A year later, New York’s Royal 35 survived the year of the plague and is pushing hard

Just over a year ago, as the Covid pandemic hit the restaurant industry hard, I wrote about the Royal 35, a New York steakhouse that went out of its way to to survive. I also wrote that I firmly believed that the American restaurant industry would survive and thrive, and that the fear-mongering claims that 70% of the country’s restaurants would close were absurd, if only because of the steadfast determination. and the hard work of restaurateurs like Royal 35’s.

Managing Partners Alfred Cetaj and Adam Sinanaj and Managing Partner / Bartender Sherif Nezaj to operate it. So I thought it was a good idea, as this week New York goes 100% indoor and outdoor occupancy, to see how they managed to survive and how they do business.

The three men have extensive experience working or managing established steakhouses like Ben & Jack’s, Sparks, Strip House, Michael Jordan’s and Mastro’s. Nezaj was the former owner of Il Monello.

Four years ago they took over the great space of what had been a series of forgettable restaurants and added a walk-in meat locker that you pass on your way to the great dining room. In this locker hangs 2,500 pounds of beef, aged on blocks of Himalayan salt for 35 days under ideal conditions.

There is a very nice polished bar at the entrance and the dining room is spacious, with wood paneling and wallpaper à la William Morris, with high ceilings and walls of glass wine racks. The lighting seemed lower to me than I remember, because light is what brings vitality to a room; people don’t go to steakhouses for a romantic vibe. The tables are well separated and spacious, with white tablecloths, fine silverware and stemmed glasses. The owners are always at your disposal so that your evening takes place as you wish, inside and outside, where they have very friendly tables.

Like all New York restaurants, the Royal 35 relies on a significant number of tourists, now barred from coming to the United States, and in this case, the neighboring Madison Square Garden is not yet operating at full capacity or in the evenings. (I’ve been told that every time Billy Joel performs, Royal 35 gets packed.) So customers at the moment are regulars, locals and business people who know they can count on. all the attention they need.

The menu differs little from the city’s other steakhouse models, so it’s in the quality of the ingredients that one sets itself apart from the rest. In the case of the Royal 35, that dry-aged beef is the real deal, and you can see the aging and enzymes at work on the meat through that locker window. They also serve sliced ​​Colorado lamb chops – in fact, the best way to go is to share everything in the center of the table – and the veal chop ($ 59) is superbly tasty.

You’ll start with a bread basket and what appears to be half a pound of butter on the table. Peruse the excellent wine list, which I have to say keeps its margins lower than comparable restaurants. Magnums, in particular, are a real bargain. Otherwise, most mark-ups seem around 100% (most places would charge 150% -300% above wholesale). A bottle of St. Francis Merlot costs around $ 35 at a wine store, here $ 60. A Paul Hobbs cabernet, $ 250 vs. $ 330, and the hard-to-find 2012 Angelo Gaja is pretty close to retail at $ 480. Wines by the glass range from $ 14 to $ 22. By the way, food prices have only increased by about a dollar in the past year, at a time when what restaurants pay for food has increased by about 15%.

Among the starters, I highly recommend the crab cakes ($ 23); Last year the crab was shredded, now it’s whole and meaty. A good way for a table to sample shellfish is the platter (market price) of lobster, oysters, clams, shrimp and other items accompanied by sauces, which greatly inflate the “smoke” of dry ice. A big slice of juicy bacon ($ 9) will easily serve four people.

The house specialty is a tomahawk steak, the price of which depends on the number of orders ($ 118 for two), which is essentially a massive rib eye with the long bone still attached. (I took this bone home and it made a nice lunch the next day.) The outside meat was incredibly charred, the inside half rare.

For my report, I dutifully ordered a Chilean sea bass ($ 48) and found it one of the best things to come out of the kitchen. Its succulence was ideal, topped with a lemon-butter-white wine sauce and a light brown seasoning seared on top.

Among the side dishes, creamed or stir-fried spinach for two ($ 16) is a good choice, German potatoes ($ 14) are a good platter of crispy potatoes, and onion rings (12 $) are large, fatty and do not taste like onions. Beat.

If you have room for them, share at least two desserts, homemade, like the high fudge chocolate cake ($ 14) or the cheesecake ($ 14). You can also take some home.

On the night of the week I visited, the dining room was about 75% full which was in demand at the time. As it now goes 100%, I can imagine that the Royal 35 and all of its competition (the week before I visited another steakhouse in the city center that was unfortunately cutting corners and quality) will revert to their old ways. shape, so that the new standard in restaurant dining will look, feel and taste exactly like the beloved old normal.

ROYAL 35

1 East 35th Street

212-804-7276


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