I enjoy talking to servers. Not because I like chitchat, but because you can tell a lot about a place by how well its staff is trained. Are servers well-informed and confident, able to answer questions with ease, or do they need to run back and forth to the kitchen? What are their reasons for recommending an entree beyond personal preference? Are they obviously selling one dish over another — and if so, why?
So I was amused one night when a server at Block & Larder, which I review this week, used this as justification for ordering the hanging tender: “You won’t see them anywhere else in the city.” Admittedly, it was a stronger pitch than “Our hanging beef tender doesn’t taste at all livery, as it sometimes can.” And ultimately, his reasoning worked; we ordered the steak. But was the reason accurate?
I decided to do some digging. First I tried Old Major, because I thought if any place would serve this diaphragm muscle, it would be Justin Brunson’s nose-to-tail establishment. No dice. Then I reached out to Bistro Vendome, because hanger steak (as hanging tender is more commonly known) is the classic cut in steak-frites. But it wasn’t on offer there, either. Rioja and Euclid Hall were also a bust, as were meat markets such as Tony’s Market and Marczyk Fine Foods. Panzano, I learned, serves hanger steak occasionally, but wasn’t doing so at the moment.
With other things to do besides chase this rabbit, I decided to try one more likely contender: Le Central. And sure enough, hanger steak is a staple at this decades-old French standby. “You’d think it should be everywhere, but it isn’t,” says Michael Long, formerly of Opus and Aria, and, as of last week, chef at Le Central. The cut appears on the brunch menu and is frequently tapped for steak-frites, though Long likes the flat iron, too. Onglet, as it’s known in France, “is no chewier than skirt, no less tender than a ribeye, and not as tough as flank,” he says, “if you cut it right.”
And that’s one thing the folks at Block & Larder did. The steak itself was tender; it was the sell job that was a little tough to swallow.
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