Philly's Latest Food Trend: The Steak Knife Tray

Philly's Barclay Prime Steakhouse
In LA restaurants, the bread tray is the star. Waiters at Mozza and Providence flit around their respective dining rooms offering patrons warm pieces of country white, multi-grain and even bacon and seaweed breads. In Chicago, steak take bread's place, with diners hand-picking their cut of prime filet, ribeye or porterhouse off of silver trays loaded with Midwest-grown beef. Last week, during my first trip to Philly, I encountered a new (and slightly over-the-top) tray trend: the steak knife tray.

The place: Barclay Prime Steakhouse in Philly's bustling Rittenhouse Square. The restaurant, which occupies the first floor of what once was a luxury boutique hotel in the late 1920's, couples a glamorous, old-world decor with decidedly modern accents. Guests are surrounded by richly-hued wood-paneled walls, bask in the glow of no-less-than-six crystal chandeliers, lounge in stark green and white leather chairs and rest their glasses on gleaming Carrera marble tabletops. The luxury doesn't stop there, either. Order one of Barclay Prime's tantalizing steaks and you'll soon encounter perhaps the restaurant's most unique feature: the steak knife tray.

The latest "tray"trend: Barclay Prime's Steak Knife Tray
The tray itself is a focal point: bright green leather (pleather?) with a faux snakeskin finish. On it were five distinct knife options, each one proudly exhibiting a different steak-cutting advantage. My skepticism turned to intrigue when our waiter launched into the most sincere, awe-inspiring description of each knife: (from left to right in the photo above) "The Henkel, a longer stainless steel knife with better 'grip' ergonomics and more substantive cutting leverage; the Wusthof, perfect for select bone-in cuts, like a rib-eye or filet; the Shun, a shorter Samurai-style knife, light but strong and made from 16 layers of compressed metal; the Global, heavy but well-balanced, with weight that's easy to control; and finally, the Porsche Chromatype 301, with its ergonomic handle and a metal 'pearl' that dictates the end of the handle."

We were encouraged to touch each one, roll it around in our hands, try "sample cuts" (cutting an invisible steak just doesn't have the same effect, trust me) and make our selections. My friend chose the Shun, which sliced through her 8-ounce filet like butter. I went with the Global, simply to try something new. It was fine, comparable to its Shun/Henkel/Wusthof companions. The one stand-out was the Porsche knife (yes, that Porsche), but not in a good way. It was heavy with an overwhelmingly awkward handle. Not to mention, the metal "pearl" left divots in your fingers. No bueno.

No word on when the knife tray trend might make its way to LA, but I have to say it definitely left an impression on me. In the meantime, I'll have to stick with Providence's bread. One bacon roll, please.

Barclay Prime
237 South 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 732-7560

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