New York is a steak city, yet I had never been to a real steakhouse here, so when out-of-town guests wanted to go somewhere ‘we would not normally go’ I decided that this was my best opportunity to drag along my semi veggie partner without seeming totally selfish.
The decision of which steakhouse then left me with a dilemma. If I was going to do this it had to be good, and since it was with guests it was about more than just the food. I wanted the right kind of venue with atmosphere, friendly service and great meat. This ruled out my long-term desire to eat at Peter Luger’s which is regularly voted as NY best steak. Unfortunately the reputation for their steak is as well-known as their reputation for surly service. While this can sometimes add to the fun, the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars in cash (they do not take credit cards) to be treated like an annoyance did not seem appropriate.
Hence some further research led me to Keen’s steakhouse in the city. Once I had the approval of Carmine, my omniscient landlord, I knew we were in for a good night. As soon as you enter you feel a million miles from the bustle of mid-town New York. The low ceilings, wood panelled walls and bow tied waiters take you back in time, and I imagine since the place opened in 1885 not much has changed.
The service was elegant and friendly, we were offered cocktails that came with a crudite plate and proper bread rolls before a food menu was even presented. All our questions were graciously answered and a request for an off menu item was greeted with an ‘of course madame’.
The food did not disappoint. I ordered a delicious piece of sirloin that must have weighed at least 16oz, but that was dwarfed by the Kings Cut Prime Rib with bone that was enough to feed 3 healthy adults. Even the non red meat-eater was satisfied with a good piece of sea bass. Sides were equally matched with proper crispy fries and creamed spinach. Starters and desserts were tasty but lets face it the steak is the important thing here and when the only garnish is a piece of red pepper you know they must be proud of their meat.
Keens was a great experience, and made a nice change from the usual places. Whilst I am a big supporter of the locavore movement it was nice not to be force-fed the provenance of every ingredient, and to be treated like a valued guest rather than someone who should be grateful to receive such rarified ingredients. The service, the food and the ambiance were truly old school, all the way to the lobster tank in the middle of the room. And while this is not a regular destination (for the sake of your wallet and your stomach) it is defiantly a special occasion treat that I would confidently recommend to anyone.