As I got ready to write this review of Prime Grill, I discovered that I had started one after Passover last year. I’m going to leave that review in place and add to it. The following is the first part:
As many of you know, we demolished our 29 year old temporary kitchen right before Passover- the ultimate Passover cleaning:). Having just returned from a family Passover vacation extended by a few days to attend a Bar Mitzvah for the son of long standing friends, we were unceremoniously hit with the reality of NO kitchen! In case, that isn’t really clear; let me elucidate: no freezer-yes mini fridge; no oven-yes 2 electric burners, microwave, electric coffee pot and toaster oven; loads of paper plates and plastic. Almost forgot- no water for rinsing anything unless we take it to the bathroom. Believe me, I’m not complaining-just kvetching. It is a privilege to be able to build a new kitchen and I’m going to spend the next 3 or so months figuring out how to make the best use of my makeshift one and also take advantage of the offers I have to cook in other kitchens. Until I’m organized, it’s out to dinner we go. Tonight was our first time at Prime Grill in its new location at 25 West 56th Street in NYC.
Many years ago, when I first entered the enormous space that is now Prime Grill, it was called Seafare of theAegean. We had so many wonderful meals there. The sole and salmon were excellent and the Aegean Peaches were surreal-humongous fresh peach halves poached in sugar. If you were really decadent, you added a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It was one of my in-laws favorite places to go. When it went out of business, the Beacon Restaurant took over-a much more trendy spot that attracted a younger more hip clientele. And now this same space has been taken over by Prime Grill. It is still a beautiful space, still trendy and now kosher!
Chef David Kolotkin and owner Joey Allaham have created a menu with something for every taste. The menu includes sushi, charcuterie, beautiful salads, aged steaks, tantalizing sides and much more. The house rosemary pita comes hot and crispy with a small carafe of olive oil. By 7:30 PM, when we arrived, the crackling duck salad, barbecued duck spring rolls and porcini burgers were already sold out. Next time, I’ll call ahead and reserve them or just get there earlier! Not to worry, we found plenty of other delicious options. We both started with salads that were large enough to be considered a meal. Richard chose an endive and radicchio salad with thinly sliced sausage, pears and candied nuts. I had a simpler salad with a light lemon dressing. The 16 oz. veal chop with an apple fritter and whipped potatoes intrigued my husband; while I had rosemary and mustard encrusted rack of lamb with fava bean puree and couscous cooked with chorizo. For dessert, we shared an apple tart with vanilla ice cream made with coconut milk. Everything was delicious. The only downside to this restaurant is the price. It is $$$$$$$$$$$ putting it into a “special occasion” category. The economy must be improving because there was a very healthy crowd that night and most of them seemed to be under 40 years old!
Thursday night, we had just finished a meeting in the West 40’s. It was about 5:40 PM. My husband said :”Why don’t we go to Prime Grill for dinner?” I couldn’t imagine having dinner so early without theatre as an excuse; but as we walked over there, my appetite grew. At 6:00, Prime Grill was basically empty. A few tables were filled but they had no trouble seating us without a reservation. Within an hour- the room was hopping. I was impressed with the number of non Jews who came in for business dinners and not because the food was kosher. We were taken up the winding staircase to a table for two near the railing. The tables set against the wall were far enough away so that we could see what was being ordered but didn’t feel that we were sitting with strangers. BTW- there are outlets on those walls which allow patrons to plug in while they’re eating.
With the memory of the size of the portions in my mind, I opted not to have an appetizer and my husband unhappily followed my lead. He later told me, I had made the right choice. Enjoying our drinks and warm pita with olive oil, I suddenly noticed a large painting of the Rebbe done in Warholesque style. Four portraits of the Rebbe overlooking the restaurant! I imagine it was there before; but I had never noticed it. Anyway, back to the food. I ordered a Porcini burger-medium rare- and it was delicious. Due to the amount of pita, I had consumed, I made no attempt to eat the roll and just enjoyed the Porcini burger with roasted porcini mushrooms, porcini aioli and steak fries with truffle salt. As anyone who knows me well can tell you, a burger and truffle anything are two of my favorite foods in the world. I ate the whole thing! After an explanation of the different steaks by the well-informed waitress, my husband ordered the Reserve cut steak with frizzled onions. Although it looks blackened in my picture, it was medium rare inside, well marbled, soft and full of flavor. Creatures of habit that we are, we again ordered the apple tart to share and it came fresh and warm. Despite the fact that the menu informs you that sharing will cost you an extra $6, we were not charged for sharing the tart. I imagine you incur that charge if they actually have to set up and garnish two plates for the price of one. Speaking of price, the Porcini burger was $35 and the steak was $61. The wine list is expansive and expensive. While Prime Grill is definitely expensive, the meat I order for home use is also a fortune. You are paying the price not only for the quality of the food but also the ambiance of the restaurant. This is not fast food- it is “steakhouse dining”-which leads me to another point which might be of interest to some of you.
In the Dedication of THE PRIME GRILL COOKBOOK, there is a quote from Joey Allaham-the founder and owner: “To my mentor, Arthur Emil, for his guidance, friendship, and constant support.” While the Rebbe overlooks the restaurant from the top floor, there is a booth on the main floor with a framed photograph of the late elegant Arthur Emil on the wall. I knew Arthur because he was a partner of my brother in law Larry Kobrin. Arthur was Jewish; but not at all traditional. It was truly magical that Joey Allaham was able to convince him to invest in this enterprise- and clearly their relationship went way beyond just business. In short, while the Rebbe looks in silent approval at the level of Kashruth observed in Prime Grill, Arthur Emil is silently smiling at the elegance maintained in a space with so much cachet from a previous generation.