Tag Archives: best of restaurant week

Restaurant Week Wrap-Up: An on-going list of where to go for NYC RW (Updated Winter 2013)

28 Jan

I have now been writing about Restaurant Week for over 4 years. It is one of the most frequented sections on the blog, so I wanted to make it a bit easier and summarize the best, the good, and the bad. I will continue to add to this list as we try new places for Restaurant Week. (Last update is from Winter 2013)

A brief synopsis on Restaurant Week: Participating restaurants serve a prix fix, 3-course menu for lunch ($25) and dinner ($38). (Prices updated for Winter 2013). They participate on all weekdays for lunch, dinner, or both, and some also participate on Sundays. More information for each season, participating restaurants, and menus can be found here. You can also book most reservations on OpenTable, though the best reservations usually go as soon as the newest Restaurant Week is announced. There are two each year, one in the winter and one in the summer, and while it is called “Restaurant Week,” it is usually about 3 weeks long and some restaurants extend even beyond that.

So who had the best Restaurant Week menu? Who didn’t skimp on portions? Who obviously thinks Restaurant Week is a total waste of time? Read on! (Click on the restaurant name to link out to the original review I posted)

Top RW Noms (Book now! Even if RW is another 6 months away):

  1. ilili: I have been to ilili twice for Restaurant Week and I think they are the best of the best. Great selection, plentiful portions, and gosh darn GREAT food. Everyone left raving about it.
  2. Butter: We stuck exclusively to the Restaurant Week menu and enjoyed every bite. I wanted to lick every plate clean. Amazing flavors, fair portions, and a real taste for why Chef Alex Guarnaschelli won Next Iron Chef.
  3. Riverpark: Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark does Restaurant Week right by featuring their usual menu so diners can try out the Restaurant exactly as intended. Each bite was fantastic and totally worth the supplemental charge, and we imagine would be totally worth it even if you don’t pay for any supplements.
  4. Cafe Boulud: This was just barely edged out by the top 2. The braised veal cheeks and the chocolate dessert still both echo in my mind as some of the best bites I have EVER had. Their menu was limited, but there were enough items to keep me happy. I have been dying to go back.
  5. The Modern – Bar Room: Delicious. Small portions but well worth it (and it’s not like you leave hungry). Service was a terror, but the food made up for it. (I went back for Summer 2011 and it was just as good and with great service this time around).
  6. Olives: Small selection but all very tasty. It’s a nice intro. to a Todd English restaurant, especially since it’s usually a bit pricey
  7. Barbounia: Fantastic food and good portions. Impressed by the food and the nice service. They understand that Restaurant Week is all about giving people a reason to return.
  8. Aquavit: The entrées here were a bit on the average side, however, the uniqueness of the food, the fun of doing a flight of Aquavit, and the INCREDIBLE desserts just barely pushed this one to the top list

Average RW Noms (I’d probably go back and try them again, but they weren’t special enough to hit the list above):

  • Craft Bar: I can’t put this in the top list since we actually accidentally booked a reservation that was NOT Restaurant Week (be sure to review the list carefully so you know who serves on weekends). I do think it may belong there, however, as the food was great and the servers were AMAZING about taking care of us since we made the mistake (they gave us 2 apps on the house)
  • Millesime: The food here was fair, with a stand-out dessert that elevated the meal. I was disappointed by my pasta dish due to its blandness, but those that ate off the regular menu seemed to enjoy their dishes.
  • Black Duck: A solid Restaurant Week experience. The initial choice of fish, chicken, or pasta wasn’t an awesome selection, but each dish tasted great. I would like to try this place again and order off the regular menu.
  • Tribeca Grill: My short ribs were pretty good, but I’ve seen better Restaurant Week menus and tried better food. I’m not sure if this was the fault of RW or if the restaurant itself just isn’t top of the heap.
  • Delmonico’s: Good but not great. I’ve had better steaks in Manhattan by far, but there is something fun about going to this place just for the history of it.
  • Ruth’s Chris: Been meaning to try this place but haven’t gotten around to it? Restaurant Week is a good time to get a taste. Their regular specials menu is also quite good, so if you don’t make it for RW, it’s okay.
  • Angelo and Maxies: I was actually impressed with this place, but I think their non- Restaurant Week offering is probably just as good. (NOW CLOSED)
  • 10 Downing: We had an enjoyable experience here, however, something just wasn’t totally right for most of the meal. Service was spotty, there were too many inedible things on my plate (shallot skin? garlic skin? seriously untrimmed meat?) Everything was plated beautifully with a lot of attention to detail, color, and the season (summer). Not to mention, one of the best panna cottas I’ve ever tasted. (NOW CLOSED)

Disappointing RW Noms (Not sure why they bother with Restaurant Week):

  • Park Avenue (Summer): While we had some great nibbles, it really felt as if this is one of those restaurants that doesn’t like Restaurant Week and it comes out in their food. I might try them again for their regular menu, but I wouldn’t suggest it for Restaurant Week at all.
  • Perry Street: Come on Jean Georges! I expect more from you. Nothing was bad, but nothing was great. A Restaurant Week faux pas perhaps.

Bad RW Noms (Just plain wrong):

  • Mercer Kitchen: Awful in every way. This place is what gives Restaurant Week a bad name. Awful menu. Small portions. Food that seemed like it could have been cooked at McDonald’s. I haven’t been able to eat cooked salmon since this night. It was THAT bad.
  • Russian Tea Room: Bad service. Food that hardly could pass for wedding food. This place could have such great potential as a NYC icon but instead, it’s just tacky and bad.

What are your favorite Restaurant Week places?

Where are you trying out this year?

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Butter for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

28 Jan

Even if Executive Chef Alex Guarnaschelli (who just won Next Iron Chef) has nothing to do with Butter at this point in her career (which I am not sure about at all… I’ve heard she doesn’t do much with the restaurant anymore, but it’s hard to tell), you would never know. We have been meaning to go to Butter for years, and just never got around to it. I had heard it was good, but no one raved about it so it never made it high up on my list. But when we were trying to find a few new places to try for Restaurant Week this winter, we decided that in light of Chef Guarnaschelli’s recent win, we would check it out.

It’s right by the Public Theater in the East Village. We were seated downstairs and enjoyed the wood tree trunks and sticks that decorated the room. It had a nice, loungy feel with low couch benches in the bar areas and music playing in the rooms.

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Here was the Restaurant Week menu for dinner on Sunday, January 27th.

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And the regular menu.

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And of course, since it’s butter, here is the butter shot.

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And some more butter porn. (The butter itself was decent, but nothing too special and I could have used with a larger portion to cover off on the bread that was on the table.

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But the pumpernickel and sour dough breads were top notch.

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We decided to start with cocktails, and since they were so good, we continued drinking them throughout the meal (rather than switching to wine, which is our usual MO). I got the Pearadise with pear infused Bacardi rum, fresh pear puree, St. Germain liqueur, muddled limes and mint. It was fantastic. Perfectly sweet without being cloyingly so. Mike got the Mickey Blue Eyes, which was a martini made with Grey Goose Vodka and blue cheese stuffed olives.

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Mike started with the House Made Charcuterie Platter. This came with house-cured bacon, duck breast mortadella, and chicken liver toast with spicy napa cabbage. This was awesome. The mortadella had a great flavor, and the chicken liver was packed with flavor and had these perfect crispy onions on top. But the bacon… ohhh boyyyy the bacon.

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I got the soup of the day, which was a butternut squash soup. I have had butternut squash soup all over the world at this point, and I am a fan simply because I really love butternut squash soup. You don’t need to get fancy with it to be delicious, but that also means that most people serve butternut squash soup that tastes just like everyone else’s version. Sure, some people put in some toasted pumpkin seeds or some basil oil (and I sure do love it when they do) but the soup itself usually just tastes like squash, or squash and apples.

But this… this butternut squash was The Shit. I never knew squash soup could have this much depth of flavor. A bit of brown butter flavor and sweetness (from what I assume was brown sugar but not sure) with a layer of fresh squashy goodness. And the salted popcorn to accompany it was just perfect. I actually asked for more bread so I could lop up every last drop of soup. It was, hands down, the best butternut squash soup I have ever had.

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As we started the entree portion of our meal, the additional side of cider glazed roasted parsnips came out. These had thinly sliced apple chips on top and the cider glaze was superb. It was the perfect compliment to the roasted parsnips and it was great comfort food without being heavy.

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Mike chose the House Made Ricotta Ravioli with roasted oyster mushrooms, chili flakes (which they nicely served on the side so that I could eat it), and pecorino cheese. I thought the sauce and mushrooms went very well with the ricotta in the ravioli, which was fluffy and a tad tart, with great flavor. Though in the end, I never order cheese ravioli because I just find myself hard to impress with any version.

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I ordered the Braised Pork Shoulder with a pretzel crumb crust and buttered rutabega. This was also outstanding. A great pork flavor over a bed of creamy rutabega. The little salty crispness of the pretzel with the cabbage on top was delightful. It was perfectly tender so you could just pull it apart with your fork. Fantastic.

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For dessert, Mike chose the Ginger Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich with vanilla ice cream and spiced pecans. It was very good, with a well flavored ginger cookie and what I think were golden raisins with orange zest. The pecans were spiced with something pepper related that I couldn’t have (but Mike enjoyed) and while the cookie was a bit hard to cut, the dessert was very good.

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My dessert came out and the first thing I noticed was that it was tiny. It’s hard to tell in this shot, but the piece of chocolate cake was about 3 inches tall and wide and less than 1/2 an inch thick. But BOY was this big on flavor.

The chocolate was rich and decadent, the pomegranate seeds adding a little bit of lightness to it, and a shmear of awesome salted caramel. The entire dish was so fantastic, and so packed with flavor, I didn’t miss those additional bites.

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As the meal ended, I told Mike how I wanted to lick my plate for every single dish I had. (That is one of the highest compliments I can give a place!) The execution was flawless and I didn’t feel like we lost anything by ordering off the Restaurant Week menu. Portions weren’t huge, but I walked away totally satiated.

Overall, this was a standout meal not just for Restaurant Week, but overall. I was truly impressed and look forward to returning again in the near future. I can’t believe it took us that long to go!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Riverpark for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

20 Jan

We have been to many restaurants for NYC Restaurant Week at this point, and we’ve found some great choices and some poor choices, which makes it hard to find new places worth sampling each year.  But this year, we decided that Restaurant Week (through Februrary 8, 2013 so far this winter) was a great opportunity to try one of Tom Colicchio‘s newest choices, Riverpark

I really like how many Colicchio restaurants handle Restaurant Week. Rather than serve a “wedding food” (beef, pork, or fish) version of their menu, they serve their regular menu and the items that require a higher price to produce include an incremental charge, noted on the menu (base price is $38).  Here was the menu on January 20, 2013:

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For the Restaurant Week price of $38, we were able to choose an item from the left side plus an item from the main section, with a dessert.  You could substitute pasta (a larger portion for entree) for either course.

The building was a bit hard to find.  It is located near the East River on 29th Street and the FDR, in a complex called the Alexandria Center.  Our taxi wasn’t sure where to find it, so he dropped us off on the corner of 30th Street and the FDR access road and we walked down what looked like an industrial part of the city near the back of the hospital.  We took a chance and walked up some stairs and found it there at the top,  inside the building.

The decorations are very modern, with clean, perpendicular lines, much like Colicchio and Sons.

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The lights above our table were kind of cool and modern, but also a bit seizure inducing after a few drinks.

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We started our night with cocktails. Mike got the “Colonel Mustard” with mustard infused white rum, thyme honey, lime, and candied bacon. It was fantastic.  Heavy on the thyme and a perfect balance of flavors.

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I tried the “Spiced & Spiked” though without the “spiced” since that was homemade hot sauce (which would have peppers, which I’m allergic to).  It had hot apple cider, Goslings Rum, and clove.  Even without the hot sauce, this was very delicious and well balanced. I wanted something hot on this very cold night, and this hit the spot.

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We added a half-dozen oysters to our Restaurant Week selection, with 3 East Coast (Barnstable) and 3 West Coast (Shigokus). They were both divine, but the west coast Shigokus were especially fantastic.

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We then decided to try a bottle of wine. There was a section dedicated to Orange Wines which were described as “interesting and funky.”  We have a love for Russian River Valley wines (especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) so when we saw one on the menu under the Orange variety, we decided why not try something interesting and funky.  We really enjoyed this wine. It was easily drinkable, dry without being puckering, and went well with food and stood up on its own.  A very enjoyable wine.

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I then tried the Kabocha Custard & Crab Fondue with crispy black trumpet mushrooms and spiced pumpkin seeds (which I went without in my dish due to my allergy).  This was sensational. A touch of sweet, delicious squash, fresh crab, and a slight crispy from the mushrooms.  A great balance.  This is the second custard from a Colicchio restaurant that really impressed.

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Mike tried the Testa Tortellini with pears, walnuts, sage, mustard seed, and spiced consomme.  Sadly, I couldn’t try it due to my allergy, but Mike said it was a great balance of flavors. The waiter said he should try everything in one bite and he would realize why the pear, tortellini and consomme was put together and sure enough, the layers of flavors were fantastic with the rich broth and the fresh pear.  Everything together was delicious.

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For our entrees, Mike chose the 20 oz. bone-in dry aged sirloin, which came with a $20 supplement charge. It was with cipollini onions, charred shisito peppers (which they put on the side so I could try it), and tempura hen of the woods mushrooms.  The char on this was fan.freakin.tastic.  And the tempura-ed mushrooms were really fantastic on this. An all around awesome cut of meat. If you order this when it is not Restaurant Week, the steak alone is $50.  So for the $38 base price of Restaurant Week and the $20 supplement fee, the value of the app and the dessert came to a mere $8.  Not too shabby.

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These were the peppers that were put on the side, which Mike said added a nice depth of flavor without being too spicy.

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I chose the Berkshire Pork Chop with Brussels sprout apple hash and parsnip puree.  This was absolutely incredible.  A slight sweetness from the apples complimented by the slight bitterness of the sprouts. And the pork itself was a perfect foil to both.  Incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I picked up that bone with my fingers to get off any last morsel.  Totally worth it.

 

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Then we had our choice of desserts (a tough choice indeed) and we also chose to order dessert wine (Domaine des Schistes, a muscat).

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I chose the Chocolate Souffle Cake with coffee ice cream and chocolate crumble. This was a lovely dessert with warm souffle cake, with a nice balance of bittersweet and sweet with the chocolate and a great compliment with the coffee ice cream.

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But Mike chose the Beer Sundae with Guinness Cake, oatmeal stout ice cream, butterscotch, chocolate pretzel, and candied walnuts.  While my chocolate souffle was very good, this was just damn special.  It was unique flavors with a perfect balance of salty and sweet. It was a fantastic, inspired dessert.  Really, really fantastic.

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Our food throughout the meal with simply spectacular.  We paid a number of up-charges, but I am very certain that we would have enjoyed our meals just as much had we stuck with the Restaurant Week prices and not paid for any of the supplements or additional drinks/supplements.  But half the fun of Restaurant Week is being able to save money so you CAN pay for those lovely extras.

This is how you do Restaurant Week. Offer your regular menu so no one feels that they are missing out and just give people a chance to really enjoy your restaurant with a nice introduction.

Well played Riverpark.  You have made the list of “where to eat for Restaurant Week.”

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Restaurant Week Summer 2011: The Modern Bar Room

24 Jul

I have been to The Modern Bar Room for Restaurant Week before, however, I had yet to bring Mike.  The Modern is always one of the hardest RW reservations to get.  When I saw that they were doing their Restaurant Week menu on Sunday, I was excited and scheduled immediately.  I was pretty bummed a few days later when I got a call to say that there was a misprint and that The Modern was only doing Restaurant Week during the week.  Damn.  I put my name on a wait list and expected little.  To my surprise, I received a call earlier this week saying that there was an opening at 6pm on Thursday.  So we took it!

I really love the inside of the Bar Room. They have a beautiful tree mural on glass on one end and everything is super (shocker) modern.  They always have gorgeous flowers and it’s always buzzing.

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And I simply love that they serve their bread warm (what a difference that makes!)

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The Modern serves a lot of their regular menu for Restaurant Week, just in smaller portions.

For his app, Mike chose the warm goat cheese and lamb terrine, with toasted pistachio and watercress.  This was AWESOME.  The lamb had great flavor and everything just went together well.  And I love that this summer has been FILLED with pistachios (some in every meal this week!)

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I chose the slow poached egg with eggplant “caviar” and sea urchin foam.

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The waiter described it as “oozing” and he was right.  The egg was perfect and combined so nicely with the eggplant.  The foam wasn’t anything special, but it made it beautiful and it all tasted great.  It had a nice sea salt in it too that really just brought out each flavor.

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For our entrees, Mike went with the veal flank steak with chick peas in a Choron sauce.  It was rich in flavor and tasted great.  The sauce especially was great.

I was actually expecting the portions to be much smaller.  This was plenty of food.

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I chose the Maine lobster papardelle au poivre with squash blossoms.  This was absolutely beautiful and tasted beautiful.  Great, fresh tasting lobster in a creamy sauce that wasn’t heavy.  The paradelle was modelled with green and tasted perfectly fresh.  The squash blossoms added a nice freshness to it.

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For dessert, Mike chose the cheesecake with fresh berries.  This was awesome.  Great vanilla and cheesy flavor.

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I went with the caramel coffee dome with vanilla ice cream and amaretto gelee.

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This was very good, but I think this is one that was more beautiful than it was delicious.  It needed a bit more texture, but it was still very, very good.

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Overall, The Modern remains one of my top picks for Restaurant Week. In my opinion, they do NYC Restaurant Week perfectly by allowing people to try what is actually on the menu, and just shrink the portions a bit to make it affordable for the restaurant.  As someone who wines and dines clients on occasion, this would be very top of the list of where I would take a good client.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Restaurant Week Summer 2011: 10 Downing

22 Jul

I try to blog about Restaurant Week here in New York each season.  For my previous NYC Restaurant Week adventures, check out this link.

Our first stop for Summer 2011 was to 10 Downing.  I had heard very mixed reviews.  I felt like a few years ago, everyone said this was one of their top places… but recently there were a number of people who called it a “let down.” I figured Restaurant Week was a good time to try it out.

When we arrived, we noticed that tucked in the corner, chatting away, sat Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin. Pretty cool sighting!

The Restaurant Week menu included a choice of 3 apps (chilled pea soup, sweet shrimp with grits, and heirloom tomato & watermelon salad), 3 entrees (sauteed wild striped bass, chicken with summer squash, and braised short ribs), and 2 desserts (spiced chocolate torte or almond & pecan panna cotta).

Mike chose the sweet shrimp and Anson Mills cheddar grits, which came with garlic, jalapeno, and fried leeks.  He very much enjoyed it.

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I went with the chilled English pea soup with buttermilk ice, summer fruits, and puffed barley.  It also had beautiful orchids floating on top.  It was refreshing and the fruit was an awesome pair with the soup.  Perfect for summer.

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Mike went with Hudson Valley Farms chicken with summer squash, eggplant, fingerling, and pistou (which is a cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil).  It was filled with flavor and surprisingly not “boring” for chicken.

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I wanted the short ribs, but was disappointed to hear that they were still 2 hours from being done with the slow cooking (which I found especially strange since our dinner reservation was at 7pm, and while I know people eat late in NYC on a Friday, 9pm to START serving a dish seemed weird).  But they were doing the same preparation (broccoli, bearnaise sauce, and shallot confit) with skirt steak.  So I went for it.  It was delicious and tender, with a great sauce… but…

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…There were a number of inedible things on the plate.  From a gob of fat on the steak to a shallot and garlic still in the peel, I found it weird that they didn’t seem to have completed the prep and just threw things on the plate that were supposed to be there but someone didn’t know what to do with them.

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Mike went with the spiced chocolate torte with muscato reduction and chipotle cream.  It sounded good, but I couldn’t have it.  Mike said it was “just okay.”

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I chose the almond and pecan panna cotta with roasted cherries and madeira.  Now this was AWESOME.  This is how panna cotta is supposed to taste. I have had a lot of panna cottas over the years, and always found it just… eh… But this was a fantastic texture, flavor, and rich in goodness. And the cherries were mmm mmm good!

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Overall, 10 Downing was pretty good, and we enjoyed their Restaurant Week selection.  Some things felt just a bit “off” about the service and the prep, but it was quite good food and I’d return for a non-RW meal without hesitation.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

NYC Restaurant Week- Winter 2011: The Modern Bar Room

28 Jan

Still wondering where to go for Restaurant Week this time around (thru February 6th, as of now)?  This year there is a slight change:  No more Saturdays, and Sundays are optional (I’m sure a lot of restaurants are happy about that).  There are still plenty of reservations available on Open Table (though some places aren’t on there, so you have to call.)

Every year, one of the hardest Restaurant Week reservations to get is at The Modern.  I was browsing who had some openings, and was shocked to see a spot for 2 at The Modern Bar Room (in MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art) on the first day of Restaurant Week for 6pm.  I jumped on it, and invited That Lori (of Stuff I Ate) to join me.  She was more than happy to oblige.

I was slightly obsessed with the floral design in the entry-way.

Beautiful purple lilies (I think) of some sort.   It looked like a dark purple calla lily.  Simply lovely.

Right behind that was a bar, that had thoroughly stocked glass shelves.

A view of “The Bar Room.”  It was simple, tasteful, and (shocker) modern.

The menu was quite lengthy for Restaurant Week.

I had trouble choosing because so much sounded great!

It was as we were browsing this menu that we started running into the problem of the evening… our waitress was MIA.  And continued to be MIA for at least 30 minutes before taking our order, which she rushed through.  We noticed she gave everyone else a shpiel about restaurant week and how you could pick one thing from each category, however, the entrees were half portion and you could pick a full-sized portion of anything on the menu for $17 additional.

I was famished, so I scarfed through both pieces of bread quickly.  The butter was obviously homemade and delicious, but lacking in salt.  And there was none on the table… and no one to ask…

Lori decided to begin with a dish she had tried in the past, but was so enamored by it that she just had to get it again.  It was roasted Long Island duck breast with peppercorn-crusted apples and toasted pistachio-truffle dipping sauce.

The peppercorn-crusted apples were very good, and Lori LOVED them, however, I’m not a huge pepper fan.  The duck was perfectly ducky.  But the sauce… HOLY CRAP.  Now THAT was good sauce.  What could possibly be bad about pistachios and truffles?
I decided to go with the artichoke soup, since I can’t get enough archies.  The combination of the artichokes with pearl barley, toasted almonds, and ricotta was very nice, and didn’t overpower the artichoke flavor.  The biscuits had rosemary in them and were deliciously buttery.
I’m glad I had a hearty portion of soup… we proceeded to watch someone sit down, give their order, and receive BOTH apps and entrees before our entrees even came out.  The manager came over to apologize… our waitress did not.  She didn’t seem to have any problems with her other tables, however, we were the forgotten children all night.  Literally the red-headed step-children.  And SHE was a red head! (Perhaps she’s a self-hater!)
Lori chose the squab for her entree.  When it came out, it was VERY tiny, even for squab (as was mine… though I have to say, both of us left completely satisfied and perfectly full without being too full… I wish portion control was always that easy).  The squab was spice-dusted and I LOVED the cinnamony tang it had.  It also came with braised romaine, haricots verts and bacon salad.  (Did somebody say bacon salad?)  Delightful little squab.
I went with the pork belly that came with rutabaga choucroute and ginger jus.  It was a decadent few bites of porky goodness.
For dessert, I chose the dark chocolate tart that came with chocolate ice cream.  It had a delicious, crackly top like creme brulee (though made out of chocolate, not sugar).  It was scrumptious!  I even liked the chocolate ice cream, which is rare for me.
Lori chose the coffee caramel dome with vanilla ice cream and amaretto gelee.  It hinted a bit towards Star Wars…
The layers were awfully tasty, however, I forgot to take a pic.  D’oh!  I’ll link to Lori’s pictures once she posts.
I wish the light was better, but the gelee made for a very artful decoration.
Overall, besides the AWFUL waitress, the food was sensational and this ranked very high on the Restaurant Week experiences list.  The selection is fantastic and while the portions are small, they are packed with flavor, very satisfying, and in no way did I leave wanting.  If you can secure yourself a RW reservation at The Modern, DO IT!  (In fact… they have been extending Restaurant Week during the final week lately, so go ahead and snag a reservation for the week following while you can and see if they extend… you can always cancel!)
Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

NYC Restaurant Week: Winter 2009

12 Feb

First, for anyone that doesn’t know what Restaurant Week is, a brief synopsis:

Lunch $24.07 | Dinner $35.00

Included in these prices is a special three-course, prix-fixe menus at participating restaurants. It doesn’t include beverage, tax or gratuity, however, it’s hard to beat 3 courses for $24-$35!

Usually restaurant week is only 2 weeks long, however, since it has been extended through February 27th, I think this post is still relevant.

Now I have a love/hate relationship with Restaurant Week. 

Love: I can try the best restaurants that I usually couldn’t afford on my own through a sampler of an app, entre, and dessert.

Hate: Restaurants are so variable in what they serve.  Some serve the cheapest items that do not represent their trust menu and in VERY small portions.  On the other hand, some have great menus that really show off the good food and make me want to come back.  (Dear Restaurants: Please note that I come in with 5-20 people on business lunches and am in charge of recommending where we eat.  INCENTIVE!)  I have had some great hits and some great misses over the years.  Winter 2009 score summary: 8, 9, and 4.5 Nom Points.

Within the original 2 week planned event, I was very pleased to see that they were now including Sundays and that MLK Day was within the weeks.  Usually I cannot take advantage of the lunch specials since I’m working, but this year I scheduled two.  Some of the best restaurants only serve lunch, not dinner, so it was fun to have new options.  Here is the rundown of my Restaurant Week-Winter 2009:

Place: Craftbar
Date: Sunday, January 18th, 2009
Company: Boyfriend Mike
The Nommage:

  • Pecorino-Stuffed Risotto Balls: These are delicious little fried balls of risotto and cheese. So delicious, in fact, that I burned my mouth not once but twice to the point of no return while trying to stuff these delightful little noshes into my very hungry mouth.
  • Cheese Sampler: Small, especially for the price, but VERY tasty. 
  • Baked Eggs: This was my entree.  It had confit leeks, short ribs, fingerling potatos and ibarra chocolate.  At first I was skeptical about chocolate in eggs, but I am skeptical no more!  It added a perfect flavor to this hearty brunch dish.
  • Eggs Benedict: Mike’s Entree had bacon, fingerling potatoes, and cipollini onions.  Quite delicious.

Negative Nom Points: It turns out that the restaurant was listed incorrectly and they were not participating in Restaurant Week on Sundays.
Positive Nom Points: The wait staff was incredibly appologetic and wound up comping us for BOTH appetizers (the risotto balls and cheese sampler).
Overall: It was a bummer to not get the restaurant week menu, but they more than made up for it and the food was DELICIOUS. (8 out of 10 Nom Points)

Place: Cafe Boulud
Date: Monday, January 19th, 2009
Company: Best Friend Lori
The Nommage:

  • Squash Soup: Lori and I both chose this appetizer. It was quite good, though I prefer a bit of crunch in my soup (such as pumpkin seeds). I also eat squash soup pretty much wherever I go, so I have high standards.  I believe the other option was a salmon dish.
  • Braised Veal Cheeks: Lori and I again both decided on this entre. We were VERY happy we did.  The portion seemed small only because it was so delicious that neither of us wanted it to end.  It was as tender as could be and the flavor was amazing.  The other option was a ravioli that is presently escaping my memory.
  • Passion Fruit and Banana Cake with Banana Mousse, Passion Fruit Gelee and Lime Shebert: Lori ordered this.  I was so-so on it as I am a chocolate fan, but it was quite good for what it was.
  • Chocolate Financier: Chiboust Cream, Caramelized Pecan, Vanilla Ice Cream and Crème Brulee on a soft fudge chocolate cake… TO. DIE. FOR.  End of story.

Negative Nom Points: I’m having trouble coming up with one… perhaps the fact that it’s on the UES makes it slightly out of the way for most New Yorkers… but the travel was worth it!
Positive Nom Points: Great food. Great service. Amazing Restaurant Week offering.  Hard to beat. (9 out of 10 Nom Points)

Place: Mercer Kitchen
Date:
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Company: Boyfriend Mike
The Nommage:

  • App? It was so bland I can’t even remember it.
  • Slowly Baked Salmon with Brussel Sprouts and Mashed Potatoes: As someone who has very recently and delicately entered the world of fish eating, I thought the salmon was a safe choice. I was wrong.  It tasted very fishy.  I also love the taste of brussel sprouts because they are a good hearty vegetable, however, they were shaved down so small that it tasted a bit like limp lettuce on top of a heap of boring mashed potatoes.
  • Ranch Cheeseburger on a Toasted Brioche Roll and French Fries: Mike’s entree… it was a burger. Nothing special.  Not bad, not good, just not thrilling in the least.
  • Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Bean Brittle and Vanilla Ice Cream: This saved the meal.  It’s hard to go wrong with warm chocolate cake, but this was especially gooey and all the right flavors.
  • Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with Blood Orange Sorbet: As someone who can typically take or leave cheesecake, this was worth taking!  But I’m still glad that I ordered the chocolate cake and Mike got the cheesecake.

Negative Nom Points: The salmon ruined the meal. Could they come up with more rudimentary things for their menu? Salmon, Cheeseburgers, and Chicken do not make for an interesting culinary adventure. 

Positive Nom Points: At least the desserts were good, but I’d never go back. (4 out of 10 Nom Points)

I also managed to go to a few restaurants while they had the restaurant week menu with my job.  I wound up ordering a meal or two off the special menus.  The top winner is the Hake at Blue Fin.  It is a white fish with an almond crust and chestnuts (my fave!) and butternut squash in a light celery broth.  DELISH!  I also made an attempt to eat at Asia De Cuba.  Turns out they have only 2-3 dishes on their regular menu that I can eat (I’m allergic to peppers) so that was a bust.  The scallops were heavenly though.

And there you have it folks!  Restaurant Week Winter 2009 in a nutshell.