Written by Hulda Lawrence
Frankie & Johnnie's Steakhouse has been located at 269 West 45th street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, since 1926. (212) 997-9494. This restaurant attracts actors, producers and all the professionals of the theatrical world, as well as those not in "the business." Diners climb a narrow flight of stairs to reach the relatively small space where there is no glitz in either décor or food. The walls are hung with theatrical posters and photos of the celebrities who have dined or imbibed there. The tables are close to each other, and secrets cannot be kept from neighbors.
One enters practically into the kitchen where meats are grilling and foods are being prepared. The other day, when we arrived for lunch the aromas were quite enticing and we knew we would have steak. We began our lunch with a shared Classic Salad and Oysters on the Half Shell. Other appetizers are Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Little Neck Clams, Jumbo Lump Crabmeat Cocktail, Chopped Chicken Livers and Pimentos with Anchovies, with prices ranging from $4.95 to $14.95. As we relaxed and awaited out order we overheard a lady at the next table describing the plot of Thoroughly Modern Millie to her young daughter whom she was taking to a matinee performance.
Our Filet Mignon arrived rare as ordered. The prime steaks available are Sirloin, Rib Eye, T-bone and Porterhouse for two (only after 7 p.m.). With our delicious steak we had fresh spinach as a side dish. Our other entrée was Shrimp Scampi served over rice and this dish too was well prepared and very good. The steaks range in price from $29.95 to $64.95 (for the two portion Porterhouse). Filet Mignon is $29.95. The Shrimp Scampi are $22.95. Other entrees include Double Loin Lamb Chops (30 minutes) at $28.95; Veal Chop at $29.95; Pork Chops with potato pancakes at $20.95; Calves Liver with onions and bacon for $19.95; Chopped Steak with onions at $13.95; Broiled Filet of Salmon or Sole; Grilled Breast of Chicken at $15.95; Broiled Lobster Tails; and Surf and Turf at $35.95.
Side dishes include potatoes in eight varieties, from Cottage Fries to Garlic Mashed and are $4.50. There are vegetables such as Fried Onions, Broccoli and Asparagus. Salads include Caesar, Sliced Tomatoes and the Classic Frankie & Johnnie Salad.
Desserts are Chocolate Mousse Cake, Marble or Plain Cheesecake, Tartufe Ice Cream, Fresh Strawberries with Cream, Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie, Old Fashioned Apple Pie, Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream, Pecan Pie or Fruit Pie. Our choice was Key Lime Pie and how sweet it was!
International Coffees are a fine ending to a meal and we might have ordered Irish Coffee, Scotts Coffee, Café de France, Jamaica Coffee, Café Frangelico, Mexican Coffee, Italian Coffee or Rome Coffee each with an appropriate liquor, liqueur or cognac. Our choices were Cappuccino with Frangelico for me and Coffee with Kahlua for my companion. Special coffees are $8 and $8.50.
For those who want fine liquors there are Single Malt Scotches and Bourbons as well as cognacs and brandies. The variety is extraordinary and a note on the menu states that fine cigars are available at the cozy bar. There also is a selection of ports and dessert wines.
Hours: Lunch is served daily to 4 p.m. except Monday
Petrossian Paris at 182 West 58th Street, at Seventh Avenue, (212) 245-2214, has been located in the handsome landmark historic Alwyn Apartments for many years. Quite elegant in décor, excellent in service and superb in food, it is a wonderful and expensive experience for those who appreciate the finer thing in life.
At lunch time we were greeted by Jimmy Gilmartin and ushered to a table from which we could gaze at the huge, handsome bar with its Lalique wall sconces, 1930s sculptures and Limoges china all designed exclusively for Petrossian. As we waited for our drinks we noticed that the bartender prepared cocktails by shaking the ingredients, not stirring them. James Bond would be happy here! My choice was a Cosmopolitan consisting of vodka, cointreau and cranberry juice, a proper intro to the delights to follow. Incidentally, there are eleven vodkas available as well as a variety of wines by the glass, cognacs, single malt scotches, ports, and armagnacs.
With the guidance of Mr. Gilmartin we began with The Prince Gourmet, a 15 gram tasting of Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga caviar which we happily shared. In case you are not sure of the difference among these caviars: Beluga is tops and is harvested from Beluga sturgeon, Ossetra comes from mature Ossetra sturgeon, and Sevruga's eggs are lighter in color and have a slightly bring flavor. For accompaniment we had toast and just bagged lemon, although for those who prefer, sour cream and blini are available. There are larger portions of the three-caviar tasting. Ours was $120. Thirty grams of each are $240 and fifty grams are $391. These ornate plates come with appropriate spoons, and each caviar is in a small serving dish. Individual presentations of caviar (30 grams) range from Transmountanus U.S. Farmed at $45 to Tsar Imperial Beluga at $106. Larger amounts demand larger prices.
Our next course was a platter of smoked fish including Tsar Cut salmon that was delicious. There also was sturgeon and eel on the plate. The Tsar Cut, from the center of the fish, was marvelous. We also tasted one of the top Foie Gras of goose liver, and delicious it was.
A prix-fixe brunch at Petrossian runs $28 with such appetizers as Smoked Sturgeon and Cucumber, Smoked Salmon, Borscht and Crème Fraiche, Smoked Trout Salad, Half Dozen Blue Point Oysters, a Herring Sample or a Selection of pate and cured meats. Main courses include Corned Beef Hash with Poached Egg, Cobb Salad, Pan Sauteed Crab Cakes, Roast Duck and Foie Gras Salad, Petrossian Salmon Sampling, Beef Stroganoff over Polenta and then, if you have room, a selection of desserts with coffee or tea.
A pre-theatre or after-theatre menu at $34 presents three courses with such appetizers as Russian Salmon Roe with blini and crème fraiche, Borscht with crème fraiche and pirojkis, Mesclun Salad or Smoked French Brook Trout. Entrees include Risotto or Grilled Calamari, Braised Salmon Filet, Roasted Free Range Chicken, Seared Flank Steak and a selection of desserts. This menu is served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and from 10:30 to 11:15 p.m.
Another special dinner, La Tour Maubourg, at $42 has such appetizers as a Trio of Scottish Marinated Herrings, Borscht and Spring Mesclun Salad. With entrees of a selection of Petrossian Salmon, Soft Shell Crab Tempura ($5 supplement) Roasted Guinea Hen or Cold Roast Beef & Tartare. It is followed by a selection of desserts.
A la carte diners can enjoy Foie Gras Entier for $22, a Trio of Roes at $25, Foie Gras Salad at $20, Borscht with Crème Fraiche and Pirojkis at $14 or Carpaccio of Angus Beef, Transmountanus Caviar at $28. Layers of Foie Gras and Smoked Salmon is $28 and Sevruga Sorbet is $35 (smoked Sturgeon and champagne gelee). A la carte entrees include Crispy Skate Wing at $24, Grilled Dover Sole at $42, Soft Shell Crab Tempura with a trio of dipping sauces at $25 and Saffron Risotto at $22.
Desserts are Napoleon with Bourbon vanilla cream, Lemon Meringue Tart, Pistachio Crème Brulee and Dark Chocolate Gateau Coulant with raspberries and passion fruit. Dessert prices are from $8 for assorted ice cream to $12 for a selection of ripened cheeses.
With our fine luncheon we sipped wines by the glass. With our caviar tasting we enjoyed Perrier Jouet, Fleur de Champagne 1995 at $25 and with our fish we had Sançerre, Lucien Crochet 2000 at $11. Our server, Amra from Bosnia, was well-trained and brought us warm toast before we had to request it. For dessert we tasted the perfect lemon meringue tart.
If the Petrossian restaurant is a bit too expensive for your budget you can drop in at the Boutique and Café right next door at 911 Seventh Avenue, between 57th and 58th Streets where you can have sweets, gourmet sandwiches, fresh breads, pastries and desserts. There you can purchase pastries, the smoke fish, caviars and foie gras to take home.
The ambiance at Petrossian is outstanding and the food is out of this world. Visiting Petrossian is an occasion and a celebration, but it is worth every penny.
Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11_30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.