BRYANT & COOPER in Roslyn is a steakhouse with a difference. Its dual personality will delight those who normally shun beef palaces. But fear not, the red meat gang will definitely not be shut out.
Where's the beef? It's here in abundance, and it's prime. There are no duds among the entrees. Velvety filet mignon was three times larger than usual. Tender prime rib, served on the bone, filled the plate. Sirloin steak had a crusty charred exterior and a succulently juicy center.
Three double-cut lamb chops and a veal chop the size of Hulk Hogan's hand matched the beef in flavor and goodness. Such longshoreman-sized portions called for doggie bags all around. Lobsters are three- to four-pound monsters. Ours was seductively sweet, but its $46 price tag (twice the amount of any other entree) puts it in the expense-account-only category.
But, even at a steakhouse, a meal means more than merely huge portions of meat. Bryant & Cooper continues its captivation with prodigious platters of vegetables. (Most are $3.50 to $4.50.) French-fried onion rings are thin, crispy wisps; creamed spinach is a flavor-packed comforter; perfectly steamed, verdant broccoli comes alive under a rich hollandaise. Crisp hash browns, onion-dotted Lyonnaise and cottage fries, looking like homemade potato chips, are all recommended. The baked potato ($1.50) could serve as a model for the perfect spud: it's not wrapped in foil; it's not wrinkled or dried out from long sessions in the oven, but is presented at its fluffy finest.
Salads, too, transcend stereotypical steakhouse fare. Yes, there is the usual tomato and onion salad, with surprisingly ripe red tomatoes and sweet onions. But the dressing is a shallot-studded red wine vinaigrette, not the standard sweet orange offering. The mixed green salad, a dinner plate of romaine, red-leaf lettuce and iceberg, is good, but the addition of a heap of crumbled gorgonzola makes it terrific. If you like the combination of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, you'll love Bryant & Cooper's version. Rounds of ripe tomatoes are covered with basil-imbedded mozzarella, all atop virgin olive oil. Balsamic vinegar from the bottle provided is all that's needed for paradise.
The earth-bound appetizers, though, could easily be skipped. If no meal is complete for you without a starter, stay with the simple. Oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, crabmeat cocktail and a whole split cold lobster all feature first-class quality seafood, properly prepared. The cocktail sauce is a good rendition of the standard stuff, but an alternative of homemade mustardy or garlicky mayonnaise, especially for the lobster and crab, would be welcome. Too much fussing spoiled the clams casino. The meager amount of bacon present was undercooked and limp; the minced peppers and onions dominated. Black bean soup also came up on the debit side. Its too thick, gluey texture, reminiscent of refried beans, was unappetizing.
At dessert time, the creme brulee, with its crackly, glasslike caramelized top and creamy satin interior, soars to the No. 1 spot. Chocolate lovers, though, will probably argue that the chocolate truffle cake amid a blaze of raspberry sauce is even better. Also in the running is a flaky crusted apple cobbler studded with raisins and moistened with creme anglaise.
Somebody at Bryant & Cooper knows and cares about wine. The list is long, red and robust, as it should be in a steakhouse. The prices start at $12 a bottle, with most selections between $15 and $25. A super selection is the Washington State merlot, Chateau Ste. Michelle ('82), at $19. Its velvety, dry yet hardy flavor meshes especially well with the red meat selections here.
The service corps at Bryant & Cooper is younger and more personable than the typical steakhouse mold. Waiters are efficient, knowledgeable about wine and accommodating, and often point out menu alternatives.
No-nonsense meat-and-potato men will like the straightfoward decor, but so will their spouses. Attractive wood molding, inlaid marble and hunt prints say steakhouse, but plants lighten the look without making it fussy.
Bryant & Cooper is a welcome newcomer (it opened last May) doing double duty. It delivers the expected and unexpected. Here you will find the great steak quotient and much more. BRYANT & COOPER Very Good 2 Middle Neck Road, Roslyn. 627-7270. Atmosphere: Traditional American steakhouse with flair. Service: Informed, efficient, helpful. Recommended dishes: All steaks, lamb chops, veal chops, prime rib, Norwegian salmon, lobster, all salads, all a la carte vegetables, oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail, lobster cocktail, creme brulee, apple cobbler, chocolate truffle cake. Price range: Lunch entrees $7.95 to $10.95 (with rib steak au poivre the only steak on the lunch menu).
At dinner, appetizers $3 to $9.95, entrees $14 to $24 (lobster priced according to size; ours was $46). Credit cards: All major cards. Hours: Lunch, noon to 4 P.M. Monday through Friday.
Dinner, 5 to 10 P.M. Monday through Thursday, 5 to 11 P.M. Friday, 5 to midnight Saturday and 4 to 10 P.M. Sunday. Reservations: Recommended. Ratings: Poor Satisfactory Good Very good Excellent Extraordinary
These ratings are based on the reviewer's reaction to food and price in relation to comparable establishments.