Well Beyond Its Fabulous Popovers, BLT Offers Grand Steakhouse Food And Largess

Susan S. Johnson

Effecting a distinctive signature in New York’s fiercely competitive steakhouse industry, wherein 90% of all menus are the same, depends on various factors: history, as in Peter Luger, opened in 1887, or Keens (1885); extravagance, as at Salt Bae; a fan base for a national chain, like Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s; highly personalized service, as at Empire and Royal 35; or, in the case of BLT Steak, the popover. The popover was the size of a softball, crisp as a Parisian croissant and riddled with crispy cheese. And it was brought steamy hot to the table—free. The recipe has been printed in various media many times, but it’s not easy to make at home (it takes more than an hour). It became one item that gave many people reason to go to BLT, instead of any number of other nearby steakhouses serving sliced bread.

There is, of course, a whole lot more than the gigantic popover that attracts regulars to BLT, not least its comfortable, modern design with buttery, caramel-colored leather banquettes and soft, flattering lighting, ebony tabletops and a gorgeous bar up front, even sprays of flowers. Those looking for the brash macho attitude of Peter Luger or Smith & Wollensky won’t find it at BLT, where the greeting and care are cordial and attentive.

Several years ago Tourondel and partner Jimmy Haber parted ways, with Haber retaining ownership of the brand. But, eventually, Tourondel won back 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 a while ago, except that everything has been freshened. I recall the place used to be a tinderbox of boisterous noise, which now seems a bit tamped down (which may have to do with BLT re-building its clientele from the height of the pandemic, when office buildings were emptied of expense-account rich employees).

The menu is one big broadsheet, with seven steak cuts and an equal number of other main courses. There are also two “food & wine” combinations: a NY strip with one side and a glass of wine ($65), Scottish salmon with the same ($50), and specials each night; at the moment there is also a “pop-up” menu of Thai items, including a very good lettuce wrap.

As noted, there isn’t much difference on steakhouse menus, which is just fine with patrons, and BLT adds no pastas, but it sure would be nice to have a couple of soups. There is a “raw & chilled” section that includes a first rate tuna tartare with avocado and soy lime dressing ($24), which comes, like everything here, in an enormous portion. Even more so is a lobster Cobb salad chopped with avocado, aged cheddar, soft egg and pancetta ham and an abundance of lobster meat ($32).

There is the usual thick-cut bacon, here given a treatment of 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 lemon-chive aïoli much more delectable than the usual cocktail sauce elsewhere.

Getting to the steaks, the 22-ounce cowboy bone-in ribeye at $68 is an excellent alternative to the 36-ounce porterhouse at $130. I found a New York strip at 14 ounces ($58) lacked the tangy, mineral flavor I look for in great beef, but then, as the menu reads, fairly enough, not all the beef served is USDA prime that can provide some of that flavor.

I was hungering for the sautéed Dover sole with caper soy brown butter ($62), and got a nice plump version. I had, however, asked for it to be served on the bone (assuring it stays hot), but it came already filleted in the kitchen. Nicely grilled lamb chops, sadly not American but from New Zealand, are sided with a black olive caramel and spiced yogurt ($58). You will certainly want to order some of the sides, especially the decadent truffled mashed potatoes, the rich mac & cheese and the perfect french fries (all $14).

You really should indulge in one or two desserts, especially the crêpe soufflé with passion fruit sauce ($TK) that has always been a staple on the menu.

BLT’s wine cellar is very well stocked and prices are competitive, but it is piled high with so many bottlings over $100 that it’s tough to find much under than figure, and the first three choices I asked for they did not have in stock.

As I said at the beginning, people have their favorite steakhouses for various reasons, but foremost should be consistency and cordiality, which BLT has in spades, since they’ve been at it for a long time now. Not to mention those irresistible popovers.

BLT STEAK

106 E 57th Street

212-752-7470

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