One of my favorite parts of Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table was when Meyer said that he felt an entrepreneurial spark whenever he discovered dining concepts that don’t exist that should exist. And though I’m far from the first person to discover it, St. Anselm is an exciting twist on the traditional steakhouse experience. It’s the answer to anyone who has ever wondered who wrote the rule that upscale steakhouses had to have a stuffy atmosphere, gigantic portions, and high prices?
The menu at St. Anselm is a mix of steakhouse staples and “off-cuts” of meat. For every NY Strip and Rib Eye, there’s a Butcher’s Steak and Shoulder Blade Lamb Chop. Most dishes, except the larger format meats that are designed to share, are much more reasonably priced than many other top-end steakhouses. For the non-beef inclined, there is also a pork chop, young chicken, and some fish dishes on the menu.
We started with the grilled berkshire bacon and the three different eggplants (guess which one CateyLou picked…). The double cut bacon was very good, though it fell short of reaching the impossibly high standard set by Peter Luger’s for steakhouse bacon. Still, the edges were crispy while the inside was tender and full of flavor. The eggplant platter, which is also served with fried goat cheese and caramelized onions, was another strong dish. The eggplant was prepared in three different ways (Thai, Japanese, Italian) and the fried cheese provided a nice contrast in flavor.
For side dishes, CateyLou and I shared spinach gratin, pan-fried mashed potatoes with truffle oil, and fiddlehead ferns. The spinach gratin, which was recommended by our server, was outstanding and the best of the bunch. By no means a light dish, it is a not-quite creamed spinach that is topped with cheese and baked until brown and bubbling. The ferns were also unexpectedly good (unexpected because until then I didn’t know ferns were a food). Our least favorite was the pan-fried potatoes. While we enjoyed the crispy top layer, the mashed potatoes were a bit dry for our liking.
Now for the best part. For our mains, I had the Butcher’s Steak (hanger steak) and CateyLou had the New York Strip. The hanger steak was expertly prepared, as the edges were nice and charred with the inside being tender and flavorful. CateyLou’s Strip, which was served with a poivre sauce, was equally delicious. Although neither portion of steak was as you might receive at a traditional Manhattan steakhouse, combined with the delicious sides and starters it was still more than enough food. And besides, both steaks combined cost less than a NY Strip at most well known steakhouses.
St. Anselm is a small restaurant – no more than 12 tables and some bar/counter seats – located a few blocks from the L stop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and they do not take reservations. The atmosphere is more reminiscent of a neighborhood bar than a fancy steakhouse; but also has the expected Williamsburg-y (read: hipster) vibe. There are a few beers on tap and a good sized wine list. We recommend grabbing a spot at the chef’s counter where you can watch the dedicated kitchen staff prepare the food.