June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Meats wants us to eat less meat. The Brooklyn spot now serves its ribeye for two only on Friday and Saturday nights.
It’s a bold move by chefs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo. They realize that at a time when diners want prudent portion sizes, and when beef prices are at an all-time high, the most sensible thing a restaurant can do is to serve fewer steaks.
This weekend dry-aged ribeye is the luxury it’s priced to be -- $142; more than at Manhattan’s Minetta Tavern or The Dutch. There’s a good reason for the discrepancy: The steak tastes better here.
Prime Meats has come a long way since it opened, when the restaurant was cash-only, the steak for two was as cheap as $65 and the cooking was good, but not great. I gave it one star in 2010.
Now, all major credit cards are accepted. And Prime Meats will start to take reservations for the first time this week, via Urbanspoon.
The kitchen has improved too. Suckling pig, so light and soft under ashen skin, is cooked in fat. And a dry-aged beef sausage, blending steak trimmings with a strong dose of pork, gives diners a chance to experience the musky taste of a New York strip in the form of a bratwurst ($16).
Roasted carrots ($11) arrive with cayenne pepper cream, the caramelized sugar enhanced by the addition of dairy fat. Red quinoa ($11) is leaner, with fragrant mint and pickled vegetables.
Not everything’s new. Prime Meats is still the gorgeous restaurant it’s always been, with pressed tin ceilings and wood floors. Sunlight pours in through a front room that overlooks the church where Al Capone was married.
The bar, once standing-room-only, now has stools. It’s a proper place for a strong Martini, maybe with a dozen oysters, never too cold and with nary a popped belly. The mousse-like weisswurst ($10) is paired with a malty pretzel roll, best enjoyed while sitting down with a tall wheat beer.
Raise a glass to the two Franks for creating a four year-old spot that’s as comfortably worn as one that’s forty.
Drinks are transferred, and wines are served in thin-lipped stems. Told you things were civilized. Order a nervy German riesling ($15) to tame the heat of a beef tartare. That mound of raw meat is startling -- the flavors of anchovies, capers and Tabasco come through with laser-sharp clarity.
The Franks have condensed the menu. Gone is the forgettable sauerbraten. Now we have short ribs ($26), balancing barbecue-like smoke with tender braised beef. Amish pickled chicken remains, packing a clean poultry punch with just a hint of dill-like brine, the carnivorous equivalent of a dirty martini.
No more strip steak. Instead Prime Meats offers a slightly cheaper Wagyu flank ($30). Skip the forgettable cut.
Wait till Friday for the cote de boeuf. It’s not as tender as the one served at Michael White’s Costata. But the mineral tang comes through louder and clearer than almost anywhere else in New York.
The slices are finished with good salt and the charred meat is cooked just enough to render out the fat. And since we’re now at a brasserie, not a steakhouse, the sides -- sweet carrots and sauteed cavolo nero -- come without charge. Pair the beef with custardy, butter-roasted lobster.
Tuck into an ice-cold coconut cream pie and aid the digestion with a shot of Underberg, a bitter German digestif.
Life is good. Prime Meats is in its prime. Rating: ** 1/2
The Bloomberg Questions:
Price: Most dishes under $30.
Sound Level: Lively, about 75 decibels. Louder when full.
Date Place: Absolutely.
Inside Tip: Order the creme brulee and apple strudel.
Special Feature: Rich, nourishing gruyere spaetzle ($9).
Back on my own dime? I’m already a regular.
Prime Meats is at 465 Court Street. Information: +1-718-254-0327 or http://www.frankspm.com/.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor
Sound-Level (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse. 56 to 60: Speak up. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: You’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Tumblr at www.thepricehike.com or www.thebaddeal.com.)
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