Dine Like A Star
With the filming of hit shows like The Sopranos and 30 Rock (Silvercup Studios) and Sesame Street and Nurse Jackie (Kaufman Astoria Studios) and such hit movies as Sex and the City, our corner of Queens has seen its fair share of celebrities. So when you feel the urge to splurge and dine like the stars, here are a few of Astoria’s most elegant dining rooms to try.
S Prime Steakhouse
35-15 36th St, LIC
Few things define elegance and refinement as well as an upscale American steakhouse. Recently opened next-door to the Studio Square complex, S Prime Steakhouse marries tradition with contemporary design in one of the most magnificent dining rooms in Astoria-Long Island City. The two-story main room is bordered by high-back leather banquettes and a wine tower, encased in glass, which features a carefully edited selection from around the globe. Ascending beyond the industrial beams and dramatic balconies, an upper-level labyrinth reveals three intimate private dining rooms of varying size and ambience. Stretching below the dining room is a pristine steel kitchen and a Himalayan rock salt-lined room custom-designed for on-premises dry-aging — the signature 28 oz. rib eye is dry-aged for 60 days.
The expected carnivorous favorites are all executed superbly. But what make S Prime Steakhouse particularly special are Executive Chef Joel Reiss’s sophisticated spins on some steakhouse classics. Rice pilaf is no longer; here sausage-studded lap cheong fried rice steals the show. Creamed corn is now a generous sharing bowl with entire strips of corn from the cob, blanketed in a decadent Parmesan cream. Garnet and golden roasted beets are meticulously plated like an edible mosaic with Roquefort, apples and aged balsamic. A smooth and heavenly vanilla bean-speckled cheesecake, crowned with sweet macerated berries, rivals any previous version of New York cheesecake. From start to finish, S Prime offers a refreshingly relevant vibe with an old spirit.
The Astor Room
34-12 36th St, Astoria
At this subterranean supper club, nestled directly beneath Kaufman Astoria Studios, you can quite literally dine like a star. The Astor Room was originally built as the commissary (the film industry term for cafeteria) for Paramount Pictures in the 1920s. Contracts still require the studio to provide catering for all of the shows presently filming. So although The Astor Room has now transformed into a historical restaurant and cocktail lounge, the same kitchen that prepares your Mother & Child Reunion (an appetizer featuring a crispy poached egg on a bed of buffalo chicken) was serving lunch to Big Bird and Edie Falco just hours before.
33-02 34th Ave, Astoria
At Locale, owner Johnny Koljenovic aspires to offer “a taste of the city without having to travel there.” With the expertise of Executive Chef and culinary visionary Jesse Davis, the team at Locale is achieving just that… and much more. “Families come for brunch, take the kids home, and then bring friends back for an elegant dinner,” smiles Kolyenovic. The restaurant is one of those rare gems that appeals to nearly every demographic, offering intimacy at candle-lit, window-side tables for two, communal space for larger parties, a vibrant bar for singles and friends, and an elevated split-level lounge for groups of friends. Nurse Jackie has filmed several episodes at Locale, and Life on Mars hosted its wrap party here.
Take just one bite of any of Chef Davis’s dishes, and it’s no secret why the stars and locals keep coming back again and again. Delicately balancing artistry with fresh flavors, the menu features gorgeous plates using only organic, locally sourced ingredients. Blackened Mayan shrimp is served like a Jenga tower over a log cabin of yucca fries and a moat of creole purée. Almond brownies are topped with creamy peanut butter, then blanketed with homemade whipped marshmallow and melted with the brûlée torch. The platings are as beautiful as they are delicious. The vibrant cocktail list includes a pumpkin pie martini that uses actual pumpkin purée. And the most beautiful part? No waiting for a train or cab to get home after.
47-30 Vernon Blvd, LIC
Stepping through the front doors of Testaccio and beyond the main bar into the dining room is almost like traveling onto a studio lot designed to replicate a Roman piazza. Gigantic earthenware pots, a multi-layered wine tower, and the glow from the brick pizza oven — all under dramatically vaulted ceilings — put the Rome in Romantic. This is not your typical Italian pizzeria. Pies here arrive with shaved black truffles. Fresh pastas, made in-house, range from classic cacio e pepe to al dente fettuccine tossed with mushrooms and green peas, gift-wrapped in ribbons of prosciutto. In a stunning dining room, with a diverse and delicious menu, you can feel like a million bucks without spending it.