“What condiments would you like with your steak?” asked the
waitress. We looked at the list. Kumquats in syrup? Soy caramel sauce? Papaya
mustard? There are nine condiments to choose from on the menu at V Steakhouse,
including that perishing invention, the “house steak sauce.” When your
porterhouse arrives, it’s not just a slab of meat on a plate: It’s prettified
with a mound of microgreens. It’s the least you could expect for a dish that
costs $66—for one person.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s V Steakhouse is as baroque as Peter
Luger is bare. The restaurant is on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center
(part of the so-called restaurant “Collection” that includes Masa, Per Se and,
opening just last week, Cafe Gray). The windows look out over Central Park and
the Trump Tower at Columbus Circle, where the chef has his main restaurant,
Mr. Vongerichten is a celebrity chef, with a worldwide empire of
17 restaurants and a raft of cookbooks to his name. His range is astonishing,
from haute cuisine at Jean-George to innovative Thai at Vong and Chinese at 66,
to his take on Asian street food at Spice Market. He also has another
steakhouse in Las Vegas that I haven’t yet visited. What he’s trying to do at V
The dining room, which seats 224, looks less like a steakhouse
than a Las Vegas casino. I’m sure the bad taste is intended as a joke: massive
gold-covered columns, a dozen gold-painted trees with gold branches sprawled
over the dark green ceiling and scarlet banquettes wrapped around the foot of
some of the tree trunks. Tiffany must be clean out of crystal chandeliers, so
many are dotted around the place, hanging from cords wrapped in red velvet. The
tables are set with squat red velvet chairs, like the ones in Cipriani, low as
a kindergartner’s. When you sit down, they throw off your perspective: Your
waitress looks enormous, and when you stand up, for a few seconds you feel as
tall as a basketball player. But aside from the chairs, it’s a comfortable
room—not too noisy, with soft lighting and tables that are set far apart.
In such a setting, no wonder the steaks are decorated with
microgreens. But the kitchen, under chef de cuisine Chris Beischer, does best
with those dishes that stick close to the conventional steakhouse genre. It
falls apart when they get over-the-top. For instance, are perfectly good, fresh
oysters improved with a thick potato-crumb crust loaded with wasabi? Does a
side order of peas and asparagus need bits of crystallized ginger to perk it
The New England clam chowder, made with leeks and bacon, would’ve
been very good had it not been laced with cubes of undercooked potatoes.
“They’re not integrated into the chowder,” I complained.
“The technical haute-cuisine term is ‘mooshed,’” said my
But the heirloom tomatoes with onion rings in an airy batter were
wonderful (as they should be this time of year), and so was the crabcake.
Most of the meat served at V
comes from Niman Ranch, hormone-free, and it’s expertly cooked. But the
porterhouse had a great deal of fat and gristle. The New York strip was
first-rate, however, and the lamb T-bone was nicely charred, pink and juicy. As
for the steak sauce, when my companion took a taste of it, his expression was
like that of a man who’d just heard his bank had failed.
What is the point of this gooey, sweet brown stuff? I hated it at
Peter Luger, and I hate it here. As far I’m concerned, the only sauce worth
bothering with for steak is béarnaise—and at V, the béarnaise is very good.
For the price of $28, given
all the fuss about PCB’s and whatever, I expect to be paying for wild salmon,
not “farm-raised in Scotland,” as the waitress explained. So instead I ordered
the more ecologically sound halibut. Not a good choice: The fish, set upon a
raft of grilled asparagus and topped with chopped peppers, was devoid of taste.
Yet the baked chicken was delicious: It came with a crust made of four
different kinds of crushed cereal dipped in an egg and soy mixture, so it was
In keeping with steakhouse tradition, V offers a selection of
side dishes. Potatoes call “fripps” were made with sliced Idahos, skin on,
deep-fried and coated with sea salt, pepper and grated lemon zest. They were
soft and soggy. But the truffled potatoes—no longer on the menu—were lovely, as
was the spinach with herbs and cream. Cherry tomatoes were also terrific,
roasted over wood so their flavor was intensified.
Desserts were fun. Lemon “composition” consisted of crushed
meringue scattered on the plate like pottery shards, bits of lemony crumbs
surrounding a lemon curd. The cherry pie crackled when you bit down into to it.
Another joke: The topping was made of “pop rocks.” It came with a creamy bitter
With the bill, our waitress brought a plate of truffles filled
with kirsch. I remember those dreaded things from the boxes of chocolate we
used to get at Christmas time when I was a child: We would stick our fingers
underneath each chocolate to see what the filling was and then put it back in
the box if we didn’t like it. The one that caught you in the act every time was
the dreaded cherry liqueur, which would spurt all over the carpet.
“You have to eat the truffles in one mouthful,” said the waitress.
The liqueur-filled truffles seemed to sum up the meal: They would have been so
much better just plain.
Dinner for two, with a cocktail each and one of the cheapest
wines on the list, came in at just under $300. As we paid, I looked wistfully
out of the windows and thought that for the same price, we could have eaten
across the street at Jean-Georges.
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