QUEENS — A new steakhouse along Roosevelt Avenue hopes to sear its way into the hearts of local diners with a modern twist on a familiar cuisine including sizzling steaks — all a vision from a neighborhood optometrist.
SizzleMe Steakhouse is described by its owner as a traditional steakhouse with a Filipino flavor — and will have a menu designed by a chef and consultant who's worked at Michelin-starred restaurants across the city.
The restaurant, in Woodside, near the Jackson Heights border, is the work of Jun Fernandez, 51, an optometrist from the Philippines, who has owned the Eye Illusion shop across the street from the new restaurant for 11 years.
In a nod to his practice, the waiters and waitresses will wear pairs of retro glasses.
Cooking was his hobby, and sizzling steaks — a favorite of his homeland, the Philippines — were his best dish, he said. But he never thought much of it.
"Owning a restaurant was just a thought," he said. "There was no plan until this place opened up."
The location, across the street from his eyeglass store, had been a bar for years and became available last May. The location was perfect, he said, and he could keep his first business open while pursuing his other passion.
He teamed up with Joshua Smookler, 46, a restaurant consultant, wine director and chef who's worked at restaurants including Per Se, Cafe Luxembourg and Bouley, to create the modern look behind SizzleMe.
Smookler and Fernandez visited Filipino restaurants around the city and beyond —"You name it, and we ate there," Smookler joked — to get a feel for what was on the menus. They decided to keep the traditional items — like sizzling sisig, which is made from parts of the pig's head — but modernize it a bit.
The menu will include plenty of sizzling food sauces, as well as modern touches on Filipino classics, like garlic fried rice.
"We can't go away from the traditional Filipino food and alienate the community," Smookler said.
"But we're trying to create a special restaurant."
One plan is to create a special seating at the counter on weekends overlooking the open kitchen called "Boodle Fight at Kitchen Counter," which will involve special menu items and an interesting way to eat them: by hand.
The term "Boodle fight" comes from the military academy in the Philippines, when the food is piled high in the commissary and each diner eats as much as they can at the ring of a bell.
"I grew up eating with my fingers," Fernandez said. "It will be interesting, fun and different."
The special seatings will be on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and will be limited to six seats.
The soft open for SizzleMe is Oct. 3 at 5 p.m.