Employees Only

By grace.g.yang ยท October 7, 2008
Under: Dinner,My Life,Nightlife,West Village

One of my roommates from college, John, came to New York over the weekend. John hasn’t been to the city since last summer and I wanted to show him a good time, so I made a reservation for Saturday night at Employees Only. I figured Employees Only would be a good restaurant to go to because John wanted to get a “New York experience” but also have good food and maybe a drink or two. I looked at the menu beforehand with Chris and we decided we would share a bunch of plates so we could all sample a thing or two (it’s more fun when you’re in a group, too). We wanted to try the steak tartar, the sweetbreads (we weren’t going to tell John and Joe what sweetbreads were until after they tried them), the scallops, and the Merguez Stuffed Lamb Loin because Chris loves Merguez sausage.

When we arrived at Employees Only, the doorman asked if we had a reservation and what the name was – I told him we were here for the Grace reservation and he knew that we had four people in our reservation AND that one other person was already inside – pretty impressive, considering he didn’t have any notes or anything (I later found out from Joe that the doorman did have a notepad with everyone’s reservation, but I thought it was really impressive before I found out). Anyway, we were seated right away and started looking at the drink menu while we waited for John to find his way to the restaurant.

The signature drinks are all supposed to be amazing, but we started off with the Amelia, which is a combination of Russian Standard Vodka & St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur shaken with Pureed Blackberries & Fresh Lemon Juice (Joe actually ordered the Amelia and thought it was too fruity). I thought it tasted like an amazing blackberry juice (I didn’t even taste the alcohol but then it HIT ME all of a sudden). Based of the waitresses recommendation, I ordered the Fraise Sauvage – Plymouth Gin shaken with Wild Strawberries & Tahitian Vanilla, topped off with Mumm Joyesse Demi-Sec Champagne and Chris ordered the Billionaire’s cocktail – Bakers Bourbon shaken with Lemon juice Homemade Grenadine & Absinthe Bitters. My drink was really light and fruity and I traded with Chris because he liked my drink more than his drink (his drink wasn’t that bad, but I don’t think he likes bourbon. I’ve had my fair share of bourbon experiences, so I drank the billionaire’s cocktail and gave him my drink).

After John arrived, we agreed on ordering four dishes. Originally, we REALLY wanted to try the scallops, but they weren’t on the menu so we opted for the potato gnocchi instead:

The gnocchi came with an assortment of mushrooms and was the only thing we ordered that I didn’t like. Gnocchi is really difficult to make (I tried a while back and had disastrous results) but this gnocchi was too mealy and mushy. John agreed with me and wasn’t a huge fan of the gnocchi, but Joe licked the plate clean because he really liked the mushrooms.

Our next dish was the steak tartar, which is prepared tableside:

I realized that I’ve never had steak tartar (I don’t think) and was really excited to try it. They present the hand cut steak and organic egg yolk first and then this lady comes over the prepare it for you tableside (just like guacamole at a Mexican restaurant!):

IMG_4027 (Small)

This woman was pretty cool, especially the black leather gloves, and helped us make the steak tartar. She added scallions, salt, mustard, capers, and Worchestershire sauce and seasoned it with a little more salt and pepper. Here’s John with a slice of French bread and some lettuce with the steak tartar:

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It was everyone’s first time trying the steak tartar and we all loved it (and didn’t even think about how we were eating raw egg yolks and raw steak).

Our next dish (and possibly my favorite) was the seared rib-eye with potato gratin:

Originally, we weren’t sure whether or not to order the rib-eye, but the table next to us ordered it and we saw how large and amazingly delicious it looked, so we decided to get it for our table. The large piece of meat comes on a CHOPPING BOARD. I mean, it is a large piece of FREAKING MEAT. Joe originally told me that we wouldn’t be able to finish it all, but I told him that I can put away a 24 ounce porterhouse, so he shouldn’t worry about finishing the rib-eye.

The rib-eye comes with mustard, lemon, sea salt, and jalapeno peppers, all interesting toppings. The waitress suggested we use the combination of mustard and jalapeno peppers, which was actually John’s favorite way to eat the steak. Chris’ favorite way to eat steak was with a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor of the steak. I tried cutting the steak for everyone, but ended up shaking the table, so Chris was nice enough to cut the steak into bite sized pieces for everyone. I thought the steak was a little tad on the dry side, but the lemon helped bring some tangy-ness to the steak. The steak wasn’t seasoned at all (which was done intentionally), so I ate every piece with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon. I tried one piece with jalapeno, but my pepper was larger than my meat and I burned my tongue.

Our last dish was the Merguez Stuffed Lamb Loin:

The Merguez sausage was seasoned like taco meat, but the lamb was so tender and juicy (I mean, look how raw the lamb is). We all liked the dish, but I think the table didn’t appreciate my taco comment because they all tasted the Taco Bell-ness of the meat after I mentioned it.

Here are some gratuitous pictures of John and Joe because Joe thinks I never give him the attention he deserves:

And maybe it’s not Joe not getting enough attention from his friends, it’s his friends that don’t get enough attention from HIM!:

Yes, they were BOTH on their cell phones in the middle of dinner. HOW RUDE.

We didn’t end up ordering desserts and thought the service dropped off a little after our entrees came, but overall, it was a really enjoyable experience. During the warmer months, Employees Only has an outdoor garden (I’m not sure if you can eat out there of if it’s just standing room for drinks). By the time we finished our meal, the bar area was completely packed and it was kind of a pain to leave the restaurant, but the restaurant was so small that we didn’t have to push too many people out of the way. The restaurant seems like it would be a great place for a birthday party, so it might be the perfect location for Chris and my next birthday party (our birthdays are in MAY, in case you forgot).

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