By Alex Brown
The big names in New York steakhouses should watch out. A small restaurant in an area little-travelled by diners is making a name for itself by serving world-class cuts of beef.
Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, 440 Ninth Ave., is a comfortable place. It’s defiantly not sexy but the diners the other night didn’t seem like they were looking for waitresses in skimpy cocktail dresses and booming techno music. It’s the sort of solid dining establishment that’s becoming all too rare in the frenzied New York restaurant environment – a place that concentrates on the food with a minimum of fuss to distract from the important business at hand.
The appetizers don’t stray from the classics. A shrimp cocktail served up two massive crustaceans fresh-tasting and packing a punch from the spicy cocktail sauce. An organic mesclun salad was similarly carefully prepared, delicious fresh greens and a restrained dressing. Similarly, a mozzarella and tomato salad was nicely accompanied by a balsamic reduction.
But the real reason people come here has nothing to do with green things. As befits a classic steakhouse, Jack’s doesn’t fuss around with nouvelle cuisine. The emphasis here is meat and potatoes and the quality is top-notch.
A kobe steak was superb. It wasn’t cheap but the quality was incredible, each bite perfectly cooked, savory and nearly melt-in-the-mouth tender. A porterhouse was massive, easily big enough for three but also perfectly seared on the outside, beautifully tender and juicy on the inside, each bite a rich rush of beef flavor that comes from well-aged meat. Some purists might prefer the even denser taste of Smith & Wollensky meat or Peter Luger’s legendary cuts. But for my money, Jack’s offers some of the best all-around beef in New York. The steaks were tastier than any of the meat I sampled on a recent visit to Craft Steak, which demands higher prices in a setting that seems pretentious compared to the down homeliness of Jack’s.
Desserts follow Jacks’ formula of not straying from the classics. They won’t astonish palates but they are satisfying. A cheesecakes was properly moist, dense and flavorful.
Services throughout the meal was prompt and professional without being overbearing.