Making a distinctive mark in the fiercely competitive New York steakhouse industry, where 90% of all menus are the same, depends on a variety of factors: history, as in Peter Luger, opened in 1887, or Keens (1885) ; extravagance, as at Salt Bae; a fanbase for a national chain, like Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s; highly personalized service, like at Empire and Royal 35; or, in the case of the BLT Steak, the popover. The popover was the size of a softball, crispy like a Parisian croissant and riddled with crunchy cheese. And it was brought steamy to the table, free of charge. The recipe has been printed many times in various media, but it is not easy to make at home (it takes more than an hour). It became something that gave many people a reason to go to BLT, instead of a number of other steakhouses nearby serving sliced bread.
There is, of course, much more than the gigantic popover that attracts BLT regulars, including its comfortable, modern design with caramel-colored leather banquettes and soft, flattering lighting, ebony tabletops, and a gorgeous bar in front, even wreaths of flowers. Those looking for the brash, macho attitude of Peter Luger or Smith & Wollensky won’t find it at BLT, where the welcome and care are warm and caring.
Several years ago, Tourondel and his partner Jimmy Haber parted ways, with Haber retaining ownership of the brand. But, eventually, Tourondel regained the right to use the BLT name outside of New York, while Haber runs BLT Steak in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and other international units, as well as three BLT Prime restaurants.
Not much has changed since my last visit some time ago except that everything has been refreshed. I remember the place was once a powder keg of noisy noise, now seems a bit packed down (which may have to do with rebuilding BLT’s clientele since the height of the pandemic, when office buildings have been emptied of rich employee expense accounts).
The menu is a large diary, with seven cuts of steak and an equal number of other entrees. There are also two “food and wine” combos: a New York strip with a side and a glass of wine ($65), Scottish salmon with the same ($50), and specials each night; currently there is also a “pop-up” menu of Thai items, including a very good lettuce wrap.
As noted, there isn’t much of a difference in the steakhouse menus, which is fine with patrons, and BLT doesn’t add pasta, but it would be nice to have some soups. There’s a “raw and chilled” section that includes a premium tuna tartare with avocado and soy lime vinaigrette ($24), which comes, like everything here, in a huge serving. Plus, a chopped lobster Cobb salad with avocado, aged cheddar, soft-boiled eggs and pancetta ham and plenty of lobster meat ($32).
There’s the usual thick bacon, here cured with herbs and sherry ($21), and a crab cake with radish, fennel, dill vinaigrette, dill mayo and cilantro ($27). I found the fried calamari with julienned vegetables ($21) had a much more delectable lemon-chive aioli than the usual cocktail sauce elsewhere.
When it comes to steaks, the $68 22-ounce Cowboy Rib Eye is a great alternative to the $130 36-ounce Porterhouse. I found that a 14 oz ($58) New York Strip lacked the tart, mineral flavor I look for in good beef, but then as the menu says, enough, all beef served it’s not the USDA Prime that can provide some of that flavor.
I was hungry for the Dover sole sautéed with caper soy brown butter ($62) and got a nice plump version. I had, however, asked for it to be served on the bone (making sure it stayed warm), but it already arrived in the kitchen as a fillet. Well-grilled lamb chops, sadly not American but New Zealand, come with black olive caramel and spiced yogurt ($58). You’ll definitely want to order some of the sides, especially the decadent truffle mashed potatoes, rich macaroni and cheese, and perfect fries (all $14).
You really should indulge in a dessert or two, especially the pancake soufflé with passion fruit sauce ($TK) which has always been a staple on the menu.
BLT’s wine cellar is very well stocked and priced competitively, but it’s filled with so many bottlings over $100 that it’s hard to find much less than the figure, and the top three picks I ‘ve requested were not in stock.
Like I said at the start, people have their favorite steakhouses for a variety of reasons, but foremost should be consistency and friendliness, which BLT has in spades, as they’ve been there a long time now. Not to mention those irresistible popovers.
106 E 57th Street