Call this a philosophical, spiritual defence of seriously marbled beef. For every person who backs away from enjoying red meat and hollers"Boo"at the mere suggestion of a juicy steak, there are people like me: carnivores in lust who chant "Moo" at the thought of a fine, crusty, charcoal-grilled slab of beef.
Ask me where can you can get the best steak in town and I'll say Harbour Sixty. Park free behind the building or let the valet take the car. Then it's up the steps to Corinthian columns,
through the grand, neo-classical, stone doorway and we're in a baroque-inspired foyer. On the left, a simply beautiful bar. On the right, the dining room.
We pause to admire the display of edibles at the open kitchen. Chef Bruce Kowalchuk gives us the 411 on corn fed, "Prime" Midwestern beef from the same supplier they've used since opening, six years ago. "Prime" denotes the highest quality of beef as set by the US Department of Agriculture. New York strip 16 or 18 oz.; centre cut rib eye and 10 or 14 oz. tenderloin, they use only the centre cut, so you won't find a connective chain on these fillets; Porterhouse 24 or 48 oz. and the cowboy steak, a 28 or 32 oz bone in rib eye, rare in Eastern cities. And seafood galore. Two to three pound Atlantic lobsters, black tiger shrimp from Vietnam that come 4 or 5 to a pound, sushi grade tuna steaks, Dover sole, and more.
The country's high and low rollers are at ease in this multi-million dollar ambiance. Names-in-the-news are at table, on over-sized, upholstered armchairs, and in spacious, curved booths. We can spot international sports figures, stars of stage and screen and their managers, business magnates and their lawyers, and people like us. Appropriately, the menu is what I'd call opulent, elevated steakhouse, where quality rather than cost is key.
Service is what you'd expect from, say, a personal butler. Natasha pours Voss water from Norway, (rumoured to be the water Madonna bathes in) and says, "I'm keeping your water on ice, is that alright?" and generously refills our plate of olives, hot peppers and feta cheese.
We share the crab cakes appetizer and are pleased they've divided the order in the kitchen. One crunchy, oceanic cake each, with spicy corn salad and red pepper salsa.
For owner Ted Nikolaou, opening this restaurant was a childhood fantasy come true. As an immigrant from Greece at age 13, he remained focused, confirming the adage that "the harder you work, the luckier you get. Now it's a family affair, with children Steve and Lisa Nikolaou as co-owners.
While there are steaks that spawn a tug of war between steak and knife, meat-mavens know that here, the steaks make love, not war. The New York strip steak, as well as the rib eye, are a naturally tender, juicy communion of meat and fat, richly marbled and crusted from the grill, and set pristinely on the plate. Eat me, they say seductively. The knife slides easily through the beef-there is an emotional effect. Well-marbled steak, eaten with primal devotion, reunites me with my happy carnal nature. Natasha grinds a little pepper on the plate to show the calibre before dusting the steak.
"Eat your vegetables," mama used to say. Okay, we'll have bitter-sweet, garlicky broccolini and earthy, wild mushroom ragout. Their distinctive flavours are like condiments for steak.
Baked Alaska is a blast from the past. Meringue rosettes on a chocolate and hazelnut ice-cream tower are set alight with flaming liqueur. Love it, love it.
Food trends wax and wane like the phases of the moon, and hard-core steak and potatoes cuisine has had more comebacks than the Rolling Stones and more bad press than Bin Laden. But any way you slice it, eating a great steak remains the most spiritual experience you can have in a restaurant.