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)