Kobe beef is a rare delicacy no matter how you slice it. Highly regulated by the Japanese government, only a limited amount of authentic Kobe beef exists, and a very small percentage is exported to the U.S. In fact, 212 Steakhouse is the only restaurant on the East Coast officially approved by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association from Japan to offer authentic Kobe beef. This association <http://www.kobe-niku.jp/englishtop.htm> guarantees the supreme quality of the certified authentic Kobe beef served here, attested to by the certificate that hangs in the entryway of the restaurant. For more information on the association, please visit www.kobe-niku.jp/englishtop.html.
From the elegant yet comfortable cocktail lounge in the front, to the expansive bar designed for eating as well as drinking to the rustic wood tables with woven placemats in the dining room, Volper has created a different kind of steakhouse.
Kobe beef from Japan is bred of Tajima-gyu calves only from designated producers in Hyogo Prefecture, fed only the very best feed in stress-free and healthy environments, matured to an ideal quality and texture to an average age of 32 months and then rigorously graded for selection. The flavor of Kobe beef is unforgettable because of the harmony of delicate, sweet lean meat shot throughout with fragrant fat that literally melts-in-your-mouth.
For those who have never tasted the real thing, 212 Steakhouse offers the opportunity to try the beautifully marbled meat for a fraction of the cost: $15/ounce as compared to $45. (Minimum serving four ounces.) Most steak eaters find that they are satisfied with a small portion of the ultra rich Kobe beef.
These value prices also apply to other prime cuts of meat: Owner Nikolay Volper has made a commitment to make the highest quality beef in the world accessible to 212 diners, providing an impressive range of cuts at drastically reduced prices including Kobe beef ribeye, strip loin and tenderloin as well as USDA Prime bone-in filet mignon; Australia Wagyu skirt steak, dry-aged bone-in ribeye and porterhouse for one or two, and both American and Japanese Wagyu striploin with meat sourced from the Fremont Beef Company, one of the few authorized wholesalers in the country.
To ensure that this is a sustainable effort, diners enter into an implicit contract to order at least one menu item other than steak. But with the excellent collaboration between the owner and executive chef Christos Kalamvokis, choosing appetizers, salads and side dishes is a very satisfying proposition. Formerly of Kellari, Kalamvokis shared his expertise on Greek cuisine by teaching in Brazil, and began his career at Uncle George’s in Astoria, where he mastered the art of grilled whole fish and meats and other Greek specialties.
What makes 212 Steakhouse even more remarkable is just how varied and interesting the rest of the menu is. Not content to provide the usual sides, appetizers and token alternatives to steak, the Greek and Mediterranean-influenced menu is so complete that a non-beef eater could easily visit 212 Steakhouse dozens of times and never have the same meal.
An ideal meal begins with cold appetizers such as a wonderfully colorful interpretation of ceviche of wild salmon, avocado, mango, radish, minced jalapeno and lime zest, or yellowfin tuna tartare with avocado, highlighted with thinly sliced cucumbers and a bright and intriguing wasabi lemon sauce. There’s also imported burrata wrapped in 18-month aged prosciutto di Parma with baby arugula. Equally compelling are hot appetizers such as thinly sliced of zucchini chips, fried until crisp and puffy, flavored with garlic and accompanied by yogurt-dill dipping sauce, or grilled sushi quality octopus with red-wine vinegar marinated red onions and sweet mini peppers, or the dramatically presented graviera cheese, brought to the table with a brandy flambé. Organic spinach soup with roasted feta crouton, a deeply satisfying dish that borrows from Volper’s Bulgarian heritage, is a thickened with yogurt and filled with swirls of fresh spinach.
The freshly caught whole fish such as branzino, dorado and black sea bass, are simply grilled with organic Sicilian olive oil, lemon and herbs, are priced per pound, and are presented filleted. Other seafood options include swordfish kebabs, wild salmon filet and freshly grilled Maine lobster in the shell. Guests can also enjoy decadent risottos with moderate price tags such as wild mushroom and truffle risotto or black risotto with seafood. The impressive array of side dishes include ethereal baked polenta fries with parmesan, tender sautéed Brussels sprouts with sun-dried tomatoes, a heavenly mix of mushrooms and an addictive tangy-lightly sweet eggplant caponata composed with pine nuts, raisins and olives.
The beverage program is up to the challenge set by the cuisine and includes a wide-ranging wine list that represents a fine selection of wines from United States, France, and around the world. The by-the-glass list includes a wonderful selection of Champagnes, Prosecco, and excellent whites and reds from Sonoma, The Loire Valley and Tuscany, as well as Sauternes and Ports. There’s also a choice of sake and beer. Guests can even try one-ounce vintage pours of spectacular wines such as 1975 Château Mouton Rothschild, 1994 Château Petrus or 1985 Château Margaux to match their Kobe beef. Spirits are equally well represented with a broad selection of single malt Scotches and other fine whiskies, bourbons and cognac as well the finest top shelf spirits for classic cocktails. The cocktail menu includes inventive and luxurious cocktails such as the Beluga, built with Beluga Vodka, ginger syrup, fresh lime and a caviar cube and the Diamond—Atlantico Rum, club soda, Chambord and a diamond cut sugar cube. The list of bubbly cocktails includes Gold, composed of Taittinger Prestige Brut with orange bitters and 23K gold flakes.
212 Steakhouse is located at 316 East 53rd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues, www.212steakhouse.com, 212-858-0646, is open for dinner Sun-Thurs 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11:30pm and is available for private events. Lunch coming soon.