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Saturday, July 16, 2011

NYC Restaurant Week

Sorry for the absence of new posts, dear readers, but I was busy taking advantage of Restaurant Week! I've also had a busy few days at work. Nevertheless, it was quite a week for food.

For the uninitiated, Restaurant Week is a summer promotion in several cities where restaurants offer three course prix fixe menus. In NYC, the price is $35 for dinner and $24.07 for lunch. (There must be a story on the bizarro lunch price, but I couldn't tell you what it is.) I'd been through this a few times in Charlotte, so I knew the importance of checking out the menus online to see who's offering what, as there's quite a bit of variation.

On Wednesday night, my friend Chris was in town on business, so I made us a reservation at Fig & Olive in Midtown. He is getting married next spring, so it was fun to hear about those plans.

The special Restaurant Week menu had a choice of six appetizers. I had the Mediterranean Chicken Samosa with cilantro, Greek yogurt, bell peppers, scallion and Harissa olive oil. Chris had the tuna tartare with sesame oil and cucumber.

For the main course, we ordered halibut with broccollini and seafood paella. We traded plates halfway through. We both agreed the paella was better, though I thought the portions were a bit skimpy -- but then again, for $35, sometimes you get smaller plates. I wish I could tell you more about what was served with the halibut (I think that's orecchiette?), but I forgot to keep the menu, and it's not included in the sample menu online.) 
I am not sure why I thought it would be funny to make this goofy face, other than I thought you might be getting a little tired of my mug shot on this blog.

Forgot to take pics of dessert. Oopsie. Too bad, as the "crostini" consisting of strawberry, mascarpone and pistachio on shortbread with basil was a buttery, scrumptious bite of fruity heaven. The chocolate pot de creme was also nice.

On Thursday, I asked Neil if he wanted to come and meet me for lunch at Uncle Gussie's Food Truck in front of St. Bart's in Midtown. I'd read about it in a lunch edition of Time Out, and I went there with some colleagues last week. We loved it, so I was once again craving their Greek salad with chicken breast.
 You know a place is good when it has a long line, but we didn't have to wait more than 15 minutes or so.
 Neil agreed the salad is addictive, so I think we may make this a regular outing.
That evening, I headed to Tribeca to meet my friend Ginger at David Burke Kitchen for another Restaurant Week meal. Unfortunately, I had to stay later at work than I'd hoped, so we didn't have much time for a pre-dinner drink. The place has a really fantastic open-air bar above the restaurant, and I think there's another "treehouse" bar on the roof. It was a perfect evening to be outside, so it was too bad we didn't have more time to enjoy the scene before our 8 p.m. reservation at the restaurant downstairs. Nevertheless, we had an outstanding meal!

It reminded me of a similarly fabulous RW meal I enjoyed at Aria in Charlotte last summer. They handed us the regular dinner menu, and the Restaurant Week options were identified with an icon. (A very odd icon, I'd like to mention...I think it was a rabbit standing up behind a kitchen chair. We actually asked the waiter about it because we were so puzzled.) Anyhoo, the choices were outstanding, especially when it came to the main courses; five of the eight mains (or anything under $30) were available.

The starters were a little more restricted, so we couldn't partake of the intriguing Ants On a Log (bone marrow, snails, parsley and garlic) or the Bison Tartare (egg salad, smoked tomato, fingerling crisps) or the Pretzel Crab Cake (tomato orange and green peppercorn). A return visit may be required!

We both had the asparagus and burrata starter, which came with prosciutto, honeydew and basil. (I didn't want to use the flash, so these pics are a little dark, but hopefully you can still get the idea.)
I had the scallops and pork belly with baby cauliflower and aromatic herb broth. (In case you're wondering how I remember all this, I kept the menu this time.)
Ginger had the short ribs and cavatelli with wild mushrooms and truffle cream. Oh. My. God. Both of our dishes were great (and rich!), but hers was really fantastic. No wonder the waiter said it was one of David Burke's signature dishes. I would absolutely order this again, though it would be more suitable for colder weather when you're craving true comfort food.
Neither one of us managed to finish our entrees, which says a lot about the ample portions -- not gluttonous TGI Fridays or Cheesecake Factory portions, mind you, just a nice size. I think I was still a little bit full from all of the feta cheese I'd had at lunch with Uncle Gussie.

My dessert was one of the coolest things I've had in a while. Ginger thought it was a bit too much, so it might not appeal to everyone. It was cassis panna cotta with macerated berries and lemon anglaise. The panna cotta and berries were presented in a small Mason jar, with the lemon anglaise on the side. The waiter poured the sauce into the jar and then sprinkled the top with a skewer of chocolate-covered Cheerios. (I swear! They were not on the menu, but I conferred with my neighbor, who also had the same thing, and she agreed that's what they were.) I should have taken a photo of the deconstructed version, but here's what it looked like assembled.
Again, maybe not for everyone, and I didn't really think the Cheerios were a great addition, but the berries and panna cotta were exactly the cool, citrusy ending that I was craving. Ginger had the chocolate caramel fudge cake with salted caramel and goat's milk cajeta ice cream. (Please do not ask me what cajeta is...I am just transcribing the menu.)
Truly fabulous! David Burke Kitchen, I will be back. For those of you who've been sending me notes about the places you want to try on your next NYC visit (this means you, Mitchell!), I'd say this one is definitely worth adding to the list, especially if the weather is still pleasant enough to enjoy the outdoor bar. I think you can actually eat at the upstairs bar, but we found the hostess there to be a bit cranky.

Ginger and I both felt like we'd walked away with a steal! (And walk away we did...we headed home on foot up Sixth Avenue, which was a great way to end the night.) I just did the math and figured we each got about $53 worth of food for $35. Not bad!

Now I'm off to the gym to work off my phattastic week. Toodles!


Neil said...

The lunch price used to be tagged to the year. So in 1999 lunch was $19.99, in 2004 it was $20.04, etc. Not sure why it changed to the odd new pricing!

Karen said...

Cajeta is a Mexican confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelized milk. And now I'm going to wipe the drool off my chin.

Mitchell said...

I should be making a list of every place I have to visit when I come visit! At the rate I'm going, it will either be a very long visit or will have to done over several visits!