Entries in Porter House New York (4)


Porter House New York

Note: Porter House renovated in early 2016. The restaurant is now branded Porter House Bar & Grill. The decor is now lighter, resembling an upscale tavern. The review below pre-dates the renovation.


You know the backstory, right? Michael Lomonoco, the executive chef at Windows on the World, fortuitously ran an errand to pick up a pair of eyeglasses, and missed the conflagration at the World Trade Center, where he would most assuredly have perished.

Five years later, he opened Porter House New York at the Time-Warner Center, replacing V Steakhouse, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s failed attempt at the same genre. Frank Bruni gave it just one star, comparing it to Outback Steakhouse. In a blog post three years later, he found it much improved, though not to the point of granting it a full re-review. The Post’s Steve Cuozzo is one of the few critics who continues to return to it, most recently in September of this year.

I’ve written about Porter House three times (here, here, here), and have paid other visits periodically. I continue to vacillate about where it stands in the NYC steakhouse pantheon. It has probably the loveliest dining room of any NYC steakhouse, with priceless views of Central Park. The service and the wine list are truly top-notch.

Yet, the steaks are often just a shade below what the best steakhouses deliver. Not way below, and not bad by any means. But not what they could be. Take the porterhouse itself ($51pp, below right). It’s sliced a hair too thin, and it doesn’t have the deep char that Minetta Tavern and Peter Luger have on their specimens. This is not rocket science. This is correctable.

Full disclosure: I was recognized, and the kitchen sent out a considerable amount of free food. We had not ordered appetizers, but we received the Wild Italian Arugula Salad (normally $16) and the Baby Scallops (normally $20; both above left) at no charge.

We ordered a side of Brussels Sprouts ($10; below left), and in addition the kitchen sent out the onion rings (normally $10; top of porterhouse photo, above right) and the mixed carrots with honey, dill, and ginger (normally $10; below right), all excellent.

So, you can go ahead and call me compromised, if you’d like, but Porter House ought to be the city’s three-star steakhouse, if only they could make some very correctable corrections to their steaks.

The menu has evolved considerably over the last five years. Where it once had “porterhouses” of beef, lamb, veal, and even monkfish, the standard beef porterhouse is now the only one offered. There remains a wide variety of beef cuts, including the excellent skirt steak at just $32, along with a small selection of seafood entrées (fewer than in the past) and the now-obligatory private-blend burger, for $26. The prices are reasonable for the location.

I’m afraid I don’t recall the wine we ordered off of the 500-bottle list, but I do recall that the sommelier steered me to a slightly less expensive one that he said was better, and then decanted it. This is a first-class operation.

Chef Lomonoco’s deal to open Porter House stipulated, among other things, that he would not open another restaurant for a significant period of time. I am not sure if that restriction has expired, but I’ve seen him on the floor just about every time I visit. This continues to be his only focus, as far as I can tell. (He is planning a wine bar in the adjacent space, on the top floor of the Time-Warner Center, which sounds like a complement to the restaurant, rather than a truly new venture.)

Unlike V Steakhouse, Frank Bruni’s one-star review did not hurt Porter House. I remember finding it near-empty during the dark days of the economic collapse, but on a recent Thursday evening it was full. Good for them, and good for New York.

Porter House New York (Time-Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor)

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


Porter House Evolves


I dropped in at Porter House New York last night for a quick bite. On a Thursday evening at around 6:30 p.m., the restaurant was mostly empty. Many servers and runners were just standing around. As in the past, the clientele included a number of families with small children.

I wasn’t that hungry, so I had the Skirt Steak, at $28 the second-cheapest entrée (after the chicken, $27). This is a second-string cut of meat, but Porter House gives it a first-rate preparation, with a nice smokey char and an Argentine chimichurri sauce.

porterhouse_outside.jpgSince my last visit, Porter House has wisely dropped its plats du jour—dishes that are served only one night of the week. The Cowboy Steak, formerly available only on Thursdays, is now offered every day. On a less happy note, that steak was $38 fifteen months ago; it is now $45.

The “porterhouse” conceit has been scaled back. There were once porterhouses not just of beef, but also lamb, veal, pork, and even monkfish; only the beef and the veal options remain. There were once more than half-a-dozen seafood entrées; there are now only four.

There are, of course, other entrées: hangar steak, filet mignon, chili-rubbed ribeye (not worthwhile at $48), lamb chops. But with a few exceptions (“Duck Steak”), the restaurant is evolving closer to the classic steakhouse, albeit with one of the world’s best views.

Bread service remains a strength, with three excellent house-made breads and a soft serving of butter. I didn’t order wine, but the wine list didn’t seem quite as egregiously priced as it was last time. Aside from that, I had a somewhat dour server who seemed displeased with his lot in life. Come to think of it, nobody seemed especially pleased. An empty restaurant will do that.

In a sense, Porter House is a somewhat less interesting restaurant than it was before. But the steaks remain top-notch, and the ambiance is more comfortable than most steakhouses.

Porter House New York (Time-Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor)

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


Porter House New York revisited


Note: Click here for a more recent review of Porter House New York.

I first tried Porter House New York last October during its opening week. A 20% introductory discount was in place, perhaps because the management knew to expect some rough going. And that’s exactly what we found. By late November, Frank Bruni was no more impressed. He awarded the same one star that I had given it, finding Porter House a “generically sophisticated upgrade of the kind of chain establishment found in lesser malls…an M.B.A. program for beef eaters who did undergraduate work at Outback.”

My mom’s visit this week provided the excuse to see if things have improved at Porter House. And indeed they have. Service was the best I have encountered at any New York steakhouse. At least five people must have said “Good evening” to us before we had even sat down. The number of servers, runners, sommeliers and managers paying attention to our table—every table—was nearly enough to put Porter House in Per Se’s league.

On the way out, I had a brief chat with the manager. He actually knew my name, even though we hadn’t spoken at all during the meal. Now, that’s service.

porterhouse.jpgThere are rotating specials for each night of the week. We both had the Thursday special, Cowboy Steak ($38), a large rib steak on the bone that is typical of the ribeye most NYC steakhouses serve. The reason for offering this only on Thursdays utterly eludes me, when so many of Porter House’s competitors serve it every night. (The every-day menu has a chili-rubbed ribeye at the same price, which, unless they have changed it, is served off the bone.)

Anyhow, it was expertly prepared and very close to top-quality; perhaps a notch below the better specimens I’ve had around town, although not by much. We sampled three sauces along with it, of which the best was an excellent Classic Bearnaise.

The wine list is very expensive, with no choices below $50, and very few below $75. We found a fine Cabernet Franc at around the $60 mark. We had tap water with that, which I mention only because it specifically contravened the wishes of the chef! Every restaurant tries to sell you bottled water, but this was the first time that a server has ever said, “The chef recommends bottled water this evening.”

Luckily for Porter House and chef Michael Lomonaco, Frank Bruni’s unfavorable Times review was irrelevant: business remains brisk. This isn’t exactly a surprise, as it’s tough to kill a steakhouse. But unlike the mass of undifferentiated steakhouses in New York, Porter House is special. With superb service, postcard views of Central Park, an extremely comfortable atmosphere, and very solid work from the kitchen, Porter House can now be strongly recommended.

Porter House New York (Time-Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor)

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


Porter House New York

Note: Click here and here for more recent reviews of Porter House New York.

The Restaurant Collection at the Time-Warner Center was meant to be the most luminous assemblage of chefs ever gathered under one roof. Each of its five restaurants was considered a New York Times three or four-star candidate. Some, like Masa and Per Se, lived up to their promise. Café Gray has had its problems initially, but now seems to be flourishing, with a Michelin star to its credit. Charlie Trotter’s restaurant never opened, and a clone of TriBeCa standout Landmarc is to replace it.

Then there was V Steakhouse. With cuisine by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, it should have been a sure thing. But it never recovered from a devastating one-star review by Frank Bruni and a menu featuring $70 steaks. It was the first Time-Warner restaurant to fail, and also Vongerichten’s first failure. Replacing it is—guess what? Another steakhouse.

Porter House New York is run by chef Michael Lomonaco, formerly of Windows on the World. Luckily he had a pair of eyeglasses to pick up on September 11, 2001, or he would have been at work, and would have perished along with 3,000 other people. He’s a popular guy, and he has a lot of folks rooting for him.

Porter House opened over the October 1st weekend. In a show of goodwill, the restaurant offered 20% off the bill for the first week of operation. It would be nice to see a few more restaurants do that while they work out the inevitable early kinks. Plenty of people had heard about it. I had trouble getting a prime time reservation, and the restaurant was packed when we arrived at 8:30 on Friday night.

It used to be that Manhattan steakhouses were so predictable you could write the menu in your sleep. In recent years, a breed of haute steakhouses has emerged, led by such standouts as BLT Steak, BLT Prime, Quality Meats, Craftsteak, and alas, V Steakhouse. These restaurants have the usual steakhouse staples, but more creative menus and a less “clubby” atmosphere.

Like these haute steakhouses, Porter House aims at a broader audience. On Friday night, one of the tables near ours was a family of seven celebrating a birthday. Another was a family of three, including a young child, out for a casual dinner. Neither group would have chosen Sparks or Peter Luger. Porter House has a cool elegance that makes it suitable for a fancy night out, but without V Steakhouse’s gilded trappings that scared away families and casual diners. A buzzing bar area with two wide-screen TVs is another signal that Porter House doesn’t want to be taken too seriously.

The menu, however, is not all that creative. There are a few more seafood entrées than you see at some steakhouses, but for style points it has nothing on BLT Steak or Quality Meats. I ordered the smoked salmon to start, my friend the clams casino—both standard steakhouse dishes. The salmon came with a clever garnish of tomato, avocado and chickpeas.

My friend is partial to the ribeye ($36), so we both had that. It was served off the bone, and although cooked to the correct temperature and nicely charred, the marbling was uneven. Overall, it was well off the pace of the city’s better ribeye steaks. Side dishes were priced mostly at $9. I enjoyed creamed spinach with bacon, but my friend thought that french fries had been left under a heat lamp for too long.

Service was not unfriendly, but has a long way to go. Food took a long time to come out. At the table of seven next to us, one diner got his steak long after everyone else. Two side dishes came out (with profuse apologies) after the meal was almost concluded. At our table, the lemon from my friend’s appetizer course was left behind after the other plates had been cleared. The spinach came without a serving spoon. Mid-way through the meal, our waiter just disappeared for about half an hour.

The wine list is mostly American. It is about as expensive as you’d expect for this kind of restaurant. We were able to find a red that pleased us for around $60, in a peculiar category called “Interesting.” I didn’t know there was a grape by that name.

I think Porter House will do well, as its informality serves a definite need. Judging by the crowds, it has already caught on. But judged in the cold light of day, Porter House is not the creative tour de force of a BLT Steak or BLT Prime, and as a classic steakhouse it’s not preferable to either Wolfgang’s or Strip House.

Porter House New York (Time-Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor)

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