Costata Serves $118 Steaks, Giant Martinis: Ryan Sutton
A passion for meat will cost you at Costata, the newest venture by Ahmass Fakahany, a former executive at Merrill Lynch & Co., and Italian chef Michael White.
A five-course meal for two can run as much as an evening at Le Bernardin.
Costata, at the old Fiamma space in Soho where White first rose to fame, is a multi-tiered restaurant dedicated to caviar, raw fish and red wine as well as red meat.
This is where law-school graduates will bring their parents and where partners at hedge funds will escort junior analysts.
Costata is elegant and sometimes quite good, especially by chop-house standards, thanks to the telepathic service under the supervision of general manager Adele LeGault.
The martinis, like everything else here, are huge -- perhaps too big, if that’s possible. Still, the Global ($16), a blend of Old Raj 110-proof gin, Cocchi di Torino and dry vermouth, pairs beautifully with sopressata-spiked razor clams.
The wines-by-the-glass list is deep, with selections ranging from $11 to, yes, $145 (for a Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico). Reds, like the tannic Mauro Veglio Barolo ($26), arrive at perfect cellar temperature.
Scallops sport just enough black-truffle vinaigrette to let you know you’re eating something fancy and a $23 price tag in case you forget.
Then the $118 tomahawk ribeye for two arrives. It comes out at a text-book medium rare and is well-salted. It boasts char, not too much, and dry-aged musk, maybe not enough. But nothing makes it memorable.
This is when you ask yourself whether you want to be spending $400 or more for two here. No matter how spiffy the accoutrements, the main event is good but never great, and nine of the 13 mains are steaks or chops.
More affordable spots like The Dutch or Minetta Tavern get around this problem by being less steakhouse, more brasserie, emphasizing composed main courses rather than simply throwing meat on a plate.
Things improve with the raw fish. Amberjack ($21) gets pickled cauliflower to cut through its oils and Calabrian chili to amp up the heat.
It’s superb, but unfortunately it’s portioned for an elephant, as are the scallops and forgettable fluke ($18).
So are giant (and average) steak tartare ($24) and the behemoth cacio e pepe salad. Lobster all’amatriciana ($24) is smaller, which is good because it tastes like what would happen if a chef accidentally dropped horseradish into tomato sauce.
Seafood salad, a modest-size mix of firm octopus, tender calamari and fragrant shrimp, is perfection.
Garganelli alla fiamma ($21) will appeal to a small subset of the population that enjoys funneling truffled cream the way frat boys chug beer. Others might opt for linguine with clams ($21), which are more of a study in butter than brine, or the squid ink noodles ($19), packed with shrimp and sepia for sweet, and chili for heat.
Still have room for steak?
Skip the porterhouse, as it boasts a level of dry-aging that borders on mushiness. The go-to cut is bone-in strip ($55), sporting a clean beefy headiness that ranges from subtle to strong. Too bad Costata bastes the strip with rosemary and then anoints it with a “rosemary mop,” a double dropkick of herbs that can overwhelm the meat with the flavor of pine.
Lamb chops ($49) save the day, packing that punch of game and minerality the beef lacks, while decent lobster ($46) is garnished with tomato breadcrumbs that add more texture than flavor.
Italian-inflected sides are satisfactory; polenta with a heart-stopping topping of mushroom sugo is a must-order. And White makes baby carrots taste less like a vegetable, more like an excuse to consume brown butter (a good thing). Avoid watery, one-note creamed spinach ($10).
Desserts are a sell. Panna cotta is as dense as cake. Dry fig crumble (with more rosemary!) isn’t much better. Just order gelato drowned in espresso ($10) and call it a night. Costata is a fine steakhouse, but I’ll get my fancy elsewhere.
The Bloomberg Questions:
Price: Around $150-$200 per person.
Sound Level: Not too loud (65-70 decibels).
Date Place: Steak? No way.
Inside Tip: Big spenders can partake of the fine list of Coravin-poured wines, which start around $33.
Special Feature: Decent oysters, albeit at $3.75 a pop.
Back on my own dime? For a martini and some raw fish.
Costata is at 206 Spring Street. Information: +1-212-334-3320; http://costatanyc.com.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include books and pop music.