AKA the most wonderful time of the year! Nothing beats $25 three-course lunches and $38 three-course dinners at some of the city’s finest eateries. Bless the person(s) who came up with this game-changing concept.
But while the prices are great, the food is usually hit or miss; Restaurant Week has given me some of the most beautiful meals I’ve had in my lifetime, but I’ve also had overpriced food that has left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. With that in mind, these are the hits and misses of this winter’s Restaurant Week experience!
MISS: Anassa Taverna | Greek
For the most part, this wasn’t a terrible restaurant: the ambiance was cozy and cute and I couldn’t find much to complain about with the food. The Greek meatballs, stuffed with feta cheese and served with tomato sauce, were flavorful and hearty and tender, although I would have liked a bit more feta. The swordfish kebab was fresh with a pleasant smoky and sweet aroma, and the accompanying potatoes, leeks and shallots were all pretty well cooked; the flavors all paired well together, although a touch more acidity wouldn’t have gone amiss. The biggest problem by far was the service. We had to wait at least fifteen minutes in between each course, and while I’m all for a nice relaxing meal, this was simply too slow. Then, as the waiter brought out the desserts, he said that they had run out of the galaktoboureko that my friend and I had ordered and then plunked down two slices of walnut cake on the table instead. No warning, no apology, no giving us other options. The walnut cake wasn’t bad, but would it have killed them to at least give us a heads-up?
HIT: Fig & Olive | Mediterranean
After the disappointing lunch at Anassa, this dinner was glorious. The dining rooms were very dimly lit, which wasn’t great for photos but gave the restaurant a romantic vibe. The wait staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, pointing out some of the house specialties and favorites. I’m still fantasizing about the wonderfully garlicky and earthy truffle mushroom croquettes, with their surprisingly light, fluffy, and creamy cheesy filling contrasting perfectly with the rough and crunchy exterior. The branzino was paired with the unique flavors and textures of a fig and balsamic vinegar, fresh crunchy snow peas, and a candied figs. For dessert I got another unique concoction of chestnut mousse with a walnut meringue on top of a cherry sorbet and Amarena cherry coulis. The mousse was unreal in its lightness; it just dissolved in the mouth like a dream, leaving nothing behind but a desire to recapture that sensation with another bite. However, I didn’t feel that the flavors of the chestnut paired particularly well with the cherries; I mean, the mousse was perfection by itself, so why mess with it?
HIT: La Masseria | Italian
I have to wonder why I hadn’t heard of this charming place near Times Square before now; it deserves more attention in the food world. Their stuffed mozzarella is to die for, with its beautiful creamy yet slightly chewy texture, and the olive oil drizzled on top is absolutely heavenly. I was impressed by how well they managed to cook the chicken breast! It was tender and flavorful, and though it did get tough at the end, overall I enjoyed it. The vegetables on the side were also a delight to the tastebuds. I rounded off the massive meal with two scoops of a nice refreshing and light lemon sorbet. Besides the mozzarella, nothing was life-changing, but the food was as good as you’ll get in any restaurant in Italy. You definitely get a pretty nice bang for your buck.
HIT: Nobu New York | Japanese
Returned to my favorite Japanese restaurant in the city after a fantastic experience last year at Nobu Next Door! Slightly different menu, but same damn high quality. I was once again able to enjoy the sashimi salad with the special Matsuhisa dressing; definitely as good as I remember. The Arctic char was seared to perfection, with a beautiful crispy skin and a tender flesh, and the crispy spinach and garlic added another layer of fragrance, flavor and light crunch. However, the dish could have used a bit more sweetness to balance out the salty soy sauce and the sour yuzu. The highlight of the meal, though, was definitely the pear and almond tart with a ginger cream. You can never go wrong with a classic pear and almond tart, but the addition of the ginger cream gave Nobu’s version an additional complex harmony of sweet and spicy. And the candied almonds on top were absolutely brilliant! I think I might cry if I don’t get to eat this again.
HIT: ABC Kitchen | American
I’ll admit that I was pretty hesitant about trying another of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurants after the debacle at Nougatine last year, but I was still willing to give ABC Kitchen a shot. Definitely glad I did. Upon entering, I was immediately charmed by the adorable quaint décor that reminded me of a Victorian era British tea parlor. Service was impeccable and the food was delicious. While we weren’t able to try everything on their Restaurant Week menu, as they had run out of the raviolo and the shrimp salad, everything that made its way to our table was fresh and high quality. Loved the sashimi salad, the portobello mushroom burger, and the Brussels sprouts, but the desserts were by far the most memorable. The almond cake was stunning in its simplicity and had a beautiful nutty and floral flavor that was surprisingly perfect with the green apple sorbet. The salted caramel sundae definitely stole the show; it is one of the sexiest things I have ever eaten. The beautiful rich caramel flavors with the decadent chocolate fudge and the mind-blowing kettle corn and the crunchy peanuts… you know what, I won’t even bother trying to describe it, as no words could do it justice.
HIT: Bar Boulud | French
Technically they weren’t serving the official Restaurant Week menu when I went here with a friend for Sunday brunch, but the prix fixe brunch menu was fairly similar to the Restaurant Week menu. And even at $32 for a three-course meal, considering the sheer quantity and quality of food they provided, I felt like the price was definitely reasonable. The pâté grand-mère was rich and flavorful without being too heavy and was paired with a beautiful mustard, the mushroom ravioli were unreal, and the desserts were simply fantastic. Still dreaming about the ethereally light yet decadent île flottante; special shoutout to the pastry team for whipping up a perfect crème anglaise. I can definitely see why Daniel Boulud has been so successful.
HIT: Scarpetta | Italian
Finally. FINALLY. After waiting for what feels like months for the opportunity to try Scarpetta, a friend and I were able to snag one of the last Restaurant Week reservations here! The bread basket, paired with an olive oil, an eggplant purée, and a mascarpone cheese, was just heavenly. We loved it so much that we got two 😀 Appetizers were also delicious; the polenta with mushrooms was pretty much perfection, and the chestnut soup was bold and unique. Their famously photogenic spaghetti with tomato sauce and basil was unfortunately underwhelming; it was nice and comforting but far from mind-blowing or life-changing. The branzino was better; the sear was crispy and fragrant, though overall I could have used a bit more flavor in the meat of the fish. The desserts were definitely a great way to end the meal. The olive oil cake was beautifully tender, moist and flavorful, and I absolutely loved it with the cream and the unique blood orange sorbet. And I fell in love with the coconut panna cotta, with its über soft and creamy texture and rich flavors. Truly a lovely experience here.
Now that Restaurant Week is over, I guess I’ll have to get used to having one-course meals again… Oh well, there are many fates worse than that. Overall I was quite pleased with most of these restaurants. Would I be willing to pay for a full price non-Restaurant Week lunch or dinner at any of them? Hard to say. But I’m really grateful for the opportunity to enjoy all of this food. All I have to do is survive until the next time Restaurant Week rolls around!