“I love you”.
I didn’t expect to be blurting this out to a virtual stranger, even if he had soft curly dark brown hair and smiling brown eyes. It made him blush and I spilled my glass of water in my rush to declare my foodie love but I only said what any woman would to a man who had just declared: “It’s not about me, it’s about you.”
The man is Chef Michael Lomonaco and the woman blurting out declarations of love and devotion was this Allergic Girl.
If you haven’t been to Porter House New York yet save up your shekels, eat salad for a few days and prepare to be received in meat heaven at this classic new American steak house. The room was designed by Jeffrey Beers, also responsible for the sexy Ono at the Hotel Gansevoort among other spaces. Cherrywood paneling creates a physical warmth throughout the large and potentially imposing space. The entrance hall, bar and club area have low ceilings, inviting private banquets, and high-backed chairs. The bar leads into the light-filled main dining room, with double-height ceilings, buttery banquets lining the large windows, and white tablecloth covered tables.
After two delicious and allergen-free dinners of braised short ribs at Chef Lomonaco’s less than one-year old baby, I knew I had to talk to the man behind the meaty magic.
Specifically I wanted to know how he got so smart about food allergies [he has a dear friend with severe peanut allergies and has cooked in many great NYC kitchens for over 20 years], who had trained his staff so well [he did], and what braised meat he would be making me next [Moroccan lamb shank in the fall].
When I probed him about food allergies and the dining experience not only at PHNY but also at any restaurant, Chef Lomonaco said, “I consider food allergies a public safety issue and part of standard and mandated safe food handling procedures.” He said this as if it was a given, as if every executive chef, line cook, server and busboy in New York City considered food allergies a public safety issue when in fact he’s the first chef I’ve heard say it quite this way. I couldn’t agree more. And I hope more chefs appreciate the value of his line of thinking.
When I inquired how his restaurant handles a guest with special food needs Chef said, “The minute a staff member of Porter House hears ‘allergy’, we go into crisis mode. Everyone in the kitchen is made aware that there is an allergic diner; the Chef becomes the point person for that diner’s food and the server is the link between diner and kitchen/chef.” Excellent and exactly what I evidenced on my visits.
Chef continued in his easy and reassuring manner about his personal philosophy: “Our first responsibility is to the pleasure and dining safety of our guests. We want them to have a total experience. We’re not afraid to customize a dish if it’s within our means to do so. The more specific information you give us the better.”
When I asked about the dreaded eye roll that some us receive when explaining our needs to servers, even managers, Chef said that he believes the opposite about special requests: “You are doing us a favor by telling us what you need so we can make it a better experience for you.”
If this isn’t enough to convince you that this is a man you’d like to make your dinner, I wish I had the words to describe his braised short rib other then falling apart and fork tender. I dream about these short ribs. It’s not on the menu right now, too hot outside, but I can’t wait to return soon for the famed Brandt beef chili rubbed rib eye. That’s a summer food, right?
Porter House New York
10 Columbus Cir
New York, NY 10019