TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER
AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR
CHEF DE CUISINE
BRIDGING THE STEAKHOUSE GAP BETWEEN OLD-WORLD AND NEW
By Chef Charlie Palmer
Anyone who has ever seen an episode of AMC’s ‘60s-era drama, “Mad Men”, knows the allure of the classic steakhouse: Guys in sharp suits meeting over slabs of beef, shrimp the size of Fiats, and Roger Sterling-like cocktails, all served up in a dark, clubby atmosphere that reeks of deal-making. This vintage steakhouse vibe is part of America’s urban restaurant heritage, particularly in that “Mad Men”-era Manhattan, where so many steakhouses lined Lexington Avenue, that the area was known as “Steak Row.” Although the competition for the best T-bone in town was fierce, the food was actually incidental to the experience. Most of the diners wanted the old reliable standbys.
That all changed when steakhouses came back in vogue 21st century-style. After languishing for a few decades as our dining scene became more international, the steakhouse remerged in its modern interpretation, and Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas is a prime example of the new wave: A quiet, clubhouse atmosphere in a warm ochre palette and dark mahogany accented refuge, just off the lobby of The Four Seasons Hotel.
With his contemporary culinary training and knowledge and respect of the classics, Chef de Cuisine Steve Blandino effortlessly bridges the old and new American steakhouse. A Staten Island native who grew up cooking at his two Italian grandmothers’ homes in Brooklyn, Blandino is a chef who respects heritage and yet pushes boundaries, as you will taste in his modern take on Caesar Salad – featuring wrapped crisp romaine hearts in prosciutto served with white anchovies; his re-mastered Organic Spinach Salad – topped by a truffle fried egg and crunchy bacon lardoons; or his Ritz Cracker Stuffed Maine Lobster – a beautiful mix of the everyday and the extraordinary.
Blandino knows that there are technical aspects to getting a good steak, and first is understanding the difference in the grades of meat available. If you see him in the dining room, ask him to tell you what makes for great beef. He will explain that all meat sold in this country must be inspected for wholesomeness (and so stamped) by the Department of Agriculture. But designation of quality is determined by a voluntary grading system, primarily based on the age of the animal and pattern of marbling (or how well the fat is distributed throughout the meat), critical to tenderness, as well as flavor. These are grades—not brand names —and should be visibly stamped on the exterior fat of the carcass. Blandino likes to concentrate on Prime, because the delicate interlacing of intra-muscular fat—like a cobweb—assures a high degree of tenderness, juiciness and flavor.
Today we are experiencing The Golden Age of Meat, and you’ll also find newly available American Kobe beef, used in Blandino’s spectacular version of tartare, served with quail egg and herbed ciabatti, as well as the rare Kamoshima Japanese Kobe Filet Mignon. But not everything is new. We adhere to the traditional way of allowing meat to self-tenderize: dry aging. In this time-consuming process, the beef is stored in temperature and humidity controlled coolers, evaporating the moisture that improves texture and concentrates flavor. Taste the difference in Blandino’s dry aged 14-ounce bone-in strip steak, as well as the classic steakhouse cut, a 24-ounce porterhouse aged for a minimum of 28 days.
Bringing a new perspective to the steakhouse menu is Blandino’s mission, and while you’ll find all the classic side dishes, like sautéed spinach, roasted asparagus and buttermilk fried onion rings, the chef also lets his imagination improve the standard offerings with standouts like Salt Roasted Chiles, Garlicky Broccolini and Truffle Baked Potato. A good place to start is Blandino’s “Cut of the Week,” an entire menu built around a specific cut of steak—like a whole roasted natural sirloin with white beech mushrooms—all served with a “bottomless glass” wine pairing. I think you’ll agree: His grandmothers would be so proud. —Charlie