The “If you build it, they will come” philosophy may have worked for Kevin Costner in the film “Field of Dreams,” but many a restaurateur has learned the hard way that life isn’t always like the movies. However, Michael Glick and Susy Salvo Glick are finding themselves in the Costner camp as Parlor, their month-old casual contemporary steakhouse on the Upper East Side, has been packing the crowds in from day one.
Neighborhood observers (including yours truly) may have been skeptical that the admittedly pricey Parlor would succeed on a site more used to more downscale eateries, from the recent Tex-Mex failure Geronimo to burger-sports bar joints like Big City Grill and Carnegie Hill Brewery. But this cleanly-designed, welcoming space seems to be what the locals have been waiting for. It’s fairly large size – seating over 100 diners – can also be a plus in an area where the two most successful upmarket restaurants, Sfoglia and Peri Ela (both on nearby Lexington), are quite tiny and often hard to get into.
Of course, giving credit where credit may be most due, young chef Lucas Billheimer’s menu is a brilliant mix of classic steakhouse fare (onion rolls, oysters, chopped salads, and five types of beef) and more imaginative and often lighter dishes. On a hot summer night, there might be no better starter than a coolly elegant yellow tomato and watermelon gazpacho, topped with marinated shrimp and given just the right amount of kick by a touch of chili. And I urge you to head over the restaurant while soft shell crabs are in season and hope Billheimer’s sensational tempura-battered rendition of these crustaceans remain on the menu. Slyly accompanied by arugula, spiced mango, and a smattering of strawberries, this dish is simply not to be missed.
Had I been the beef eater at the table, I would have headed straight for the strip loin, but my dining partner is wild for filet mignon, and he had nothing but praise for the generous (10 oz) steak, complete with a nicely salted crust, and accented by a tangy horseradish sauce (one of four options, including Bearnaise, chimichurri, and red wine reduction). Tempted as I wise to wrestle with the enormous two-pound lobster at a nearby table, I settled for the dainty “lobster roll,” in which chunks of slightly too-chilled lobster and mayonnaise sat atop a thinnish slice of brioche. But what most impressed us were the side dishes; superbly crisp French fries and fried onions; perfectly balanced creamed spinach; and above all, the twice baked potatoes, Billheimer chooses smallish 80-count potatoes, cuts off the ends, and then cubes the inside with a mix of gruyere and cheddar cheeses, and serves three of this semi-petite cylinders per plate. It’s worth stopping by just to order them. (In fact, they could be the best bar snack ever!)
Given all the good eating, you could be forgiven for wanting to skip dessert; but that would be foolish. An insanely rich chocolate ganache cake, perched on a bed of chocolate crumbs and topped with a dollop of yummy crème fraiche, can challenge even the most virtuous visitor, will a sour cream cheesecake was surprisingly light and mousse-like, and made even more special by slivers of candied lemon on its crown and a scoop of black currant sorbet on the side. So what are you waiting for; come into the Parlor.