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Bourbon Steak NYC

Christine Drinan, Founder

If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. And if we’re being our usual New York selves, you haven’t really made it unless you’ve made it here. So, we were happy to see Chef Mina throw his hat in the ring with the opening of his first NYC venture. This is a first-look review of Bourbon Steak NYC.

Atmosphere

I’ve been in the space that Bourbon Steak NYC now calls home in its many previous renditions. My first impression is the place has never looked better, even when it was Alain Ducasse. I would go as far as to say that the space is appointed far above what you would expect from a JW Marriott (with all due respect). With the elegant and large lounge and bar area and plush dining room, Bourbon Steak NYC gives off vibes like it belongs in a Four Seasons. You know when you walk in that you’re walking into an expensive restaurant but one that has high energy with the potential to be fun. That’s actually unique in NYC as many of the higher-end spots are focused on the food and much more austere. Instead, Bourbon Steak is full of conversation and feels more about gathering people together.

A Few Notes on the Space

With that said, the dining room can tend to be a little too loud, and I’m not sure if panels or something can be put into the high-ceilinged room. We actually asked for a smaller table so that we could hear each other better. My other suggestion would be to take advantage of the front lounge/bar real estate. This place could easily overtake the scene at Marea or even Avra Madison because of the space alone. Currently, we cram into the small bars at Avra and Marea that are nice enough, but not that comfortable. Bourbon Steak NYC has space where you would be happy to put up for a while.

Restaurants like Bourbon Steak need local New Yorkers to become regulars to make it even medium-term in the competitive restaurant scene. If I were Bourbon Steak I would rock out a Happy Hour with cocktails and bites. I would move those carts they have in the dining room around the lounge tables to up the drama. They’re open for all meals so those carts would make a fun afternoon tea with plates of sandwiches and canapés. There’s so much potential to have the space be one of the top places to be for after-work drinks or expense account dinners. For now, the crowd was a good starting point. However, creating an identity to bring in local New Yorkers will be critical if Bourbon Steak is here to stay. There’s something about my first experience at Bourbon Steak NYC that makes me hope it does stick around.

Food + Beverage

First the high points; I loved the theatrics of the dinner. There’s something about wheeling a cart around with beautiful plates of food that just makes me happy. Maybe it’s my experience at the Louis XV at the Hotel de Paris with their carts of treats from bread to cheese to desserts. Whatever it is, I loved the presentation and grandeur of the food presentations at Bourbon Steak. They’re not afraid to break out the blow torch either. You don’t get that often enough.

The Raw Bar

The raw bar is one of the highlights of the menu, where they bring out top-quality seafood. I am still thinking of the shrimp cocktail which was poached just right. There was a little too much sauce on top but I enjoyed every bite. I think on my next visit, the seafood tower will be my main if I can get a friend to share. Also, that cart I mentioned earlier had a bunch of raw bar goodies like lobster, scallops in shells, and spot prawns. We had teenagers with us during my visit, but I would hit the cart harder next time when it’s not my friend treating us.

Other Menu Highlights

If you’re wondering why there are no French fries on the menu, it’s because they serve them complimentary as the amuse-bouche. The fries are finished with duck fat and come in three varieties of plain, herb and garlic, and pastrami. There are three sauces as well which include an aioli, ketchup, and a thousand island. If you’re on a diet, you’re not eating on the lighter side. It was a unique and generous way though to start the meal.

What is not included is bread, but you can order the truffle brioche for $8/piece. The brioche looks like a cinnamon roll and has a white sauce drizzled on top like a Cinnabon. You fully expect the bread to be sweet, but instead, it’s a savory treat. It was a little heavy for me but my table really enjoyed it. We all agreed though that the bread got an A for creativity.

What also got very high marks among our party of five was the steak (it is a steak house) and for me, the salt-baked seabream. The latter was a European-quality fish that I don’t get often in NYC. It reminded me of the theatrics of the same salt-baked fish I have in St. Moritz at Chesa Veglia. This was one of the lighter dishes too and served on top of thinly sliced baby courgettes. I love food that would be hard for me to replicate at home and the fish hit the spot. A shoutout to our waiter who perfectly cracked open the fish and filleted it like a pro.

The Side Dishes

I’m a pescatarian but I love steakhouses for the side dishes. You can make a meal out of side dishes if a steakhouse does it right. Overall I think the side dishes could use a little tweaking. I know we were at a steakhouse but a little lighter on the sauce and finishes would still make for a hearty but healthier meal. First the positive; everyone loved the loaded baked potato because it was surprisingly light. We also liked the presentation of the spinach soufflé where the cream sauce was poured into the middle when served. The black truffle mac and cheese was uniquely creative. Instead of a mess of noodles, they were perfectly stacked side by side and baked together without a lot of sauce. On top, there was a large scoop of black truffle. This was another part that felt more European besides the fish during the meal.

Constructively, we found the mushrooms a little heavy with the escargot butter, and the mashed potatoes were a bit too creamy and heavy as well. The broccoli was good but it had a little too much oil.

Dessert for Dinner

I think there’s one universal fact that our table agreed on, and it’s that the fondue presentation was the bomb. They pulled out all the torches, bells, and whistles to present the chocolate fondue. While I’m not a big dessert person, everyone else still can’t stop talking about dessert for dinner.

Some Constructive Feedback

While the Bourbon Steak formula works in its other 8+ other locations around the U.S., I would lighten up the menu just two notches for the New York market. For example, the soft-shell crab was meaty and fried perfectly. However, it was drowned in a sauce that hid the beauty of the crab. Instead, I would have created a lighter foam emulsion to cover the bottom of the plate, laid the crab on top of that, and played on fresh lemon and herbs to finish. The mashed potatoes were also heavy; our table agreed there didn’t need to be so much cream. Overall if they just laid off the cream a few notches for the New York market, Bourbon Steak NYC has a lot of potential. This isn’t a meal you can eat every day or even every week. By contrast, you could eat at Marea and Avra down the street quite often. That’s who I would want to take market share from if I was running Bourbon Steak and had to compete in the hood.

The other tidbit I have is they need to have a more value-driven wine-by-the-glass list. To charge $30 for Bandol Rosé and not have a decent glass of red under $30 isn’t going to bring in New York regulars. Also, New Yorkers are happy to pay for good wine but we also know our wine and like fair value. For better wines, Bourbon Steak NYC should consider a Coravin program. The bottle list is solid. The wines by the glass however need to be more moderately priced and have better value wines. It’s not like as New Yorkers we really care what we pay when we go out but we know what things should cost.

Service

These guys are working their arses off. While there were a few small hiccups the night we had dinner, for two weeks in, the service was good. The team clearly puts their 100% in, and you feel the heart. The foundation for good service that’s down to earth and friendly is there. I hope that people aren’t so overworked as the operations settle in. I would say that service was actually one of the highlights of the experience as you don’t see a lot of people put their heart into it.

Overall:  7.8/10

I would come back with no objection at all, and even suggest it for certain groups of friends. If they were to offer better value wine and lighten up the food, I would consider putting Bourbon Steak NYC on my rotation for the area.

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FAQs

Q: Where is Bourbon Steak NYC located?

A: Bourbon Steak NYC is located at 160 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019 in the JW Marriott Hotel.

Q: What are the hours of operation of Bourbon Steak NYC?

A: The hours of operation of Bourbon Steak NYC are as follows;

Thursday 6:30–11 AM, 5–10 PM
Friday 6:30–11 AM, 5–10 PM
Saturday 7–11.30 AM, 5–10 PM
Sunday 7–11.30 AM
Monday 6:30–11 AM, 5–10 PM
Tuesday 6:30–11 AM, 5–10 PM
Wednesday 6:30–11 AM, 5–10 PM

Q: Is there a dress code for Bourbon Steak NYC?

A: There may not be a formal dress code for Bourbon Steak NYC, but it attracts the expense account crowd from the surrounding offices. Most people are dressed as business casual to business.
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