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Dec 13, 2008 12:59 PM

Steakhouse 85: A Review

We rarely go to newly-opened restaurants, preferring to give them time to work out the kinks. We also like to hear opinions from our fellow Hounds who get a thrill from being among the first to try new places. However, itching for a good steak, we decided to throw caution to the proverbial winds and give Steakhouse 85 a chance. This was on Monday, December 1st. I am pleased to report that although open just under one week at that point, Steakhouse 85 provided us with a supremely enjoyable dining experience. In short, it appears we have a winner!

From the moment we arrived and throughout our meal, it was evident that the staff has been through the “Danny Meyer School of Hospitality.” The two perky young women at the reception desk welcomed us warmly. And our waitress, Heather, provided cordial and capable service. She never hovered but checked back regularly to be sure we didn’t want for anything.

A friend who saw the photos we took commented about the space along the bar area, “Wow! A 747 could land there!” Yes, Steakhouse 85 is B-I-G! Behind the reception area, there’s a fairly large lounge with comfy club chairs; the bar, itself, is very long, and there are small tables along its length where you can enjoy a drink before dining; there are two dining areas with widely-spaced free-standing tables, as well as several booths in the front area; at the far end of the room, there’s a glass-enclosed fireplace; there is a very large private party space (I’m not certain, but I think it can be divided); and, finally, for oenophiles, there are wine storage lockers. While the free-standing tables are dressed in white linen, the wood on the booths’ tables has been left exposed. The overall décor is extremely handsome with large windows facing Church Street and lots of wood helping to “warm up” the huge space.

When we arrived at 6:15 p.m., we were the only patrons. But eventually, about half a dozen other tables became occupied. Given our choice of where to sit, we decided on one of the booths. Very comfortable and cozy.

After we placed our order, a basket of bread arrived. The Italian-style bread, which we were told comes from a local bakery, was cut into thick slices, separated, and artfully arranged. It is excellent bread. But I was disappointed to see the young man who served the bread also carrying a dish of olive oil. Regulars on this board know I detest this practice. And, frankly, I think it is totally wrong for a steakhouse! Take that oil away and bring on the butter! Which is what he did when we immediately made that request.

We shared everything we ordered.

First up, a Caesar salad. We appreciated the kitchen splitting the salad onto separate plates. So much easier than having to fuss with it ourselves. The split portions, though not huge, were quite adequate. The Romaine, cut into proper bite-sized pieces, was pristine and crisp. The dressing had very good “Caesar” flavor, but it was a bit too sparse for me (Mr. R. was fine with it as it was), so I asked and received some additional dressing in a little cup. Just a few more dabs covered the greens perfectly. There was a generous grating of Parmesan topping the lettuce, and the mound was crowned with one white anchovy. The menu says the salad comes with croutons, so I was surprised to find, instead, one large slice of garlic bread on the side of the plate. To me, Caesar salad without croutons is missing an important traditional element. The simple solution: I broke the bread into little pieces. Et, voila! Croutons!

Next, our steak. We chose the 18-oz. Cowboy Ribeye, “bone-in, center cut, and well-marbled.” This Munster-sized baby arrived at our table sizzling, with a tangle of crispy fried onions on top. Whoever is manning the broiler at Steakhouse 85 knows precisely how to cook a steak. There was a perfect char on the outside, while the interior was done exactly to our specifications – medium rare. With that char sealing in the juices, the meat was oh-so tender and filled with flavor. I don’t usually rhapsodize about steak, but this was one of the best I’ve ever had!

For sides, we chose onion rings and creamed spinach. No jumble of rings to pull apart here. Rather, they were presented soldier-like on the plate, the giant rings precisely mounted on top of one another, three in each of two stacks. The deep-frying process produced a crunchy coating which was low on the greasy meter. Yum x 6! The spinach was another success. The greens were properly sautéed, and when it came to the cream, as Goldilocks might have described it, there was not too little, or too much, but just the right amount. In short, a delicious balance between the greens and the cream.

For dessert, we had the Warm Chocolate Truffles. If you love chocolate but have had it with the ubiquitous, but tired, warm chocolate cake – or even if not – this dessert is for you! These little round nuggets were dusted with powdered sugar and sat on a small pool of crème anglais. They are deep-fried so that the exterior shell is crispy (but not greasy), while the not overly-sweet chocolate ganache inside becomes oozy. Irresistible!

Mr. R. had a glass of Bordeaux.

The cost for the meal before tax and tip: $78.50.

We’ve always done our steakhouse dining in NYC with Keens being our first choice. Now, I hope that Steakhouse 85 can continue to replicate this stellar first-time experience so that when are at home in NJ and looking for a steakhouse where the food and service are tops, along with surroundings that are attractive and comfortable, we can head just 20 minutes from our house to New Brunswick. With so many other things on the menu piquing our interest – we especially have our eye on the Tomahawk Chop – you can be sure we’ll be back there very soon.

Steakhouse 85
85 Church Street
New Brunswick, NJ
Tel.: 732-247-8585
Website: http://www.steakhouse85.com
Street parking: Meters go off at 7 p.m. There's a garage directly across the street.

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  1. good report RGR. Do you happen to know if the steaks are dry-aged?

    1. Nicely written review RGR.It has a solid classic menu (Yes Tommy,showing dry-aged) with all the bases covered, that should provide ample cholesterol material for the research dept. heads from J&J.

      1. Finally a detailed review!!!!


        How does it compare to Manhattan steakhouse?

        6 Replies
        1. re: RPMcMurphy

          As I've mentioned before on this board, we've only been to Manhattan Steakhouse once just after it opened in 2001. Thus, my memories of the food's quality are too vague to make a comparison, though I don't recall leaving there thinking the food was bad. However, the fact that we've not returned to Manhattan Steakhouse indicates we didn't have the extremely positive experience we had at Steakhouse 85. To be honest, I'm more of a lamb than a steak person, but that Cowboy Ribeye was orgasmic! :-))

          1. re: RGR

            R - Thanks for the excellent review. BTW, I thought you only eat steak in NYC! ;)

            1. re: bgut1

              Even though it is only 6 am as I type this, thanks to your review I am already thinking about steak and eggs for breakfast.

              Putting S85 on my list.

              1. re: bgut1


                Since we do eat steak at home, that should be, "...only eat steak *in steakhouses* in NYC!" But I must admit our experience at Steakhouse 85 was a great first step at making that statement inoperative. :-))


                You keep Cowboy Ribeyes in your freezer?! :-))

                Hey, Guys,

                Perhaps we should plan a Steakhouse 85 rendez-vous?

          2. RGR, this morning along with the NYTimes and my usual breakfast tray of goodies, I slipped my husband a copy of your restaurant review of Steakhouse 85 along with their New Year's Eve menu. It would appear my jazz loving mate is up for a new experience.

            1 Reply
            1. re: HillJ


              We always stay home on New Year's Eve, but I'm glad my review helped persuade your mate to go to Steakhouse 85. I hope the two of you have a wonderful evening! :-)

            2. HillJ - I was there too thanks to RGR's suggestion on another thread. We were seated at a table for 2 across from the bar. Where were you?

              We received the offer of an unexpected last minute baby sitter at roughly 11:00 on New Years Eve. I began scurrying for a chow worthy reservation.

              RGR has saved me on numerous occasions and why should this time be any different. Our meal was excellent. Pricey? Yes but only because we over did it as lately we seldom get out for a peaceful nice meal without the little ones.

              We opened with the Roasted oysters with bacon and roasted red pepper. There were 6 oysters, perfect for me and my lovely wife to share. There was also a small amount but excellent broth on the serving plate that was begging to be soaked up with bread. (This of course was soaked up in its entirety)We also had the crab-tini. Nicely presented in a martini glass and consisted of a generous portion of lump crab meat with a little lemon vodka. It was served with 2 dipping sauces, a traditional cocktail sauce with had a fair amount of horse radish and leant a fair amount of heat. No one makes better cocktail sauce than I, but this was a close second. There was also a creamy Dijon sauce that was excellent. Since it was New Years Eve we paired a pleasing prosecco with this course.

              I was very excited to read RGR's review, specifically when she mentioned the white anchovies in the Caesar salad. I love Anchovies and seldom can you get fresh white anchovies. We shared a Caesar salad as a salad course and I asked for extra anchovies. They were excellent. Here we opted to share a nice glass of pinot grigio.

              For our entree's, I was "steaked" out. We did a filet migon roast for Christmas and I ate at 2 steakhouses in the past week. So I opted for the Veal porterhouse. It was divine and cooked to a perfect medium rare. My wife ordered the NY strip and it too was cooked to a perfect medium rare. We also had a nice robust cabernet.

              For sides we ordered Mac and cheese, mushrooms, and there sweet potato casserole. The Mac and cheese had a great blend of cheese and a perfect crispy top. The mushrooms were good but nothing outrageous sticks out here. The sweet potato casserole was excellent. I tasted cinnamon, nutmeg, and I think some cardamom.

              Our server did a great job of telling us about the newly opened establishment. He also added that how the steaks were selected and that a ranch in the mid west exclusively supplied them. He was animated but polished and did a great job. We built a good rapport with him and tasked him with selecting our desserts.

              He selected their version of bananas foster which was served in a larger sundae cup. It was very tasty and served warm.

              He also selected their chocolate truffles. It was a deep fried crispy shell with a dense dark chocolate truffle served inside. As we were eating it, he came by and noticed that the truffle wasn't oozing out as it should have been. He brought us out another serving that, in his eyes was served properly. Even though the first ones were luke warm, I still enjoyed them but the second version was over the top delicious. My wife also had a sweet ice wine.

              All in, with a 25% tip, the bill came to $250. It was a great meal with great service. Matthew, the owner, also stopped by unobtrusively and made sure that we enjoyed everything.

              Up to now, I thought the only place for a NY steakhouse experience was in NY. This was a mere 20-25 minute ride from my house. I would highly recommend this when you are hankering for a great steak with great service but don’t feel like trekking it to NYC. THe other thing to note is this place has only been open for a month or so and they are already solidly executing. That in and of itself is worthy of praise. Enjoy!

              5 Replies
              1. re: angelo04

                angelo04! What a lovely review! The reviews from you & RGR have me ready to go....you will have to forgive tho because it turns out my darling husband was playing along about New Year's Eve plans....he bought tickets to see the Goo Goo Dolls in AC with a high energy celebratory meal at House of Blues. When the limo arrived...I knew something was up! It was an amazing New Year's Eve. So even though I was dreaming of Steakhouse 85...my dh was up to his usual tricks! Looks like Steahouse 85 for V-day! I can't wait to try the place.

                1. re: HillJ

                  Angelo04 - A great review. Thank you.

                  HillJ - Wow- sounds like a great night. A limo, the Goo Goo Dolls and the House of Blues. You've got a "keeper" of a husband. :)

                  1. re: bgut1

                    LOL, bgut1. House of Blues not exactly gourmet fare but the ribs were pretty good, spicy good. Looking forward to a Steakhouse 85 experience next!

                    1. re: HillJ

                      Limo? Goo Goo Dolls? Wow, sounds like an awesome night. I can't let my wife read this thread , I can't set the bar that high just yet! LOL!

                      1. re: angelo04

                        Too funny! Sounds to me like you and your wife had a fantastic evening...and how can we compare the meal you desribed with spicy ribs? From a chow perspective, no comparison! Is my dh winning points for creativity...you bet! Happy New Year!