Two Mondays ago, we snagged a coveted reservation at Minetta Tavern. We have been eager to try Minetta since it opened and even more so since Bruni raved about the steak. Alas, “normal” reservation times (e.g., 7:00-10:00) are not available for “normal ” people. I dutifully called the restaurant one month out from my husband’s birthday and was given the option of dining at either 5:30 or 10:00 so I moved to our backup plan – Wolfgang’s (a steak dinner is a tradition on my husband’s birthday). On a whim, I called Minetta on the morning of my husband’s birthday and was offered a reservation at 8:30. Bingo!
So did Minetta live up to the hype? Without a doubt.
We had to wait a few minutes for our table so we tucked up to the bar and perused the lengthy cocktail list. I opted for a Rhubard Sophie – a Minetta creation (half of the cocktail menu was classic cocktails and the other half was specialty cocktails). The Rhubard Sophie was made with Below 42 vodka, rhubarb bitters, lime, agave nectar and cucumber. This is the perfect summer drink – refreshing, light, and slightly tart. My husband ordered a cask ale initially and when it arrived warm (the bartender assured us that this was the correct temperature for a cask ale…and offered to make another drink), he opted instead for Rhubarb Sophie. When my husband is willing to drink a cocktail named a Rhubarb Sophie, you know it’s good.
We were ushered to out table fairly quickly. The aesthetic at Minetta is speakeasy, which seems to be the current restaurant theme of choice in New York. The main dining room was noisy and cramped, as you might expect of a Keith McNally establishment. We did not recognize anyone (I was hoping to see someone famous given the many reported sightings at the restaurant), but I suspect that there were a lot of black cards floating around. I went to Minetta for the food, but it was hard not to be drawn in by the people watching as the over-the-top scene unfolded.
Speaking of the food…drumroll please. We started with a shared order of the Pasta Za Za – fettuccine-like pasta with pancetta, sage, parmesan, and a fried egg. The fabulous pancetta made this dish. Starting a steak dinner with an order of pasta is aggressive, but birthdays only happen once a year! We both ordered the New York strip – I almost broke rank and ordered the highly-praised Black Label burger, but now I have an excuse to go back (assuming that I can get in again). In a word, the steak was magnificent. I was in a euphoric state eating that fabulously flavorful piece of meat – I may have even thrown around the word orgasmic. The steak is quite possibly the best steak I’ve eaten (and I’ve been to Luger and the other usual suspects). We also shared an order of Potatoes Aligot, which played their supporting dish role well. Made with cheese curd and probably something else sinful (crème fraiche?), these potatoes are not for the birds. We washed down our meal with red wine by the glass (there were lots of extremely affordable glasses) – a Cali cab and a Grenache – both were fine if not great.
Having eaten too much red velvet cake earlier in the day, we lingered over cups of decaf and then made our way in to the night, very full and very content.