A tempting picture of Tuna Steak Frites in Time Out New York brought us to dinner at Central Kitchen. I called ahead to make a reservation and it wasn't too hard to get a good time even at the last minute, though when we arrived it did seem fairly crowded. We were seated in the main dining room which has the open kitchen so you can see some of your meal being prepared. Of course, I was seated with my back to the kitchen, oh well. Maybe I'm becoming more aware of the atmosphere I dine in because like Zoe, Central Kitchen had a nice smell, or perhaps it was the open kitchen that just let more aromas out into the dining area.
The menu was carefully put together, just a short list of unique offerings. We skipped appetizers and ordered the tuna and the hangar steak, which is one of my favorite cuts. I was also tempted by the spareribs, and the scallops (which came with a creamy, aromatic sauce). Both dishes were different than we expected, but both were very good.
The weird thing about the tuna dish was its temperature. We knew we would be getting rare meat, but when I have tuna like this I expect it to be hot off the grill or cool from the sushi bar. This was more warm. I'm not saying it was bad, it was just that the temperature surprised me. The other surprise was the frites, they weren't like any other fries I've ever tried. I would call them shoe-lace fries (not to be confused with shoe string fries). They were long and flat, thus the shoe-lace description (shoe string fries are shorter), extremely crunchy, and not greasy at all. It was definitely a unique preparation. When you can go to just about any restaurant and get french fries of some kind, this was a nice variation.
Hangar steak comes from the cow's shoulder area and is generally very flavorful but a little tough. It is my favorite steak of all time, at least on the menu at Ray's the Steaks, a small restaurant right outside Washington, D.C. in Arlington, Va. (I generally just groan with pleasure with every bite there, while trying not to embarrass myself too much.)
Central Kitchen had tough competition. Their offering was another unique preparation. In this case the sauce served with the steak, "a port wine reduction" really wowed me. The dish wasn't the same as Ray's, and that was fine with me. The sauce was intensely flavorful and reminded me of something else I've had before, I couldn't figure out what that was, but I liked it. The steak was flavorful and not too tough. It was sliced across the grain of the meat, which (as I've learned from Good Eats) can actually make the meat more tender. The dish was also served with asparagus and roasted garlic. The garlic was a whole bulb, roasted till each clove was brown and sweet. It still had a sharp taste but was very nice on its own, or eaten with a bite of steak. I would say that I can't really compare this hangar steak to Ray's because the preparations were so different, one very simple (Ray's serves meat on a plate) and one very sophisticated.
Central Kitchen put forth a very unique and delicious meal. I liked the surprises we encountered along the way, and wasn't too surprised by the bill, which wasn't too outrageous!