It's Restaurant Week in New York! A misleading title since it technically runs 3 weeks, from July 12 to the 31st, but still, a reason for celebration! The set up, for those of you who have not experienced this joyous time, is this: Twice a year, in January and July, restaurants, some that you could never afford at a normal time, put together 3 course prix fix menus. Currently in NY it goes for $24.07 for lunch (a riff on 24/7, which is silly since restaurant week isn't offered on weekends, they can't get enough of misleading titles) and dinner is $35.
Restaurant Week does have its critics. Generally the restaurants won't offer their signature dishes on the prix fix menu and there are less costly cuts of meat and fish being offered up to help boost the profit margin. Restaurant staffs also tend to be less then excited about this time of the year, since the restaurants tend to be packed on what are normally slow nights and the checks (and for that matter the tips) tend to be far less. This can lead to less then welcoming experiences in places that are usually known for their service. Despite all of this, I enjoy RW immensely. There are only so many times you can hear about a famous restaurant and salivate over the reviews with the knowledge that you, and your non-profit paycheck, will never dine there. After moving to NY this opened some of the culinary wonders of the city to me, even if it may be a slightly reduced version of these wonders.
On Tuesday I had lunch with my boss at Café Boulud on the Upper East Side. I started this tradition with my boss--also a culinary freak--last winter when we ate at Eleven Madison. Now it is the official Advertising Department Restaurant Week Lunch, very important to department morale and productivity. Daniel Boulud is one of the star chefs of NYC (and around the world for that matter) with many successful restaurants under his belt. He just opened the more affordable DBGB in the East Village which I enjoyed, but I was looking forward to trying one of his more upscale establishments. Due to subway issues we arrived about five minutes late. When we got there that rainy afternoon and were checking our umbrellas, a man huffed out of the restaurant complaining that he had made a reservation but there was no room and demanding his umbrella. Nervous, I hurried inside. The job of picking the place and making the reservation was mine, and no one wants to look like they aren't competent at securing a table in front of their boss. I have no idea what that guy's problem was because we were seated right away, thank god. We were seated in the back of the dining room, pretty much in Siberia, but we had a table in a packed dining room and shame on us for being late. It being 1:30 pm on a Tuesday on the Upper East Side, the crowd was a little on the geriatric side. It definitely was not the hip place to be, but I was there for the food, not to try to catch a siting of the cast of Gossip Girl.
The full RW menu being offered up can be found here. The star dish that I tried was the Crispy Tiger Prawns with pineapple, cilantro, pickled jalapeno, and Thai eggplant puree. The crunch of the prawns combined with the sweetness of the pineapple combined with the head of the peppers and Thai spices had me melting. For my second course I tried the Spinach and Goat Cheese Raviolis. Maybe I should have gone for the Hanger Steak, but Will and I were planning on steak for dinner that evening and there's only so much red meat a girl can take. The [Photo]Raviolis were very good, comfort food on a rainy day, but didn't strike me as something I couldn'tmake myself. The menu on the website is a little different then the one they had out that day, my boss had fish but I know it wasn't Mahi Mahi. She enjoyed it though. For desert we both had a raspberry sorbet with lady fingers that also isn't on the posted menu. This was a very refreshing summer treat.
The food was excellent, one of the better RW meals I've been served, but the atmosphere was a bit lacking. It didn't have the grand gracefulness of Eleven Madison, or the trendy vibe of Butter, or the elegant stateliness of One if by Land, Two if by Sea. Really it was just a tastefully decorated room, from which celebrated french cooking is presented. Not my scene, but absolutely my "taste."
Check back Friday for a bonus blog, where more points are won in all categories on my RW week date with Will to the Modern.