Restaurant Week Reviews: Le Cirque (L), Bolo (D), and Aquavit (L)
Le Cirque (lunch) : Went with a girlfriend to lunch at this very establishment, haute French restaurant, rather expecting to be treated like a 2nd class citizen. I was proved wrong. Flawless service, and one of the managers stopped by to make sure we were enjoying our meal and discuss how they find their kitchen staff. (i also enjoyed watching the owner at the bar in lavendar sunglasses and a matching tie ; ) Food: perfectly done, traditional. Shrimp appetizer in lemongrass broth was fine, not outstanding. The ginger chicken I had next was cooked to perfection, like roast chicken you would be served in Paris. Not very gingery, just succulent with spring vegitable (peas, chantrelles, asparagus tips, etc) au jus and rice pilaf. My friend's salmon wasn't quite as awesome, but again prefectly cooked. She had a nice (if liquidy) creme brule, while I enjoyed the pistachio apricot tart with pistchio ice cream. The flavor of the apricot was so strong (almost sharp) on this one, that the psitchio really balanced it out well. I personally like that it was not overly sweet, but my friend thought it was a bit much. Of course, the scene was either an older set, or, worst of all, a tour bus of retirees (luckily they were discretely tucked away in a seperate room). The setting, table, service, all excellent.
Bolo (dinner) : Compared to the setting, table and sevice or Le Cirque, decidedly inferior. A friend really wanted to go to "a Bobby Flay restaurant." I would not consider it worth the full price. However, my meal meal was certainly worht restaurant week prices. I was impressed by the seasoning of the salmon tartare on the fried polenta cake, nicely done, good texture. The seared scallops on fava beans i had as my main course were fine, as was the lemon panna cotta that followed. Hoexever, niehter the chopped salad or the white gazpacho were particulary good. the salad was unimaginative, and the white gazpacho (creme based with bread and grapes) not quite right. perhasp merely because I love traditional gazpacho, but even so i felt it was not quite right. They both had the rissotto--low point of the meal. the consistancy--usually the tricky part--was just right, but it was bland. Unpardonably bland. After adding salt and pepper, it was just ok. THe chocolate cake with apricots they had next was good (and huge!).
Aquavit (lunch) : Although this place is upscale, it feels relaxed with the clean lined, simple modern decor. The service was friendly, prompt and helpful (even if not the well-oiled machine of LeCirque). But what suprised me was the authenticity and excellence of the food! Although I won't be telling my grandmother in Stockholm this, thier herring was--gasp--better. I began with the herring sampler, and a typical tray came out with plain, mustard, and creme. These 3 were very nicely done and in addition there was one served in a white sauce with fish roe that was the best I've ever had. Herring was served with a prefectly cooked potato and Swedish cheese that I can't remember the name of. I also enojyed the knika (sp) bread. Its a Swedish rye crispbread that I've grown up with, and I was so pleased to see it served here. The dill butter was a nice complement (although put on table cold, which I never understand b/c obviously then you can't spread it?). Had the meatballs as my main, served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries and pickles. Meatballs were good, but then, meatballs are always good. Lingonberries had been prepared in a high-quality way that doesn't actually break the surface of the berry while stirring in the sugar--not just the lingonberry sauce I make. (if anyone knows why the lingonberries in recent years are smaller in size, I'd be quite intrigued. I was confused by the smallness of the ones I had for lunch and mentioned it to my mother. She just got back from visiting family 2 days ago and had noticed it herself. wierd) Now please note that I mentioned it came with pickles. A pickle, in this case, is not just a pickle. Its thinly sliced in a different type of brine than those in America, and is much tastier. To top of this series of treats, I had the Artic Circle for desert. Apparently, its famous, but I didn't know this and was just intrigued by the description (goat cheese parfait with bluberry sorbet and passion fruit curd). WOW! Any ideas on how to make a goat cheese parfait? my mother suggested mixing with marscopone? I don't know, but the combo worked. It was pretty awesome. I don't think my lunch buddies were as wowed by the lunch as I was (I mean, not everyone can be that into herring), but Aquavit does a very nice job with Scandanavian cuisine with no pretensions about it.
So those are my lonwinding descriptions. Sigh, almost as good as eating them again. I'd love to hear any other restaurant week reviews, etc.
Those in-the-know know that you can have those delicious meatballs along with the lingonberry sauce + sides of mashed potatoes and those brined pickles at AQ Cafe. It's a satellite operation of Aquavit, so Chef Marcus Samuelsson is responsible for the cafe's menu. Located in the lobby of the Scandanavia House, on Park Av., b/t 37th & 38th Sts. Cafeteria-style service. Lots of tables in an attractive, airy setting.
I also went to Aquavit and loved it. Decor and service were both nice, but I agree food was outstanding. I had the chilled crabmeat and avocado soup for an app., swedish meatballs for an entree and chocolate peanut butter cake dessert. I tried the herring, hangar steak and goat cheese parfait that my friend had and really liked everything. I still miss the waterfall from the old location, but the food is still as good as ever.