When you walk into Manhattan's chic emporiums of fine food, like Eli's, The Vinegar Factory or Gracie's Market Place, or into Dean & Deluca Dressens when hobnobbing in the Hamptons or the Chappaqua Village Market while you're checking out Bill Clinton's abode, you'll find Uncle Jack's steak sauce on the shelves.
Uncle Jack's is that steakhouse on Bell in Bayside with two bottles sitting on every table. William Jack Degel, who opened Uncle Jack's three years ago, was Uncle Jack's godson and found the recipe among the curios left to him from the speakeasy named Jack's. From the late 1920s to repeal, Jack's was located near Columbus Circle.
The speakeasy connection is evident in today's rendition from the red velvet drapes hanging alongside the front door to the flickering, gas-light-like candles on the wall, to the oversized, fringed damask napkins draped over the bread basket. And the waiters with their damask vests have that distinctly out-of-the-'20s look.
The vibes are good at Uncle Jack's. Small does mean beautiful. And there's a joie be vive that's captivating. It's an intimate steakhouse, dominated by a long bar with a bar menu all its own.
In the rear there's a slim, horizontal, chin-high pass through which orders are transferred from kitchen to dining room and from where a heavenly (for me) scent of garlic emanates on occasion.
No printed menu, here. In addition to the blackboard listings, the menu is proclaimed in dramatic detail. (We didn't time this one, but it seemed like a three minute soundbite.)
I regretted that on my previous, post-opening review of Uncle Jack's, I hadn't ordered the massaged Japanese Kobe beef. I inquired and yes, the Kobe steak may be shared and there's also a three-slice appetizer of Kobe . "But," said our waiter, "it's not Japanese but comes from Washington state."
I had heard that Kobe was extremely well marbled. Our appetizer order arrived very much like filet mignon slices. Until I've eaten Kobe in Japan I'm putting any critique on the back grill.
The Maryland style crabcake was larger and flatter than I've had elsewhere and served in a lush shrimp sauce that distinguished it from all others. Great.
We munched on pumpernickel and rolls and anticipated our big moment. Steaks at Uncle Jack's are dry-aged. And there's that Uncle Jack steak sauce.
Our T-bone steak was 25 ounces, which lets you sample both the filet and strip cut. He, one of the evening's two dining companions, commented: "It's nice that they bring it out cut along the bone and then cut in a few pieces. You don't have to wrestle but can converse."
The sesame-seared tuna stole the taste show - not too surprising since steak houses have been traditionally known for their seafood as well as beef. Picture this: Two 2-inch-thick slabs of tuna coated in black and white sesame seeds, skillet seared as requested (remember, it continues to cook on your plate), served with handful of mesculun greens and a dab of wasabi. Sensational!
Canadian mussels, served with broth, were the light entree par excellance, post steak appetizer. Doggy bagged, they became pick-me-ups with drinks the next night,
Mashed potatoes and creamed spinach were our chosen sides. The spinach, approvingly, was more leafy spinach and less cream. And the mashed potatoes were ultra-topped with that steak sauce; it's ketchup-thick, a rich brownish color with a distinctive, smooth flavor. But does great steak need a sauce? Take note: it's unbeatable on burgers, Uncle's or otherwise. The sauce is hand-crafted bimonthly in small batches with a serial number branded on the wooden gift box. Uncle Jack's even has a 12-bottle version.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Top notch. Small, intimate steakhouse. Speakeasy setting. Classic waiters. Bar menu and "Let's do lunch." Two bottles of Uncle Jack's Steak Sauce on every table.
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (Panamanian shrimp served with homemade spicy cocktail sauce)...$14.00
Maryland Style Crab Cake (crunchy fresh lump crab cake served over shrimp sauce)...$13.00
Porter House (Uncle Jack's signature dish. A 45-ounce prime USDA steak featuring the filet mignon and NY strip cut...$60.00
Surf & Turf (10-ounce filet mignon & 10-ounce Brazilian lobster tai1)...$49.00
New York Cheese Cake (homemade with caramel graham crust, sour cream, whipped topping...$6.00
Tiramisu (classic mix of lady fingers & mascarpone cheese set in layers...$6.00
Setting: Speakeasy days
Hours: D, 7 days. L, Mon. to Fri.
Parking: Valet Mon. to Fri.
Credit cards: All major (except
Handicapped access: Yes
©2001 Community News Group
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