Friday, February 13, 2009

BLT Steak: Power Dinner

This past Wednesday, I had the good fortune of joining 11 co-workers for a department dinner at BLT Steak in White Plains. Getting to partake in my first “power dinner” was quite an honor, so I was bringing my A-game for sure. That meant no photographing my food, and certainly no choking at the table.

So imagine my horror when as I was gobbling up complimentary country bread topped with a delicious chicken liver pâté, already lathering up my next slice—living the dream really—I felt a curious tingle at the back of my throat. I have no known food allergies, but… well, scratch that because apparently I do.

My thoughts were focused: “Sharon, you’ve been waiting for this dinner for two weeks. Who’s allergic to the first course? No, not even the first course, the complimentary bread basket? Unacceptable!”

I gulped some Fiji water and sat back for a few moments. The tightening didn’t seem to get any worse.

[There. I was feeling some pressure writing this blog entry since some of my co-workers—boss included(!)—expressed an interest in reading it. Now that I’ve included “an exciting incident,” I’m feeling better.]

And speaking of feeling better, I did later that night. After a few more swigs of water, and making a mental note to research what was in the pâté (shallots, port wine, garlic, chicken liver, duck fat, cognac, butter, olive oil), I was able to move on and thoroughly enjoy the rest of my dinner.

Following the allergy-inducing pâté were more complimentary carbs: monstrous Gruyere Popovers, which, while intimidating to look at, were incredibly airy and flaky, like giant Cheese Crullers. A generous touch were the miniature recipes affixed to the dish, like gift-tags to a present.

Next was Tuna Tartare served with avocado and soy-lime dressing ($16). This dish was sensational; not only was it presented beautifully—the tuna was stacked on avocado in a perfect square, floating in dressing and served on a bed of crushed ice—but the flavors were mild and refreshing. There was a hint of wasabi, but it didn’t overpower the sauce.

For my entrée, I ordered the 12 oz. Filet ($42), “Medium” (pink, with a hot center). Accompaniments were served ala carte. Grilled asparagus ($9) were over seasoned and buttery (how a steakhouse should prepare them, I suppose), but the stuffed mushroom caps ($9) were the best I’ve ever tasted—earthy, crisp and filled with garlic.

But back to the filet, I’m conflicted on how I felt about it. It earned high points for being unquestionably tender and beautiful to behold. It’s described on the menu as “USDA Prime or Certified Black Angus, the finest available.” The beef is “naturally aged for maximum tenderness and flavor before broiling at 1700 degrees and finished with herb butter.” I appreciated the charred finish (others found the outside too charred), and the melted, herbed butter was a comforting addition. However, the center of the filet was almost cool to the touch, and as a whole, it was missing flavor. Filets I’ve ordered in the past have been aggressively seasoned with herbs, salt, pepper, and spices, perhaps even marinated? This one was relatively bland.

But the blandness I now suspect was intentional. BLT offers sauces to highlight the meat, and they are a very big deal over there (options include: steak, 3 mustard, béarnaise, blue cheese, red wine, peppercorn, horseradish, and BBQ).

Up to that moment, I had been a filet snob, reasoning a good filet should be able to stand on its own. So when the waiter had asked me earlier that evening if I would like a sauce, I got on my filet-purist high horse and scoffed. But then he told me it came on the side, so I shrugged and said why not.

Here’s my new theory on sauces on filets: they are the mac daddy! My red wine sauce sent the filet over the moon. (A very grateful Otto unwrapped leftovers in front of Top Chef later that evening and, by that point, the red wine sauce had congealed into something thicker, more potent and even better.) So maybe I’m not really conflicted about my filet after all.

When the bill arrived, rich, gooey espresso dark-chocolate chip cookies were delivered as a final gift.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the prices at BLT—they’re high, to the point you’ll be looking for things to nit-pick because you’re paying such a premium. If I were to nitpick, I’d say that while the surroundings are classy and comfortable, the waiters are a tad quiet, almost timid. Our seats were too close to the window, so servers made half-hearted attempts to move behind us, only to end up reaching over us awkwardly.

I’m curious as to other people’s thoughts on BLT, especially regarding sauces served with the filets. How was your meal as a whole? Worth it? Overpriced? Over-rated? Exceptional?

Special thanks to Kim for letting me tag along on Wednesday. I also want to thank her for the delicious pumpkin cupcake she brought me from Magnolia Bakery earlier today.

BLT Steak
The Ritz Carlton
Three Renaissance Square
White Plains, NY
(914) 467-5500

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