If you don’t mind clambering up to a seat at a high banquette (somehow designers never seem to get these things proportionally correct; it’s really annoying not to have one’s feet touch terra firma — or something firma — when seated) and have a tolerance for an often-exuberant pianist/vocalist, then a seat in Perry’s bar is a good option indeed. Especially if you have assumed that reservations should hardly be necessary early on a mid-week evening. But even more especially if you prefer the bar’s views (the assumed reason for the high banquettes) and action to the more conventional inner sanctum. Besides, if you arrive before 6:30, there are some very attractive happy hour specials that somehow seem more appropriate barside. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. Clearly, however, either good times are here again or Perry’s has touched a chord — or both: a full house at a place where specials can breach the $50 level is impressive. Service is certainly impressive for starters. And if our knowledgeable waiter did try to sell us a $130 bottle of wine right off the bat, it was recognized as being a good one, so no offense. (Some, in fact, might even be flattered to be considered a target for such extravagance; we, on the other hand, were thus forced to make thoughtful choices at half that price—which the wine list allows one to do with ease.)
Though we were also told about the aquaculture that allows Perry’s to offer a turtle soup, we passed on that as well—only to later have a knowledgeable diner-about-town proclaim that he would go back to Perry’s for that alone, side glass of sherry figuring prominently into the equation. We did, however, fall for the signature fried asparagus topped with the jumbo lump crab that adds a touch of luxe to several dishes on the menu. This is the kind of dish that strikes me as having been designed by a focus group looking for a slightly different way to do a steakhouse classic. The crumb-coated spears are competently done, and there’s just enough buttery crab. However, bells are more likely to go off for the scallops wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon and served with a beurre blanc sauce that just happened to help out the asparagus as well. While awaiting our appetizers, we availed ourselves of another gimmick, but one that nevertheless works: the three-for-$12 cocktail sampler wherein small pours of any three of the bar’s cocktails can be explored. Though the three of us each had different favorites, the Elderflower 75, the Glemno Ginger Blossom and the Juniper Grapefruit were all creative, competently done and an example of taking the steakhouse experience one step further.
It’s tempting to call Perry’s Famous Pork Chop (carved tableside) a gimmick, too; it’s enormous, and the lengthy process of curing, roasting, slow-smoking and caramelizing—not to mention the carving—truly sounds over-the-top. But then it’s served, expertly portioned into back ribs, tenderloin and something called the “eyelash.” (Yes, new to me, too.) Each part has its own special flavor and texture, but the result is pork in a new light. At a relatively inexpensive $29.95, and meant to be shared (plus taken home when resolve weakens), this chop stands out as a singular experience. (At lunch, served only on Fridays, a smaller cut weighs in at a bargain-basement $17.95.) The house-made applesauce that accompanies the colossal cut is inevitably a yawner, but at least it doesn’t detract.
It’s reasonable to assume that we could all go home now, forgetting about beef altogether—but that would be a mistake, at least on the evidence of the Prime, bone-in cowboy ribeye ($42.95). There’s no sizzle (though there is garlic-herb butter), but this 22-ounce beauty (also helpfully sliced and relieved of its bone tableside) is simply one of the best in this town or anywhere. I’d suggest trying to hit that sweet spot between rare and medium rare on this one, the better to emphasize the earthy, beefy flavor. And, yes, that $130 bottle of cabernet (the waiter’s favorite grape) would have been great as a companion, but we were not at all unhappy with our $60, high-altitude malbec from Argentina’s Colomé. Argentina is beef country, after all. Note that all the expected cuts, including a Chateaubriand for two and double-cut lamb chops, are available and that several fish, along with lobster tail, are also listed.
It’s a steakhouse truism that there will be creamed spinach), a baked potato and jumbo steamed asparagus as sides. (Here they’re called “Entrée Complements” and cost from $6.95 to $8.95.) But some relief from the tedium is provided by a sweet but very good butternut squash purée topped with panko crumbs and a truly complementary dish of roasted, sherried mushrooms. The really rebellious could even opt for broccolini. We would probably pass on roasted, creamed corn.
Dessert makes no sense after all of this. Remember, you’re taking home pork.