In January, I was visiting my brother Eric in the heart of West Harlem where he now lives when the steak craving struck.
Only one year apart in age, my bro and I have similar taste in food. In a nutshell, we both like to eat. And on this particular day, a hunk of red meat was the mutually desired dish du jour.
Ensconced in front of the computer in his funky, vintage apartment, we perused a list of steak emporiums in and around his gritty, solidly Afro-American and Hispanic neighbourhood.
Using my pretty reliable restaurant radar, by reading between the lines of several customer reviews and going by the eatery’s own claim – “Not your daddy’s old steakhouse” – I got the message loud and clear: Get thee to Ricardo Steak House located at 2145 2nd Ave. about 25 blocks away in Spanish Harlem.
A cab ride later, we had entered the medium-sized. welcoming room understatedly decorated in traditional steakhouse style – shiny wood, mirrors and candlelight – that, this early in the evening, was bustling and almost full.
Without a reservation, we got a table for two and the fun began.
With online reviews as our guide, we ordered the porterhouse steak for two with 3 vegetable sides ($74).
Five strips of delicious garlic toast arrived gratis soon after and then came the steak with accompaniments.
Porterhouse is basically a huge T-bone, in this case about 2 inches thick. It includes the tenderloin on one side of the bone and the equivalent of a New York steak on the other.
Not only was the meat of top quality, it was cooked to perfection – seared charred crustiness on the outside and succulently medium-rare on the inside, as ordered.
Creamed spinach, roasted baby spuds and grilled root veggies came in just the right amounts and were delectable.
Flan (creme caramel) for dessert was underwhelming but who cared?
This was the steak repast of a lifetime and is now my barometer for its genre.
I gather that asking for a steak cooked by the Pittsburgh method (also called “black and blue or Chicago-style) may be the answer. This method, so the story goes, dates back to days when workers in the city’s steel mills cooked steak with a welding torch. A chef tells me you can also get this result at home using a red-hot cast-iron pan.
Or maybe I’ll just have to return to Harlem when the craving strikes for a red-meat meal at sensational Ricardo.
You can listen to my podcast on the subject here.