The Marrow has just one steak on its menu. It doesn’t cost $58. And it isn’t an a la carte affair with mashed potatoes running an extra ten bucks.
In a world where mediocre Manhattan spots like Bill’s and Arlington Club command top dollar for shoddy bovine products, The Marrow’s Wagyu culotte is perhaps most important for what it’s not: a rip-off.
Never mind the fancy appellation. What you get for $33 is a few slices of very good rare meat with a clean, Sunday-style roast beast flavor. Every bite is salted. And on the side there’s a crock of cauliflower gratin.
The dish harkens back to an era of bistro beef, a forgotten time where you could get a human portioned cut of meat for a reasonable price.
The Marrow is a half-German, half-Italian meatery where the sauerbraten is even better than the steak. Though I should point out the typically beef dish ($13) is actually lamb ribs that have been pickled, braised and fried.
Chef Harold Dieterle prefers a hat tip to tradition rather than a kowtow. That explains why his German coleslaw is striated with a julienne of hot pastrami. And why his Italian risotto is made with Chinese-style rice whose grains are a conduit not for truffles but rather a puree of sharp, oniony leeks.
Dieterle is the Long Island guy who won the first season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” back in 2005. He then gave us Perilla, a fine seasonal American spot, followed by Kin Shop, an even better French-American love letter to Thai food.
Now we have his West Village paean to the culinary heritage of his Italian mother and German father. It’s his best effort yet.
Giant windows overlook the quiet corner of Bank and Greenwich. If only they’d actually open up, as The Marrow gets pretty warm (and noisy), even in the dead of winter. Ask for a table near the kitchen where things are quieter. Relief from the heat comes in the form of beer and Riesling.
The Weihenstephan Hefe Weiss brew ($6) emits a hint of banana amid all the fizzy bubbles; it’s just enough sweetness to offset your airy foie gras mousse, a tiny $8 shot of duck liver and gooseberry.
Restaurants serving $40 foie take note: this is the proper portion size.
Others will test drive the Weinhof Sankt Anna Erdener Spatlese ($12) -- green apple juice for adults -- to cleanse the palate of salty pretzel bread (free) and briny langoustines ($17), expertly cooked to a creamy finesse.
Bacala gnudi ($14) are fortified with bacala and bathed in hot cherry peppers and butter. This is key, because any Long Islander raised on fish shacks and clams casino knows the importance of drenching seafood in butter. And Dieterle doesn’t disappoint, tossing cuttlefish into a virtual fondue of guanciale, white wine and butter ($14). Garlic bread for dipping is required.
Dieterle has a thing for bone marrow. He lays it underneath a generous swath of Maine sea urchin. The marrow is hot, the uni cold and the textures, magically identical. The dish ($16) is perfect.
No bland veal schnitzel here; crispy batter covers a thick slab of duck breast. Throw in stewed wolfberries and crispy spaetzle and there’s your Michelin star. If there’s a better fried red meat in town I don’t know of it.
Pork coppa, wrapped in speck, is uncured ham steak, with sweet beans subbing out for the traditional maple syrup glaze. And then there’s the braised lamb neck, a fragrant slab of meat that instantly ranks with Keens’s mutton chop as one of the city’s best sheep dishes ($23).
Equally game-changing are the maitake mushrooms, which The Marrow elevates from side dish to main course. A whole head of funghi ($26) is cooked like a vegetarian steak, with a crispy, earthy exterior and a soft, neutral interior. It packs more flavor than most of the lousy New York strips around town.
Dessert is simple: Ask for Berliner donuts stuffed with Goldschlager cream, or apple hand pie with sour quark ice cream.
Dieterle tells me he sometimes serves a $120 cote de boeuf (sides included) as an off-menu special, and I’m sure he does a fine job of it. But ordering that giant cut would mean you’d have to skip the other great courses.
The big beef may not be in retreat. But The Marrow fires a brilliant shot across the bow.
The Bloomberg Questions
Price: Nearly all dishes are $33 or under.
Sound Level: Sometimes over 80 decibels in the front room.
Date Place: Yes.
Special Feature: Servers present bite-size apricot streusel with the check.
Inside Tip: Excellent veal breast, sliced razor thin and served with pepperoncini and marinara oil ($12).
Back on My Own Dime: For the lamb and duck.
The Marrow is at 99 Bank Street. Information: +1-212-428- 6000 or http://www.themarrownyc.com.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor
Sound-Level (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse. 56 to 60: Speak up. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: You’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Tumblr at www.thepricehike.com or www.thebaddeal.com)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater andKatya Kazakina on art.
To contact the writer of this column: Ryan Sutton in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org or qualityrye on http://twitter.com/qualityrye
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.