Adding to the recent resurgence around Times Square, another big chain hotel with a bevy of restaurants is opening in New York City where tourism, Broadway, and offices spaces converge. Hard Rock Hotel New York, which has been under construction for four years, opens its doors today at 159 West 48th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
Music is, of course, the thread weaving throughout the sprawling property, with multiple live performance spaces, memorabilia from icons like Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga prominently displayed, and subtle design touches like microphone light fixtures that pay homage to the hotel’s address along Music Row.
But food is set to be a focal point as much as the music, according to executive chef Oscar Gonzalez. Rather than a single restaurant, three of the venues here feature distinct dining options: a steakhouse with unexpected twists, a rooftop bar offering globally-influenced small bites, and a lobby restaurant whose star is a roving bagel-and-lox cart.
“I see it as an epicurean destination where you walk in and you have different elements,” says Gonzalez, who brings 20-plus years of experience in high-end hotel restaurants like the Four Seasons.
The 446-room hotel features five kitchens with 40 chefs. Gonzalez says he spent months creating the menus from scratch and building up relationships with nearby farms to offer local and seasonal produce.
If there’s a featured culinary act, it’s NYY Steak. Situated around the corner from the main hotel entrance, just past the swag-filled Rock Shop, the steakhouse seats up to 130 diners. There, Yankees memorabilia, dry-aged beef, and a vegetarian tasting menu come together for a nostalgic-meets-modern feel.
By having a butchery and dry age room on site as well as sourcing the beef from the farm within two days of it being slaughtered, Gonzalez says its one way NYY Steak is setting itself apart from chain steakhouses. The menu includes tenderloin cuts as well as long bones (a 56-ounce steak for two) and porterhouse steaks.
Offerings like steak tartare and bone marrow may sound expected, but the veteran chef says he’s aiming to modernize classics. For instance, there’s a scallop dish accompanied by hand-ground Carolina grits that requires 12 finishing steps, including an elaborate fennel pollen and burnt ash.
“It’s technique-driven cuisine, so that it’s not your average steakhouse opening down the street,” he says. “What sets it apart is we’re doing a lot of fermentation, a lot of pickling… We’re doing a lot of perfumes, essences, and dashis that we’re marinating proteins with. It’s going to the next level.”
Hard Rock has also partnered with the Yankees, so the famed baseball team’s presence dominates the decor, from paneled walls with past players’ autographs to leather seating in the Yankees signature blue. This is also a return home of sorts for NYY Steak, which was open near Rockefeller Center for about five years before closing in 2018.
This time around, there’s a meatless, three-course tasting menu ($65), which will draw from produce grown specifically for Hard Rock by a farm in Pennsylvania. Gonzalez says vegetables have lately become “the center of attention on the plate” and it was unexpected move to devote an entire menu to that shift. Being a steakhouse, diners can add a protein to each dish or keep it vegetarian.
Another steakhouse staple Gonzalez is experimenting with is the Caesar salad. At NYY Steak, the classic salad will be prepared tableside by servers using a double-sided cart that was custom created by RCP Design in Brooklyn.
“I call it the Lexus of food carts,” he says. “You actually have a filtration of water going through so it keeps the lettuce fresh as it moves through the dining hall. And there’s a magnitude of options there — mustards, oils, salts, anchovies — and then our egg yolks are pasteurized in house where servers are making the dressing in front of you. They cut the salad at the root there, toss it all together, plate it, shave the parmesan cheese tableside.”
The custom cart theme also is a central part of the experience at Sessions, the Hard Rock’s all-day lobby restaurant and bar, courtesy of a brightly-colored cart devoted to bagels and lox that Gonzalez says allows guests to “pimp your bagel.” The accompaniments include five different spreads, two types of caviar, and bacon that’s caramelized in brown sugar.
Thirty-four levels up, RT60 Rooftop Bar & Lounge, is devoted to shareable plates that incorporate Japanese techniques and spices from Peru and Chile. For instance, the grilled shishito peppers are topped with puffed rice for crunch and a burnt crema, and blooming king trumpet mushrooms come with both a pesto and guajillo furikake.
“We’re putting it all together and it’s created a really fun opportunity for our customers,” Gonzalez says.
In that way, he says the hope is to provide a range of dining options that suit the afterwork crowds, theater goers en route to a Broadway show, and of course, people visiting and staying in the center of New York City.