If I had been a betting man, I would have lost a fortune on my prediction that Nusr-et, the overpriced Turkish-owned steakhouse on West 54th Street, would have failed within six months of its 2017 opening. Its owner and namesake, Nusret Gökçe, had worked for free at restaurants in the U.S. and Argentina between 2007 and 2010 to gain experience as a cook and restaurateur. The steakhouse’s fate seemed sealed by a storm of negative press following its debut. One prominent local critic called the restaurant “Public Rip-off No. 1,” while another proclaimed that “finishing a meal there constitutes some kind of personal victory over your own body and instincts and mouth.”
Yet despite all the doomsday pronouncements, the restaurant survived and prospered, opening branches worldwide. The most recent expansion of Gökçe’s empire opens today right here in New York, in the Meatpacking District.
What accounts for Nusret Gökçe’s improbable success? It has to do with Salt Bae. That’s the nickname and internet meme by which he has become known. The moniker grew out of the chef’s unorthodox method for salting steaks. To wit, he holds a pinch of salt high above his head with his arm bent and allows the white stuff to rain down his bare elbow and (mostly) onto the steak. A video of Gökçe performing this meaningless ritual was posted on Jan. 7, 2017 and went almost instantly viral.
What was it that P. T. Barnum said about steak restaurants?
Nusr-et, 412 W. 15 Street, near Ninth Ave.