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:
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)