Commack, (631) 499-4454
The recent flood of high-end steakhouses on Long Island makes me recall the old saw, “You can’t eat the walls.” At a time when money is tight, many of these pricey, and often pretentious, steakhouses concentrate more on the way they look than on the way their food tastes. In other words, flamboyance trumps flavor. Fortunately, Grill 454 in Commack, where Charlie Brown’s once stood, has gone beyond the ballyhoo. It’s traditional rather than trendy. It’s a spacious, comfortable place with a sizeable, white tablecloth dining room, candles, tile floor and attractive chandeliers under a slanted roof featuring exposed beams. There is an equally commodious, but less formal barroom with a striking backlit bar and almost as much eating space as the dining room. Add a sizable private meeting room and outdoors eating in the warm weather and you have a pleasant, relaxing, masculine venue that’s very appropriate for a steakhouse.
Its lineage is also appropriate. Co-owner Lenny Passarelli, who grew up in nearby Dix Hills, owns the well-regarded AJ Maxwell’s Steakhouse near Rockefeller Center, and Chef Christopher Hamaty previously served both Blackstone Steakhouse in Melville and Jake’s Steakhouse in East Meadow.
The no-surprise menu offers basic steakhouse fare like shrimp cocktail, wedge and tomato salad, crab cakes, veal and lamb chops, five steaks and cheesecake—most cost just a smidgen less than the equally new entrées. Additionally, some less-than-sterling service in the early going seems to have been ironed out. Their two menus—the regular menu and the slightly more interesting grill (or bar) menu—were both available when we visited, but we had to ask for the latter. Had we not known it existed, we wouldn’t have gotten it. And we were told the grill menu would only be available at the bar in the future.
The soup du jour was a rich, creamy, shrimp bisque ($9) with a floating centerpiece of shrimp meat. A large goat cheese salad ($8) was heavy on greens but light on dressing, while PEI mussels ($12) in a tasty, garlic white wine broth were plump, large and grit free. Hanger steak ($25) can be chewy, but the one at Grill 454 was buttery tender and alive with juices, while the filet mignon ($34) was medium rare, as ordered, with a perfectly charred surface. The grill menu yields a terrific and well-priced rare roast beef dip ($14), thin sliced and soft, on semolina bread with plenty of sautéed onions, mushrooms and melted provolone, and a huge batch of slender, delicate shoestring potatoes.
There is a long list of desserts, but only the cheesecakes are homemade. We got the plain version and its velvety texture and opulent flavor did not disappoint. However, though a towering slice of red velvet cake looked great, it was standard stuff.
photos by stephen lang