SPARKS STEAK HOUSE5/17/2012
210 East 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Have you ever said to yourself "just once, I want to feel like a Republican" only to realize that you're not a millionaire? Me too. So this past week, Pike and I redeemed as many cans and bottles as we could at our local D'Agostino and, bags of nickels in tow, made our way to Sparks Steak House, one of the cafeterias in midtown that cater to the one-percenters. When I first arrived, I moseyed up to the bar where I could nurse a beer and feel under-dressed amid the businessmen. "How much is that bourbon?" one man asked. "$30 a shot" was the reply. To be sure, Sparks has no dress code and while the bar area seemed crammed with suits, they were eventually watered down and some jeans made their way into the scene. But no one looked like they just came from a Mets game, either.
Sparks may be famous the world over for having its customers blown away every so often in the lobby, but for me, it was always that-place-I-keep-walking-past-on-my-way-to-work-I-never-go-into. The most recent steakhouse I ate at was Peter Luger in Brooklyn. From a decor point of view, Peter Luger has none. It's one step away having customers use paper napkins. Sparks is fancier. Art lines the walls. The carpets are clean and rich. They have table cloths. Sparks' waiters don't take notes and they all dress in that traditional waiter style. Black slacks, white shirt, black tie. They nod and say "of course" a lot.
Pike and I went overboard. Don't ask me what hit us, but we ordered too much food. We started with two appetizers, which you see blow. We ordered the Shrimp Cocktail and the Lump Crabmeat Cocktail. The shrimp cocktail was shrimp cocktail. If you've had it once, you've had this. Twenty bucks buys you four shrimp and some cocktail sauce. I preferred the crab cocktail, also served cold with cocktail sauce because it was at least different. And tasted good. And lasted longer. And I chose it and am possessive that way.
Because I was at the bar earlier, I overheard the bartender telling someone that he was liked the lobster here. So I naturally told Pike, who naturally asked the waiter if the menu came with a surf and turf option. The waiter said no, but mentioned that we could always just get a lobster, too. There was a three second pause of silence where we looked at each other. Each doing that mild nod where you're thinking "hmmm... that's a good idea." Pretty soon, there was a lobster being shelled next to the table. Of course, Sparks is a steakhouse, so you get steak. Pike ordered the Prime Sirloin Steak, medium rare, on a plate. It comes with nothing, as any steakhouse worth it's salt will expect you to order every side dish separately. The steak was excellent and the next day I got a phone call. "You were wrong! You can totally microwave take-home steak and it was fantastic!"
My steak was less fantastic, but it wasn't the steak's fault. I ordered the Steak Fromage, a sirloin with Roquefort cheese. See, once upon a time, rather than go out to dinner, I made a steak dinner for Operagirl myself. It had a glaze of Roquefort cheese, some shallots, and a port-wine sauce. To this day, it's the best steak I can remember having and I thought that with a professional at the helm, it could only get better. But not so much. The cheese stood alone. No port wine sauce, no shallots. And way too much of it. I had to scrape the roquefort off in huge globs just to taste anything else. So let that be a lesson to you. Don't get the steak fromage. The side dishes were also less-than-award-winning. We ordered Asparagus (overcooked), Creamed Spinach (smooth, but light on cream), and Hash Brown Potatoes (potatoes in a bowl).
Still, let's not forget the lobster. Sparks doesn't even offer you lobster that's under three pounds, and they go up to six. We got the "small" Three Pound Lobster ($70), which they cracked for you so you don't get lobster juice on your tie or squirted in the face of that investor across the table from you. This was the best part of the meal. Great lobster. Unfinishably huge. Another lesson: trust your bartender.
Finally, dessert. By this point, I was stuffed to the point where it literally hurt to breath. But we forged ahead, we fought through the pain. We would not be defeated. Coffees arrived, of course, and they were accompanied by cake. Pike got the New York Cheesecake, a steakhouse standard. I got the Chocolate Truffle. The cheesecake was okay, but way too dry. The chocolate truffle was great. It's dense though, so if you don't go for rich desserts, go with something else. Sparks has quite a wine list, and there's also a large variety of dessert wines to choose from as well as ports, whiskeys, cognacs, and cordials. In short, if you ate yourself into sobriety, there's still plenty to buzz you up at the end of the meal.
Our grand feast: two appetizers, two steaks, a lobster, three beers, two glasses of wine, coffee and dessert, plus tax and tip came to $420.