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Jun 19, 2000 05:45 PM

The best and worst of restaurant week

  • c

I cant wait to hear the ups and downs for everyone...please respond

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  1. Lunched at Felidia today. We were very happy with it-- it was a bit rushed, but for those low-rent seats, I can't complain-- and that's my only complaint. Started with gemelli all'amatriciana-- delicious enriched with a tad of cream (I know it as an unadulturated tomato sauce) and particularly flavorful pancetta, and tomato soup (can't think of the name of it), served room temp, rich with wonderful depth of flavor. Next we had beef cheeks in port wine on spinach (excellent: meat was sweet and meltingly tender, spinach was delicate, perfectly cooked and had something like breadcrumbs in it) and calamari in balsamic sauce on panzanella (again, great: tender calamari, perfectly complemented by the sauce, panzanella was a good counterbalance). Finished with white peach sorbet in (honeydew) melon soup (sorbet a tad oversweet, but intense peach flavor) and panna cotta with strawberries (self-explanatory and well-made), with coffee or tea.

    This was all rich food and the portions were perfect-- not too big, but because of the richness, I felt sated but not stuffed.

    I'd go again, if I could get a reservation...

    12 Replies
    1. re: Barb. H.

      Just waltzed in from Gramercy Tavern, which offers three courses for the $20 this week only. And I'm afraid it's sold out, but you might just show up and be very nice (the table for two next to ours was empty for an hour).

      I think Tom Colicchio is the best chef in his league, even better than Jean Georges, Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, and a lot less trouble than David Bouley. I tucked into "Home Made Bacon," a fat wedge of belly braised in heavenly aromatics, served with nice, slippery salsify and earthy morels. Then hanger steak, sliced on the bias, with a little puddle of béarnaise, a perfect russett potato gratin from an inverted timbale, and haricots verts with caramelized pearl onions.

      Claudia Fleming (who has a cookbook coming very soon, co-authored with NYTimes's Melissa Clark, a very nice woman indeed) is still making the best sorbets in town. But get her incomparable coconut tapioca, which comes with coconut and passion fruit sorbets and a lemon tuile, and you'll simply never be the same.

      I really think this is Danny Meyer's best effort of the four, and it just keeps getting better.

      1. re: Tom

        I was traumatized after the little melee about the halilbut with pork and young ginger. Not sure what the current menus are like. anyone been to either/both of these restaurants latelyand willing to compare?

        for the record: who has tried the salt baked salmon at GT? I don't generally like salmon if it's fishy or too cooked. is it any good here?

        1. re: david

          since no one replied to me i have to reply to myself, because last night i had dinner at gramercy tavern. The food here, as always (for me) was good, but uneven, rarely very good or great, but i left happy. there's something about this place you gotta love.

          We opted for the tasting menu, though i don't eat meat so the waiter allowed us to combine several options from the summer tasting and vegetable tasting (charged for the former). Strated off with a fresh tasting but somewhat flavorless tuna sashimi, which was more like a tartare with "zucchini confit" (read: zucchini dice) lemon confit, tomato sorbet and some lovely pungent herb i couldn't identify. didn't work for me. Next came scallop with chanterelles, pease, chard and scallop roe, which was the consistancy of a large mussel but tasted like liver -- not for me. The scallop was decent but nothing fab. Then things starte dto look up. Turbot with gooseberries, beets and sugar snap peas was an excellent summer dish. Sweet tart and unctuous, it was lovely. Then a dip down -- potato tortellini with sweet corn and summer truffle -- which was really three ravioli, not tortellini, in a creamed corn-esque broth with two small shavings of black truffle that may s well have been pencils shavings they were so flavorless. Or maybe it's me because i've never felt i understood the lure of black truffles -- the aromic pungency of white truffles is unbeatable and to me, has nothing to do with these flavorless tubers. could someone let me know if i just haven't had a good black truffle, or what? Regardless the dish was ok. I could have easily done better. And i kept thinking back at a meal i had at the -- perhaps less innovative duane park cafe -- but god, the food was fabulous, and a third of the price of GT. But regardless: Finished off the savory dishes with a fairly extraordinary wild mushroom tart tatin with mushroom cappucino. This was clearly the ecclesiastical moment of the meal -- divine and not to be missed. Negotiate for it chowhounds!

          desserts were uniformly very good as always. the hocolate tating was fine and we asked for the peach tart tatin as well -- which they comped -- very nice.

          Overall it was a good, not sublime, and somewhat uneven experience. in retrospect i'm thinking i should have stuck with the prix fixe -- any thoughts on this?

          1. re: David

            I've only been twice, but I also found Grammercy Tavern good but not great, especially considering the price. And some of the portions were sort of puny. Did love the mini chocolate malted, though. (The only thing I remember of the two meals.)

            I agree that Duane Park Cafe is an incredible value.

            1. re: Lisa Z
              Adam Stephanides

              I just had dinner at Duane Park Cafe, and I was disappointed. My appetizer was a special: gorgonzola-stuffed grilled figs with prosciutto. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly good either. The main course was the seared duck breast, which was very good, less fatty and more flavorful than duck usually is; but the "spring onion and duck confit strudel" which accompanied it was pretty flavorless. For dessert, I had the plum and walnut crisp with vanilla ice cream; the plums were too sour, and dominated the dish. I preferred even the worse of my two meals at Gramercy Tavern.

              It's not that cheap, either. My dinner was $42, not counting drink, tax, or tip. At Gramercy Tavern, iirc, the prix-fixe is $62 for appetizer, entree, and dessert, again not counting tax or tip; more expensive, but not wildly so. (Of course, if you order the tasting menu it costs more.)


              1. re: Adam Stephanides

                A couple of weeks ago I had dinner in the tavern room at Gramercy Tavern on a Sunday night and I (not the most experienced expensive-restaurant diner, but a very fussy eater nonetheless) thought it was a sublime meal. We started off with some oysters, which were just good, then appetizers: I had grilled sardines over tomato panzanella: the sardines were the best I've ever had, sublimely fresh and strong, the panzanella was a bit mysterious but tasty; my companion had something with figs, arugula, blue cheese, and pancetta; it was complicated but really worked. His entree was cod over ratatouille, the ratatouille was very smoky tasting and utterly delicious, the cod more flavorful than some fancy restaurant cod I've had (e.g. at Savoy on Prince a year ago); I had the salmon, perhaps something someone else was wondering about, with southern-style greens and cornbread: the greens compared favorably with those I had at Magnolia Grill in Durham, which were mindblowing, the salmon was truly delicious, cornbread just good. One of those rare cases where the entrees were just as good and satisfying as the appetizers. I had cheese instead of dessert, which might have been a mistake (too heavy, some very good ones but one a bit boring), my companion had something involving blueberries and fresh corn that was good enough to make us both laugh out loud.

                But the best part was the service: solicitous, extremely professional, yet unpretentious; when I asked the waiter to recommend a white wine by the glass to go with my sardines, he gave me a tasting of four wines, and his recommendation of a Tokay was the one I chose. He was also very helpful, and gave good advice, when questioned about my choice of entree, cheeses, and a glass of desert wine (my companion didn't want to drink very much, so I ordered a different glass of wine to go with each course).

                Best of all: the bill. $140 for everything, including a 25% tip (which was really not enough for such stellar service, but for me this was a mega splurge).

                Maybe the main dining room is not the place to eat.

                1. re: Megan
                  Dave Feldman

                  It might be a tad more formal, but the staff is just as warm and helpful in the main dining room. I have yetto meet a single employee at GT who was anything less than terrific. But the Tavern is somehow more fun.

                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                    Gramercy Tavern (after its first rather jittery year) is my favorite restaurant. Period. I have never had anything less than a great meal, dish by dish, there, in the tavern or (when I can afford it) the dining room. Both chef Tom Colicchio and pastry chef Claudia Fleming have cookbooks coming out this fall/spring (respectively), and although it's a bit silly to imagine recreating that kind of cooking at home, YOU CAN SURE AS HELL TRY! If I were told that I would never again taste Fleming's coconut tapioca or Colicchio's--anything--I'd probably have some sort of stroke.

                    And yes, the staff is extraordinary. One waiter actually became a friend! And that has NEVER happened to me, friendly fellow that I am.

            2. re: David

              Right on. Gramercy Tavern exemplifies what is generally disappointing in high end NYC dining. There is a troubling inconsistency from dish to dish and from occasion to occasion. One wonders how much time the chef really spends at the restaurant. Even though individual dishes may be creative, there is no overall sense of grounding, or any unifying conception, which comes across to me as a lack of soul. I do agree though that the deserts are always exceptional, perhaps the best in the city.

              1. re: David
                Adam Stephanides

                I've eaten at GT twice. The first time, I had whatever non-vegetable tasting menu they were serving at the time, and I loved it. I remember having the turbot you mentioned, and it was excellent. The second time, just a couple of weeks ago, I had the vegetable tasting menu, which I did find disappointing. I'd had wonderful fresh vegetables at Jean Georges, and I was hoping to repeat the experience. But for the most part these were just, well, vegetables, and not special or exciting. I did like the potato agnolotti (or something similar), as they were called on my menu, which you disliked; and I also loved the caramelized wild mushroom tart tatin.


          2. re: Barb. H.

            I had the $20 lunch at Felidia, and beg to differ. The food was merely good, not great, and the portions were quite small, so it was good I wasn't too hungry. The tomato soup was really a good tomato sauce served in a tiny cup as far as I was concerned - definitely not a primo piato, just an appetizer masquerading as one. I'm trying to remember what my main dish was and find it difficult to recall it, not such a good sign considering how relatively recently I had the meal. The dessert, a light (though of course high-calorie) panna cotta with strawberry sorbet and mint leaves was delicious, though my companions' honeydew soup with sorbet was better, probably the only outstanding thing we had there.

            On the whole, I have had better meals at Sapore, Greenwich Av. and Perry St., where I seldom pay much more than $20 for DINNER and the portions are large. There's something to be said for consistency.

            I really don't want to harshly judge a place based on a sort of "teaser," but I think it's fair to say that none of our party of 4 are tempted to go back and pay a lot of money for their regular-priced meals.

            1. re: Michael

              Our tomato soup definitely came in a bowl. It was an adequate portion, not a teaser. And my main course (beef cheeks) was anything *but* forgettable. We went on Monday-- maybe they made some changes later in the week? I'm not sure I'd go back and pay their regular prices, but I was very happy with my lunch.

          3. I ate lunch at Nobu today. It was delicious. And an excellent deal for lunch, whether or not you stick to the $20 prix fixe. For 3 of us, the bill was $68 (not including tip). I had a tremendous bowl of tempura udon and a few pieces of sushi. The tempura udon was only $11.

            Nobu offers the $20 3-course deal throughout the year and I would highly recommend taking advantage of it.

            1. I had lunch at Lutece today for the first time and i was very yummy. They offered a cucumber soup plus three courses. I had greens and porcini mushrooms to start and then a delicious roast chicken in a chicken stock sauce with rabe and spinach on the side. Lastly I had the rhubarb dessert which was very refreshing. The service was great too. A bargain at $20!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Rich

                I had the $20 at Lutèce too. I haven't been since the old André Soltner days. It was actually very pleasant--they put us upstairs, but on the balcony bit overlooking the downstairs, so it didn't feel claustrophobic. the waiters were lovely old French geezers. The cucumber vichyssoise was delish, the hors d'oeuvre nice though not devastatingly memorable. the roast chicken was okay--it felt rather more baked than roast, though. mousse au champagne for dessert, delightful. all in all, not mindblowing, but a very decent twenty bucks' worth.

              2. We made June 23rd reservations for Sushisay's $20 prix fixe Restaurant Week lunch. We confirmed this on the morning of June 23. After we had arrived and been served beverages, we asked to see the prix fixe menu. The maitre d'/manager told us we could not have it unless it was so noted on her reservation sheet. Inexplicably it had not been properly entered in her book. She said we could order from the regular menu or leave. Time was of essence so we reluctantly stayed. Of the other reservations made during that week, Sushisay was the only one that did not honor the offer. We will never return to Sushisay or recommend this place to our friends and colleagues. This was a classic case of bait-and-switch with a huge dose of arrogance. I assume restaurants voluntarily participate in Restaurant Week. If a business feels it is not economical or diminishes its image, it should not participate in Restaurant Week. To do so but not honor the offer tarnishes the entire program.

                3 Replies
                1. re: a louie

                  That is really too bad. I'm sorry that happened to you, and I'm even sorrier that it happened at Sushisay, which is, in my opinion, the best sushi restaurant in midtown.

                  Perhaps it was a bait and switch operation, but maybe it was also a way of making sure that people don't make a reservation for a normal lunch after all the $20 lunches are gone and then claim they booked a $20 lunch. I agree that they should have been more flexible about the whole matter, though.

                  1. re: Beth

                    I maintain it was bait-and-switch. Food aside, I refuse to patronize Sushisay as long as they have a maitre d' who treats patrons with such overt insolence. It taints the entire dining experience. If I had just wanted food, I would have ordered take-out.

                    As a comparison, we also dined at Patria & Eleven Madison Park that same week. Both served extraordinary innovative cuisine. Their service was impeccable--attentive but not intrusive. Moreover the maitre d' at each courteously honored our reservations to the letter. We shall return to and recommend both.

                  2. re: a louie

                    The same experience happen to us at Fresco's I would not go there again either.