A few weeks back, I asked you where I could find the city's best Caesar salad. Since my husband is proudly unadventurous when it comes to food--I prep dinner-party hosts by telling them he eats like a 65-year old Republican--I planned to glitz up his usual birthday menu of Caesar salad, French onion soup, steak, and pistachio ice cream by leading him on a progressive dinner featuring the city's best versions of each dish.
My scheme took shape nicely: I collected pitch-perfect recommendations for soup, steak, and dessert. I purchased birthday candles to stick in each celebratory dish. But I was still short a Caesar-salad destination.
My post pleading for help brought suggestions for El Gaucho's tableside Caesar (too watery for my husband's liking) and the salad at Tidbit Bistro (which was inconveniently serving its last salad two weeks before my husband's birthday). I was intrigued by a description of the Caesar at Sorelli's, but worried a jaunt to Mountlake Terrace could disrupt the timing of a four-course, four-restaurant meal.
So I'm indebted to comment writer Karion for coming up with Queen City Grill, a restaurant to which I suspect we'll be returning for many more Caesars.
When I handed my husband an invitation beckoning him to the restaurant ("You are invited to . . . Caesar salad, Queen City Grill, 2201 First Ave."), even his non-foodie eyebrow arched. He asked whether I'd ever heard of the place. I hadn't, and admitted I couldn't find anything on the restaurant's website to indicate total Caesar mastery. "Karion likes it," I told him.
The salad was fantastic. The romaine was crisp, the thick dressing was unabashedly garlicky, and, best of all, the cheese had the salty tang of high-quality Parmesan.
"We use the good Parmesan," sous chef Abel Martinez told me later when I called to ask about the salad.
Martinez has been making his Caesars the same way for eight years. The salad recipe predates his arrival at Queen City. "It's old, old," he says. "We can never change it because guests love it."
To make the salad, Martinez first processes anchovy paste with garlic. He mixes "eggs with a little Parmesan, Worcestershire, and red wine. Then we put the paste back and process together." The salad is finished with salt, pepper, and lime juice.
"Always, always we make the dressing," Martinez says. "We never buy a dressing."
After leaving Queen City, we headed to Le Pichet for French onion soup, which--online menu notwithstanding--won't reappear until late fall. "Come back for it," the bartender told us. "It's the best in the city." Fortunately, there was also a French onion on the menu at Metropolitan Grill, where my husband relished a rib eye. We lingered so long over the steaks that we missed our chance for pistachio ice cream at D'Ambrosio--but had plenty of time to reflect on the stupendous Caesar.
"It's just made with a lot of love," Martinez says.
Happy birthday, Kenny.