A Mediterranean taverna in the Theater District...
Diners who want a dainty meal in a refined, sedate milieu are not the ones who seek out Bobby Van’s. It’s a rollicking, two-fisted, traditional New York City steakhouse. This five-year-old, very masculine spot specializes in man-sized portions of solid, substantial, no-surprise American favorites: huge steaks, plates of lamb chops, monster pork chops, lobster, crab cakes, hash browns, mashed potatoes, French fries, and creamed spinach. The portions are colossal, the flavor-packed meat is prime, the bread baskets are piled high with diverse bread and rolls, the martinis are magnificent, and the service is knowing and solicitous at this high-energy, red-meat emporium.
Bobby Van’s is also eminently comfortable. It’s a proudly old-time New York steakhouse with turn-of-the-century-type chandeliers, white tablecloths, mirrors, dark wood walls, bare wood floors, stout columns, and a bar that jumps with noise and action.
Although the Maryland crab cake appetizer was far from the biggest one I’d ever seen, it was one of the best with little filler and much crabmeat, while the tangy lemon pepper shrimp starter offered a pleasant, citrusy bang. The humongous entrée-size portion of tender fried calamari caused one diner to observe, “I could go home happy right now, that was enough for me.” Salad lovers should check out the warm spinach salad; a ring of crisp bacon bits and soft mushrooms bathed in soothing warm shallot vinaigrette surrounds the fresh spinach.
I have never had a better (or bigger) rib eye steak than the one served at Bobby Van’s. It’s a sprawling, thick, tender, juicy beauty that simply can’t be eaten in its entirety by a normal diner. (Mine provided a bountiful next-night treat). Two buttery, fat-free roasted pork chops (each one must have weighed a pound) were more of the same. Its accompaniments of fingerling potatoes, broccolini, and especially black truffle pan sauce added interest to an often-seen cut. Five medium-thin lamb chops had just enough fat on them to make them juicy and tasty. Want something lighter? Try the sesame-crusted tuna: four sushi rare medallions with airy wakame seaweed salad, lively wasabi, and pickled ginger in miso vinaigrette.
Rich sweets harboring concentrated flavors were the order of the day. Among the desserts was a silky, little-seen 21-layer crepe cake that was creamy and eggy. A dense, decadent chocolate cake was covered with nuts, while a smooth, homey bread pudding special was everything it should be and more.
Bobby Van’s Grill: 135 W. 50th St. (6th-7th Aves.), 212-957-5050; Also: 120 W. 45th St. Bobby Van’s Steakhouse: 230 Park Ave. (46th St.); 131 E. 54th St.; 25 Broad St.; bobbyvans.com.
Richard Jay Scholem was a restaurant critic for the New York Times Long Island Section for 14 years. His A La Carte Column appeared from 1990 to 2004. For more “Taste of the Town” reviews, click here.
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