With his cleft chin, square jaw, and thatch of dark hair, the waiter might have been Ben Affleck’s brother, as he leaned over our table, asking in a confidential tone: “Do you know about our wine program?” Fearing a lengthy pitch, we started to stutter a reply, but by then his spiel was almost over. He explained that Landmarc largely dispenses with markups on wine—which, at other restaurants, often run a whopping 200 to 300 percent over wine store prices, leaving you drinking swill. At Landmarc, good bottles are often the same price as mediocre bottles elsewhere.
Thus it was that, instead of drinking a pallid second-class Sangiovese with our steak, a companion and I soothed it down with a half-bottle of Brunello ($26), Central Italy’s most respected wine. OK—it was Banfi, not one of their fiercer Brunellos, but it was a thrill drinking it in a restaurant nonetheless. Tender and blood red in the middle, the rib eye itself ($33) proved massive enough to share. It issued from a flaming hearth at the end of the dining room, where a cook tends chops, steaks, burgers, sausages, and the stray veal kidney. But Landmarc isn’t only a steakhouse, though it strives to be that. With a menu that sprawls across many gustatory categories, the restaurant resembles a Parisian brasserie in attitude. As befits the restaurant’s staid Tribeca location, the decor is dark and conservative, with the small tables set closer together than you’d like. The no-reservations policy actually works: Local loftees, young children in tow, dine early; when they’re gone, dating couples and scenesters crawl out of the woodwork.
Chances are you’ll find exactly what you want to eat somewhere on the folio-size menu. In the mood for something bar-like and predictable? Order the burger ($14) or the fried calamari with a spicy tomato dipping sauce ($9). Kinky? There’s an appetizer of three roasted marrow bones that looks like a miniature Three Mile Island, with a haystack of pickled purple cabbage set between the reactor towers. A generous half-loaf of toasted bread comes alongside; use it not only to mop the liquid tallow, but also smear it with the browned and jellied bits that lurk on the inside circumference of the bones, extracted with a tiny wooden scraper. You want innovative and vegetarian? Try the warm goat cheese profiteroles snuggling a tart, pimento-flavored slaw. In a Breton mood? There’s a menu of moules ($13) that, unfortunately, come without frites unless you kick in an additional five bucks. The best one showers the glossy bivalves with big chunks of chorizo and minced onions—yum! The fries, by the way, are superb.
Then there are the inevitable pastas, a different one for each day of the week. Thursday’s orecchiette (decent serving, $12; humongous serving, $18) flaunts a cream sauce of fresh rosemary and crumbled pork sausage so irresistible I went the next week to eat it again. As a second course, I ordered blood sausage cooked with apples, potatoes, and caramelized onions, washing both courses down with a splendid, concentrated Zinfandel made in Sonoma, California, by Seghesio ($26). I checked prices on the Internet after I got home, and found the bottle selling for $16 to $20, sans shipping. I’d order a few bottles for home consumption, except I’d rather drink them at Landmarc.