The New Prime Grill LONG REVIEW
Hello all. I have been reading and loving the kosher board for quite some time and after my experience at the new Prime Grill last night I feel compelled to break the ice on posting something.
I went with a group of 8 and the long and short of it is that for the amount of money we each spent ($162 each after tax/tip) I feel completely taken advantage of. Let me start by saying that the service was fine. Nothing remarkable but a nice enough waiter who did the de rigeur tasks that a waiter in an expensive restaurant is supposed to perform. Secondly, the food was all tasty. The $69 steak was great (even though I along with another member of my party asked for medium rare and got a medium). Now for the criticisms:
- When I walked in from the hot Manhattan streets I expected to be greeted by a 68-72 degree temperature controlled restaurant that I would quickly become comfortable in. By the bar area on the main floor the temperature was on the warmer side. This was confirmed by one of my (skinny) friends who had been sitting by the bar for some time and was reinforced further by the time we went upstairs to an area that was significantly more comfortable than the area around the bar. As is the case with many of these criticisms management might rationalize and chalk it up to the place still being "new", however, I find that excuse to be completely unacceptable since any proprietor worth their salt opening a high-end place in the city in the summer should be 100% sure that the air conditioning system is working perfectly at all times.
-The space is not as nice as the old one. I know the big critique of the old one was the noise factor (which never really bothered me but I understand why it does irk other). This new space may be an improvement noise-wise but the block its on is not as nice as the old place, there is no outdoor seating (which was really nice), and the upstairs corner that we sat in was claustrophobic feeling due to the 6.5-7 foot ceiling (whatever the height was is was very low). Others in my group felt that the new place was nicer but admitted that the new-ness was a big factor in their positive assessment. This is obviously a very subjective area of discussion but I would imagine most Chowhounders here would agree that its a downgrade.
- There are 2 TV's hanging over the bar area. I found the presence of these TVs to be slightly tacky since they were completely exposed to the main eating area of the restaurant and exacerbated by the fact that they seemed like older TVs without super sharp pictures. Again, even if they were state of the art I would think there might be a better (i.e. sleeker, smoother, more architecturally sensible) way to display these TVs rather than having a bulk of the patrons be forced to view them, however, the fact that they were not so high-end made the situation slightly worse.
-The menus were falling apart. Literally. The pieces of plastic that covered the written portion within the menu was bent and did not fit into the menu. I find it incomprehensible that a restaurant which has been open for a month would tolerate having weathered beaten very much used menus instead of just putting a sleek package together that didn't feel super-cheap.
-Beer. Their beer selection was extremely limited. I ordered a Duvel off the menu and was told that they did not have in stock yet. Situations like this have always bewildered me since beer is a high-profit item that has a relatively long shelf life and can be kept in a relatively cool area of the restaurant until it needs to be refrigerated. Further, beer is an item that is extremely easy to restock if the supply is running low. It is beyond me how a place like Prime Grill which prides itself on being a highly sophisticated culinary experience can attempt to get by with the pathetic Corona, Heineken, Stella and some other joke beers ( along with 1-3 unique beers (such as Delirium Tremens)). They should really take a lesson from Le Marais or even better yet, Pardes, which both understand that often enough the consumer that is sophisticated enough to want to spend exorbitant money on culinary delights is the same consumer that is aware that Corona:Skull Splitter as Meal Mart Hot Dog:Delmonico steak. You lose nothing except 2 square feet of storage by having a list of 15-20 beers the way LM/Pardes do and you make many more people happy.
-The prices are completely outrageous. They always have been but, as mentioned before, I feel more taken advantage of now that the space feels less justified in demanding these prices. Almost every single thing (not drinks and not desserts) seems to be 50-100% more than comparable items at their competitors. People have always complained about the whole -sides-aren't-included thing (for those of you not familiar when you purchase a steak at PG you do NOT get fries but rather need to pay an additional $12 for French Fries. So my steak which was $69 would have actually been $81 with fries) but I kinda felt the restaurant could get away with it because the space was a legit Class-A meeting place where business-people felt comfortable paying a premium while patronizing for all of the aforementioned reasons. Now it just seems as if its one more way that they attempt to fleece their customers. There is a new area of the menu for "Flatbreads" which (besides for the vegetarian one) are all $22-$24 http://theprimegrill.primehospitality... . These are appetizer sized portions of delicious freshly baked bread (sourdough?) with a teensy-tiny portion of meat added on. These are exactly the kind of items where the price should be in the $13-$16 range (and not 50%-80% higher than that) based on the amount of food involved and since a) the presentation is not elaborate and therefore not labor intensive nor b) is it anything more than really good bread with a smattering of meat (in contrast to getting a few ounces of a good cut of something). Though I didn't order it one can also take issue with the notion of paying $29 for the beef jerky which at PG is exactly that- jerky- a plate of tough tasty non-prime meat.
It is easy for me to say that "all the prices seem to be 50%-100% more" when the prices are in actuality arbitrary and possibly subject to what Joey Allaham thinks his customers are willing to pay. This logic is highly flawed though since PG is surely not the only show in town and based on the new location is really just an equal product to Le Marais. The question therefore begs itself: What is the added value of Prime Grill over its competitors and why would anybody go back to Prime Grill when they can obtain and equal or better (me: better) product at Le Marais at significant savings? I would ask this question while contrasting PG to Pardes also, however, I CAN understand why one would opt to only go into the city for a nice night out rather than to Brooklyn or ETC in Teaneck, for example (My wife and I would unquestionably rather go to Pardes, east better, food, drink better drinks, pay less and be wowed by some new concoction but, again, I understand those that want to stay on the island of Manhattan.)
What really got me- and I would love to know if anyone else is as bothered by this as I am- is that after our mandatory 20% tip was added onto the bill and our cards were charged, the not-yet-signed receipt had a line for TIP__________ underneath the $162 number that had factored the tip in already. I have no idea what PG's policy is when a early-stage dementia octogenarian takes out her/his family to a nice kosher dinner and inadvertently adds a 15% tip on top of the already tipped subtotal but this practice reeks of an uncouth and possible unethical business practice that I have noticed many kosher restaurants sadly do. This is not as bad as those restaurants that add a mandatory tip on top of the subtotal which has already included the tax, however, its comparable and just one more factor that will probably prevent many first time customers from becoming repeat customers.