The Only Place for Kobe Beef in New York is 212 Steakhouse
By Jennifer Shanteau
Some dining experiences are unlike any others. Sometimes dining is elevated to holiday status. It feels special. It feels momentous, and while you are enveloped in such an experience something inside tells you to savor it, because this is something you’ll never forget. I had such an experience last night at 212 Steakhouse. I had been waiting to come here. I studied the menu beforehand, and I wore my new dress. The anticipation excited me. The space was intimate, classy, and serene. The best way to describe the bar is “sexy “….the kind of bar where you want to perch in your best outfit, and seduce the one who holds your heart. I was picturing a classic black dress, red heels and diamonds, while sipping a martini. Catch my drift? That is the vibe of 212 Steakhouse.
Feeling that whole vibe led me to desire a fancy cocktail. Who am I kidding? I always fancy a cocktail! At 212 Steakhouse, the drinks do not disappoint. We began with the Lychee Tini, (Grey Goose Pear, St. Germaine, Lychee) and the Yankee, (Bulleit Bourbon, Citrus Infused Honey). The Lychee Tini is a touch on the sweet side, so if that’s your bag, this is your drink. It tasted like a perfect blend of pear and lychee, both of which I find delicious. They even garnished the drink with an actual lychee, which no one does, so I appreciated that. The Yankee is a perfect steakhouse cocktail….bourbon, baby! Although I am usually more drawn to vodka, the Yankee won me over in this case.
With cocktails warming our bellies, we moved on to the appetizers. There were so many tempting choices; we had to ask for extra time, even though I had studied the menu beforehand. The choice between Zucchini Chips, Cheese Plate, Classic Burrata, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Grilled Octopus, Grilled Calamari, Wild Salmon Avocado Ceviche and New Zealand Mussels was difficult. My mouth was saying, “All of them!”. Are you secretly voting for your favorite now, just to hear how it was? And the winner was……(drum roll)…the Grilled Octopus. Since I live in Astoria, home of everything Greek, ordering the Grilled Octopus was basically like saying, “Let me see what you’ve got”. Let me just say, they brought it. I may not be allowed back into Astoria after saying this, but that was the most tender octopus I have ever eaten…..melted in my mouth! I don’t know how they did it! It was dressed perfectly with some peppers, red onion, and capers. We were sopping up every last drop of the sumptuous sauce left in the bottom of the bowl with the delicious bread and butter they served us when we sat down. I could make a highly satisfying meal out of just this and that lovely glass of Sancerre, (Chateau Langlois for the Loire Valley), I was drinking.
The next selection was easy to make…..which protein do I want? Uh….steak, obviously. Which steak? The Kobe Tasting, of course! 212 Steakhouse is the only East Coast restaurant certified to serve Kobe Beef. Oh, yeah, it’s a thing. Getting certified to serve Kobe is a serious matter. Apparently, there are Kobe Beef “police”. They are secret shoppers who randomly inspect restaurants claiming to serve Kobe Beef, and if you’re being shady and trying to pass off something else as Kobe, you will be heavily fined. I asked our server how I could apply for such a job. I mean, I am willing to go to Japan and train. I will gladly eat enough Kobe to be able to spot an impostor……gladly!
If you don’t know about Kobe Beef, it’s akin to how only sparkling wine from Champagne can be called “champagne”, or how port is only allowed to be called “port”, if it’s from Portugal. There are strict rules. Kobe beef comes from the Tajima-gyu breed of cattle found in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, of which Kobe is the capital. These cows are fed grain and beer, massaged daily and played classical music, not too bad. If in my next life I come back as a cow, I want to come back as this cow! These cows are treated like gods. Oh, and by the way, gods taste delicious.
Alex, our server, or better described as our dining guide/guru was amazing. He really knows what he’s talking about! I learned so much about Kobe beef that night. He even brought out uncooked pieces of beef to further educate us on all things Kobe, from the various cuts, to marbling, to suggested cooking, to how each cut compares to the other. I have never had anyone take so much time to enrich my experience. It was like being at a wine tasting, but with beef. I would’ve thought he raised these cows himself. Alex was like this for our entire meal, explaining, suggesting, and teaching. I felt safe in his qualified hands, and at the end of our meal, I felt like we were old friends. Now THAT is what you call SERVICE! Rarely do I leave a restaurant this impressed with a particular server. Alex is king here.
He was also our sommelier for the evening, after sipping upon the Sancerre with the seafood, he, of course, recommended red for the steak. Both the Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon from California and the Aulo from Italy (Tuscany) paired quite well. They have a great wine list at 212 Steakhouse. You really could make a night of it just enjoying their wines with some cheese, and maybe some of those zucchini chips. But on to the main event…..
I didn’t see how I was going to fully appreciate the specialness of the Kobe beef without also indulging in something “non Kobe”. So, although I feared a food coma in my future, I ordered the Australian Wagyu, too. Yes, I am a glutton. It is the sin I am most fond of. We started with this, the ten ounce Skirt Steak. The outside was so perfectly charred, and the steak just cooked to perfection. I didn’t know how the Kobe could possibly top this. How?! Then , I tasted it.
The Kobe Tasting consists of three ounces of each a Ribeye, a Striploin and a Tenderloin….all the most satisfying pieces of meat I’ve ever put in my mouth. You can take that however you want. I found tasting different cuts side by side to be ever so much more enjoyable than just simply having one cut, however good that one cut may be. I highly recommend tasting Kobe beef this way. You learn so much by comparing these cuts that you simply can’t learn otherwise. I always thought I was a tenderloin fan, but tonight my favorite was the Ribeye, because all the marbling just made that steak melt like butter.
We did actually order some vegetables to go with our carnivorous entrees. As good as they were, I almost felt bad for them, because how can you compete with Wagyu and Kobe? Potato Gratin seemed like the logical choice, and let me just say, it was a choice I do not regret. I even began to wonder why I don’t make these at home. Surely, I could? I’m not sure I could get the potatoes into such perfectly thin slices, though. We ate all but a few bites of it, and it was so good, I had them box those few bites up to take home, along with the Brussels Sprouts.
I was reluctant to order the sprouts, but glad we did, because after indulging last night, these sprouts were perfect topped with an egg for breakfast.
My stomach was beyond full, and my mouth blissfully happy at this point, but there was still dessert to be had. We thought we would have Alex bring out the Tiramisu and the Crème Brulee, so we could just have a little taste, box them up, and take them home for later. Remember what I said about gluttony? Yeah, we devoured them.
If you’re tired of the every day, ordinary food, and your craving more than a meal to fill your belly, but a real, and momentous experience, do not hesitate to pay a visit to 212 Steakhouse. Whether it be for drinks, cocktails and appetizers, a party for ten, or a romantic dinner for two, with all of the delicious items to chose from, even your vegetarian friends will find something to swoon over.