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Restaurant Week Summer 2013: Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza

3 Aug


We have been meaning to stop by the Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza (hotel) for a while. Restaurant Week seemed as good a time as any!



There are lots of stations in the Food Hall (flatbread pizza, asian, dumplings, cheese, tacos, etc).



We were seated at the raw bar but were encouraged to explore and order from wherever we wanted.


I do really love watching people cook and prepare food. And now that Mike and I tried our own hands at shucking oysters ourselves, I have even more respect for this artform.


Their regular menu is extensive with items in every section, however, the Restaurant Week menus is very small.  To get a real sampling of the restaurant to make people want to return, it would have been nice if they offered selections from all of their stations.  While most restaurants serve a menu about this size for Restaurant Week, I think Todd English Food Hall would have really benefited from an ilili style restaurant week where you get to select one from each section.  It would have brought the “Food Hall” concept more to life for someone getting their first taste.


For this reason, we ordered one Restaurant Week meal and 2 additional appetizers.  First, the regular menu appetizers:

Lobster Hush-Puppies.



These were described as savory lobster & polenta dumplings with truffle aioli.


They had chunks of lobster inside and that truffle aioli was sensational.  I wish they were a wee bit crispier, but the flavors were all there.  Great dish. Our favorite of the night.



Our other regular menu order was Grilled Artichokes with king crab and lemon-caper vinaigrette. This actually came out AFTER the other entrees but trying to condense non-Restaurant Week together.  Also, it was weird it came out later, but more on the service in a moment.

This dish was so close to awesome.  The crab stuffing was insanely good and the croutons added a great flavor and crunch to the whole dish.



The disappointing part was actually the artichoke itself.  The flavor of it was just okay (not very artichoke-y) and the outer leaves were too woody.  We both took a first scoop and wound up having to very politely spit out most of our food because we just couldn’t chew through the tough outer leavers. I wound up scraping a few, but that was a messy endeavor.  As a self-proclaimed artichoke connoisseur, I know a thing or two about preparation.  And these were a miss.  They either needed to use a jerusalem artichoke that you can eat the outer leaves on, serve it more upright so you can scrape the leaves, or just serve the hearts. Honestly, this would have been great had they used just the soft leaves and hearts and put that on top of the crab stuffing.



As for the Restaurant Week menu, we started with the Asada Skirt Steak Tacos. This was brown sugar balsamic glazed with cilantro cream, hoisin BBQ sauce, fried onion, and napa slaw.


The highlights of this dish were the flavorful soft tacos (I think they were flour, but I’m never sure since I don’t eat them very often) and the crispy fried onions on top.  The sauce as pretty good and the steak was decent, but it would have been sensational with some char or some more steak flavor.  It fell a bit short in the meat flavor department.


For the second course, we chose the ricotta gnocchi saltimbocca with asparagus, duck confit, capers, and brown butter.  When it was served to us, I immediately was turned off by the plating.  It looked like someone spilled sauce all over the plate and then put everything on top.  Sure enough, the dish was also a bit muddy and confused.  The flavors really just kind of became bland together and nothing really stood out here.  The gnocchi was well prepared and I liked the ricotta taste, but they just didn’t sing.  The asparagus was a bit over cooked and bland and the duck confit just didn’t have pop.  The only real flavor of note was the capers. Muddy is the only way I can describe this dish. Not bad, but not noteworthy either.


For dessert, we had the Restaurant Week cobbler.


I liked the fresh berries in conjunction with the cooked berries (I recognized blueberries and apples or pears).  The topping was just okay. A decent sweet to end the evening, but nothing special.


And now to explain the service. It was… weird. We would finish dishes and sit in front of dirty plates for a while, then each new dish was brought out and the waiters fumbled and looked uncomfortable while we pushed our own dirty dishes to the side so they could put the fresh dish down.  Then they would clear the other dish.  This happened every single time.

It also seemed a bit strange that the artichoke (on the appetizer menu) was served after the entree, but that wasn’t too big an issue.  One minor thing that drove me a bit nuts, however, was that the cobbler was served with big forks. Check out the fork to bowl ratio in this photo:


It left me staring down at that bowl of melty berry and ice cream goodness with no way of retrieving it.  This dish needed a spoon.

Most of the mistakes were pretty inconsequential, but it made for a bit of an odd meal.  Also, the Restaurant Week dishes were just okay and we enjoyed the other 2 dishes more. So I cannot say I would recommend their RW menu. With the flaws, this restaurant really seemed to lakc executional consistency.  That artichoke dish could have been one of the best, but the woody, inedible artichoke leaves just killed it.

As the meal ended, we reflected on the few Todd English places we have tried (Olives for Restaurant Week, CaVa, and Ember Room). They have all been pretty good, but very little linking them. I feel like Todd English does a good job of stamping his name on places of quality with a nice design aesthetic, but I can’t say I really *like* Todd English restaurants or even know the Todd English point-of-view.

Then again, reading that paragraph back over makes me feel like I’m watching too much Next Food Network Star recently.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10 (would have been a 7/7.5 or even higher had the flaws been fewer)

nomscale- 06.5


Restaurant Week Summer 2013: Kutsher’s TriBeCa

3 Aug

We went to Kutsher’s TriBeCa when it first opened and had a pretty good meal with pretty lousy service.  Looking back on our last meal, a lot has certainly changed in the food, and our service this time around had no faults (and was actually quite lovely with a friendly waitress).

The space fits well in TriBeCa with a modern, industrial look.




The restaurant was not busy at all, but it was a Tuesday night.


The menu is quite large, but the Restaurant Week menu, while limited, had a good selection from around the big menu.


I saw that they had homemade Apple Pie soda on the menu and had to try it. Sure enough, it tasted like apple pie you can drink.  I really enjoyed this.  (Mike wound up making up his own drink by combining this with bourbon. It was awesome).


One of our friends started with the wild Alaskan cod gefilte fish. Gefilte fish is something typically relegated to Passover dinners where kids turn their noses up at it with exclamations of “ewwww” while many adults secretly can’t wait for Passover to come again just to have a reason to eat it. Gefilte fish is typically described as a fish cake, but that really doesn’t explain it at all. It’s a wet lump of fish parts, basically.  It took me years to even agree to try it again, and now I actually enjoy it.  But not more than once a year.

ANYWAY… back to our meal.  The combination of the gefilte fish with beets was nice, but the horseradish (typically served with gefilte fish) was a bit much for me. I’m really not a fan of horseradish, however, and everyone else enjoyed it.



I got the latkes, which last time were only fair.  Comparing this to the picture from last time shows VAST improvements.  These were crispy and the bits of potato that were hanging off reminded me of potato sticks.  Last time they were a bit soggy whereas this time they were crisped up nicely with a great potato mixture inside.  The apple sauce on the side was also thick and nicely flavored.  I wish the sour cream was a bit more sour, but it was still good.



Mike ordered off the Restaurant Week menu to get the crispy artichokes because he knows I absolutely love artichokes.  Last time, we LOVED this dish.  This time, it was pretty good but not as great as last time.  The crispy parsley was missing and the artichokes didn’t have enough crisp. But I never would have faulted this dish had it not been so outstanding last time.


Both of our friends got the salmon off the Restaurant Week menu.  They both enjoyed this very much.


I got the brisket off the Restaurant Week menu.  I was having some camera trouble and it looks like I somehow failed to save a picture of it!  (Damn)  It came over a BBQ sauce that was quite good and the meat was flavorful without being overly fatty.  I have a problem where all brisket is compared to my grandmother’s brisket, which means all brisket is fair at best.

Mike went off the Restaurant Week menu to get the burger.


This came with a fried onion ring filled with cole slaw on top of a cheeseburger and latkes on the side.  It was a bit big once the onion ring was on top, but he said it was a nice juicy burger.



We also got some matzo crusted onion rings on the side.  These were well seasoned and the matzo crunch was nice.



For dessert, our friend got the coconut cake which he loved so much he refused to share it (just kidding, he offered, but not convincingly).


And I got the rainbow cookie ice cream cake. I loved this in theory, but it was missing the signature almond flavor that make rainbow cookies so good.  The ice cream inside was also a bit lacking in flavor.  It would have been nice if this had been strongly almond flavored to bring it all together.


One nice thing that Kutsher’s TriBeCa did is give out a “Dine Again Card.” This was the first time I’ve seen this, but it was a nice touch and really brings the entire purpose (in my opinion) of Restaurant Week full circle.  The goal is to get you to try a new place (or try a place again that was so-so in the past to give it a second shot) with the hope that you will come back.  Why not give people a reason to?


As far as Restaurant Week goes, I wouldn’t say this was my favorite meal. But I think it was a good value for what we got and I’m glad we got to try it again and see that the kinks have been ironed out (at least on a Tuesday night).  I enjoyed it and would happily return (especially for free latkes!)  This is the perfect place to bring the family when they’re in town. A little fancy, but a little bit of home and what we all grew up on.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

nomscale- 07.0