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American steaks sizzle on 63

120910_08

Frenchman Herve Beal opened New York Steakhouse on St 63 last month. Photograph: Stuart Alan Becker/Phnom Penh Post

When he was working for Sofitel in Paris, Frenchman Herve Beal asked if he could be posted to Vietnam and they said sure, but he would have to do an assignment in New York City first.

The Sofitel in New York City was having some union problems and Beal’s job was to negotiate with the union officials and make sure things ran smoothly at the luxury hotel. On the way to accomplishing a job by listening to what his American counterparts wanted, he acquired a taste for American steaks and American steakhouse culture.

Beal ultimately got what he wanted and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City as Sofitel’s food and beverage man. However, instead of staying at Sofitel in the long term, he opened the New York Steakhouse, the first of its kind in Ho Chi Minh City, in 2009.

On August 20, in the wake of his Vietnam success, Beal opened the same style of steakhouse here in Phnom Penh, on Street 63, just off Mao Tse Toung Boulevard.

Beal insists on USDA prime and choice cuts of American beef, cooked at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit (649 degrees Celsius) on the broiler so that each steak is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Beal grew up in Issoire, central France where his father worked as a baker.

One thing he appreciated about American food culture was consistency.

“For me, America produced consistency. You can have the same good quality in January, July and December.”

A 300 gram prime cut of rib-eye steak costs US$29; New York sirloin $21 for prime and $17 for choice. Prime is the best of the grades. Porterhouse steaks and Chateaubriand are also available, all cuts Angus beef.

Side orders include macaroni and cheese, crispy onion rings, creamy truffles spinach, asparagus wrapped with bacon and steamed broccoli with butter. For people who don’t eat beef, both salmon and chicken are available.

“We are a high-ranking steakhouse with only high quality American beef,” he said.

Back in Ho Chi Minh City, while they started out with an expat crowd, the clientele today is 70 per cent Vietnamese. The same idea holds for Phnom Penh.

“‘If I can make it there I can make it anywhere,’ says the Frank Sinatra song about New York. I really wanted to do only steak,” Beal said.

Beal, 43, created a few special things to go with his steakhouse traditions, including a knife box. The waiter offers each client any of several types of sharp and serrated steak knives. Also, instead of a plate on which to cut the bread, everybody gets a little square cutting board.

As the music of Patsy Cline singing Crazy echoes in the background, among the red button-tuck upholstery in the booths and the Hollywood celebrity portraits on the wall, customers slice in to the pure organic marbled beef from Nebraska.

This week, Beal is having an American promotion of Opus 1, a famous Cabernet Sauvignon red wine from California. He’s got six bottles that cost $200 per bottle. He’s got a special argon gas machine that keeps wine fresh for two to three weeks even if the bottle has been opened. The wine will cost $80 or $90 per glass. While downstairs is a non-smoking restaurant, Beal has three private rooms upstairs for a dozen guests each. And he loves cigars, so he’ll allow his guests upstairs to smoke fine cigars. The website for Beal’s identical New York steakhouse in Ho Chi Minh City is www.steakhouse.com.vn

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at stuart.becker@gmail.com

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