful, although the porterhouse, which feeds two with some left to spare, is clearly the far better deal.

For side orders, we chose the onion rings ($8), the bleu cheese tater tots ($7), and the asparagus ($8). The menu at BLT Prime seems almost diabolically designed to encourage you to over-order. I don’t believe a person with a normal appetite can finish an appetizer, their share of a porterhouse, and one of these ample side dishes, especially if you’ve also ordered wine. We ended the meal happy, but with quite a lot of food remaining on the table.

Only one of us could even dream of entertaining dessert. My colleague ordered the banana cream pie, which he said was heavenly. I strenuously resisted his suggestion of after-dinner drinks, but he insisted, so we finished the evening with 18-year Highland Park whisky.

For future reference, I’d say that three people of normal appetites would have plenty to eat if they ordered an appetizer apiece, and shared the porterhouse and two sides between them. Occasional glances around other tables confirmed that portions are enormous, practically no matter what you order.

All three of the BLT restaurants have been instant hits. BLT prime was full to the gills, and it was hard to carry on a conversation over the din. That’s about the only negative at a restaurant that clicks on all cylinders. Incidentally, BLT Prime is now the #1 steakhouse in the city on Zagat. It is tied with Peter Luger with a 27 food rating, but has higher service and decor ratings (23/23 respectively for BLTP; 19/14 for PL).

BLT Prime (111 East 22nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, Gramercy)