Tag Archives: 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?

Millesime for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

28 Jan

The Carlton Hotel in Flatiron has been home to many restaurants, including Town and Country. I know I have been there in the past, but it was before the blog. You enter into the lovely hotel lobby and then go through the bar/entertainment space and up the stairs. The restaurant there is now called Millesime.

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There is a really beautiful glass ceiling in the dining room.

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Millesime is participating in Restaurant Week and we were there for lunch. I ordered off the Restaurant Week Menu and my dining companions ordered off the regular menu. The restaurant week menu had 2 choices in each category. Butternut Squash Soup with crispy prosciutto or Butter Lettuce Salad with mustard and hazelnuts for the appetizers. Tuna Salad Roule’ with lavash, radish sprouts, marinated vegetables, tomato confit & potato chips or Linguine Gratinee with sauteed chicken, tomato, kale & parmesan for the entree. Orange Creme Brule with almond tuile or Cherry Chocolate Croissant Pudding with chocolate ice cream for dessert.

My dining companions both tried the crab and onion soup with gruyere crouton. They both seemed to like it, but neither finished it to save room for the entree.

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I went with the squash soup. It was pretty good, but could have used some more flavor. It was very one note. Even the crispy prosciutto didn’t really scream flavor.

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For entrees, one person ordered the veal piccata with ricotta gnocchi, roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, and lemon. She said it was pretty good but there were a lot of flavors going on.

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The other person ordered the steak sandwich and seemed to really enjoy it.

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I went with the linguine gratinee. Hmmmm… This pasta was most certainly round, not flat like linguine. And it was just… plain. Totally lacking in flavor. I salted it to death and it was still pretty flat. I have no idea what they were going for here, but this dish was really bland. Even a bit of basil or some wine in the sauce would have made it better. Even the chicken just tasted like boiled chicken in there.

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Thankfully, dessert was delicious. It was like bread pudding and the cherry and chocolate together were great flavors.

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Millesime was getting some press as being underrated and there were a number of great reviews. I just didn’t get it. Perhaps they just really screwed up their Restaurant Week selections, but I will not be running back here. Food needs flavor. Salt is cheap. It’s no excuse to have bland food at such a nice restaurant. It was all barely average, but the rating gets a little bump for the delicious cherry and chocolate dessert.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

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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Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: 1770 House

31 May

On our last night in Montauk, we found ourselves surrounded by crazy teenagers who crash landed in Montauk for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  After 3 days of so-so eats, we decided it was time to get the hell outta dodge. (Sorry Montauk… I really wanted to like you more).

We drove west and into East Hampton.  The downtown there has a very nice shopping downtown and some lovely neighborhoods off the main drag.  I pulled up the Open Table app on my phone in search of a reservation in the area at a restaurant with good reviews.  I stumbled on the 1770 House.

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We were seated in the downstairs area, which, according to FourSquare tips, is where the “locals” eat.  It had a great intimate feel with some beautiful classic touches.  We also sat facing the back of what must have been a very large oven (see dome below).

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For some reason, I found myself totally enamored with the little lantern on our table.

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As it turned out, 1770 House was also participating in Restaurant Week, so we took full advantage.

Mike got the fried poached egg with spicy ragu.  I couldn’t have the rago, but I was fascinated to try the egg. It was really, really good.

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I got the Crispy Pork Belly with Endive, Honeycrisp Apple, Cilantro & Spiced Yogurt Dressing. It was succulent and charred perfectly.

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For our entrees, Mike got the steak with french fries and Maitre D’ butter. It was charred perfectly and the fries were deliciously crisp.

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I chose something that I, very sadly, cannot remember.  I remember feeling like my mind was blown, but sadly, I cannot figure out what this was.  I remember the sauce was fantastic.  I think I was swooned into la la land so now I don’t remember what it was. Damn.

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For dessert we got a molten chocolate cake that was perfectly sweet and lava-y.

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I got the Sticky Date Cake with Toffee Sauce & Panna Gelato. This was heaven. Pure heaven. 

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It appears that 1770 House does a number of prix fixe specials throughout the year, so you’re in good hands no matter when you arrive.

We really loved our meal here, from start to finish, and would highly recommend it.  The restaurants in Montauk were very underwhelming, but this place could rival some of the best in Manhattan.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: John’s Pancake House

30 May

On our 3rd morning in Montauk (after a few other Hamptons meals), we decided to try John’s Pancake House, which is right on main street in the center of town.  It reminded me of the pancake houses on the Jersey Shore. In fact, Montauk reminded me in total of the Jersey Shore, except with fewer teenagers. That is until the Montauk St. Patty’s Day Parade, which is an annual parade a few weeks after St. Patrick’s Day that for some reason magnetizes the teenagers from all over Long Island to show up, drunk, and make a mess.  (It got so bad we actually left Montauk just after the parade ended and the highschoolers descended). 

Anyway… back to John’s.

We were sat at a kitschy (and sticky) breakfast counter due to lack of seating.  The waitresses all look like they have been there forever.

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Mike went with the western omelet.  It was a very classic omelette with very classic breakfast potatoes.

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I got a side of the corned beef hash (which was a huge portion).  The charred side was delicious, though it had some of the gritty texture that makes corned beef hash a bit less than delectable. 

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And I got the banana pancakes.  These were classic pancakes with a bit of banana in them.  Could have used some more banana.

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Overall, John’s is exactly what it looks like.  A run-down, classic diner that has been around forever and serves classic, good-enough food that they have no desire to change.  It’s good fuel, but not exactly a tourist draw.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: Montauk Yacht Club

29 May

It’s Hamptons Week in honor of the official start of summer! If you are going to The Hamptons this summer, check out all the posts from this week to get my recommendation on where to eat (and where not to).

Our second Restaurant Week Reservation was at Montauk Yacht Club.  We had a whole lot of trouble finding it (note: iPhone GPS puts it in a different location than it really is). The restaurant is actually called “Gulf Coast Kitchen” so be sure to follow those signs.

When you walk in, it’s simply beautiful.  Every room had a great look and feel to it.

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The view from our table was across a seating area and to the water.  

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Their menu was pretty good for Restaurant week with 4 selections each for the starters and the mains. 

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Mike chose the Chowder MYC that came with double smoked bacon, local clams, and fresh cream.  This was pretty good with some nice flavor, but one thing I love about chowder is the big pieces of clam and potato.  This was a bit more liquidy than I would prefer, but still quite nice.

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I got the Big Eye Tuna Tartar that came with shallots, Italian parsley, lemon zest, micro truffle salad, and crostini.

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This was gorgeously constructed and was a great combination of flavors.  I didn’t know what micro truffle salad was, but I was expecting something truffle flavor. Unfortunately, there was none.  This was one of those “over-promise and under-deliver” moments.  Had they never mentioned truffles, I would have eaten this happily and been on my merry way. But once the “truffle” was out of the bag, I wanted truffle.  

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For the main, Mike chose the grilled hangar steak with fresh salsa verde, roasted vegetables, and rosemary and sage potatoes.  This had good flavor and the salsa verde gave it a nice touch.

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I got a special that wasn’t on the menu but still counted for Restaurant Week.  It was a pork chop with some greens and potatoes.  Unfortunately, this was a bit disappointing. Not too big on flavor and in need of a sauce.

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The dessert selection included lemon tarts that Mike enjoyed while on his lemon kick.

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I chose the chocolate mousse cake that came with a passion fruit sauce. It was delicious but VERY rich.

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Overall, I enjoyed the Gulf Coast Kitchen at the Montauk Country Club, but I can’t say it was a brilliant meal. For $25 it was a well priced meal, but I’m not sure I can say it was great. The location, however, is stunningly beautiful and probably worth it just for that.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: East by Northeast

28 May

Mike and I decided to take a long weekend in Montauk during the off-season.  I had heard lovely things about this town at the end of Long Island and the neighboring Hamptons towns.  We took the train out to Southampton and rented a car (note to self: DO NOT rent a car at Enterprise in Southampton again… WORST RENTAL CAR EXPERIENCE EVER) and then drove the rest of the way to Montauk.  

It happened to be Hamptons Restaurant Week, so we made a few reservations to try the a few of the restaurants in the area. Our first stop was at the very highly recommended East by Northeast.  

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The restaurant is right on the water and in a beautiful location.  We found out that the restaurant ownership company, Fort Pond Bay Company, actually owns a Westchester restaurant that we frequent with Mike’s family in Dobbs Ferry, NY: Half Moon. It had a similar setup with a wall full of windows looking out on the water. 

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The Restaurant Week menu had a good selection of items, and dinner was just $24.50.

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I had a lovely cocktail that was nicely summery.

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We decided to start with something off the Restaurant Week menu: a selection of raw oysters. They put them down in front of us and we noticed something… do you know what it is?

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How well do you know your shellfish?  If you have identified these as clams, you would be exactly right.  The waitress was very confused and flustered, and soon recognized that yes, she had mistaken the oysters for the clams.

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Luckily, that meant free clams for us!  And then out came the oysters.  Even better since they were local.

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Mike chose to start with the Chopped Iceberg Salad with Red Wine Dressing. It was fine.

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I went with the miso mussels with dashi and garlic. These were also… fine.

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Mike went with a special addition to the Restaurant Week menu, a burger with an egg on top.  This was also… fine.

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My main course was Pork Tonkatsu with Coconut Risotto.  It was… fine.

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For dessert, Mike got 2 scoops of ice cream.  It was a bit of a strange concoction. Also… fine.

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I got the Chocolate Pots du Creme.  Which was… you guessed it… fine.

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Overall, our meal was… fine.  It was nothing special, nothing was good but nothing was bad. It was a very forgettable meal with some strange service problems throughout. Perhaps it was because it was the off-season or perhaps they weren’t giving it their all for Restaurant Week, but I was very surprised that a restaurant that came so well recommended was this blah. I’m glad we only paid $25 each for this meal, though our favorite part of the meal was definitely the oysters, which were off the RW menu.  I can’t recommend this place.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

NYC Restaurant Week- Winter 2012: Barbounia

6 Feb

That Lori (from StuffIAte) and I decided to attend Food52’s Piglet Party to check out the Tournament of Cookbooks.  We didn’t know much about the event, but when we arrived, it seemed as though no one else really knew much about the event… even the organizers.  It said it started at 7, but when we arrived around 7:15, people were still setting up and there was no one really directing the flow.

There were a few stations with food and wine and then a bunch of cookbook authors sitting at a table, waiting to sign, but without any information about which cookbook they wrote.  And while I have a special place in my heart for cookbook authors, I haven’t memorized their faces.  So that was… strange.  There was no place to put coats and no one found a garbage can, so Lori and I wound up sitting at a table surrounded by other people’s garbage.  Someone was nice enough to say “thank you” as she put her garbage down next to us.  With that… we decided to cut our losses and head out to take advantage of Restaurant Week.  A quick search on the iPhone and we had a reservation for 10 minutes later at Barbounia, around the corner.  (What DID we do before smart phones? Really???)

I have been meaning to try Barbounia for quite some time (especially for brunch, which is supposed to be awesome).   But Restaurant Week seemed a great opportunity to check them out.

Here is the RW menu.

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The inside is beautiful.  Great arches with detailed lights.  It looks like it should be a good deal bigger, but it was somehow cozy in a very grand way.

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After ordered, we received a very warm, very fresh piece of bread.  The edges were especially delicious.

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I ordered the Grilled Oysters on half shell with tomato confit, fennel pollen hollandaise and parmesan crumble.  Since it was Restaurant Week, I was expecting 1 or 2 small oysters.  I was very surprised when it was 3 giant oysters. And they were DELICIOUS.  The top was like mild melted cheese that complimented the oysters without taking away from the flavor.  Really enjoyed this.

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Lori got the Roman salad with romaine hearts, artichokes, fennel, celery, shave pecorino cheese and bresola.  She seemed to enjoy it very much.

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For entrees, I got the duck confit.  It came with overnight braised farro, medjool dates, baby carrots, turnip with date syrup and 5 spice sauce (luckily, not one spice included peppers).  This was cooked to perfection, full of flavor, and falling off the bone.  The faro was ehh, but the sweet sauce was so good that when using the faro to sop it up, became mouthwatering.

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Lori got the grilled pork (which doesn’t appear to be on the menu that is posted).  I believe it came with Israeli cous cous, cipolin onions and black trumpet mushrooms. I though her dish was really outstanding.  The pork was a perfect blend of meat and fat so it was succulent, and the sauce it had was delicious.

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For dessert, we both opted for the dark chocolate mousse (also not on the posted menu) which came with a salted caramel sauce.

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The mousse itself had GREAT flavor.  Perfectly bitter sweet with chunks of chocolate.  When you hit the flecks of salt, it took the flavor to a whole different level. Unfortunately, while the flavor was great, the mousse itself was a bit gritty.  Tasted like the chocolate broke.  But it was so good in taste that it hardly mattered.

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Service was very good.  Our waitress was attentive without being overbearing and didn’t treat us like Restaurant Week lepers (an all-to-common theme during RW).

Overall, our meal here was surprisingly delicious.  I was impressed that a meal this good (and this big in portion!) had flown under my Restaurant Week radar.  They deserve accolades for serving food proportionate to their regular menu, and fantastic in ingredients and flavor.  They don’t skimp, and for that, they will earn my loyalty and I will be back.  A great execution of Restaurant Week.  Gave us just enough great food to bring us back for more.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

NYC Restaurant Week- Winter 2012: Russian Tea Room

6 Feb

Our second stop this Restaurant Week was at The Russian Tea Room.  The Russian Tea Room is a NYC classic, but I had no idea why. I also had no idea why I had never been there before.  So Restaurant Week seemed as good a time as any to check it out.

When we entered, we were told that due to the popularity of Restaurant Week, they had opened up the 2nd floor, which was usually reserved for private parties.  The hostess bragged about the “Fabergé inspired” egg tree in the back…

This was a plastic tree with some plastic lit up eggs… I didn’t get it.

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She also bragged about the “bear aquarium” (which, much to my dismay, was a bear shaped fish aquarium and not, in fact, a big aquarium filled with bears).  It turned around and around in the dining room and was filled with large goldfish.

This makes me wonder… who, while decorating a dining room, says “I know what would be perfect! A bear shaped aquarium that spins!”  But hey… there was opulence everywhere in this dining room with no clear decoration direction… so I guess it went with the room.

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Onto the food!

The regular menu was VERY expensive.  All apps were $18-$35 ($18 for beet salad!) and most entrees were in the $36-$48 range ($39 for beef stroganoff and $38 for chicken kiev!)

We stuck to the Restaurant Week menu.

Mike started with the Goat Cheese and Wild Mushroom Blinchik which was described as a crêpe filled with mixed mushrooms, goat cheese, melted onions and lingonberries.  It was crispy and actually quite good.

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I got the borscht.  It was no Veselka, but it was decent. I found it tasted more like carrots than beets, but it was still hearty and good. It came with a small meat-pie type thing that was so so.

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Mike got the chicken a la king.  It both looked, and tasted, like wedding food.

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I got the filet of beef that came with garlic mashed potatoes and “baby vegetables.”  The mashed potatoes tasted quite bland (no garlic) and the “baby vegetables” consisted of a single carrot and a single piece of asparagus.  Neither were baby, unless the portion size was what they were describing. This also both looked, and tasted, like wedding food.  Cheap wedding food.

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For dessert, Mike got the cheesecake.  As a purist, he LOVED this.  It was absolutely pure cream cheese and sugar.  I can’t blame him for enjoying that.

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My dessert was the “chocolate dome.” It was filled with some raspberry something. It was overcooked, dry, and one note.  One of the most boring desserts I’ve ever tried.  Bleh.  When I don’t finish dessert, you know something is wrong.

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The service was also pretty horrid.  No one offered us refills on water nor wine, it took a long time between courses, and we waited 20 minutes for our check before finally asking a busser to get it.  Our waiter never even came over in the next 15 minutes before we left. Bravo.

Overall, the Russian Tea Room seems to be relying on it’s long-standing history and it’s opulence, rather than on its food and service.  The food was hardly passable, and had I spent more than the Restaurant Week price ($35 per meal), I would not have been pleased.  Even $35 for what we ate was decidedly overpriced.  This is the exact reason Restaurant Week has a bad rep.  I want to assume that they served so-so things to fit into the price of RW, rather than serving smaller portions of their regular menu (which gives people a reason to come back and eat off the regular menu).  If their regular menu is that bad, they are robbing New York tourists.

Total  Nom Points: 5 out of 10