The “classic steakhouse” has long been one of the great styles of restaurant in the U.S. Steakhouses such as Delmonico’s in Manhattan have been credited with being the first restaurant in the U.S. to serve a la carte food and to establish a wine list for patrons to choose from. In many ways, it has set the course for the culinary industry as we know it today. As an avid fan of the elegant chop house, I find it necessary to pay respect to the nose-pointed-at-the-ceiling style of dining out. And while it may not be accessible to all, it’s important for anyone interested in food culture to familiarize themselves with what it means to be a classic American steakhouse.
A Tribute to Timelessness at The Feathered Fox
When I first heard about The Feathered Fox in Livingston, New Jersey, I didn’t know what to expect. I have been to many spots in the past that claimed to have the same philosophy as Chef Chris Siversen did when opening The Feathered Fox: a modern take on the classic chop house. The problem is, so often this is a great idea on paper but comes across as a gimmick on the plate. So, as excited as I was to eat a massive steak in a beautifully designed atmosphere, I was also a bit nervous. When the plates began arriving, I discovered what sets The Feathered Fox apart from its predecessors. Within those four walls, modernity pays homage to the classics in the most elegant of ways.
When first walking into The Feathered Fox, you are greeted with an alluringly decorated full bar to your left, along with an impressive sushi and raw bar. It’s a good place to sit and have a drink from their full cocktail menu or their expansive wine list while you wait for your table. However, their bar menu is not to be overlooked. Items such as cocktail franks with spicy mustard, or a “French onion” grilled cheese with onion soup to dip allow for guests to dine with a sense of nostalgia. Finger foods such as these have a special place in my heart; they offer a juvenility that is oftentimes unavailable when dining out.
What Siversen deems as “Piggy Wings” are addictively crispy pork ribs, served with a side of blue cheese. “People kept asking me to put buffalo wings on the menu, and it just felt too out of place. Making wings out of pork ribs was my answer to that,” Siversen told me. And as any great steakhouse should, The Feathered Fox offers a burger that is seriously worth trying. Whenever people ask me about dining at the famous steakhouses of the world, my first suggestion to them is always to get the burger—even just for a starter. At The Feathered Fox, that suggestion remains the same.
While you could have a memorable meal based on the bar offerings alone, The Feathered Fox and Chef Siversen have created a substantial menu laden with a mixture of both the steakhouse classics and newer, more innovative techniques. Their raw bar and sushi menu exemplify this to a tee. The “Seafood Grand Plateau” is Siversen’s take on the well-known, and oftentimes pretentious, seafood tower. Whole lobster, raw oysters, and shrimp decorate this dish. It is perhaps the perfect way to remind patrons where restaurants like The Feathered Fox began.
Hamachi crudo with green grapes, trout roe, and yuzu takes you into 2021, however. Freshly sliced, raw yellowtail is dressed ever-so-lightly in a way that enhances the flavors and umami of the fish, without overpowering it. Crudos are often a go-to for me when dining out, and the hamachi crudo at The Feathered Fox hits all the notes I am looking for when ordering one.
Or, take the truffle scallop roll from their sushi bar. Eel, cucumber, and fresh black truffle make up the base of this roll before it is topped with a lightly torched scallop. The gentleness of the scallop helps to bridge the gap between the strong flavor of black truffle and the other, more mild accompaniments of the dish. The starters proved that what The Feathered Fox offers that so many other steakhouses utterly lack is variety.
I was impressed by the innovation that was presented to me through the first course, but I was still, in a weird way, yearning for something more expected. Something that exuded comfort and familiarity. The main course, along with its sides, is where I found that solace. Duck confit mac and cheese was quite literally a lesson in playfulness from Siversen. It was like my inner child teamed up with an older version of myself to make something that defines everything I like in food. Creamy, salty mac and cheese is infiltrated by sweet, fatty duck and a touch of cognac to create something that is both insanely nostalgic, and like nothing you have ever had before.
The creamed spinach, otherwise known as the quintessential steakhouse side, was a no-frills version of the classic. One bite and I was transported back to the very first time I ate at a steakhouse. It’s almost a rule in steakhouse etiquette; you always order the creamed spinach. The final side, which was referred to in a “must-have” way to me, was the mashed potato rings. What looks like a stack of massive onion rings is actually anything but that upon first bite. The crisp, golden breading encases fluffy, rich mashed potato. Again, Siversen toys with your mind; creating something that your inner-child will love, but without keeping it out of reach from your current self. In a way, the mashed potato rings define an experience at The Feathered Fox—they show what it’s all about.
Without stopping, the entrées continued the theme of amenity. Seared scallops with brown butter vinaigrette and poppy seed spaetzle was one of the more ambitious dishes I enjoyed at The Feathered Fox. A hard sear locks in the flavor of these perfectly cooked scallops, while the poppyseed and brown butter bring a nuttiness to the dish that is unexpected, but anything other than unwelcome. Scallops are everywhere on menus these days, and so often they are done poorly. They are either overcooked and rubbery or they are cooked perfectly, but dressed in a way that overtakes their subtlety. Siversen seamlessly avoids both of these issues with his rendition of scallops; playing on the mild flavor of fresh scallops to a harmonious effect.
Finally, the apex of the meal was in front of me; a steak. The Feathered Fox offers a variety of steaks from a porterhouse for two to a filet mignon, but what I was there for was neither. So instead, I opted for the dry-aged ribeye, as I so often do. In my opinion, a dry-aged ribeye is the true test of a good steakhouse. Ribeye is fatty and requires special attention when cooking. Too fast, and the fat is unpleasant to eat. Too slow, and the meat is overcooked. It requires a balance, and a truly great ribeye is only achieved by a combination of skill and attentiveness.
The dry-aging process is just as important as the cook, though. Dry aging is a process by which large cuts of meat are aged at a specific temperature and humidity for several weeks, or even up to several months in some cases. The aging process concentrates the flavor in the beef by evaporating moisture from its surface. It also allows for the naturally occurring enzymes to break down connective tissue, resulting in a more tender cut of meat. Aged too long, and the meat can develop a flavor similar to that of blue cheese. Similarly, if it is aged too short, then the flavor development will be too miniscule to notice at all. To my mind, a well-aged steak is somewhere between the two.
At The Feathered Fox, the aging is done in a way that produces exactly that. What that means is a well-charred, fully flavorful steak—cooked exactly how you want it. There is no need to go overboard with seasoning when it comes to dry-aged beef, just salt and pepper is enough to enhance the flavor that aging works so hard to achieve. Truth be told, the dry-aged ribeye at The Feathered Fox is exemplary of what steak should be; simple and to the point.
I have forever been infatuated with the American steakhouse. It’s unapologetic, and yet it takes such close care in producing something that is consistently remarkable. So, whether it be a sit-down meal—complete with gaudy wine and a seafood tower—or just a simple burger and cocktail at the bar, steakhouses offer something for every dining preference. At The Feathered Fox, Siversen takes that philosophy to the next level with his profound understanding of how to innovate in a way that pays perfect homage to the old-school way of dining.
Main image by Melissa Hom