Where did you eat (out) on Christmas?
Most years I go the traditional route, and get Chinese food, but me and my SO opted for Hummus Place in the East Village. The place was hopping, and our meal was delicious: hummus fava, split pea soup, and falafel. Nobody looked annoyed to be working on the holiday, and we didn't get a single "Merry Christmas"! Here's to the diversity of our fine, fine, city! The shocker? We were stuffed for under $20, including tip.
I love New York on holidays, when the city is quiet - no more shoppers, no gangs of visiting drunks, just us locals having a good time.
Where did you go?
"We have a special menu tonight."
Is there a more terrifying phrase than that? What it really means is that they've narrowed the menu choices down to 3 or 4 dishes and they intend to charge you 30% extra for the meal.
First stop - Barbuto. We've been there 4 or 5 times and twice on Christmas Eve. In the past they've offered their regular menu with the Feast of the Seven Fishes as an option. A very *expensive* option which we turned down. Well, Barbuto had it's revenge. This time the Feast was mandatory unless you wanted to try the pathetically limited 3 dish alternative - a steak dish, a gnocchi dish, and something so unappealing I forgot it. Oops, I just remembered - roast chicken. BTW, those 3 choices were the only things available for both starter and mains. Not even a damn salad.
Look, I can understand offering the Feast option but there is no reason in the world to eliminate all the dishes on the regular menu. (I should have known this was in the works. Last year our server relentlessly tried to upsell us on the Feast and got borderline surly when we declined. Never underestimate the desire of a restaurant to make a whacking big score.) We walked out.
Back in Brooklyn we wound up going to Tempo where a modified version of the Special Menu Scam was being played. We were limited to a choice of 5 starters and 5 mains. It was 8:30 and we were tired and hungry. We gave in.
The food wasn't bad but it wasn't wonderful either. As a way of saying "Merry Christmas" Tempo added a mandatory 20% service charge to the bill.
I will never eat one of those special menus again. Ever.
re: Bob Martinez
I have issues with "special" menus, too, and they seem to be getting more and more common. In fact, I have gotten so accustomed to the practice that I routinely call or visit the restaurant website to find out about the menu offerings before I go out to eat on a holiday. It's too bad, really, because those of us who enjoy a restaurant to the point where we choose to spend our holiday there, do so based on our appreciation of the regular menu, and we are looking for an experience that mirrors, or exceeds, our usual one. With regard to Barbuto, I had
an awful experience there as a member of a large party at their "chef's table". This basically meant that we were forced to eat what they served us, had no choice but stale, hard cupcakes for dessert (it was a special birthday), and paid through the nose. I won't ever go back.
ALTO...food was good, my partner had the prix fixe with 4 courses which included beef carpacio, rags of pasta with beef cheek and lamb chops. Cheese course (with added supplement $) I had two courses, lobster risotto was wonderful, then a fish dish that was just ok. Interesting crowd, older, tourists maybe? Probably would not go back.
Christmas dinner wasn't spectacular... had dinner at the New York Athletic Club. A bit stuffy but at least no one had to cook and we had a great time.
On Christmas Eve, my wife and I went to Danube. The tasting menu was the only offer. We had it with the wine pairing and really enjoyed the selection.
One of the better dishes and in fact we didn't even oder it was the Carinthia “Schlutzkrapfen” High Altitude Austrian Cheese Ravioli with Smoked Mushrooms and Harvest Corn Sauce. I guess they had the Christmas spirit and wanted to offer some more. Anyway, great space and good time.
A couple of "misses". One was the slow service. We think it was intentional and they wanted people to linger and enjoy the time with family. However, the pace between dishes was way too long.
The second miss was partly because of the aforementioned. A couple next to us complained loudly about the pace and lambasted the wait staff shouting that it was ridiculous for a one star to have such terrible service.
Ironically, they were upset about the experience of a one star while the woman wore so much perfume she ruined our meal. We were so glad we were at the last hearty course since the perfume would have just overwhelmed the sashimi.
Sorry for the rant... otherwise, a good time. :)
I consider loud perfume in restaurants as unfathomable as lighting up a smoke at table. I have had to move from sushi bars in L.A. when someone sat down with some obnoxious scent like Opium, applied like Aqua Velva! For you too young to remember, it was splashed on by guys before dates!
Compass, Christmas Eve. Very nice appetizer (lobster risotto with truffles), ok entree (skate that had picked up A LOT of oil in the sautee-ing process), very nice dessert (chocolate/ricotta tart with olive oil gelato). Am I the only one on this thread to go fancyish?
The menu keeps expanding: they have shakshuka (delicious eggs in vegetable and tomato sauce), Labane (kind of like cream cheese but more flavoful), soup, grape leaves...
And to clarify one point: the fact that they didn't automatically say "merry Christmas" at Hummus Place was a nice respite for those of us who were starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the shoppers, sales, and constant cheesy xmas music.
Happy holidays (all of'em!) and a great 2008 to all of you.
I went to Asia Grill on 2nd and 65 since I was at the UA at 64th Street and I've been craving Bo Luk Lak for months and I'm convinced Saigon Grill on the UES will not re-open. It was delicious. I know people here think Saigon is bad or not authentic. I love the bo luc lak among other things there, authentic or not. And there were plenty of restaurants open yesterday, Asian, the 2 Turkish places on 2nd in the low 70's, even a few Italian places. And yes, the place was packed!
I have a confession to make, and I feel so guilty about it. Yesterday I had lunch at Saigon Grill. I have been boycotting the place since the worker's strike started, but I had time to kill before my movie and I was hungry and that was one of the few places open. The food was fine, not exciting (maybe it was tempered by my guilt) and the place was very loud.
I agree about New York on holidays with one big exception. Movies. The Union Square theater was crazy and so annoying yesterday. They really run that place poorly. (had to rant a bit - sorry)