In the depths of Winter, an aroma wafts from a dark room in Brooklyn. It’s not Christmas, or some distance away the attendees would be at dinner service.
At the table sits the patriarch of New York steak, around him the disciples. First he speaks of the 28-day rule, for perfection dictates such a stretch of time in the box. What follows is the naming of desserts, the clamor continues due to the limitation of bovine nomenclature–some simply settle on the naked, unnamed “sundae.” The session continues swiftly, as the doneness plastic picks are color-coordinated, the butter dishes flipped upside down standardized, and the prices of porterhouses discussed.
At least that’s what I think happens.
Enter Empire, one of the many illustrious scions of House Luger. Snuggled on the side of an unassuming midtown street, it lacks the richness of its nearby cousins Ben & Jack’s and Wolfgang. In fact, cousin is a poor metaphor given Empire’s relation–it was opened by Ben and Jack’s brother Jeff.
The pot calls the kettle black indeed as we sink into the ordering routine–let a hackneyed setup be met with unchanging diners. A total void of creativity ensues as we pretend to entertain the oyster option, but settle on two slabs of canadian bacon. We allow the intrusion of german potatoes, despite the drool-worthy itch for creamed spinach. Then the menu shuts and we sound off the usual porterhouse for 2, medium rare.
There really is very little one can say about bacon beyond the usual praise, but thus far, CS and I have marginally favored Benjamin’s canadian porkers–a bit more char perhaps. This version was for sure a hefty start, only to be outdone by the outrageous amount of cream in the spinach. And the steak is as the council dictated, 28-days worth of delicious in every morsel.
Whether or not a shrouded council meets for our carnivorous pleasure, we are clearly at the mercy of our basest need for fire-treated protein. The variations on the Luger theme work simply because it excites our taste buds, because it is on the frontier of fat and flavor. Everything else, however pedestrian and passe, are just check marks on an inconsequential list.
What does this rating mean?
From the notebook: The dining area felt a little cramped, an entire delegation of Canadians from Alberta made it even more challenging. This meal was compliments of the restaurant, though we were not obligated to write, nor did this affect our opinion.