Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Restaurant Week: A Recap

As I've mentioned before, I love NYC Restaurant Week the way a 5 year old loves a trip to Disney World. As soon as the restaurants are announced on nycgo, I go into a frenzy of menu-reading, Open Table reservation-making & emailing friends to invite them to join. I changed a few of the reservations I had initially made for Restaurant Week (had to cancel Primehouse & Nobu), and here is where I eventually landed:

1. BONDST to celebrate my birthday with Lauren & Jill
2. Riverpark with Patrick & 2 other couples
3. Mercer Kitchen with some more of the girls

BONDST is a constant favorite of mine during Restaurant Week and, to be honest, every other week of the year. The vibe is sexy, the food is incredible & the drinks are delicious. For my meal, I chose the Tofu Miso Soup, the Salmon Avocado & Spicy Tuna Rolls, and the New York Strip Steak with Caramelized Shallot Teriyaki & 12-year-old Balsamic. Every dish also comes with Spicy Crispy Shrimp, Age Dashi Tofu and a Steamed Chicken Dumpling. For dessert, I had the Ricotta Cup.The flavor of the Miso Soup was rich, the rolls were the perfect ratio of rice to fish and were incredibly fresh and the steak was a medium-rare masterpiece. Tender, juicy and packed with flavor, I savored every bite of the meat. The 3 accompanying sides were also delicious, each bite was a bold new flavor. And yes, I even enjoyed my dessert, the savory (not sweet at all) Ricotta Cup.

Riverpark has been on my "must try" list as soon as I first heard about its opening last September. Tom Colicchio is my favorite chef, and since I can't quite afford to dine at Tom Tuesday Dinner (yet!), I've been dying to go. I made a 6-person reservation and drooled over the menu for the weeks leading up to it. When Patrick and I got in a cab and told them "take us as far east across 29th street as possible," we knew this place wouldn't be easy to find. And boy were we right! After wandering around lost for about 10 minutes along the FDR, we ran into 2 of our friends who were just getting out of their cab and were as lost as we were. Together, we investigated the building and finally found a security guard to ask where to go. But, let me tell you this: don't let the location turn you off. This restaurant has both a beautiful decor and delicious food. I ordered the Cavatelli, Lamb & Mint dish for an Appetizer, the Roasted Chicken with Sunchokes as my Entree and the Cinnamon Pana Cotta with Pumpkin Cake for Dessert.The pasta dish was outstanding, the combination of lamb & mint reminded me of a great rack of lamb with mint jelly and the pasta was perfectly al dente. My roasted chicken was juicy and tender and had a delicious crispy skin. While the Panna Cotta was just okay, I think I just don't like Panna Cotta. I'd never had it before, and I just didn't enjoy the texture or the flavor of the dish. Lesson learned.

Finally, Mercer Kitchen. Deep in the heart of Soho, the atmosphere here is similar to BONDST. A hip lounge with food from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, any restaurant in NYC that's been around since 1998 must be doing something right. The 6 of us arrived early for our 8:30 reservation, and we weren't shown to our table until close to 9:30. The staff offered absolutely no apology, but we did get a nice corner table in the busy restaurant. For this meal, I decided not to order from the Restaurant Week menu because I'd had my share of desserts for the week. I ordered the Pizza Bianco (4 cheese & garlic, hold the red onions) as my Appetizer & the Breast and Confit of Duck with rhubarb, preserved lemon and wild rice as my Entree.I love a good white pizza, and this one was fantastic! The crust was both chewy & crunchy and the cheeses oozed with olive oil & garlic. I didn't want the dish to end! And then when I thought I couldn't be happier with my selection, my Duck came out and I was first surprised at how much food was on the plate. When I bit into the Confit, it was incredibly tender and full of hearty flavor. The Breast of Duck was medium rare, just how I like most of my meat cooked, and the juice from the duck spread out over the plate when I cut into it. It was moist, well- seasoned and practically fell apart in my mouth. I wanted to lick my plate clean, and I wasn't even a little bit jealous when some of the other girls ordered dessert. The service was lacking at Mercer Kitchen, but the food was not.

Now that Winter Restaurant Week has been extended until the end of the month, I may try to visit a few more spots, but overall, I'm very happy with the restaurants I visited this time around. Until Summer Restaurant Week!

What restaurants did you try, in NYC or any other city you may live in? Any suggestions of places I just HAVE to try? I'd highly recommend all 3 places I went, but beware of the bad service at Mercer Kitchen.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

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