Entries in Robert's Steakhouse (3)


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.


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