Right off the bat let me note that Reserve Cut is Glatt Kosher, which may puzzle some and put off others. I am no authority on matters kosher, and the term Glatt Kosher is itself a continual subject of discussion among Jews: In an article entitled “What’s the Truth About. … Glatt Kosher,” Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotsky states, “Misconceptions about the meaning of glatt are so widespread that, for many, the term glatt has colloquially taken on the implication of a higher standard, similar to the term mehadrin,” and that “Glatt is Yiddish for smooth, and in the context of kashrut it means that the lungs of the animal were smooth, without any adhesions that could potentially prohibit the animal as a treifa, an issue only applicable to animals, not fowl or non-meat products.”
Reserve Cut clearly draws a large number of Jews of different ethnic cultures for whom everything on the menu is kosher enough, including wine, as approved by a Rabbi; that means dairy products may never be mixed with meat in any way and no shellfish may be served. Beyond that, the non-Jew need be no further concerned dining at Reserve Cut.
Okay, now on to how Reserve Cut otherwise ranks among NYC’s myriad steakhouses. For one thing, it is one of the more spectacular dining rooms downtown, with a gorgeous hall of glassed-in wine bottles, and seating for 500 spread out from an entryway bar to two expansive dining rooms, one with a broad open kitchen. When the space opened six years ago on the second floor of the Setai Hotel, it was a superb Asian fusion restaurant named SHO Shaun Hergatt, and Reserve Cut has wisely maintained some of those style elements that made it such a beautiful space. Very low lighting, however, makes it difficult to appreciate much of it. This being a steakhouse, it can get boisterously loud.
As has become the new standard for modern steakhouses, there is a lengthy sushi-sashimi section on the menu, and Reserve Cut’s is as fine as any in town, especially the extensive number of Asian rolls, like the Volcano roll ($22) made from spicy tuna with Asian pear, avocado and tempura. The sushi platter makes for a good assortment of nine pieces of the chef’s recommendations ($36).
There are also many appetizers out of the ordinary here (possibly to fill in for the lack of shellfish like shrimp, lobster and crab), including a terrific dish of smoked shredded short rib tacos ($26) with pineapple, tomato and cilantro salsa. Rich Kobe-style beef tartare was dressed with shallots, cornichons, and quail egg yolk ($28), while excellent tuna is enhanced with black truffle, avocado, teriyaki sauce and cilantro ($24), similar to a dish of grilled blackened cod and tuna ($23). A very delicate and thin yellowtail carpaccio came with subtle flavors of lavender sea salt, lemon zest, and tomato jam for a touch of sweetness ($24), and Chilean sea bass roulade was sided with a rainbow carrot purée, capers, and scallion vinaigrette ($24); all these show the broad range of the kitchen. The two disappointments among the starters I tried were mushy, starchy potato gnocchi with a sauce of duck confit, blistered tomatoes and zucchini ($24), and a watery roasted heirloom tomato soup with basil ($16).
The Brooklyn-born owner of Reserve Cut, Albert Allaham, only 29, “descends from a long line of master butchers dating back over 200 years to Damascus in Syria, where his family ran one of the country’s most respected butcher shops,” so he’s got a lot to live up to, and he delivers with first-rate beef, veal, and lamb, with several cuts to choose from. A richly flavorful 10- ounce prime reserve cut, called the “proprietors cultivated special,” came with a lovely yellow bell pepper caponata ($65), and it was everything you would want from a USDA Prime well-aged piece of meat; so, too, the impeccably trimmed, well-fatted rack of lamb was delicious to the bone, with roasted vegetables and a Port reduction with just the right amount of sweetness ($75), and a thick veal chop came with a terrine of tomato fillets and artichokes, a confit of sweet baby onions, and roasted king mushrooms ($61). I was delighted to see a 12-ounce steak au poivre with caramelized carrots ($61), but there wasn’t nearly as much coarse ground black pepper corns on it as I would’ve wished, and the carrots were undercooked. All these meats come with the option of various classic sauces like Béarnaise, Bordelaise and green peppercorns.
Aside from some addictive golden French fries, the side dishes began showing that kosher cannot deliver much rich flavor to truffled mashed potatoes or “creamed” spinach without using butter or cream, and this also affected desserts ($16), from a strawberry sundae with fabulous strawberry sorbet but insipid corn cream, while the bourbon “milkshake” was a novelty and nothing more. The caramelized chocolate mousse with crispy phyllo and salted caramelized honey ice cream was the best of a lackluster group. I longed for a true New York Jewish cheesecake, but for that I’d have to go to a kosher dairy restaurant or deli.
The wine list is especially admirable for the number of well-worth-trying wines from Israel and kosher-approved bottlings from California, all based on European varietals. There are a few at very reasonable mark-ups, like Borgo Reale Barolo 2010 at $74, while others are really hiked up, like Pardess Merlot 2011 at $162, which runs $30 in a wine shop. Cocktails are $15-$18.
There’s no getting around the fact that the prices for the steaks and chops were as high or higher than most steakhouses around town-a veal porterhouse at Minetta Tavern goes for $52, a 20-ounce bone-in ribeye at Strip House for $58, and Colorado lamb chops at lamb t-bones at Bobby Van’s just across the street from Reserve Cut at Porter House for $56-but you must factor in that you’re getting vegetables and condiments on the side, which is a rarity in most NYC steakhouses. Kosher or not, the quality of the meat is certainly there in every bite, and you’re getting a very swank setting, so it’s all in how you want to dine way downtown.
Lunch Mon.-Fri.; Dinner Sun.-Fri.
40 Broad Street (near Exchange Place)
Photos by Douglas Schneider
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