Dutch’s $45 Steak Beats Minetta At Its Own Game: Ryan Sutton

The Dutch instantly ranks with Minetta Tavern as one of the city’s top chop houses.

It’s a win for Andrew Carmellini, a chef who ditched fine dining for barrio tripe, tiny oyster sandwiches and Mos Def on the sound system.

How very far from Carmellini’s aristocratic education.

This is a guy who earned critical acclaim dishing out fancy French fare at Cafe Boulud. He left in 2005 and eventually opened Locanda Verde, an average Italian joint, where the real draw is Karen DeMasco, his game-changing pastry chef.

The Dutch is Carmellini’s return to form, a proper stage to show off his clever flavor combinations. Creamy Carolina prawns top fried green tomatoes in a pool of red pepper sauce, spiked with chilis and ramp juice for heat and brine. He poaches giant Hawaiian shrimp and serves them head-on. Decapitate, suck out the brains, inhale the maritime aroma.

Such blissful moments will help bring out your inner Zen, which will definitely be necessary for tolerating the loud dining room.

Caviar, especially in such an unlikely venue, helps too. California’s Sterling Royal eggs aren’t as firm or tasty as the endangered stuff from Russia, but the clean ocean aroma gets the job done.

Gin and Eggs

A Ukrainian trader and I spooned the salty $95 luxury appetizer at the counter. The beverage pairing? Icy martinis, properly stirred.

Order the $45 strip steak. The cow comes courtesy of Donnelly Ranch in Kansas; the aging’s done by the good people at LaFrieda.

The broiled beef is perfect: Charred and salted, with a hint of minerality and just a touch of juice. The only difference from Minetta is the price; it’s $9 cheaper here.

Carmellini roasts loin of veal in a robe of bacon, braises the cheek to fall-apart-tenderness and throws in a dollop of pizzaiola sauce to cut the richness. Pair it with an elegant fruity Foillard Beaujolais Morgon ‘Cote du Py’ 1999 ($65) and there’s your summer night.

Everything has acid balance; this pedigreed chef doesn’t slack off amid the pubby digs.

Those oyster sliders get a kick from pickled okra sauce. Black cod, light as a snowdrift, sits in a puckery pool of yuzu. Bloody squab with smoked foie gras is tempered by cherry mustard.

Super Burger

Most surprising is the burger. It actually comes with fries, defying the trend elsewhere. At $15 for the duo, it’s cheap for this first-class blend of short rib, shoulder clod, brisket and dry-aged strip, the latter imparting that concentrated muskiness of a more regal steak.

The texture shocks; the soft patty is almost closer to a French pate than a stateside burger, though a squirt of barbecue sauce cuts through the fat with American punkishness. The fries are distinguished by a delicate crunch.

Too bad Carmellini reserves the burger for lunch and late-night only. Same goes for fried chicken -- no big loss there, since the buttermilk-brined bird is just okay.

Carmellini’s Sloppy Joe is awesome. He uses shredded duck leg instead of beef. The sweet-sour concoction is spiked with a little lemongrass to intoxicate the senses, a little fish sauce for a salty umami punch.

Throw in some peanuts for crunch and you’ve got a sexy, messy dish perfect for the second date.

Superb pies are made in house. Rhubarb and strawberry is your go-to summer slice. Key lime, the cloying disaster of chain restaurants, collapses in the mouth like good panna cotta; sea salt keeps the sweetness at bay.

So forget Minetta and its doorman. The Dutch is for us.

Rating: **1/2. (The painful decibels trim off half a star).

The Bloomberg Questions

Price: Under $30 for a snack, over $100 for a feast.

Sound Level: Over 80 decibels. Very loud.

Date place: Yes, but ask for the quieter Sullivan room.

Inside Tip: Wildly great burgers and steaks.

Special Feature: Wine-topped whiskey sour. Cool.

Will I be back? Yes, especially late at night.

The Dutch is at 131 Sullivan St. at Prince. Information: +1-212-677-6200; http://thedutchnyc.com

What the Stars Mean:
****         Incomparable food, service, ambience.
***          First-class of its kind.
**           Good, reliable.
*            Fair.
(No stars)   Poor.

Sound-Level Chart (in decibels):

51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse sotto voce. 56 to 60: Speak up, please. 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: Heads turn because 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.)

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE