Steakhouse menus, in general, hold few surprises. You know you’ll find the raw oysters, the thick slabs of bacon, and oval platters of porterhouse for two. There’s the chopped salad, the creamed spinach, the mashed potatoes, and the prime rib. Also, you’re sure to find brawny, tie-loosening cocktails and deep glasses of titanic reds. Necessarily, any review of a traditional steakhouse rates the degree to which a restaurant succeeds or fails at these standards. The review you’re reading is no different from other steakhouse reviews, except that, in this case, the restaurant fails.
At Mount Kisco’s Blackstones Steakhouse, which is part of a regional chain that extends into Long Island and Connecticut, the problems started early in our meals—to be precise, during a tangle for one of those tie-loosening cocktails. Having hit the simply decorated subterranean spot that had once been Enzo’s of Arthur Avenue and the Fish Cellar, I fancied a Manhattan, a classic opener for a traditional steakhouse experience. A pale version arrived, shaken with ice, made with Jack Daniels rather than rye, and presented in a Martini glass. As it landed, we were joined by our dining partner, a well-known chef, who instantly clapped eyes on the offending drink and declared it all wrong. We both took a sip of the watery, wan cocktail and exchanged glances, mouths askew—this was going to be an interesting evening. The waiter later informed me that the bar offered no rye whiskey, leaving us to wonder, ‘Why offer a Manhattan?’ On another night, a gin Martini presented a heartier welcome.
Wine service can be problematic at Blackstones, so you should be sure to have the list in hand before you order. When I asked for advice about which wines to pair with my dinner, on both occasions, our server couldn’t immediately remember the producer of the wine that he recommended. We found the wines-by-the-glass described merely by the grape rather than by the maker—a no-no in a restaurant where mains routinely hit the $30-$40 range.
We ordered all of the classic steakhouse starters: slabs of Nueske’s bacon, bluepoints, an iceberg wedge salad, clams casino and—what the hell—some escargots à la bourguignonne. Everyone had moved on from the drinks drama, which, to be honest, had actually intensified when the two beer drinkers at our table caught wind of Blackstones’ definitively macro-brewed list. Bacon makes everything better, and the sizzling slabs of Nueske’s were no different; the bacon-topped iceberg wedge—crisp, watery, and refreshing—also did the trick. Soon we were yucking it up, more or less looking forward to the rest of the meal.
Sadly, that’s when the escargots hit, tasting, as The Chef suggested, of the can from which they likely came. There were rinsed and tap-watery bluepoints and oily clams casino that savored more of bland, mushy breadcrumbs than of the sea. On another visit, starters were equally problematic. Under a slimy cap of Gruyère, a bowl of onion soup had a commercial tang that reminded us of the British salty meat extract Bovril, while the big-eye tuna tartare was rendered weirdly sugary, owing to a sweet passion-fruit and yuzu dressing (though the dish’s mashed avocado was strangely delicious).
The Chef had much to say about his bone-in rib steak, and none of it was positive—indeed, I tasted it, and, though pink, it was firm, flavorless, and dry. The porterhouse for two was also cooked in a peculiar way. Though pink and medium-rare at the center of the two steaks a porterhouse yields—the strip and the filet—the entire porterhouse was not pink at the center of its T-shaped bone, suggesting that the steaks had been cooked independently. The sea scallops ordered by one dining partner were served with an unyielding timbale of risotto so rigid that it would fail a cement “slump test”; The Chef muttered that this risotto would fail “every test there was.” On another night, the petit filet was a particularly uninspiring disc of dry beef served on a large white plate across from a morose sprig of greenery. Happily, haystacks of salty onion rings and soul-comforting mashed potatoes helped to sooth the sting of those wan steaks.
Desserts felt fairly commercial and were best represented by a tasty crème brûlée. Less inspiring was the dry carrot cake offered with white-shouldered, out-of-season strawberries and squiggles of raspberry sauce.