Best Steak House - 2009
You don't need a celebrated, groundbreaking chef like Alfred Portale to produce a great steak; any seasoned grill cook is capable of such a feat. But it helps that the person behind one of New York City's most iconic restaurants has experience in selecting cuts of quality meats, such as a 20-ounce Brandt Farms rib eye ($52), eight-ounce American Wagyu filet mignon ($50), and Sher Ranch Australian Wagyu strip ($75). And it also helps that he has been around long enough to surmise that not every customer wants to pay $75 for an entrée; Gotham offers a $28 skirt steak that tastes terrific with a Southwestern chili rub. Portale knows how to coax the meat's natural flavor by cooking over hardwood charcoal and finishing on a 1,200-degree broiler. And a chef trained only in steak houses probably couldn't come up with seafood dishes such as the ethereally tasty Florida grouper with quinoa and tomato vinaigrette. Portale also showed sage judgment in choosing Dru Schiedell as chef de cuisine. He's the one responsible for producing all of this lip-smacking food. Gotham succeeds in non-culinary ways as well. The two-level dining room is gorgeous, service is solid, and the 500-bottle wine selection overflows with boutique vintners and rare vintages. No, you don't need a chef like Alfred Portale to create a peerless steak house. But it doesn't hurt.