My friend Ben knows steak. Loves steak. Heck, this is the man who came up with a business proposal for a restaurant called Glutton, after we verged on meat coma at a Churrascaria one night.
So, I was quite honored when he asked me to share in the fruits of his labor - a gift certificate from his boss for one of three NYC steakhouses owned by the Glazier Group. Our pick for a free steak dinner? The West Village outpost of The Strip House (pictured above). And, just to make the meal even more festive - considering it was my birthday week and all - Ben asked me to invite a friend to tag along, since the gift certificate was quite generous.
I think it was Ben that was really quite generous. But, who was I to argue. I invited my archaeologically-inclined pal Kristin to join us. I figured that after having to withstand meals of horse meat while on digs in the middle of Uzbekistan, she could do with a fine steak meal.
We converged just in the (Saint) Nick of time for our 7:30pm reservation. But, alas, our table wasn't ready yet, so we sidled up to bar. I surveyed the surroundings - red. My favorite color, but it just wasn't working. The place looked like an overstuffed attempt at a high-scale bordello.
The staff wasn't much better - clearly all imported from lesser regions of New Jersey. Blue jeans seemed to be spray-painted on the coat check girl. The barkeep didn't know how to mix anything beyond the most basic of cocktails. The hostess station didn't know what the word "reservation" meant, as it was already 7:45pm.
The rest of the crowd didn't seem to mind though. Then again, they appeard to be imported from lesser regions of Staten and Long Islands by way of Wall Street. I was surrounded by bad Men's Warehouse suits, grating accents and gold jewelry.
The steak had better be good.
Ben and Kristin (who was already tipsy from her office party) were in agreement. And, the clock was ticking. It was 8pm. We couldn't get the bartender's attention for another round and the hostess insisted that it would only be a few minutes before our table was ready.
Clearly her watch wasn't working. It wasn't until 8:30pm that we were offered a table - in the unlit bar lounge, rather than the dining room. I categorically refused to accept it on behalf of the party. We had made a reservation well in advance and waited for a full hour past the reservation time. We deserved a table in the dining room. They acquiesced and sat us at a fine table towards the rear of the restaurant.
We were starving. The bread basket arrived. We attacked. And, then our waiter, who seemed amiable, arrived as well. We attacked with our orders and then hunkered down, hoping for the best vittles-wise. Happily, the appetizers didn't take a great deal of time before making an appearance - Ben enjoying his garlicky, crisp Caesar Salad, Kristin enjoying her steakhouse classic of Red Tomatoes and Onions and me, fighting to open the Stone Crab Claws that I ordered. I finally was able to pry the suckers open and dipped their white, flaky meat into a creamy mustard sauce.
But now we required meat. Or at least Ben and I did. We both ordered the Rib Eye. Kristin, still a bit full from her office holiday soiree, decided to go light - Clams Casino. Okay, broiled clams with bacon and herb butter isn't exactly light, but it's no burnin' hunk of bovine either.
We eagerly anticipated our entrees. Anticipated. And, anticipated.
Finally, a half-hour between courses, the main dishes arrived. Not exactly "well worth the wait," I must admit that they were wonderful - especially alongside our ordered sides (which arrived well after the main dishes, naturally) of Black Truffle Cream Spinach, Crisp Goose-Fat Potatoes and Fried Onions - which were like Funyuns kicked up a notch by the Cordon Bleu.
Mmmm. More glasses of wine were ordered, the better to enjoy the feast before us.
And then, anticipation struck again. We finally had to flag down a waitress that wasn't our own. But, with some cajoling, the wine eventually arrived. I began to realize that this was simply par for the course at The Strip House. Lucky for them, I was blissed out on perfectly-seared beef and the decadent truffle-spiked spinach.
When the lit candle arrived atop a Carmelized Banana Tart, I couldn't decide if the food had made up for the front of the house shenanigans. Does good food make up for bad service? Well, I wasn't about to make up my mind right then. All I knew was that I was in good company and I had a birthday wish to make. So, I blew out my candle - and enjoyed leftover Rib Eye the next day.