Chef Michael Lomonaco is one of New York’s most renowned chefs, and is the force behind one of its finest steakhouses, Porter House. But after 10 years in business overlooking Central Park in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center, the restaurant’s chef and managing partner closed its doors and recently reopened it with a new design, a new name (from Porter House New York to Porter House Bar and Grill), and an updated menu. We spoke with Lomonaco about his motivations behind the revamp and what returning guests to the restaurant can expect.
The Daily Meal: What prompted the redesign, and what changes have been made?
Michael Lomonaco: Our tenth anniversary is coming up this September, and in anticipation of that we thought it would be a great thing to redecorate the interior.
There’s a new floor and wall treatments, new color scheme, new tablecloths and chairs, new lighting, and new tablecloths in the dining room. But the bar is the most immediate difference you’ll notice: There’s a new back bar, a new marble top, new banquettes, and a wine cabinet separating the bar from the dining room. We have 700 labels in the cellar, so putting it on display is a nice feature.
What prompted the name change?
We thought that possibly we’d do one somewhere else, like Las Vegas, so that’s why we added “New York” originally. This addendum to the name tells the story better. The bar is a destination in and of itself with 60 seats and its own menu, and the restaurant is more than a steakhouse. Seafood and lobsters are a big part of the mix. We have game dishes in the fall, like wild venison and grouse, and wood pigeon from Scotland.
What changes to the menu have been made?
The seasonal impact is more prevalent now. It can be felt in first courses and sides, like grilled asparagus with truffle vinaigrette, poached egg, and lardo; and diver scallop with hazelnut crust and dashi seafoam. It’s a lot lighter than brown butter, which is what it was previously served with.
How have diners’ preferences changed over the past 10 years, in your opinion?
Well, beef has not gone out of style, but people are becoming more selective. They’re looking for Prime aged beef, and we use Creekstone Farms’ hormone and antibiotic free beef. They’re also more willing to try other things that you don’t find on the typical steakhouse menu, and in response to that we’ve added things like like game, daily seafood specials, Dover sole, and roast veal chop with sage gnocchi and cippolini. Diners are well-rounded, and they photograph everything! And they’re also more into burgers now; we have two burgers on the menu: a Lomonaco blend burger made with aged prime beef, and a double patty smashburger at the bar.
What do you think the secret to the restaurant’s longevity is?
The secret is in the guest. We welcome them with great hospitality and great quality of service. We’re here for them, and if they have special requests we’re happy to meet them. We also have a great team both in the front and the back of the house, many of whom have been here for a number of years.
And I’m here all the time as well. I’m not in other cities. This is my job, it’s at a place I love, and I want to make sure my guests have a great experience. I feel like I did my time on TV, and I love to come here every day. If you’re sincere and passionate about what you do, people can tell.