A lot of restaurants will do crazy things to get attention. Take, for example, the $1000 opulent sundae at Serendipity or the 10,000 NT ($324 USD) beef noodle soup at Niu Ba Ba in Taiwan. Even though a majority of diners will not order the crazy menu item, restaurants offering these insanely-priced item inevitably receive recognition, visitors, and fame.
I often wonder how much of it is hype and how much of it is truly warranted.
Carnevino is yet another restaurant that sells a crazy menu item. What is it? The Riserva: an 8 to 11 month dry aged steak. Apparently, this steak is so aged the texture changes into something that more resembles ham than steak. Moreover, this unusual and curious meat takes on aged flavors reminiscent of aged cheeses, like blue cheese or gorgonzola.
Needless to say, Bryan, the steak-lover and stinky cheese-lover, was extremely intrigued by this idea. He absolutely wanted to try the restaurant and order the curious sounding steak.
Carnevino is another collaboration between Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Carnevino specializes in quality dry aged steaks as well as Italian fare. Carnevino only uses dry aged "BBL beef," which they claim is "often beyond regular USDA prime standards for marbling and flavor and is hormone and antibiotic free." All of their steaks are dry aged for at least 60 days, though they also offer the Riserva, which is dry aged for months (typically around 8 months, but could be longer).
If you’re both a steak lover and an Italian food lover, you will absolutely fall in love with Carnevino. Carnevino is like a really high quality steak house with the HUGE added bonus of Mario Batali’s handmade pasta dishes and high-end Italian appetizers as your side dishes. Move aside boring creamed spinach and roasted button mushrooms! Hello burrata caprese salad and squid ink pasta!
We are big fans of Mario Batali restaurants and thus it was no surprise that we loved all the pasta sides. The roasted shitake mushrooms were slightly charred (just the way I like them), and had tons of deep, earthy umami. The imported prosciutto was absolutely fantastic. Bryan and I agreed it was probably the best prosciutto we had ever tried.
From left to right, top then bottom: MARINARA tomatoes | 'SPAGO' with lamb ragu | BLACK FETTUCINE crab, jalapenos, and shallots | BUCATINI ALL' AMATRICIANA caramelized onion, guanciale, tomatoes [around $17 for a "small" and $32 for a "large" -- note: small is like a starter while large is like an entree size]
Similarly the pasta sides (which were all made with homemade pasta), were excellent. The texture of the pastas was nice and chewy while the sauces were all deeply full of flavor. All four were fantastic, and different people had different favorite ones. My personal favorite was either the Black Fettucine or the Bucatini. I think Bryan's favorite was the Lamb Ragu.
Oh, how could I forget the steak!!
So, apparently the Riserva dry aged steak was SO POPULAR that it had been sold out for weeks. As a result, we could “only” order the 60-day dry aged stuff. Bryan decided to share the Dry Aged Bone in Ribeye for Two ($65 per person) with another friend. We ordered a bunch of pastas and sides to supplement the meal.
The steak was absolutely incredible. It was seared just the way I like it - with a beautiful crust on the outside edge. The inside was a perfect medium rare - juicy and wonderfully flavorful. Bryan declared it was the best steak he had ever had in his entire life. That’s definitely saying a lot, considering this guy’s been to many top steakhouses throughout the nation, including Quality Meats (NYC), Harry Caray's (Chicago), Grill 23 & Capital Grille (Boston), Craftsteak (Las Vegas), Smith & Wollensky, Morton’s, and Ruths’ Chris’s (not to mention all those Michelin restaurants that often serve steak).
We have concluded that, at least at Carnevino, this super-aged dry aged stuff is definitely not just a sensational stunt. Dry aging clearly makes a difference, and the 60-day dry aged steak at Carnevino is better than most steaks that are out there.
I've never heard of BBL beef and I have no idea whether there is an official rating beyond prime. Nevertheless, what I have experienced first hand is that this type of steak is really really good. Even me, someone who’s not really a steak eater, thought the steak was sublime and truly beat out anything I’d ever had before. I kind of wished we'd ordered another one!
The steak is definitely top notch, but you pay for it. I thought $65/person for the "Steak for Two" would be way more than two people could handle, but it was not a huge amount of food. We had no trouble finishing it! Likewise, we ended up ordering the "large" sizes for all the pastas basically because the waiter looked at what we had ordered and told us it was not enough food.
Even though we eat less than the typical American, I would have to agree with him in this case. The portions are quite small even though the prices look sort of high (~ $32 for a full sized pasta dish). This is not the kind of place you go to get a "good deal."
If you can look past the high prices, you can appreciate that the food is really top quality here. The pasta has the same chewy texture as the pasta we've had at B&B Ristorante. The other Italian sides are all made with very high quality ingredients as well. Of course, the steak is incredible and is the real reason to visit this place.
This is not an everyday sort of place. However, if you have a special occasion and you want to treat someone who loves steak, I can't think of a much better choice.
Update Jan 2013: This is still his favorite restaurant in the US. However, we finally had a chance to try the Riserva Steaks, which Bryan thinks is even better than the 60-day dry aged steaks here.
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