Austin's Steakhouse: Here's The Beef (And Not Much Else)
At Austin’s, steaks and burgers are in “rare” form.
Here's the Beef (And Not Much Else)
Austin’s Steak & Wine Bar looks more like a neighborhood pub than a steakhouse; it has the friendly, homey vibe of a local hangout, too. You enter the restaurant at the foot of the bar area, which is dominated by large televisions (sound on) broadcasting sports events. The bar area, which is about one-third of the restaurant, is separated from the dining space by a half-wall. Even diners who may not normally be so inclined are likely to find their eyes drawn to the flickering images on the screens. And be warned: those of us with our backs to the televisions do not appreciate the one-
syllable grunts that pass for conversation.
Sound like home? Televisions aside, Austin’s does have a warm, comfortable feel not usually found in a steakhouse. Servers are friendly, though certainly not polished. Dress is casual, and décor as simple as wine-colored walls, wine posters, and a jukebox. As much as Austin’s does not look or feel like a steakhouse, remember its name when you order: at Austin’s Steak & Wine Bar, steak is what they do best. (The wine list offers a small but decent selection of moderately priced bottles.)
A New York strip, generously thick and darkly seared, was moist and juicy, and had the beefy flavor and solid chew that gives this cut its machismo. A porterhouse also arrived beautifully seared, its thick, dark crust topped with small puddles of just-melted, foaming butter. Unlike the strip, however, this was not cooked to the requested medium rare—it was so rare it was cool to the touch in the center. To the kitchen’s credit, the steak was returned to us perfectly cooked. The filet was tender and juicy, and the strip meaty and rich.
Filet mignon was also brought to the table less cooked than requested, but in this case our dining companion chose to eat the filet medium rare (as delivered) rather than medium (as ordered). The tender meat was topped with a classic and well-executed béarnaise with a generous, though not cloying, hit of tangy, mildly anise-like tarragon.
The béarnaise was the best sauce we had at Austin’s. A tart passion-fruit coulis overwhelmed a nicely crisped crab cake. But the crab cake would have been easily overwhelmed: beneath an appealing surface was a somewhat vacuous interior, made of shredded—not lump—crabmeat with filler.
The first taste of mussels in a saffron-cognac broth was an unexpected tidal wave of rich sensation rising through our senses—but the second bite told us we had just consumed lightly flavored heavy cream. The plump mussels were there, lolling in the cream like so many little Neros while around them a dish was in ruins.
Seared sesame tuna may have been just a day away from the gallows: it was all sinew and tasted as though it had been awaiting its release too long. Wasabi-tinged seaweed salad didn’t help this dish, which was all edges and harshness.
Butter, bacon, garlic, and clams combined in good balance atop six clamshells for a tasty, if somewhat salty, clams casino. The classic iceberg wedge was just what you’d expect and made a decent starter: bits of bacon in a fairly chunky blue-cheese dressing topped crisp wedges of lettuce.
Sides also were generally well prepared, though we were somewhat surprised by our very literal dish of creamed spinach: warm spinach arrived in a pool of cream. Garlic spinach may have been just as literal, but that was fine: bright-green leaves were just wilted in garlic-infused oil. Thinly sliced sautéed onions made a pleasantly sweet accompaniment for steaks, as did big thick stalks of crisp-tender asparagus.
Cream may be the go-to ingredient at Austin’s. A dish called shrimp scampi bore little resemblance to any version of the dish we’d ever seen: a cloying cream sauce may have started out with garlic and butter, but it ended up obliterating not just the shrimp but also the pasta on which it was served.
We expected a steak house which had showed some finesse with steak (if nothing else) to make a decent burger, but our expectations were misplaced. Our “Austin Power Burger” was, quite simply, a disaster. The toasted bun was hard and stale and the burger, which was raw in the center (not rare; raw), was mysteriously dry. Not a
single drop of juice dripped from the burger, nor did it even moisten the roll.
Skip dessert: from a brownie that tasted packaged to a gummy cheesecake with a pasty crust to an apple crumb-topped pie with raw dough and mushy topping to a crème brûlée with a broken custard that was missing it’s brûlée, the desserts were the worst parts of the meals.
Austin’s is the sort of place to visit if it is geographically convenient and you stick to steaks and simply prepared vegetables. Stay away from anything that once swam, and know ahead of time dessert calories are best spent elsewhere.
Stick with the steaks at Austin’s and you won’t be disappointed.
Austin's Steak & Wine
39 Chestnut St, Dobbs Ferry
Hours: Sun through Thurs 5-10 pm,
Fri and Sat 5-11 pm.
Appetizers: $8-$13, Entrees: $16-$33
★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good