Harry and Izzy’s new location, like its downtown counterpart, sports a horse-racing and betting theme, in tribute to Izzy Rosen, former bookie and late owner of St Elmo Steakhouse. It’s a theme that’s pleasingly idiosyncratic, transporting the diner back to Mad Men days, when handshakes were firm, cocktails were consumed in threes and time was measured in cigarettes. Although the ambience may tend towards the masculine, this is by no means a clubby kind of place. The staff is warm and welcoming, the food has wide appeal and the service is smartly efficient.
Catering to power-lunchers and harried shoppers alike, Harry and Izzy’s menu, overseen by the seasoned chef Dave Foegley, offers a broader menu than St. Elmo, but retains a few of that icon’s signature dishes. Those of a masochistic bent can enjoy the legendary Shrimp Cocktail ($15.95), a guaranteed cure for all but the most belligerent of head colds. A little more sedate is the seared tuna ($13): a generous and succulent serving of sushi-grade fish served with a sweet and savory ginger sauce.
With everyone’s time being in such short supply these days, a good three-course lunch has become a luxury in which few of us can afford to indulge. Should the opportunity arise, however, I can think of few better places to do so than at Harry & Izzy’s. The pace is measured, the seats comfortable and the portions just right. On a recent visit my wife enjoyed a more or less perfect 6oz filet ($23), while I bit into one of the best prime rib sandwiches ($14) I’ve had in a while. Served on a super-fresh roll with a creamy (and not too hot) horseradish, this was juicy and packed with flavor.
On a second visit, this time for dinner, the standout dish was a truly extraordinary breaded bone-in veal chop ($33). This may just be the best such dish I’ve enjoyed since a memorable lunch in Vienna 27 years ago. Seriously. Succulent, tender, profoundly flavored, this was exactly what veal is all about. Served with a side of creamed spinach, it didn’t need the embellishment of a starch to detract from its perfection.
A rack of lamb ($32) was served simply with its juices and a portion of mint jelly. At first it appeared a bit more rare than I usually like, but once I cut into it, the melting flesh and delicate flavor won me over completely. A third dish, the New York Strip ($37), was every bit as tender and properly aged as you would expect. There can be doubt that, since I first dined at St. Elmo over 20 years ago, the quality of their meat has improved enormously, quite an achievement when one considers the sheer volume of cattle passing through its various kitchens.
A short selection of desserts, including an immaculate crème brulée, rounds out the menu. And, of course, there’s the wine cellar: 2,600 bottles displayed behind glass in the main dining room. But that’s a story for another time.