Restaurant review: Marble Lane
Defying the odds and eating well in the Meatpacking District.
Fri Sep 16 2011
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
New York's Meatpacking District needs a new steakhouse like it needs another mook-baiting lounge. At Marble Lane, in the new Dream Downtown boutique hotel, you get both in one place, but don't hold that against it.
At first blush it might seem like a clone of STK, the chain-spawning meatery nearby. The waitstaff is suitably clueless about the food and drink that they're serving, but at least they're attentive. And the dining room is certainly glitzy with its mirrored pillars, high-backed leather banquettes and constellation of amber orbs overhead. But the dance music's not deafening and the pickup scene is mostly confined to the moat around the bar (and the bright, silly cocktails shaken behind it).
The real difference here, though, comes down to the kitchen. Former Top Chef contender Manuel Trevino (Travertine, Lavo) hasn't dumbed down his cooking to jibe with the space or the crowd it's presumably courting, avoiding the usual clubland clichs.
To start, there are no typical bottle-service bar bites—no lollipop lamb chops, kobe-beef sliders or truffled french fries. Instead you'll find squid bellies and tentacles expertly seared on the plancha, with sweet-and-sour roasted cherry tomatoes, as well as crispy sweetbreads—"you know what they are, right?" our waiter worried—just as impressively cooked, with baby artichokes and a rich and tangy black truffle reduction.
It's soon clear Marble Lane isn't quite what it seems, nor is it a conventional steakhouse—despite the straightforward and generous sides (creamed spinach, roasted mushrooms, scalloped potatoes) and a solid Caesar salad. Instead of targeting landmarks like Old Homestead right around the corner, Trevino's big steaks offer a globalized spin on the genre.
There's a Yiddish-style skirt like you'll find at Sammy's Roumanian on the Lower East Side with fried onions and grebenes (crisp chicken skin). This "Romanian" dish, a slab of American Wagyu, is remarkably tender and perfectly pink. So, for that matter, is the Latin American strip—an upmarket carne asada sliced on the bias—beneath an extraneous avocado-corn salsa. A wide cowboy rib eye is less muddled with extras: The well-seasoned meat, black on the outside and juicy within, is simply anointed with a puck of herb butter.
Desserts, too, defy the setting's rather low expectations. They're big and bubbly—sugar-bomb fuel for the rest of the night—but also tasty. There's an elegant spin on baked Alaska with fresh strawberry ice cream and brled meringue, and moist chocolate cake with caramel sauce and caramel popcorn.
Good food, a hot scene, the Meatpacking District? One of these things is not like the others.
Eat this: Calamari, sweetbreads, "Romanian" skirt steak, cowboy rib eye, baked Alaska
Drink this: The cocktails are pricey but generously poured (a martini will set you back $17). There are better values to be had among the wines by the glass, including a velvety Argentine malbec from Zelu ($12).
Sit here: The bistro tables in the center of the dining room are in the awkward line of waiter traffic. Request a big, cozy booth instead.
Conversation piece: Marble Lane, just off the Dream hotel lobby, is part of a whole new eating and drinking complex that includes a rooftop lounge, poolside bar, basement club and the cutting-edge restaurant Romera.
Dream Downtown, 355 W 16th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-229-2336). Subway: A, C, E to 14th St. Mon--Wed, Sun 7--11am, 11:30am--midnight; Thu--Sat 7--11am, 11:30am--1am. Average main course: $25.