I love freshly ground raw beef. Call me what you will: a heathen, a cannibal, an animal. But there is nothing quite like the taste of meat in its natural, uncooked form. You’re probably saying to yourself where he going with this. Well, let me tell you.
Ever since I consumed the carne cruda at Eataly’s Manzo Ristorante, I cannot get the thought of that simple and delicious dish out of my head. The carne cruda was a part of the Beef Tasting Menu, my foodie pal Peter Ferriero and I enjoyed last week (the second day Eataly was opened to the public).
We weren’t actually planning on going to Eataly. In fact, we were headed to Ba Xuyen for bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) in Borough Park, Brooklyn. As we were driving, I started telling Peter all about my experience at Eataly’s grand opening. Peter liked what he was hearing. He asked if I minded heading to Eataly instead of for bahn mi. I jumped at the suggestions. So we headed to Manhattan instead of Brooklyn. (Note: we will be doing bahn mi in the near future. If you have any recommendations please don’t hesitate to tell me.)
We arrived at Eataly at about half past noon. There was a line of about 20 people waiting outside the 23rd Street entrance. We joined the line and waited eagerly for our turn to enter. The line moved relatively quickly and within 10 minutes we were in the doors.
While waiting on line, we made up our minds to have lunch at Manzo Ristorante, which is the beef restaurant. No, it’s no relation to Caroline Manzo of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”. Manzo is beef in Italian. So we went directly to Manzo to try to acquire a table. We talked to the hostess and were told there was a 45 minute wait. I gave my name and we decided to do some exploring in the meantime. For more on Eataly itself, you can search my archives or click here.
A Section of Manzo’s Dining Room
After about a half hour, we checked back in with the hostess. She told us it would be only a few more minutes. Instead of wandering away, we stood nearby. After about 10 minutes or so, the hostess informed us that our table was ready. She led us into the dining area and to our table. We were presented with our menus. I will be honest I quickly perused the menu, but was drawn almost immediately to the Beef Tasting Menu. What better way to experience the beef themed restaurant than with the Beef Tasting Menu? This was a no brainer. Our server came over and introduced herself. She asked if we had any questions about the menu. I think we simultaneously said that we wanted the Beef Tasting Menu. We were an easy sell. The price on the menu was $75 for 6 courses. I thought this was a fairly priced menu.
The server sent over the sommelier to help us pick out a bottle of wine. Looking at the wine list, I was pleasantly surprised that there were a decent amount of reasonably priced bottles ($50 and under). We chose a 2007 Ognissole’ Primitivo di Manduria from the region of Campania for $37. My initial reaction to the wine was that it was a little harsh. However, my conception of it changed as our meal progressed. I found that it mellowed out and paired quite well with most of our courses.
Speaking of courses, we started out our Beef Tasting Menu with a Taste of Razza Piemontese (the breed of cattle). This particular beef comes from Brewer Ranch in Montana. This course included the carne cruda, our highlight dish of the afternoon; carpaccio and carne sala.
The carne cruda was freshly ground and bright red in color. You can tell the meat was fresh by this bright color. Meat that is sitting around will oxidize and turn a brownish gray color. The raw beef was topped with a raw quail egg and enoki mushrooms. No tartar would be complete without a raw egg. This egg was very fresh. The yolk was firm and sitting above the albumen (or white). When mixed all together this dish was a serious masterpiece.
The other two items on the plate were also great. My second favorite was the carpaccio. It was sliced paper-thin and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano and thin strips of radicchio, and finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The freshness of the beef was also apparent in this dish, as well.
The third part of the dish was the carne sala, which is raw marinated tenderloin of beef. It was topped with thin slices of green apple. The sourness of the apple was very refreshing. It paired nicely with the carne sala.
The second course was ricotta gnocchi with fonduta and sugo d’arrosto. This dish presented the gnocchi in an interesting manner. The server explained to us the way they are prepared. She said they start by dredging little balls of ricotta in flour, which are then dried out. They are then boiled before serving. These gnocchi were served in a roasted veal sauce with fonduta melted on top. The sauce was amazing. I couldn’t believe how rich and delicious it was. I’ve had ricotta gnocchi before, but these were totally different. These were creamy and milky with an ever so slightly crusty exterior. I am using the word crusty in a good way here.
Calf’s brain mezzalune with an oxtail ragu was the afternoon’s third course. A mezzaluna is a fancy word for a raviolo. The highlight of this dish was the oxtail ragu. Wow! The oxtail was so tender and meaty. The sauce itself took me back to my childhood. It evoked memories of my father’s Sunday tomato sauce. The calf’s brain mezzalune were fresh and tasty. However, I wish I tasted the brain a bit more. It reminded me of the lamb’s brain francobolli we had a Mario Batali’s the previous week. (Note: to read about my dinner at Babbo, you can search the archives or click here.) I had the same wish then…more brains!
As the next course was being brought out, Peter and I discussed the fact that we felt these courses were building on each other to reach a pinnacle. When you come to think of it, we were sampling many parts of the cow. We weren’t just eating filet mignon. I mean so far we had eaten raw beef, the tail and the brain. Now our fourth course was tongue and heart! It was a beef heart and tongue spiedino with baby lettuce, peperonata and horseradish. The heart was soft and tender. It tasted like filet mignon, only better. The tongue was a bit chewy and tasted a little gamey. But these two items complimented each other perfectly. The peperonata was also very nice.
Our fifth course was our steak course. It was a thinly sliced medium-rare Dickson’s Farmstand “Lifter Steak” with trumpet royale mushrooms and bone marrow marmellata. This was the culmination of our beef tasting. And what a way it was to end the meat portion of our meal. The lifter steak, which is better known as the flat iron steak, is taken from the shoulder or chuck section. A fitting name being that Eataly is located diagonally across from New York City’s famed Flat Iron Building. Chuck steaks are considered a lowly piece of meat; however, when done right (like it was here) it blows filet mignon out of the water. The steak was beautifully cooked. It was tender and buttery. The bone marrow marmellata was bright and touch acidic. It cut the butteriness of steak nicely. The mushrooms were good, but were lost to the deliciousness of the steak and marmellata. And so the beef portion of our meal came to a righteous culmination.
Right before our dessert, we were presented with a cheese platter with fig bread. This was given to us to rectify a snafu that took place at the beginning of our meal. Our first course was accidentally given to the gentlemen sitting next to us. We chalked it up to opening week jitters. I’ve worked in the business so I know stuff happens. They addressed the mix up and made good for it. Case closed. The cheese platter consisted of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Taleggio, Pecorino, a few hazelnuts and half a fig with two slices of fig bread (my favorite part of the dish). The platter was a little underwhelming, but we were appreciative for it nonetheless.
We each received our own dessert. Peter’s was an apricot chocolate mousse cake. It was not overly sweet, as some mousse can be. I thought that the apricot was the star of the dish.
My dessert was a chocolate hazelnut mousse. This was right up my alley. The combination of the chocolate and hazelnuts made it bittersweet. It was decadent, and actually kind of heavy, but in a good way. I could have easily eaten a second one.
I was extremely impressed with the quality of the product being put out at Manzo, with the exception of the cheese platter. As I mentioned earlier, I like and respect the fact that the chef utilizes the whole animal throughout the six courses. Let’s be honest, just about anyone can grill up a steak. But it takes someone with talent and creativity to be able to take variety meats and make them presentable and delicious for the diner’s consumption. And for this fact alone, I urge you all to go to Manzo. Oh, and don’t forget to try the carne cruda! Enjoy!
Living to eat,