The Evolution Of The Steakhouse

steak steakhouse

Last year we talked about how a great steak is as fashionable as ever.  Once again in 2017, with the opening of a new Bobby Vans in the city last month and Wolfgang Puck bringing his CUT steakhouse to NYC; high-end steakhouses continue to grow in the Tri-State area. 

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss

No matter how accomplished a home cook is, a great steak is still a challenge. The chances of having a commercial grade broiler or grill that can generate the intense heat necessary to replicate the steak at a high-end steakhouse makes it virtually impossible. 

Our H. Weiss team recently completed a re-do of one of Manhattan’s truly iconic steakhouses. It gave us some really interesting insight into the re-emergence of the steak on Metro New York’s menus. 

In addition to equipment, the other major differentiation between what your guests or members can do with beef lies in the access that you have great cuts. That huge slab that your parents may have feasted or celebrated with are gone. They have been replaced with grass fed or organic cuts. 

The other key opportunity to showcase your menu lies in how you serve sides and sauces. These new cuts require a fresh new look at how you serve them to your customers. The old way of serving a steak was to place the slab on a simple old white (US Vitrified china) platter. Plates were warmed, and, while the meat was left to rest, the juices dried on the warm plates and looked terrible. That old outdated 60’s look may have even been topped with a candy apple slice. 

Valiant Dec 2017 728×90

As the H. Weiss team designed the tabletop, it dawned on us the menus of a great steakhouse have expanded dramatically. 

Today’s menus include other “steaks”: including duck breast, ostrich and tuna – simply prepared, with great sides. As we did the planning with the chef, we also spoke of how “steaks” beg to be shared. This creates almost a communal table concept. There’s so much talk and focus about loyalty programs today. Nothing drives loyalty more that a great meal shared and enjoyed with friends and family. 

Our serving suggestions to set the right tone start with luscious composed salads with fresh greens and other high quality ingredients. Why not make a “sharing” statement by serving them in a large bowl or on large plates.  

From a presentation standpoint, profits and presentation can be maximized with the return of an old concept: table side slicing and serving. At H. Weiss, we have found beautiful custom wood boards with the restaurant logo that can even be sold separately to customers as a souvenir of the special time they enjoyed at your restaurant, club or hotel. 

We have also helped many of our customers create that special signature with Marble boards. I like their look but they are cold.  We have also been utilizing slate boards, some with glass domes that make fantastic presentations.

We noticed that sauces have become a real point of differential for chefs that feature “steaks”. So with the rebirth of how it is presented, sauces have taken center stage as an expression of the chef’s individual flair. 

Choice of sauces where the chef can be inventive, now have nice ways of serving them. The H. Weiss tabletop team has been suggesting the use of copper or stainless steel pots with sauce presented at the table. We also like the look that can be created with double or triple ramekins and even a glass pitcher. 

It’s interesting; we are seeing more steaks shared than ever before. With this comes the use of a larger more elegant serving platter with smaller plates. We are also seeing the use of smaller portions with better cuts being served on open sandwiches and in salads. 

We suggest the use of a colored plate or an upgraded cream plate to make beef pop. One of the newer organic shapes from FOH-Front of the House or Steelite is a must. 

Today’s sides include a healthier selection. We suggest a fresh new approach to serving sides this year. We have our chef and restaurant customers using Matte finished bowls like Geode from Cardinal or Steelite – which offers several matte colors including beige, gray and black. We also have our eye on some of the wonderful organic shaped small bowls from Libbey. 

Today’s sides are often served in tandem with the standards like creamed spinach and fully dressed potato – which is still the star. How about this creative approach use an oval bowl with the opened potato served with a tray of toppings – almost like a make your own Sundae. 

Good bold wines have always been a part of the great steak experience. Why not think about recreating the ceremony of decanting wines – even if it is just a single serving decanter.

With our steakhouse project in the City, we also paid special attention to the salt and pepper mills.  We were able to complete the look with a pewter finish. We also suggest colorful lacquer, or a good quality clean acrylic mill – with a matching salt mill. Pink or gray salt is a great way to add some color and a special feel. Simple linen or muslin bags for crusty bread complete the table.  

One thing that has not changed in the steakhouse is the importance of the steak knife.

The golden age of the steak knife has returned. Many of the updated designs have the female customer in mid with the inner profile that fits elegantly into a smaller hand. With the recognition of a growing customer base for steak, innovative manufacturers led by Cardinal have worked with their design teams to introduce designs that feature wood tones and pearl handles. In addition they have also given careful thought to the materials used to produce blades that can easily glide through meat. 

Do not skimp on the knives – probably the most important item on the table when serving steak. Replace them before the blades go dull and the handles look worn. Why not talk to us about combining the right knife with a large hefty fork lets the customer know that they are eating something large and impressive.

Let us know how we can help you rethink your steak presentation strategy.

Liz Weiss is the President and co-owner of Armonk, NY based H. Weiss Co. She is known nationally as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on tabletop design. The Michigan State graduate is also actively involved with WPO-Women’s Presidents Organization. Comments may be sent to eweiss@hweiss.net