Restaurant Review: BLT Steak and 42

Not your ordinary hotel restaurants: The Ritz-Carlton’s 42 and BLT Steak



Dining at the Ritz

 

Two new restaurants: one on the first floor; the second on the very top floor.

Both making White Plains a dining destination.

 

 

 

The view from the top at 42.

 

What do New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami have in common? It’s obvious: they’re all dining destinations. Now add White Plains to the list.

 

We’ve always known there are plenty of great reasons to be in White Plains, but now it seems others—award-winning chef Laurent Tourondel, the “LT” in BLT Steak, for example—have caught on, too. The hip steakhouse’s presence is meaningful: to us, it signals recognition that this area’s importance goes far beyond “New York City suburb.”

When we weren’t looking, White Plains turned into a bona-fide “destination.”

 

If the presence of BLT Steak in the Ritz-Carlton doesn’t call to you, perhaps 42, on the top floor of the same building, will. Here, you will find a view—and tabs—that are not only worthy of your most important celebration or business deal, but also on par with some of Manhattan’s finest.

 

On an evening of particularly gruesome weather, we appreciate the comfort and convenience of pulling the car directly to the covered entryway; the $5 charge for valet parking snaps us out of our regal fantasy. Never mind: fewer than five steps later, we are entranced by the lobby, and charmed by the striking floral arrangements.

 

And now, depending on our reservation, we might saunter down the hall to BLT Steak or take a steep, fast ride up the glass elevator to the 42nd floor.

 

Restaurant 42                     ★★★ ½

1 Renaissance Square, White Plains

(914) 761-4242; 42therestaurant.com

Hours: dinner Tue to Sun 5 pm -11 pm; high tea Wed, Fri, Sun 1:30pm -3:30 pm.

Appetizers: $19-$27; entrees: $29-$75; desserts: $11-$13

   ★★★★—Outstanding      ★★★—Very Good 
         ★★—Good                       ★—Fair

 

Dining on the Top Floor

 

 

BLT Steak attracts a crowd to both its sleek dining room and its lively bar.

 

We’ve been looking forward to this. The buzz is on about the great views and the ambitious, pricey menu—which includes a $75 steak (more on that shortly).

 

Two-story glass windows run the length of the two main dining rooms, affording every table a view. The view from the first-floor dining room feels more expansive, but perhaps that’s because the room itself is larger and airier. The ambience in the two rooms is very different: upstairs, dark wood walls and tables, Chilewich placemats, and low-hanging cylindrical light fixtures from which “falling” Swarovski rain drops create a sexy, intimate atmosphere. The first floor, with its soaring ceilings, glittering lights from the city spread out below, and starched white tablecloths, is the place to “see and be seen.”

 

It would, however, take deep pockets to be spotted at 42 frequently. Appetizers range between $19 and $27 and entrées from $29 to $75; dinner for two with one of the more moderate wines from the list plus tip can easily breeze past $300. For the money, you can have a wonderful experience. Dining at 42 is an Event.

 

While the kitchen does not yet have its timing down, it helps that the meal begins with an amuse-bouche. On one visit, we were presented with a lovely silken slice of striped-bass sashimi served with a small gathering of micro-greens and with droplets of honey-like pine-cone syrup and tiny glistening orbs of vividly colored, sweet-tart blood-orange syrup. On a subsequent visit, thick slabs of the bass were jaggedly cut and chewy—a mess in our mouths.

 

But gaffes such as this were rare. Chef Anthony Goncalves, who co-owns the restaurant, learned to cook “on the job” just six years ago when he couldn’t find anyone to run the kitchen at his family’s newly renovated restaurant, Trotters. Goncalves is a fast—and impassioned—student who revels in big, rich flavors.

 

We were right there with him from the first bite of tagliarini pasta smothered in Cravero parmigiano and black-truffle shavings, topped with a soft-cooked quail egg, whose golden yolk seeped into the pasta like ribbons of the sun’s richest elixir.

 

Goncalves is no fool: luxurious ingredients such as black truffles appear often, enhancing the über-upscale ambience (and perhaps helping somewhat to justify the prices). The porcini soup would have embraced us like a soft, thick blanket of warm woodsiness even without the black truffle, but we loved that sweet, musky perfume on top of it all.

 

BLT Steak              ★★ ½

The Ritz-Carlton

221 Main St, White Plains

(914) 467-5500; bltsteak.com

Hours: lunch Mon to Fri 11:45 am-2 pm; dinner Mon to Thurs 5:30 pm-10 pm;

Fri and Sat 5:30 pm-11 pm; brunch Sat and Sun 11:45 am-3 pm.

Appetizers: $9-$22; entrees: $21-$48; desserts: $10

   ★★★★—Outstanding      ★★★—Very Good 
         ★★—Good                       ★—Fair

 

Chef Anthony Goncalves went from cooking for his neighborhood
eatery to high cuisine. Among his high marks: juicy duck with date
molasses.

 

And now to the much talked-about $75 steak. The menu reads “Prime Aged Steak”—no cut is listed, so we had no idea if the price was due to some wonderful provenance. So we asked, and were told it is a sirloin, and that it is a very good steak, “one of the best in the country.” Frankly, we disagree. Not with the fact that the steak is good. But one of the best in the country? Not even close. It was good, but not $75-good. And it was certainly not among the best dishes we had at 42. For steak, we’ll stay downstairs. For more luxurious and exciting dining, we’ll choose 42.

 

While pairing licorice with foie gras is not new (Alinea in Chicago and Fat Duck outside of London brought it to food lovers’ attention several years ago), it still is cutting edge, and certainly requires finesse to pull off. Goncalves handled this sophisticated pairing wisely: the licorice powder is sprinkled on the plate, allowing diners to take advantage of the combination or pass it by. But do take advantage. Just a small amount of licorice makes the velvety foie gras taste even richer as it oozes in your mouth.

 

Other dishes were also wonderfully prepared. We loved sliding warm, juicy slices of duck across the date molasses and smoky bacon powder on our plate; tender, flavorful venison was cooked to perfection and elegantly paired with cocoa and sour-cherry sauce.

 

Three fish dishes were cooked to perfection, though they were less adventuresome than the meats. A generous portion of arctic char was beautifully crisped and served with a deep, rich cabernet reduction; branzino was served with a similarly well-balanced rouge blanc; and a John Dory special was cooked to allow the sweet, subtle flavor of the fish to shine.

 

Desserts were a mixed bag, but overall not on par with the rest of the meal. Our favorite was a complimentary selection of pot de crème; on one visit there were four flavors, each served in a tiny cup: lavender, vanilla, pumpkin, and an overly assertive Bailey’s Irish Cream. On our second visit, the Bailey’s had learned some manners, and kept in stride with the pot de crème.

 

Dining on the First Floor

 

Like its upstairs neighbor, BLT Steak has some pricey steaks on the menu. But unlike at 42, some of the steaks here are truly top-notch. Unfortunately, we also had one that was bad enough to send back, a couple of dishes that we just didn’t want to eat, and a few that were unremarkable. That’s not a great record for a restaurant that bears the name of an award-winning chef, but there were also enough great menu items to give us reason to return. The dining-room ambience also will bring us back: it is a combination of sleek and warm, sophisticated and comfortable, lively and muted.

 

 

The perfectly prepared porterhouse, made from prime aged meat, is one of the standout dishes at BLT Steak.

 

With the exception of having to wait on one occasion for our table for nearly a half-hour beyond our reservation time, service was affable and efficient. The sommelier was patient and more than willing to point us towards lower-priced surprise gems on the list.

 

Shortly after we were seated, chicken-liver paté, toasted peasant bread, and pickled vegetables were brought to the table. A short time after that, BLT’s signature warm Gruyère cheese popovers arrived (along with a shaker of coarse sea salt, butter, and a recipe card). On our first visit, we broke open the dramatic golden-brown bread, inhaled the escaping steam—and were dismayed to find a doughy center.

 

A Caesar salad floating by the table looked good enough to entice us to order one: we found looks can be deceiving. Lettuce leaves were drenched in dressing, and cheese and “croutons” of toasted bread topped with melted cheese were doused with too much hot pepper for even the Tabasco-swiggers among us to bear. Frisée salad with diced beets, pleasantly tart crisp apple, and a few crumbles of Gorgonzola was dressed with more restraint, as was a surprisingly large and refreshingly clean-tasting chopped vegetable salad. But the Beefsteak tomatoes were light years better than the salads: gorgeous slabs of summer-quality, deep red tomatoes topped with a sweet and robust grilled-onion vinaigrette.

 

A crisp panko crust sealed the flavor and moisture of fresh shredded crab within; barely any binder or filler distracted from the sweet meat.

 

But presumably one visits BLT Steak for the steak. So first the good news: the smoked sea salt-and-pepper-crusted porterhouse special was perfect. The prime aged meat was evenly marbled, red and juicy, with a slight char on the outside. The smoke of the salt was subtle, but enough to enhance the earthy beefiness.

 

In an embarrassment of riches we’ll happily “suffer” again, the New York strip was, like all the steaks, topped with a puddle of melting herb butter. This combination of deep, rich beef and silken golden of butter form the culinary marriage of all time, one that outlasts trends in flavor and ingredients. It is the very thing for which the BLT restaurants are best known: discerningly chosen ingredients, handled simply with great care.

 

The first time we ordered the Wagyu (American kobe) beef skirt steak—for $55—it was topped with chopped raw garlic that obliterated the meat and actually rendered it inedible.

On a subsequent visit we tried again: this time, the raw garlic was not as overpowering.

The handling of the Wagyu fiasco was faultless. It was whisked away and replaced with a beautifully charred, gorgeously marbled 22-ounce rib-eye that knocked our socks off.

This is a steak for beef lovers—chewy and rich, with intense, heady beef flavor.

BLT Steak has plenty of good choices for non-beef eaters as well. Seared diver scallops, a special, were perfectly cooked and topped with a yuzu-seasoned beurre blanc, and spice-crusted swordfish was as flavorful as it was moist and tender.

 

Where there is a steakhouse, there are fries, but at BLT Steak, they just couldn’t get them right. On one occasion, they were too salty to eat. On another visit, the top few fries were tasty and crisp, but the ones beneath them were flaccid; not worth eating.

 

Share a side of grilled double-cut bacon instead; three thick, salty, smoky, and surprisingly meaty (not fatty) strips of cardiologist-defying heaven. Or have simply sautéed earthy hen of the woods mushrooms or grilled asparagus. On the same visit that the fries were doused in salt, broccoli rabe was oddly bereft of any seasoning. Go figure.

Desserts were as much of a mixed lot as the rest of our meals. A crêpe soufflé with passion-fruit sauce was ideal after a steak dinner.

 

We are hoping the stumbling we experienced at BLT Steak will be rectified. Certainly, the core ingredients, the menu concept, the service, and the ambience make closer attention and more consistency in the kitchen worthy endeavors.

 

Click here to view BLT's various menus in our restaurant guide.

 

 

 

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