Unique Location, High Quality, New Decor And An On-Premises Chef/Owner Makes Porter House Bar and Grill New York’s Top Steakhouse

Porter House Bar and Grill
Porter House Bar and Grill

         When the vast Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle was looking for tenants, many restaurateurs expressed doubts that people would want to traipse up and down escalators, past clothing boutiques and eyeglass shops, to dine there. By attracting Thomas Keller to open Per Se and Masa Takayama to open Masa, fears that the premises would be occupied by chain restaurants owned by Midwestern corporations eased, and a number of upscale restaurateurs took a chance. Not all succeeded: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose Jean-Georges flagship was across the street in the Trump building, signed to do a steakhouse at Time-Warner that looked designed by the Addams Family. It didn’t last long. 

         

Its replacement, in 2006, was another steakhouse, Porter House, which not only looked more conventional, though of a very fine polish, but had the expertise of chef-operator Michael Lomonaco, whose bona fides include residence at some of New York’s grandest, high-profile restaurants, including `21’  and Windows on the World (from which he escaped on 9/11 by stopping on the ground floor for five minutes to have his eyeglasses fixed).

         Lomonaco is as much a field marshal as he is a chef who knows what his clientele wants and is willing to pay for as long as it’s of the highest quality. Add to this a truly spectacular panorama overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park and you have a restaurant that is uniquely New York in style and substance.

         

The reception is always gregarious for both regulars and newcomers. There’s a swank, big bar up front with shadowy booths and bartenders who know how to make classic cocktails the right way The tables in the dining room, which was wholly redecorated a couple of years ago, are large and well set; new chandeliers cast a fine glow from dusk through evening, when the magical lights of the city blink on across Central Park West. The wine list is substantial in every category, though not cheap and I’d like to see more bottles under $100.

         Whenever I’ve been to Porter House, whose name is as straightforward as the menu, Lomonaco has always been in service, walking through the dining room to welcome newcomers and to be detained by regulars who have plenty of stories to tell him and many questions to ask. Chef de cuisine Michael Ammirati has been with him since the beginning, so consistency is assured.

         Porter House’s menu does not stray from the sacrosanct formulas of the steakhouse genre, though there is no sense of a kitchen simply going through the motions of turning out its 50,000th dish of creamed spinach. Case in point are the onion rings: Had Lomonaco invented them, they would be hailed as a New York original; instead he has perfected them as big wide ribbons of crunchiness from a well-seasoned batter and the sweetness of the onions within. No one does them better.

         

Certainly the crab cakes rank among the best in town, made from jumbo lump crab with a tangy tartare sauce ($27), as does the very flavorful slab of bacon ($19), which does not have that overly salty taste you often find.  A simple shrimp cocktail of U8-size shrimp ($28) is simply delicious, the shrimp as sweet as if fattened on corn. They come with Green Goddess dressing and cocktail sauce.  The artisanal charcuterie board of Mangalitsa ham, prosciutto, speck and cacciatorino sausage ($21) easily feeds two, and the creamy sea scallops roasted with capers, croutons, lemon and celery root and lavished with brown butter ($26) are as good as at any French restaurant in the city. 

         At the moment Porter House is serving white truffles over pasta or risotto ($95), and they don’t skimp on the shavings of exceptionally aromatic truffles. I asked Lomonaco if he can get such high quality truffles throughout the season, and he answered that the chief supplier, Urbani, is just a few blocks away and is a good friend of the house.

         Our table of four shared a massive porterhouse for two (we demolished it) and a fine New York strip, all cooked with a good searing on the outside. Colorado lamb chops with mint leaf salad ($58) were good, if not out of the ordinary. Lomonaco has added Japanese wagyu to the menu at $225 for 12 ounces, if such an extravagance is your wont, as well as a two-pound butter-poached lobster with a fricassée of fennel, leeks and carrots ($75). 

         I could make a meal of those onion rings ($12) and happily trade the creamed spinach ($12) for a potato. On the other hand, the French fries ($12) are so good, they seem requisite to a steak dinner. The key here, as noted, is the high quality of the ingredients and the sense that producing everything on the menu thousands of times has led to precision rather than the same old thing.

        

 This is a steakhouse, so Wayne Harley Brachman’s desserts are going to be tremendous in size. That means the chocolate blackout cake ($16), dense but moist, is big enough to share with a table of four or more. The apple crostata with caramel gelato and butterscotch sauce ($14) and the seven-layer South Carolina coconut cake ($16) are also meant for several forks. Or go with the hot cookie plate ($14) and kid yourself that it’s a lightweight dessert. Or go whole hog with the ice cream sundae with chocolate fudge and maple-soaked walnuts (12).

         The service staff is well co-ordinated, though it’s not always easy to tell who’s a waiter or a busboy, and they get a bit lax after 9:30.

         Porter House thrives for all sorts of logistical reasons—access to thousands of Time-Warner’s tenants, its location in a primary nexus of New York’s West Side, proximity to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Theater District and a year-round flow of tourists who come to visit the building—so that the restaurant being set on the fourth floor has become part of the experience. Lomonaco has also opened a Hudson Yards Grill in the cavernous Hudson Yards skyscrapers, which has its own problems of accessibility, and the future of that development is in considerable flux. But Porter House, by giving its guests everything they expect and doing it in one of the grandest locations in the city, has made it a very classy midtown icon. 

         

Open for lunch and dinner daily. 

 PORTER HOUSE BAR AND GRILL

10 Columbus Circle

212-823-9500

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         When the vast Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle was looking for tenants, many restaurateurs expressed doubts that people would want to traipse up and down escalators, past clothing boutiques and eyeglass shops, to dine there. By attracting Thomas Keller to open Per Se and Masa Takayama to open Masa, fears that the premises would be occupied by chain restaurants owned by Midwestern corporations eased, and a number of upscale restaurateurs took a chance. Not all succeeded: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose Jean-Georges flagship was across the street in the Trump building, signed to do a steakhouse at Time-Warner that looked designed by the Addams Family. It didn’t last long. 

         

Its replacement, in 2006, was another steakhouse, Porter House, which not only looked more conventional, though of a very fine polish, but had the expertise of chef-operator Michael Lomonaco, whose bona fides include residence at some of New York’s grandest, high-profile restaurants, including `21’  and Windows on the World (from which he escaped on 9/11 by stopping on the ground floor for five minutes to have his eyeglasses fixed).

         Lomonaco is as much a field marshal as he is a chef who knows what his clientele wants and is willing to pay for as long as it’s of the highest quality. Add to this a truly spectacular panorama overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park and you have a restaurant that is uniquely New York in style and substance.

         

The reception is always gregarious for both regulars and newcomers. There’s a swank, big bar up front with shadowy booths and bartenders who know how to make classic cocktails the right way The tables in the dining room, which was wholly redecorated a couple of years ago, are large and well set; new chandeliers cast a fine glow from dusk through evening, when the magical lights of the city blink on across Central Park West. The wine list is substantial in every category, though not cheap and I’d like to see more bottles under $100.

         Whenever I’ve been to Porter House, whose name is as straightforward as the menu, Lomonaco has always been in service, walking through the dining room to welcome newcomers and to be detained by regulars who have plenty of stories to tell him and many questions to ask. Chef de cuisine Michael Ammirati has been with him since the beginning, so consistency is assured.

         Porter House’s menu does not stray from the sacrosanct formulas of the steakhouse genre, though there is no sense of a kitchen simply going through the motions of turning out its 50,000th dish of creamed spinach. Case in point are the onion rings: Had Lomonaco invented them, they would be hailed as a New York original; instead he has perfected them as big wide ribbons of crunchiness from a well-seasoned batter and the sweetness of the onions within. No one does them better.

         

Certainly the crab cakes rank among the best in town, made from jumbo lump crab with a tangy tartare sauce ($27), as does the very flavorful slab of bacon ($19), which does not have that overly salty taste you often find.  A simple shrimp cocktail of U8-size shrimp ($28) is simply delicious, the shrimp as sweet as if fattened on corn. They come with Green Goddess dressing and cocktail sauce.  The artisanal charcuterie board of Mangalitsa ham, prosciutto, speck and cacciatorino sausage ($21) easily feeds two, and the creamy sea scallops roasted with capers, croutons, lemon and celery root and lavished with brown butter ($26) are as good as at any French restaurant in the city. 

         At the moment Porter House is serving white truffles over pasta or risotto ($95), and they don’t skimp on the shavings of exceptionally aromatic truffles. I asked Lomonaco if he can get such high quality truffles throughout the season, and he answered that the chief supplier, Urbani, is just a few blocks away and is a good friend of the house.

         Our table of four shared a massive porterhouse for two (we demolished it) and a fine New York strip, all cooked with a good searing on the outside. Colorado lamb chops with mint leaf salad ($58) were good, if not out of the ordinary. Lomonaco has added Japanese wagyu to the menu at $225 for 12 ounces, if such an extravagance is your wont, as well as a two-pound butter-poached lobster with a fricassée of fennel, leeks and carrots ($75). 

         I could make a meal of those onion rings ($12) and happily trade the creamed spinach ($12) for a potato. On the other hand, the French fries ($12) are so good, they seem requisite to a steak dinner. The key here, as noted, is the high quality of the ingredients and the sense that producing everything on the menu thousands of times has led to precision rather than the same old thing.

        

 This is a steakhouse, so Wayne Harley Brachman’s desserts are going to be tremendous in size. That means the chocolate blackout cake ($16), dense but moist, is big enough to share with a table of four or more. The apple crostata with caramel gelato and butterscotch sauce ($14) and the seven-layer South Carolina coconut cake ($16) are also meant for several forks. Or go with the hot cookie plate ($14) and kid yourself that it’s a lightweight dessert. Or go whole hog with the ice cream sundae with chocolate fudge and maple-soaked walnuts (12).

         The service staff is well co-ordinated, though it’s not always easy to tell who’s a waiter or a busboy, and they get a bit lax after 9:30.

         Porter House thrives for all sorts of logistical reasons—access to thousands of Time-Warner’s tenants, its location in a primary nexus of New York’s West Side, proximity to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Theater District and a year-round flow of tourists who come to visit the building—so that the restaurant being set on the fourth floor has become part of the experience. Lomonaco has also opened a Hudson Yards Grill in the cavernous Hudson Yards skyscrapers, which has its own problems of accessibility, and the future of that development is in considerable flux. But Porter House, by giving its guests everything they expect and doing it in one of the grandest locations in the city, has made it a very classy midtown icon. 

         

Open for lunch and dinner daily. 

 PORTER HOUSE BAR AND GRILL

10 Columbus Circle

212-823-9500

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John Mariani is an author and journalist of 40 years standing, and an author of 15 books. He has been called by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the most influential food-win...