Visiting Bourbon Steak – Union Square

Sorbet and ice cream trio

Bourbon Steak dining room

I’ve been a couple times to Michael Mina’s new Bourbon Steak in Union Square… admittedly a national chain, something I approach with caution, if at all. But, then, it’s Michael Mina. Hype, fame and all, I’ve consistently experienced great to superb meals at his flagship restaurant over the years.

Bourbon Steak held some warm and fuzzy Mina moments. I almost prefer the re-do of the space with dark browns, warming it up from its slightly sterile air before. Service and wine list, in true Mina fashion, are top of the line.

Complimentary Duck Fat Fries

Thankfully, the food, particularly the steak and burgers, keep up. A trio of complimentary duck-fat fries arrive as a generous amuse-bouche with various dipping sauces (my favorite being the fries dusted with shichimi togarishi, a Japanese seven-spice,  with yuzu chili aioli to dip them in).

Ahi Tuna Tartare ($19) is somewhat routine, and Hokkaido Scallop Lettuce Cups ($19) play like an embarrassing P.F. Chang’s-quality appetizer. But Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras ($22) wows. Fatty and silky as one expects with foie, tart with huckleberry compote, nutty with pistachio streusel, on a fennel pollen brioche. Small in size, this rich appetizer would make me happy as a main course.

Top-notch Bourbon Steak Burger

In the non-steak entree arena, I’ve had both burgers: the Falafel Burger ($16) with tahini sauce, and the Bourbon Steak Burger ($22) with caramelized onions and cheddar. Where the falafel burger is brightened by tomato cucumber relish, the beef burger is juicy and supple. Both are on buttery buns, exemplary in their category. You could do worse than to order one of these and a glass of wine in the bar.
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Mina’s signature Lobster Pot Pie (market price) is still as decadent as legend claims it to be. On the steak front, I vote for the Snake River Farms 8 oz. American Kobe Rib Cap ($50). Pricey? Yes. Small? For some (though the right size for me). With a buttery lushness reminiscent of the foie gras, this steak benefits from extra marbling, perfect at medium rare.  Sides, like Black Truffle Mac & Cheese or Peas & Carrots, are $9 each.

Luscious foie gras

At this point, there’s no fat quotient left for dessert, but if you must, sorbets won’t kill you. I like a mix of sorbets and ice creams (three scoops $9): cream cheese ice cream with spiced pear and kaffir lime sorbets. Or there’s Michael Mina’s Signature Root Beer Float ($9), pleasing every time.

DRINKS: Their cocktail list is certainly overpriced but typical for hotel bars downtown (hovering in the mid-teens). Over a few visits, I’ve particularly liked the refreshing, flavorful Epic ($13): the minty musk of Fernet and ginger kick of Domaine de Canton mix with lush Carpano Antica, bright lemon, topped with Fever Tree ginger beer.

Epic cocktail

Sommelier Noah Dranow is comfortably engaging, offering tastes to help you decide on by-the-glass selections. I was impressed with some brilliant glasses, the stand-out white being the priciest: 2008 P.Y. Colin-Morey St. Aubin ‘En Remilly’ 1er Cru Chardonnay from Burgundy ($26 a glass). Nothing short of layered genius. A slightly more affordable  glass ($18), an Austrian Riesling from the Wachau, 2004 Prager ‘Kaiserberg’ Smaragd, is equally complex and fascinating in a completely different way.

On the red front, count me converted to the 2008 Northern Rhone Syrah, Ogier La Rosine.  Dry with tobacco and fruit, this one is stunning with steak and also on its own. A fun burger pairing is the smooth, full 2007 Spot On Cellars Whole Cluster Syrah from Mendocino.

Bourbon Steak is an expensive night out, as steakhouses are, but eating in the bar is a way to do it more affordably as the burgers and free duck fat fries make for a meal.