Located on bustling 54th Street just off Fifth Avenue, Charlie Palmer Steak has been quietly turning out some spectacular dishes, steak and otherwise, since September 2014, bolstered by an extensive renovation last year. The 3,500 square-foot restaurant opened with Aureole alum Matt Zappoli as executive chef with Ryan Lory as sous, but Lory recently took over as executive chef. We had the opportunity to sample his cooking at the invitation of the restaurant, and the creations he’s turning out are nothing short of stunning.
People tend to associate the word “steakhouse” with big slabs of beef, shrimp cocktail, and creamed spinach, but while all of those are available at CP Steak, Palmer has recognized that there’s more than enough of that to go around in New York and has turned the entire concept on its head. If you want a steak here you can certainly get one: Options include filet, bone-in ribeye, and New York strip from Double R Ranch; filet, strip, and a porterhouse for two that’s been dry-aged for 30 days; wagyu strip and ribeye from Snake River Farms, and a $165 A5 kobe strip from Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture (in other words, the real deal). Sauces on the side include béarnaise, red wine shallot, green peppercorn, and horseradish cream, and you can top your steak with foie gras, lobster tail, king crab, and blue cheese. Yeah, you can definitely get a good steak here! But Charlie Palmer Steak (and chef Ryan) shines where other steakhouses tend to fizzle out: in composed chef-driven dishes.
Hamachi crudo is daintily plated with sea beans, thin-sliced cucumber, microgreens, ponzu foam, and generous dollops of caviar. Chunks of tender Spanish octopus are at home alongside patatas bravas, chorizo, squid ink, and smoky mayo. Alaskan halibut is given a golden-brown crust in a cast iron pan and served atop fresh asparagus and a pool of rich beurre blanc. Duck breast is perfectly cooked, the fat rendered down and the skin crisped, accompanied by chanterelles and one perfect Hudson Valley foie gras tortelloni (pasta is one of Lory’s specialties, and his pasta special changes regularly). Lory’s talents are best exhibited via his Friday and Saturday-only tasting menu, which changes weekly based on what he finds at the Union Square Greenmarket.
The fact that Lory, ostensibly a steakhouse chef, is taking regular trips to the Union Square Greenmarket should tell you all you need to know: As far as steakhouses go, Charlie Palmer Steak is really in a league of its own.