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On a Break from All Those Fancy Restaurants, Pete Wells Visits Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse

Wildcard Wells reviews "the most wonderful terrible restaurant in New York."

Foursquare/Ruxy S.

Pete Wells throws us a curveball this week, and reviews Sammy's Roumanian Steakhousefor the first time since Mimi Sheraton visited in 1982. He finds that the Lower East Side basement restaurant is "less distinctively Romanian than it once was," but still both wonderful and terrible:

Two times I asked for garlic-smeared skirt steak, called Romanian tenderloin at Sammy's, cooked medium rare. One steak arrived medium well, and the other time a single steak ranged from well done to bloody, and every degree in between. I wasn't asked how I wanted a broiled veal chop. It was seared on the outside and raw inside, the way other places serve tuna. When nobody asked how I wanted sweetbreads broiled, I feared the worst. Another surprise: Scored and blackened on top, they were close to perfect.

The food is heavy, the scene is raucous, and though the restaurant doesn't get the three stars Sheraton gave it 32 years ago, Wells does award it one star.