Entries in Primehouse New York (5)


Primehouse New York

Note: Primehouse New York closed in September 2012 after a five-year run.


I had an evening meeting earlier this week in the vicinity of Primehouse New York, so I decided to drop in. The economy and my waistline being what they are, I ordered two appetizers.

Primehouse is a “Steakhouse Plus” — a restaurant that does steaks superbly, but where the non-steak items are far more than just afterthoughts. Both of my appetizers were preparations I don’t recall seeing in any other restaurant.

A rich Filet Mignon Carpaccio ($16; above right) comes draped in a pickled fennel salad, with foie gras “croutons” hiding underneath.

I considered omitting the photo of “Bacon & Egg” ($14; above right), as it really doesn’t do the dish justice. There is a double-cut log of pork belly and a soft-boiled egg deep-fried in panko crust in a pool of grits. Trust me: the dish is much, much better than my lame photo of it.

Steak prices remain on the high side, with most in the high $40s or low $50s, but I assume the aging program remains top-notch, as it was before. The steaks I observed at other tables had a wonderful sear and a uniform medium-rare finish.

Primehouse seems to be doing just fine — the bar is usually close to full, the dining room somewhere between half and three-quarters — but it doesn’t get as much attention as the better known brands. I rank it in the top tier of NYC steakhouses.

Primehouse New York (381 Park Avenue South at 27th Street, Gramercy)


The Burger at Primehouse


The recession has forced us to abandon steakhouses—no small sacrifice, as ribeye steak is practically our favorite dish. We make an exception for burgers. With that as our mission, we revisited Primehouse New York last week.

On our last visit, we noted that Primehouse has one of the most comfortable bar stools in the city, with a soft cushion for your derrière and firm, cushioned back. I know plenty of places where the dining room isn’t as comfortable as the bar at Primehouse.

In an era where $16 burgers are routine, the $12 charged at Primehouse must be considered a bargain. I can’t remember the last time I had a burger that cheap at a fine-dining restaurant. Although it’s the least expensive entrée (available only at the bar), they serve it with a flourish and all the fixin’s, marching to your table with the same wheeled cart they’d use if you’d ordered the $79 seafood platter.

For $12, you’re not getting a custom blend of organically-raised grass-fed Wagyu, but it’s a respectable burger I’d happily eat again. My only complaint is that the patty needed to be a bit broader, with less of a “dome” on top.

On a Tuesday evening, the dining room wasn’t at all full, but the bar was doing a brisk business. Evidently others have figured out that it’s the best way to enjoy Primehouse.

Primehouse New York (381 Park Avenue South at 27th Street, Gramercy/Flatiron)


The Payoff: Primehouse New York

In tomorrow’s Times, the animal-sex imagery abounds, as Frank Bruni pays homage to Prime, the mighty steer who sires the porterhouse at Primehouse New York:

And Primehouse New York, on Park Avenue South? It’s the seminal steakhouse.

It’s also an estimable one, with virtues that will rightly earn it the affection of many discerning carnivores and give it a solid chance in a competitive field.

[D]essert doughnuts … come in the form of hollow balls, accompanied by three plastic syringes of a sort containing chocolate, butterscotch and strawberry. You use the syringe of your choice to, um, fertilize each one.

He loves the steaks, but uneven service, an over-priced wine list, and a shortage of recommendable non-steak dishes, all add up to one star, as both Eater and New York Journal had predicted. We both win $3 on our hypothetical $1 bets.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $58.50   $77.67
Gain/Loss +3.00   +3.00
Total $61.50   $80.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 26–11   28–9

Rolling the Dice: Primehouse New York

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 Primehouse New York, Stephen Hanson’s contribution to Manhattan’s over-saturated steakhouse industry. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 4-1
One Star: 3-1 √√
Two Stars:
Three Stars: 50-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: Bruni loves steakhouses. It’s his second favorite cuisine, after Italian. The trouble is, his steakhouse reviews are unpredictable. With Italian cuisine, you know he will rate the restaurant one star higher than it would receive if the chef were French. With steakhouses, there’s just no telling.

He awarded two stars to: Peter Luger, Craftsteak (re-review), Keens, and Wolfgang’s. He awarded one star to: Craftsteak (first review), Harry’s SteakPorter House, Robert’s Steakhouse and V Steakhouse. He awarded zero stars to Kobe Club and STK. Numerous others—including some clearly better than those that won full reviews—got the Diner’s Journal treatment: BLT Prime, Capital Grille, Chemist Club, Quality Meats, Staghorn Steakhouse. (Phew! Am I leaving any out?)

That brings us to Primehouse New York. The two available data points are my review and Adam Platt’s. I hesitate to admit I have anything in common with Adam Platt, but both of us are confirmed carnivores, and both of us awarded two stars. Cutlets also likes it. Weighing against Primehouse are its steep prices and Bruni’s general hostility towards chain or “chain-like” restaurants.

There’s virtually no doubt that Primehouse has superlative cuts of meat and knows how to prepare them. Bruni’s rating will come down to his assessment of everything else: ambiance, service, and the non-steak dishes. My sense is that Bruni has gotten tougher on steakhouses—Wolfgang’s (reviewed less than a month into his tenure) might not get the same two stars if it opened today. His other two-star steakhouses have a “destination” appeal that Primehouse, despite its merits, does not really offer.

The Bet: We’ve vacillated all day, but it’s almost review time, so we have to make a decision. We agree with Eater that Bruni will award one star to Primehouse New York.


Primehouse New York


It was only a matter of time before Stephen Hanson, that past-master of formula restaurants, opened the ultimate formula restaurant, a steakhouse. David Burke’s Primehouse opened in Chicago last year, and now comes Primehouse New York, sans Burke, but with a very similar steak program.

Primehouse has a more modern vibe than the average steakhouse: a quieter version of BLT Prime. Booths and tables are more generously spaced than at BLT, and there are soft surfaces to absorb the sound. The space feels “dressy” by steakhouse standards. You could bring a date here, and have a conversation without shouting.

There weren’t any tables available when I walked in at around 6:00 p.m. on a weeknight, but the bar area is large and comfortable, with soft, high-backed chairs. Bar dining must have been planned from the beginning, as these are about the plushest bar seats you’ll find anywhere in town. Once you sit down, you’ll want to stay a while.

The menu offers typical steakhouse starters ($8–18), a raw bar (platters from $16–79), seven cuts of steak ($34–49) plus porterhouse for two ($86), eight other meat and fish entrées ($21–42), and side dishes ($9). At $46 for a ribeye and $48 for a New York Sirloin, Primehouse sets the high water mark for NYC steakhouse pricing (though the now-closed V Steakhouse was worse).


Are those stratospheric prices worth it? If the 20-ounce “Kentucky” bone-in ribeye aged 28 days (which my server recommended) was any indication, they just might be. The mineral tang of the dry aging was all you could ask for, and the marbling was as even as on any ribeye I’ve encountered. The kitchen executed without fault, with a deep char on the exterior and a perfect medium rare inside.

I also tried the Smoked Bacon Brussels Sprouts (top right corner in the photo). I liked how the musky taste of burned bacon enhanced the sweetness of the Brussels Sprouts, but the bacon bits themselves were tough and tried out.

The wine list is a large tome, and only high-rollers will be pleased. The reds go on for many pages, but I counted only seven bottles under $60, and only two under $50. None of the California Cabernets were under $60, and none of the French Bordeaux were under $80. If Café Boulud can offer an entire page of red wines under $60, it’s hard to believe that the prices at Primehouse are justified. I was glad to see a page of half-bottles, which one seldom sees at a steakhouse; more restaurants should have them.

Is Primehouse New York for you? It depends on whether you mind spending a few dollars more for a commodity item. But if future visits confirm that the ribeye I enjoyed was no fluke, then Primehouse just might be a top-tier steakhouse.

Update: Since this review, Brian O’Donohoe has replaced Jason Miller as chef. We doubt that this will make a tremendous difference to the average diner, but it is worth noting that O’Donohoe has stints at Le Bernardin, Barça 18, and Fiamma on his resume. Perhaps seafood dishes here will be worth a closer look.

Note: Click here for a review of the burger at Primehouse New York.

Primehouse New York (381 Park Avenue South at 27th Street, Gramercy)

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