Thursday, May 21, 2009

peter luger's

the two maitre'ds that held the power to deny you entry.
"steak you can cut with a butter knife." that's what someone at a dinner party once told me about peter luger's as she rabidly raved about it. i wasn't sure whether to trust her, seeing that she had spent most of the evening being very picky about the fabulous food that our host had made and had nothing but absolute contempt for the food at the fat duck. very opinionated utter contempt. but i suppose taste is subjective and who was i to judge her for saying that vegetables were evil. and being a self-proclaimed overly fussy meat eater, i reckoned she'd probably be picky about her steaks, and she had nothing but high praise for peter luger's.

after the scotsman's directive that i had to go (and i absolutely trust the scotsman about everything he says about food), i was still wavering as to whether i should go. but when tuty emailed saying that she and the gentlemen krauts were planning to go and would i like to join them, i thought - it's a sign, i have to go. and so on a friday evening, we trooped over the williamsburg bridge into brooklyn.

peter luger's was heaving when we arrived, despite it being almost 9pm. while waiting for the call from the maitre'ds to be seated, we hovered at the bar amongst a mix of old men, wall street types with their pucci clad, gucci toting hot totty, families with their awkward teenage sons. despite having made reservations, it was a good 30 minutes before we were finally shown to our table. it seemed rather appropriate that me and tuty had come to peter luger's with a pair of germans - the restaurant had the feel of being inside a bierstube - williamsburg used to be a predominantly german neighbourhood.

we were absolutely starving by the time we seated and we knew what we wanted - two steaks for two, with sides of german fries, creamed spinach. and bacon to start. bacon. this was no place to count the calories or to worry about cardiac health - this place serves bacon as a starter. and it was a fabulous starter - it was a nice healthy slab of thick bacon, nicely streaked such that each bite rendered a burst of healthy tasting hog fat. the bacon was smoky and not overly salty and had been grilled such it had nice cripsy bits at the right places.
the steak you could indeed cut with a butter knife. it was that soft. but the porterhouse/fillet mignon humongousity which was served to me and kraut #2 that day was amazing. although we had a party of 4, we had to order two steaks for 2 - one cooked medium rare and the other medium well. kraut #1 and tuty wanted their steaks cooked WELL. well done steak is a monstrous travesty to which i have no intention of ever participating in. i was quite ready to order my own steak, but kraut #2 thankfully was persuaded to have his steak cooked medium rare and so we shared. if i could do it again, i think i would have gone rare. i do like my steaks blue and bloody. or as bikesterbud puts it, black and blue.

the steak was served with much panache by the otherwise deliberately gruff waiters - it's all part of the old-school charm which is the peter luger experience. the extremely hot plates were placed on an incline so that the meat juices would flow down. the steaks were served sliced, and our waiter took a slice, swiped it along the sides of the serving plate, causing the meat to sizzle further before placing the slice on our plates. apparently the serving plates are heated to about 400F so that diners are able to further cook their steaks at the table if they so wish. i can't honestly remember any of the dinner conversation we had, if any. i was in a meat filled daze as i stuck my fork in and chewed and kept on reaching into the serving platter for more. there's something to be said about aged steaks. there's a nutty depth to the meat when it's allowed to age, a wholesome, heartwarming depth that screams - i came from a happy dead cow and i actually taste like beef! there came a point where i thought i couldn't physically take in any more, and then i soldiered on some more - i was compelled to. it wasn't just the meat, it was the german fried potatoes, with their bits of charred rosemary and sea salt, the luciously creamy spinach...

the krauts demanded that we had pudding after all that meat. it was unbelievable. these two skinny men, eating all this meat and still demanding pudding. and so we had the only pudding that they really wanted, the apple strudel. and so we shared the apple strudel, which came with a splodge of real cream - none of that overly white aerated transfat nonsense otherwise served in establishements all over northern america. here was good honest cream, and with the swollen apple chunks in their crisp blanket, it was the perfect end to our carnivourous meal.

was it the best steak i ever had? i can't honestly say that it was. but it was very good, and it definitely rates among the top five steak experiences. since peter luger's, i've had the chance to eat another steak (which involved some unintended illegality, the details of which are best never disclosed) which was amazingly melt-in-your-mouth-tender and will probably be THE best steak i've had to date (and my source of that steak told me there was even better stuff from where that came from). but the experience of being at peter luger's is something i will remember for a long time - its old school charm, its confidence, its easy informality. i had rung earlier in the day to ask if there was a dress code and could i please go in flip flops, i was told - we're casual. and they are, they're proper but casual. they take their steaks very seriously, they're waiters don't smile. but you have a good time. they throw gold peter luger chocolate coins on the table at the end of the meal - the kind of stuff you get at pirate themed parties for 6 year olds. there's a laugh in those waiters somewhere.


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