Tag Archives: delmonico’s

Restaurant Week Wrap-Up: An on-going list of where to go for NYC RW (Updated Winter 2015)

6 Apr

I have now been writing about Restaurant Week for over 5 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 2015)

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. all’onda: An amazing meal when not Restaurant Week, an amazing meal at a better value when it is Restaurant Week.  The up-charges are worth it for their (famous?) uni bucatini and the short rib for two.  I do not know how you cold possibly leave disappointed from all’onda.
  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. Bar Primi: Restaurant Week offers a great way to try this great restaurant.  They RW menu offered a great sampling of what the restaurant has to offer and felt like a great value for the quality of food. If you need an excuse to try this Caramellini favorite, let Restaurant Week be it!
  5. The National:  Chef Geoffrey Zakarian opened a restaurant that lives up to his impressively amazing looking television cooking.  The Restaurant Week menu here is one of the best with great dishes throughout. I would just be sure to add the delicious brussels sprouts to your order!
  6. Cafe Boulud: This was just barely edged out by the top restaurants. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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
  9. General Assembly: A great choice for non-Restaurant Week that I keep recommending as a crowd favorite, an even better selection for Restaurant Week since you can sample the menu without spending too much money. Just be sure to add the side of corn creme brulee to your order!
  10. 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.
  11. Ai Fiori: They only participate in lunch, but it’s a very nice menu with some hits (the skate) and some misses (the terrine).  The skate alone was good enough to recommend despite the so-so terrine app.
  12. Butter (the original):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. We tried Butter Midtown but didn’t manage to reserve on the right day for Restaurant Week. Our first meal was fair but latter ones were better!

Average RW Noms (I’d probably go back and try them again, but they weren’t special enough to hit the list above):

  • Kutsher’s TriBeCa: This was a tough choice about making into the top category.  The only reason it’s here is because the meals above were just that good.  Restaurant Week is a very good way to try this restaurant, but I’d probably go for their regular menu just as easily.
  • City Hall: The food was quite tasty and it’s nice to be able to enjoy a meal at a classic New York establishment at Restaurant Week Prices without feeling like you’re getting Restaurant Week quality service and food, which is typically lackluster. I thought they put some creative dishes on the Restaurant Week menu (besides the usual chicken, fish, or meat selection that most have) and that we really got a taste for what’s on their regular menu.
  • 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
  • Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza: This meal was good but there were a number of executional problems with the dishes and service. The menu is VERY limiting in comparison to the huge menu (that has many different stations), so you can’t truly enjoy what makes this a “Food Hall.”  I would probably not bother with Restaurant Week here and just go and get whatever you want off their regular menu.
  • 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)
  • Bread & Tulips: Everything was just fairly average.  The desserts were especially sub-par.  Passably good but just not good enough.
  • Pera: Very average. I didn’t feel like the food was anything outstanding but this place is always hopping and is convenient to Grand Central.  Probably no need to wait for Restaurant Week if this falls into a convenient meeting location to get a solid meal.
  • L’Ecole: This was very hit or miss. Amazing appetizers followed by a total let-down for the entrees and so-so desserts. They also billed their lobster as the “Rolls-Royce” of lobsters and it was one of the worst I’ve had.  And from our experience, don’t bother with the wine pairing.
  • 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.
  • Asellina: Total average in every way.  Standard food that was good but not great.  A solid choice but not a top one.
  • Blue Smoke: A great meal, as always, but it’s reasonable enough to go anytime rather than making a special Restaurant Week reservation to check it out.
  • 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):

  • Villard Michel Richard: After a fantastic dessert tasting in Chef Richard’s new bakery shop (Pomme Palais), we were curious to try the restaurants in the same hotel, but scathing reviews had us tentative to try at full price. Restaurant Week proved the perfect excuse to check it out, and it proved all those reviews absolutely right.
  • 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?


nom-icon with site

Delmonico’s Kitchen in Midtown

12 Dec

The original Delmonico’s is a New York institution and has been around for nearly 200 years.  I’ve been reading a very interesting, but very long book, called Appetite City and they have an entire (very fascinating) chapter dedicated to the history of the restaurant. When Delmonico’s first opened, there weren’t fine dining options in the city.  People were fed what was being served at inns, rather than being able to order their own food. So two brothers came together to offer New York City diners a menu, tablecloths, and food from a real “chef.”  The restaurant is famous for inventing some dishes we still eat (and love) today, such as Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, and Lobster Newburg.

We ate at the original for Restaurant Week a few years ago, and we were a bit underwhelmed.

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About a year ago, they opened up a midtown location called Delmonico’s Kitchen, just a few short blocks from where we live. We had been meaning to try it for a long time, however, we finally got there a few weeks ago to check it out. The restaurant had about a 20 minute wait on this Friday night, but there were seats available at the bar with the full menu, so we went for it.

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The bread basket they served had a very nice selection, with a few warm items and pink salted butter.

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I went with the boneless slow cooked short ribs with “baby spinach, sweet potato hash, red wine natural.”  I love short ribs, however, I was shocked at just how big this cut of short rib was.  It was more like a big piece of brisket with the taste of succulent, sweet short ribs. I absolutely loved this dish.  I did the happy belly dance while taking down half of the portion (and sharing with Mike) and took the rest home for an amazing short rib and egg breakfast the next day.

The sauce was rich but not overpowering and the meat had a great flavor.  The hash underneath somehow didn’t get the least bit soggy and maintained all the great flavors of each veggie.  Really fantastic.

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Mike went with the DK Double Burger which was described as “Our prime burger blend continues the legacy that began in 1837 when America’s first hamburger was served at Delmonico’s.”  How can a burger lover such as Mike not try America’s first hamburger?

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And it was a doozy.  At least 6 inches stacked high.

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I had no idea how Mike would manage to take a bit out of this, but he prevailed!

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And it was a really fantastic burger.  With a stack that high, one might expect it would all become a scrambled mess, but instead the thin burger bun was a great conduit for the flavorful, well charred meat and the collection of cheese and burger toppings.  Great burger. And the fries were pretty damn good too.

By taking back leftovers, we scraped up enough room to try dessert.  It all sounded great, but Delmonico’s is known for their Baked Alaska, so we decided to try their midtown version.

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This was a beautiful piece of art.

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Lovely cherry and chocolate ice cream inside on a chocolate cake/crust base, covered in marshmallowy soft meringue and browned ever so slightly on the outside.

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A beautiful, tasty, and decadent dessert.  It felt special.

The whole meal really felt special.  Those short ribs were some of the best I’ve had and I am sure we will be returning with guests as the weather grows colder and we stay closer to home.  Glad to have this in the neighborhood.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Wrap Up: NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2009

3 Aug

Restaurant Week is something I do look forward to, even if we have a love/hate relationship.  I understand that many restaurants hate it because it forces them to serve sub-quality food to, what I have heard us being referred to as, “riff-raff.”  (Nice).  Now while I understand 3 courses for $35 ($24.07 for lunch) means that the ingredient cost usually outweigh the profit, however, I know I have proved many times that I can cook a damn good meal for less than $35 per plate (Hell! Less than $20 per plate!)  I also always buy a bottle of wine (usually one more expensive than I would otherwise) and if I get to sample a meal that is outrageous, I will go back, and probably bring my reps with expense accounts.  Now I know some people will go there, be rude, take up tables, not tip well, and probably never come back… but for those of us who can’t afford the BEST meals in the city every day, it’s a nice treat to get to sample for an affordable price. 

I try to do some research before I make the reservations to make sure that I go to the places that have already been tasted and approved by fellow food lovers.  I’m not overly concerned with size of portion (I could use a little portion control anyway!) however, I want to have food that is delicious and a reasonable selection of what’s actually on the menu.  This year my Restaurant Week research informed me that the two places (that had openings) we wanted to try were Delmonico’s and Aquavit

Our first stop was Delmonico’s on a Thursday evening (65 Beaver Street at the corner of William).  I usually don’t travel much to the Financial District, and I think I’m always pleasantly surprised when it takes me less than 20 minutes from Times Square (my office) to get there.  It was pouring, but the glow of the NYC rainy streets and the umbrellas gave the great restaurant entrance an old New York feel, which was quite appropriate.  (Turns out Delmonico’s has been around since the 1820s).

The restaurant itself was beautiful inside.  The first thing I noticed on the wine menu was that they had a Vouvray (by the glass).  My favorite wine in the world is a Vouvray (first tasted on Valentine’s Day 2008, and always proves very hard to find).  This one did not disappoint, but it wasn’t quite the amazing Domaine Du Viking 1999/2000 I have fallen in love with.  I was still thrilled to have it though!

I had a toss up on the appetizer selection as there was a pasta with artichokes listed, however, I went with the lobster bisque, since it’s something I don’t eat very often.  This one was great, though not in the top 5 (maybe even top 10) in my honest opinion.

Mike went with the iceburg wedge and the blue cheese was exceptional.

Mike and I both ordered the fillet that billed itself as “served with accompaniments.”  This turned out to be 3 strips of root veggies and 3 string beans and a pile of mashed potatoes.  Now there was nothing really wrong with the entree, however, it just wasn’t what I thought it would be.  The presentation reminded me of a wedding, and I just couldn’t get that association out of my head.  The potatoes were just okay and the 6 slices of veggies seemed very sparse and bland (especially seeing as though veggies are typically a thing restaurants can doll up inexpensively to make the plates look better for restaurant week).  The meat was good, but not exceptional.  I had no “wow” moments at all.

Until dessert…  and even then it was only a mini wow.  I should have gone with my gut and tried the Baked Alaska on the regular menu, however, I was quite pleased with what we did get.  I believe mine was called a “Yankee Doodle” Cake and resembled a homemade hostess cake with a rich chocolate outside and drizzled with caramel.  It was good, but forgettable.

Mike had a panna cotta parfait.  The blueberries smelled heavenly, but the parfait itself was somehow lacking to me.

One other thing of note: The service was so quick that it honestly felt rushed.  I couldn’t imagine that they can cook fillets made to order in under 15 minutes, however, I’m pretty sure that’s about how long it took to get through the app and then immediately be served the steaks. I love good service, but this was so quick I hardly had time to sip my wine between courses. Also, the restaurant was not full (and I noticed those around us ordered off the Restaurant Week menu as well, so they may not have even been there at all otherwise).

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10


Our next restaurant week stop was Aquavit Cafe (aka AQ Cafe) which is the more “casual” version of Aquavit Dining Room (we tried for the dining room but they didn’t have an open reservation.).    AQ Cafe is located at 65 E. 55th Street between Madison and Park Aves.  Aquavit came as a recommendation from the incomparable Lori (a fellow food lover and blogger), who went there for Restaurant Week this past winter.  The restaurant’s chef is Marcus Samuelson. 

I liked that rather than the usual bread, we were started with popcorn that had fresh shaved parmesan and what I think was dill on it.  Unfortunately, the popcorn tasted as though it had sat out in a humid room for a bit, but I love popcorn even when it’s stale, and the cheese really was delish on top.

We decided to try the flights of Aquavit.  I’m not a fan of vodka nor licorice (two comparisons I’ve heard to the taste), however, since it was the namesake of the restaurant, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

We each picked three.  I went with Blueberry & Elderflower, Coconut & Espresso, and the Lingonberry sampler.  Mike chose Fig & Cardamon, Pear Vanilla & Black Pepper, and Pineapple & Thai Basil.  I definitely chose the winning flight, as I thought all three of mine were better than all three of his.  The ultimate winner, however, was the Coconut & Espresso, which would probably be the only one I’d reorder.  Overall, I think Aquavit just isn’t for me, but it sure looked pretty:

I started with the Herring Plate.  It was really great, and each piece of herring was either in a different sauce or had a different topping.  I’m still not sure what all of them were, except I can guess that one was roe, one was something sweet and fruity (pear maybe), and one was scallions. The fourth one I was clueless about, but I enjoyed.  I would have liked a little information on what I was eating exactly, but it didn’t deter from my enjoyment.

Mike ordered the chilled corn soup with smoked salmon and beets.  He had never had cold soup before and this was an instant turn-off for him.  Personally, I like cold soup, although this one could have benefited from a bit more flavor.

I went with the exact same entree I got as Smorgas Chef a few weeks ago (I heard that branch is now closed!) except this one was hands down better in every way.  The potatoes were more potato-y, the lingonberries were perfectly sweet, and the meat balls had a perfect flavor and were even more tender.  Not to say that Smorgas Chef wasn’t good, but it was too easy to see a difference since it was so recent.

Mike went with the Herb Roasted Chicken with green beans, corn, and mushrooms.  The corn mush on the bottom was yummy, but the chicken was a bit too dry and flavorless.  Surprising.

Desserts stood out bar none. I had the chocolate mousse with peanut powder and grape sorbet.  I wanted to lick the plate.  There was something a bit off with the texture on the bottom of the mousse, but I value taste more than texture.

Mike’s dessert was even better.  He got the “Arctic Circle” which was a goat cheese parfait, passion fruit curd, and blueberry sorbet.  The whole thing was great, but the sorbet was sensational.

The service here was quick but didn’t feel rushed.  I liked the atmosphere as it was open without being load and nicely decorated.  The idea of specialty flights of aquavit was also quite nice.  The entrees were very variable for us, and I would probably award a 7 to mine and a 6 to Mike’s, however, the desserts pushed this one out in front.

Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10