The word “steakhouse” evokes images of a serious place where the mood is masculine, the menu traditional and the portions large – usually with prices to match. Bergen boasts a number of dining establishments that fit this formula to a T-bone. But Etc. Steakhouse stands out from this crowd – and not just because it is glatt kosher (the strictest form of the Jewish dietary laws). You won’t find béarnaise sauce, baked potatoes with sour cream and butter – or any butter at all, for that matter. What you will find is a unique and startlingly good meal, served with grace in a warm, contemporary space.
Chef/owner Seth Warshaw calls the cuisine at his barely one-year-old restaurant “New American.” The menu is refreshingly limited to five appetizers, two salads and eight entrees – all but two of them beef. Portions are generous without being overwhelming, and prices are very fair.
We started with complex and well-composed salads. One featured baby spinach with mushrooms, red onion, pomegranate seeds, grapefruit, candied pecans and the unusual but tasty addition of sliced cornichons. The second was equally inspired – baby greens with garbanzo beans, mandarin oranges, scallions and pear.
An especially noteworthy starter was the gnocchi with beef cheeks. The pasta pillows benefitted from a quick sear to give them a crispy crust on one side; presented in a luscious garlic sauce with cubes of the toothsome beef, broccolini and frizzled leeks, they were perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s night.
I was intrigued by the menu description of the skirt steak – one of my favorite cuts, and finally gaining in popularity. It was marinated in wildflower honey and white wine, a combination that struck me as curious. Happily, the mild, slightly sweet flavor of both ingredients came through beautifully in the grilled steak, which was further enhanced by potatoes mashed with celeriac, sautéed mushrooms and sugar snap peas.
A more traditional steak, the rib-eye, was tender and flavorful, accompanied by a rich, hollandaise-esque tarragon sauce, roasted potato salad, broccolini and a crisp garlic chip garnish.
The desserts we chose did not have the same wow-factor. A small slice of coffee cake-like spiced pear cake was tasty, but the soy-based vanilla ice cream served with it was gritty. A chocolate and vanilla layer cake slathered with mock whipped cream was mostly cake, with a thin layer of fudgy filling.
With fewer than 40 seats, and a crowd of regulars, reservations are a must. Etc. Steakhouse is open for dinner only, Saturday – Thursday evenings; it is closed on Friday for the Jewish Sabbath. Those bringing wine are advised that it must be not only kosher, but mevushal, meaning pasteurized. This classification is easy to find on kosher wine labels; to make it even easier, purchase the wine at the liquor store just around the corner, which is well stocked to service the number of excellent kosher restaurants in this Teaneck neighborhood.