Newsday

The tall, stylish sconces at Brooks & Porter turn visually into an exclamation point. The defining dot: a meat cleaver.

This new restaurant is all about red meat, with a side order of seafood. And, open little more than a month, it's already one of the prime steak houses on Long Island.

The dark wood, high ceiling, framed mirrors and subdued lighting evoke a big, clubby spot. But this isn't where you casually peruse the stock tables over Port. On the weekend, the noise level and the crowd almost make the two-level joint shake.

Brooks & Porter joins the growing list of ampersand steakeries. These two names evoke the HK Porter locomotive and Brooks locomotive once used by the Long Island Rail Road. Models of the trains idle on the divider between the long bar and the dining room.

So, anyone who has ever likened the LIRR to a cattle car can come to a terminus of sorts at the Merrick station.

Brooks & Porter succeeds with all the steak-house staples. The shrimp cocktail is ample and good, as is the mound of dewy lump crabmeat served in a radicchio leaf. Likewise, the meaty crab cake. And the fried calamari deliver the crunch, as you'd expect from an offspring of Hudson & McCoy, the seasonal seafood house in Freeport.

A special of stone crab claws, however, sports a diminutive size that underscores you're neither in Miami Beach nor Las Vegas.

If all these seem too tame, jump-start your LDL with an opener of extra-thick slices of slab bacon.

Tomato and onions, standard; chopped salad, with vegetables, blue cheese and more bacon, better. So's the starter of sesame-seared ahi tuna, which you can expand upon as a miso-glazed main course,

Then, get serious. Order the juicy, first-class porterhouse steak, for two, three or four. It's excellent. So are the very tender filet mignon and flavorful sirloin steak. But a bone-in rib steak arrives overdone and a prime-rib special has that wedding-reception taste. The alternative: double-cut lamb chops.

With these, the obligatory side dishes include the baked potato, garlic-mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, sauteed onions and a thatch of fried onion strings. The kitchen prepares a surprisingly satisfying adult version of macaroni-and-cheese with absolutely minimal glop.

The wine list understandably leans toward well-chosen American cabernet sauvignon, with some fine Italian reds, too.

Desserts are uneven. There's a respectable apple crisp and a wine glass full of berries and chocolate mousse. But the cheesecake is as dry as the pecan pie is dull. The best finale is a classic root-beer float, made with always-smooth IBC.

You'll need huskies for the doggie bag.

Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 3/23/08.

Hours: Dinner every day, starting at 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations suggested; necessary Friday and Saturday.

 

Assessment
Sharp new steak house.

Cuisine
Steak

Directions
East side, just north of the railroad and Sunrise Highway.

Major Credit Cards Accepted
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Notable dishes
Porterhouse steak, filet mignon, sesame tuna, shellfish cocktails.

Price Range
Very Expensive (More than $50)

Rating
Very Good (2 stars)

Reservations
Recommended

Special Features
Near LIRR Station

Wheelchair Access
Main dining room at street level, but tight accommodations.