West 63rd Street Steakhouse

| By Jack Bettridge | From Michael Douglas, May/Jun 98

The name doesn't quite say it all. Yes, the West 63rd Street Steakhouse does serve steaks and it is on West 63rd Street. But is the White House merely an abode with a colorless exterior? Can the Pentagon be summed up as just an odd-shaped building?

In all cases, much more is going on inside. Within the upper West Side venue, which of the three provides the easiest security clearance, you will find an interior that says much more than just steakhouse, especially if your idea of that category is informed by more spartan examples--like, say, Brooklyn's Peter Luger's--that offer not much more than bright lights, big cuts. At West 63rd Street the decor will make even the most voracious carnivore look up from his T-bone once in a while to take in such unsteakhouse-like details as mahogany paneling, a leopard-print carpet, etched-glass panels, huge Oriental vases, samovars transformed into lamps, and cityscapes that look as if the painter was inspired by the 1926 film Metropolis or the backdrops of Batman Forever. Vinny's Chop & Brew this is not.

Fall into one of the florid and comfy club booths and you'll be handed a menu that offers its shares of seafood and pasta dishes. But those who want nothing more than to tear flesh with canines should fear not. Despite all that your eyes tell you, meat is king here; porterhouse, T-bone, filet mignon, aged sirloin, prime rib, rack of lamb, veal chops, and black angus skirt steaks are what bring wandering young Wall Streeters up from the Exchange for power pig-outs. And what do you say about prime cuts cooked to order? They are just what any fleshophile craves. If perchance you are not a purist who believes that meat supplies its own best juice, the restaurant furnishes a choice of sauces, which include classic Béarnaise, green peppercorn, a tomato-based house concoction and garlicky Argentine sauce. Ask them to leave the sauce rack and make your own taste comparison.

Despite the inclusion of salmon filet, lobster and swordfish on the entree menu, it would seem a shame in a place like this to deny your bloodlust during the main course. Instead, for your taste of seafood, peruse the appetizers where you'll find a crispy half lobster served with diced potatoes, a selection of raw oysters and clams, a mammoth jumbo shrimp cocktail, and a home-cured salmon that will have you imagining that someone has been slaving over it with herbs for days, all for your fleeting moments of lox bliss. A woody lobster bisque and a smooth black-bean soup should also vie for your attention.

Post-carnage, walk your tab to the bar for brandy, a crème brûlée, and a smoke from the house humidor, which is stocked with Davidoffs, Avos, Griffins and Nat Shermans. Look through the windows draped floor to ceiling and you're staring across Columbus Circle at Lincoln Center. Or consider your next move, which could be downstairs to Iridium, the cutting-edge Manhattan jazz club that features up-and-coming talent as well as established names like McCoy Tyner and Max Roach.

Then again, members of the cigar club (dues: $250 a year) need not jostle themselves at all, but can enjoy all these postprandial pleasures at the comfort of their table in the glassed-in dining room in the rear of the restaurant. The cigar room is due to be expanded soon and will include a bar as well. On Monday nights, the entire restaurant becomes open to cigar smoking and nonmembers are welcome. The restaurants also hosts at least five nights per year (usually on Mondays) when there are cigar tastings and open bar. Special events are complimentary to members and a guest and may be attended by nonmembers for a fee.

West 63rd Street Steakhouse
44 West 63rd Street
Phone (212) 246-6363
Dinner About $50 per person, without wine