Tag Archives: olives

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

il Buco

5 Sep

One problem with having a destination wedding at the end of a school year is that sometimes some of your favorite people just can’t make it. Such was the case of my cousins (technically, my dad’s cousins, but we’re all just one big… really big… happy family).  So upon arriving back in NYC, they offered to take us out to a meal.  And that is how we found ourselves at il Buco.


I know I had heard many people speak highly of il Buco, but it just somehow never made it on the list of places to go.  I was very glad that my cousins changed that.

The decoration inside is like an eclectic French country farm house that got taken over by a whimsical decorator who enjoyed making lamps  look like octopus with tea pots on the end.




(Apologies in advance for the dark photos.  Turns out, octopus tea kettle lamps do not bring in as much light as my camera would prefer.)


We split a whole bunch of apps.

We started with the special bread and olive oil and the dish of olives.  Both were really way above average.  The olive oil had an amazing grassy/woody flavor and the bread was a great combination of crispy crust with fluffy interior. And the olives were probably the best I’ve ever had. Really flavorful.

For plated apps, we tried the Ricotta, which was house made ricotta with Battenkill Farm milk, stonefruit, fennel, hazelnuts, and Catskill honey. I loved the way the honey balanced the stonefruit which balanced the cheese.  And the fennel really worked with this dish to further balance out the flavors.


We also split the Insalata di Zucchini with shaved Bodhitree Farm’s summer squash, purslane, toasted almonds, pecorino Sarde, and mint.  Fresh and delicious.  Loved the mint and toasted almonds complimenting the squash. (This made me want to add mint to all my salads)


FourSquare tips mentioned enjoying the Cavolonero which was Tuscan black kale, garlic-anchovy-lemon vinaigrette, filone croutons, and parmigiano reggiano.  Awesome.  I am usually only a fan of kale when it’s roasted, but this was in its raw form and it was just brought to life with the vinaigrette and the cheese.


We each got our own entrees, but we certainly passed them around for sampling.

One person got the fish.  This was perfectly cooked.


Someone else got the macaroni. I couldn’t try it due to peppers, but she really enjoyed her dish (as did everyone else that tried it).


Mike got the Porchetta with Flying Pigs Farms heritage pork, Umbrian lentils, swiss chard, and grain mustard. I think it also had some chicharones.  The pork itself was packed with flavor and had great pieces of fatty meat with a good sear.  The potatoes were also crispy and well seasoned.


I got the Papparadelle which was house made egg pasta ribbons and green and yellow summer squash. I loved loved loved this dish.  It tasted like summer. Fresh and light but totally satisfying. It seemed too simple: Pasta, squash, cheese.  But it all came together in a really nice, full flavor.


One highlight of the night was letting my cousin order the wines.  Boy was this a treat!  We tried a few superstars including this gem from 1986.


Pretty sure this is the oldest bottle of wine I’ve ever had. And it was sooooo good.


For dessert we tried a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of caramel gelato. These had such intense, wonderful flavors.  That chocolate was packed with flavor.  Wow.



We also got the Torta di Cioccolato which was flourless chocolate cake, espresso caramel mousse, and candied walnuts. This was so rich and so chocolatey. Reminded me of the desserts my great grandmother made from Europe.


I orered the Panna Cotta all’ Aceto Balsamico which was described as “cooked cream” drizzled with 10-year balsamic vinegar.  The panna cotta itself was really flavorful, but the balsamic really put it over the top. It was rich and sweet and had just enough tang to balance the cream.


This was a fantastic meal, start to finish.  All the food tasted incredibly special, unique, and really above the norm.  I was not expecting to enjoy this meal as much as I did, but now I see why people absolutely love this place.

There was, however, one issue…

The service.

Our waitress made it feel like we were inconveniencing her by simply being there.  As if her job was slave labor and we were there to enforce her brutality. She actually rolled her eyes, on multiple occasions when we asked questions or asked for refills like water or bread.  At one point we asked for the sommelier to come over so we could have wine… with our dinner… novel concept I know. She rolled her eyes, again, and then proceeded to not send him over and finally sent a busser (I think) to take the order instead. This was after we were almost all the way through our dinner. She came over to tell us that the sommelier had been busy, as if we had asked if she could please bring over the President of the United States.  I thought maybe she was coming to say “Sorry he is busy and we didn’t get you wine for your dinners.” Not even close.

It was one of the most ridiculous services I’ve ever seen.

It certainly shouldn’t have happened. It really sours an excellent meal when the person whose job it is to be your waitress makes you feel like you are torturing her.

It’s a shame, because despite the service, this restaurant was damn near flawless.

Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10 (One full point deduction for the awful service)

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Saxon + Parole: Just a nibble

10 Jan

I met Chef Bill for a quick catch up about opening his new restaurant, The Keys, over drinks and nibbles at Saxon + Parole.  He wanted to go there due to their focus on fresh ingredients and molecular gastronomy inspired cocktails.

We each got a very, very good cocktail and decided to order some charcuterie. We went with the “A bit of everything”: Cured pork, chicken liver pot, terrine, cheese, olives & pickles for $29.  This was sensational.  Absolutely sensational.

The chicken liver pot may have been the best I have ever had. The rich liver was perfectly cut with a sweet and salty top.  Fantastic. And each meat and cheese was a perfect pick.  I really, really enjoyed this plate.

Import December 2012 iPhone 603

I really look forward to going back and trying more soon!