Just before Barclay Prime's opening in 2004, Howard Wein, at the time chief operating officer for Stephen Starr's restaurants, thought he needed a gimmick to market the posh Rittenhouse Square steakhouse.
He assigned the opening chef, Todd Mark Miller, to create the ultimate cheesesteak. That Wein is a New Yorker and Miller is from Utah mattered none.
Barclay Prime received a torrent of publicity — including an appearance on David Letterman — for the $100 cheesesteak, which placed kobe beef, foie gras, Taleggio cheese, shaved truffles, lobster, caramelized onions, and heirloom shaved tomatoes on a brioche roll, served with a demie bottle (375 mL) of Champagne.
Flash forward 14 years, and it's still on the menu. And it will hit the web in May as part of BuzzFeed's hot food show Worth It.
It's now a $120 cheesesteak — inflation — and chef Mark Twersky, on the job there nearly five years, is making it more decadent. It's now a veritable truffle bomb.
It uses Japanese A5 wagyu beef, sauteed caramelized onions, truffle shavings, and truffle butter. Truffled foie gras mousse is slathered on a seeded semolina roll baked across the street at Parc. It's then topped with a house-made truffled Whiz made of caciotta al tartufo (an Italian semisoft cheese infused with black truffle shavings) combined with bechamel.
Twersky says in January, he sold about 35 a week — one of his solid menu performers.
If only it were a high-profit item. The sandwich's food costs are much higher than normal for a steakhouse dish, he says, and the $28 cost of the Veuve Clicquot bottle makes accountants weak in the knees.
"It drives our traffic," Twersky said, "but it's not paying the bills."