A buff ,but cordial doorman ,stands shifting his weight from side to side, while a pretty reservationist with almond shaped eyes shares the aroma of charred beef and uncorked Bordeaux with awaiting patrons. These are images and sensations of Minetta Tavern. This personified “classic steakhouse meets neighborhood” tavern by restaurateur virtuoso, Keith McNally, plays for a raucous sophisticated audience and its routine is flawless. Knowledgeable servers dressed penguin-like circulate hurriedly around the black and white checkered floors, a steadfast all-knowing manager, and a cheeky, yet comedic bartender-completes this cast of Minetta players. Like the set of a 40’s film, the stage is a grand ole tavern with faded frescos of a New York now past. Finishing’s of deep brooding oak enhance McNally’s trademark leather banquettes that are romantically positioned beneath littered charactertures of anonymous old neighborhood guys that reflect some of these past iconic patrons-nestled tightly around the room- each booth telling a story. Minetta Tavern was once a haunt for New York poets, writers and educators-opening in 1937 and named for the Minetta Brook which ran southwest from 23rd Street to the Hudson River. Offering an exclusive patronage to the rich and famous is often coupled with a somewhat reclusive attitude when making a reservation, especially when only a private number allows one to do so. I, however, did not experience anything, but prime treatment. Perhaps I was lucky or mistaken for someone very rich and famous.
Photos above by Daniel Krieger http://www.danielkrieger.com/
Co-chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr team together to adequately float the now pride of McNally’s fleet-Balthazar being their maiden voyage together. The Hanson and Nasr team assemble a far cry from the red sauce Italian/American Trattoria menu that once was slopped here on diner’s plates. Today a carefully constructed myriad of primeval gratification that instantly makes the diner hankering and hoggish at the mere sight of the menu. Also subtlety teasing the palate with dainty flashes of hors d’oeuvres like; the Asparagus Vinaigrette [$16] with fresh ricotta, pickled honshimeji mushrooms, marcona almonds, lemon and micro shisu; the Dressed Prawns [ $18 ] with Bibb lettuce, trevise, haricot vert, celery root remoulade; and a delicately fresh Watercress and Oyster Soup [$14]. On the contrast, my table stuck with the gluttonous “Flintstone- like” bone-marrow that arrived on a stark white plate. Two large shin bones gormandized with gelatinous goodness lay before you. If you want to recreate this feeling? Turn your love of food into a Culinary Arts Degree with
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The diner then sparingly spreads onto crusty baguette points and can then be dunked into a shallot confit. The conversation at our table was muffled and interrupted by groans of happiness and content. Other omnivores that were sitting in the vicinity were gorging on other “Grillades” menu items, like the Bone-In New York Strip [$45], Lamb Saddle “Tranche” [$28],Veal “Porterhouse” Chop $36 and the bountiful Dry Aged Côte de Boeuf [$104 ] for two, with roasted marrow bones and sucrine lettuce salad. Typical pommes favorites [Frites and Anna] and a Legumes selection rounded the menu.
Above Photo from ExFlexitarian on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=bone%20marrow&w=19832102%40N00
Photo by Kathy YL Chan from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/kathyylchan/Although all of these fore mentioned menu selections are stars in their own right, the crowd pleaser of Minetta, of late has been the Black Label Burger. The clandestine blend, exclusively created by La Frieda for McNally, has been talked about, admired, and unsuccessfully duplicated since its inception. A secret blend of highly selected aged beef cuts is molded into a patty and gently placed on a piping hot flat grill and generously mopped with clarified butter until pinkish red inside. The succulent plump patty is then perched on a soft toasted brioche.-All sounds simple enough because it is just that. The complexity of flavor equals a brilliance and superiority against any other counterpart. At $26 the Minetta Burger may not be eaten on the regular, but should be tried at least once. Furthermore, the quest for the best burger in NYC is now in danger of being completed and sealed. Only time will tell.