Q&A: Michael Lomonaco of Center Bar on Steak Tips and Christmas Specials
Michael Lomonaco is passionate about his beef. He has to be: He's the chef of Porter House, an Upper West Side steakhouse serving up beef since 2006. The New York veteran chef also recently opened Center Bar, located in the open atrium adjacent from Porter House. With only 52 seats, the bar boasts a menu of extravagant small plates and an encyclopedic list of cocktails. Earlier this week, Fork in the Road chatted with Lomonaco about his newest venture and his steak tips for the home cook.
So you recently opened Center Bar. How is that going?
Center Bar is coming really well. We opened in the beginning of October and have been getting a great response from people. The cocktails are really exciting, and there's a good synergy between the cocktail list and everything else. The food is primarily offered in small plates, so there's smaller portions, and the menu is not divided into categories. It's a totally different menu than anything in Porter House NY.
Tell me a little bit more about the cocktails.
We make the different syrups we use. Fresh juices are made every day by the barmen, and we have pre-Prohibition cocktails and alcohol-free cocktails. On Saturday and Sunday, we do an afternoon tea that has champagne and cocktails.
What are your holiday tips for steak?
We do a lot of things in Porter House that very much keeps with an American style of dining that's true to ourselves. And it's being exported because people are picking up on this style around the world. It's well-cooked, well-prepared, with exceptional ingredients. We're always able to find the best cuts of meat and cook it precisely. So we use natural beef. There are so many great affordable cuts at home and if you look for them you'll find it. You may not always be able to find the steak you might find in a restaurant like this. For home cooks, I really recommend doing hanger steaks and skirt steaks. They're plentiful in the market, affordable, and really delicious. Hanger steaks really have a potent beef flavor. There's only one per animal, and it really has a richer beef flavor. We also have short ribs. I know it takes three to four hours to cook, but it's really worth it. Short ribs take a long time because of slow-braising but skirt steaks can cook with a skillet top in 10 minutes. We also have an in-house butcher so for the consumer, it's important to get to know a great butcher.
Anything for Christmas?
For Porter House, we do specials all the time, but we always have our full menu in place. Now we're starting up with our game specials with wild game birds and Scottish game birds. In December, we start to do venison. There's venison chops and racks of venison with brussels sprouts and exotic mushrooms.