Any restaurant that plans on thriving in Manhattan better not even think about resting on their laurels for a second. But with Empire Steakhouse, this goes without saying. A venerable shrine to not only prime steak cuts charred to perfection but the whole dining experience sprung from the desire of Jack Sinanaj and his family to elevate the classic steakhouse ambiance to a highly personalized indulgence. Working as a waiter and then as manager at the legendary Peter Luger’s, Jack spent hours in the kitchen, before and after his shift. He came to work with a list of questions for the executive chef eagerly taking notes on the best tips for determining meat quality, cooking temperatures and seasoning. Jack was grooming himself to open a steakhouse of his very own by learning the finer points of how to source the best ingredients, cultivate relationships with local growers and butchers, along with marketing and brand development. After forging out with his brother Ben and some cousins opening Ben and Jack’s to rave reviews, Jack accentuated the experience by opening sister restaurant Empire Steakhouse about 2 years ago.
I have visited Empire Steakhouse multiple times and during my last visit, 2 recent developments enhanced the meal even more than the last visit.
House Steak Sauce
Freshness is the first sensation that envelops your senses when opening a bottle of their sauce and tasting it with your first bite of steak. Zingy horseradish and fresh tomato juices figure prominently on the palate. Even though their bottles and custom labeling make it clear this stuff isn’t commercial grade, look closely at the label and you’ll see that this potion is truly made onsite at the restaurant…not outsourced to an outside producer. Staff mix up the ingredients and bottle it right in the kitchen as they need it.
Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee
Always on the lookout for the best vintages to add to their cellars, the Sinaj brothers happily recommend Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee. A lively broad spectrum blend of 59% Grenache, 23% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah and the rest Cinsault, this versatile wine not only holds its own with steak alongside the stately Malbecs, it pairs well with the whole meal from fresh tomato and mozzarella plate appetizers to the fresh baked chocolate and cheese cakes.
Zaca Mesa first started growing Rhône varieties in 1978 earning it the distinction of being the first to plant Syrah in Santa Barbara County. Each grape adds its own nuance: Grenache adds rich raspberry flavors; Mourvèdre brings notes of blueberry and pepper; and Syrah, flavors of blackberry and ripe tannins. These layers of flavor enable this wine to pair with a wide variety of foods from mushroom pizza to rosemary crusted leg of lamb…and of course decadently charred steak!