RW ending, how did it go?
With restaurant week just about over, I was wondering which restos delivered a satisfying dining experience and which disappointed.
I dined at Orsay, which provided a solid, if unspectacular, brasserie menu. I actually passed on the RW menu & chose a sweetbread appetizer & a (hanger) steak frites entree, both good, but no wows elicited. Kudos to the bartender for a formidable martini. Orsay had a lively atmosphere fitting for a brasserie.
My 2nd RW dinner was at South Gate, which seems to be under the radar on the Chow board. I tend to shy away from the true foodie destinations during RW, because I feel the abbreviated menu & often, simplified selections do not fully represent the essence of those restaurants. I also find that I don't like to pay for glitz at full price, but when dining with a non-foodie date, RW prices make those type pf places more attractive to me. South Gate has a modern sleek dining room, somewhat softened and warmed by the upholstered leather seats and a blazing fireplace. I had the Salad Of Smoked Salmon mâche, leeks, cardamom vinaigrette for an appetizer, which was good, but not especially noteworthy. My entree was the Sauteed Branzino celery fondu, "caesar sauce". The fish had a wonderful crust and was nicely complemented by the celery sauce, which was a new and welcome taste for me. This dish immediately elevated my regard for the restaurant and I was further pleased by the Chocolate Pot De Creme coffee chantilly, chocolate croquant dessert. It was chocolate, chocolate and chocolate, but the varying intensities and textures made it interesting and irresistible. Refined dining at good RW value pricing.
I had dinners at Le Cirque and The Modern Bar Room, as well as lunches at Lupa and River Cafe. Dinner at the Modern was by far the best restaurant week menu, with a huge selection of appetizers (11), entrees (10) and desserts (6)--and the food was spectacular.
I either ordered or sampled six different dishes and would have been happy with any of them (Lamb and Goat Cheese Terrine, Flambee Alsatian Tarte, Saffron Tagliatelle with Rabbit, Pan Roasted Hangar Steak, Apple Strudel and Dark Chocolate Tart with Chocolate Ice Cream). The quality was so good that I honestly don't know how they made any money serving such satisfying portions of wonderful food for only $35. They get big kudos for also providing a mini-wine list of 20 bottles for under $40. When I questioned a $24 Zin, the waiter was so enthusiastic about it, that I went ahead and ordered the bottle. It was better than a $70 Cab I had tried previously at Le Cirque; I appreciated the waiter's honesty and that he didn't try to steer me into a much more expensive bottle (though I would have been receptive). I'm sorry we didn't eat our first RW meal at the Modern; I think I would have canceled all others, even if it meant eating at 5PM every evening. This was some orgasmic food and was second only to a full on meal at Jean Georges earlier in January. The difference was that this meal cost about 1/3 as much. Second best RW dining experience was at the River Cafe. While I've heard complaints about some of the dishes, I guess I was lucky in ordering the lobster/scallop bisque and duck breast for an entree. I did not at all care for my wife's pork shoulder entree. The desserts consisted of an excellent trio of banana creme brulee,
chocolate ganache and coconut ice cream. Very satisfying and great value for lunch.
Le Cirque was also very good, with a wider choice of menu items than River Cafe. All courses were good, though none were outstanding in the same way the Bar at the Modern's were. We tried sauteed Maine Shellfish for our appetizer, Berkshire Pork Belly (really tasty, but it just killed me with GERD's later that night) and Diver Sea Scallops for entrees and Tiramasu for dessert. Not very exciting, but it's always a treat to eat in such an exciting environment and the service, as always, was very attentive.
The only disappointing RW meal was at Lupa. We sampled appetizers consisting of a salad with bitter greens (and not many of them) and pasta e fagioli soup which was just so-so. Mains included pasta with heritage pork and dessert was a very delicious tartufino, somewhat remniscent of those at Tre Scalini. Portions were small and I think we might have been better off just ordering a pasta dish off the regular menu. Service was good.