Three Restaurant Week (Summer '10) experiences
In the waning days of Restaurant "Week", I've been to three places so far and have had positive experiences.
My husband and I are possibly the exact target demographic for Restaurant Week (RW). We eat out often and widely, but choose to go cheap and cheerful partly because we're a little intimidated by fancy places and partly our perception of value. So giving us an opportunity to try a fancier restaurant at a cheaper price might just convert us.
For your convenience, I've written a summary review, then given the details for each restaurant below if you're interested.
So far we've been to Megu, Matsugen and Tocqueville. All our RW experiences were generally positive and worthwhile. The clear winner by far was Toqueville. This was followed by Megu then Matsugen. Detailed review follows. My summary comments as follows:
* Tocqueville - consistently VERY good food, good portions, good service. The RW menu was outstanding, but the off-RW items were good, and good value too. We'll be back.
* Megu - We felt we got fantastic value ordering the Kobe steak RW menu at Megu. Off-RW items let us down and we got the sense that outside of RW we couldn't afford to eat here.
* Matsugen - The food was good and the service excellent. The RW portions were small, nothing let us down, but few things stood out. However, the Sake was the standout. I liked the RW menu here less than Megu, but in general feel like I'm more likely to come back here "normally".
It must have been clear at all three places that we were RW patrons. However, we did not feel in the least that we were "slighted" or treated badly because of that.
At each of the places, the menu was clearly shown either on the restaurant website or on the nycgo.com website. All bookings were made via OpenTable and was painless.
In each place we ordered stuff outside of the RW menu as well, and that did have an impact on our experience.
DETAILS - TOQUEVILLE
ATMOSPHERE : We went around 7pm on Friday. We walked into a quiet, elegant room with tall ceilings. The other patrons ranged from an older couple in fancy clothes and jewelry, to another young couple next to us in nice jeans and neat collared shirts. We were happy that we dressed up a little, it helped us feel less self-conscious as the room was small and tables close together. The quiet room soon warmed up and there was a buzz as more people entered.
SERVICE: Our server was very nice and courteous. The moment we sat down the server asked if we'd like a drink. My husband sort of gave him a look and said, "Can we have the wine list please." After that we realised he might have been asking if we'd like some water or something. The server acted with grace at the gaffe and brought the wine list immediately. I liked this. As the dinner progressed, everyone was low-key and we began to enjoy ourselves very much. It was clear that a couple of other tables were getting more attention. But not in a bad way at all, just that they were obviously either regulars or ordering something special. We did not miss out on anything, and preferred to be a little bit left alone anyway.
RW MENU: Husband ordered the skate brandade, confit of lamb ravioli and the chocolate tort. Portion sizes were very reasonable indeed and didn't feel "skimpy". The skate brandade in a herb crepe was good, not memorable. The lamb ravioli was a DEFINITE STANDOUT and I wished I ordered it too. The plate consisted of a single large raviolo. The pasta was tender and al-dente. The lamb filling was really rich and delicious, really brought out the lamb flavour. The chocolate tort was also rich and yummy.
OFF RW MENU: I got the Greenmarket menu at $48. It was nice, my entree was squab, which was pleasantly gamey and tender. I enjoyed it very much, but did I mention I kept sneaking food off Husband's lamb dinner? I also preferred his tort to my apricot tart. We spent about $15 each for drinks, Husband for a glass of syrah, and I got a Pineapple Navan Caipirinha, which I thought was the nicest, most subtle Caipirinha I've ever had.
EXTRAS: We both got the amuse bouche (some fish, it was yummy but I can't remember) and three tiny cookies/desserts after our "proper" dessert. They were a very sweet Turkish delight, a piece of rich chocolate fudge, and something like a pistachio cookie. I also loved my brioche bread on the side.
DETAILS - MEGU
ATMOSPHERE: We went to the Tribeca branch with the ice buddha. Larger room, what I would call "modern fancy" as opposed to Tocqueville's traditional fancy. Younger crowd, and more (nice) jeans featured. Room was buzzy. There was a rowdy group of patrons loudly singing Japanese songs in one section. This seemed to fluster the wait-staff a little and at one point the piped music abruptly got louder. I think this is a place where you sort of have to check your expectations at the door a little.
SERVICE: The maitre-d had a bit of a "cool" air in the beginning. But this did not translate to bad treatment. We were shown our table, the servers were all generally nice. However, service was slow, they forgot to bring out our sushi, they just seemed flustered and disorganised and distracted somehow. We had a blast because we were watching the room and didn't mind waiting. But the couple next to us asked for the dessert menu, waited 10 minutes, then ended up asking for the cheque instead. What was telling was that when they made a snarky comment about the slow service, the server was within earshot but didn't appear to hear them. I think somehow that rowdy group in the next room had messed up the vibe or something.
RW MENU: EXCELLENT VALUE. For starters, Husband got the shrimp - six pieces, was nice but sort of a well-executed variation of battered sweet & sour prawns you might get at a Chinese restaurant. My 2 large diver scallops, rare in the middle were excellent, tender like butter. We both got the Kobe fillet beef for entrees. This was the highlight and the thing that made everything worthwhile. Decent portion about the size of a pack of cards. Served on a hot stone and they did the whole "flambe" thing at the table Oh so tender, again like butter. I understand this might cost about $50 normally on the menu. So maybe this was a smaller portion, but it sure was enough for us. For dessert, Husband ordered the matcha crepe cake and I got the yuzu chocolate mousse cake. Both were sort of un-extraordinary.
OFF RW MENU: Before dessert, we ordered two pieces of Uni and Oh-toro sushi each. This was where Megu fell flat for me. The Uni at $10 each piece was lovely. The Oh-toro at $18 a piece - oh my what a disappointment. The oh-toro did not have the rich tuna flavour we expected. My piece had a piece of sinew or thread in it that I could not chew through. I was very disappointed. In hindsight I should have said something to the server and given them an opportunity to remedy. My bad, I'll do it next time.
We both got the sake tasting for $22 each. Three kinds of 3 oz sake servings to accompany our meal. This was excellent value compared to the normal prices of the sake on the menu. (Roughly $20 per 5 oz serving).
DETAILS - MATSUGEN
ATMOSPHERE: A kind of "cool", romantic yet clinical atmosphere (LOL I don't know how else to say it). Maybe because the tables were all so far apart, combined with large floor to ceiling windows which didn't give that enclosed feeling.
SERVICE: Very attentive and efficient service with really good timing and unobstrusive. Of the three, this would be the one I felt most comfortable taking business-guests to for dinner.
RW MENU: Nice food, but portions just seemed a little small. The starter was four little things. The thing that stood out was the uni in a yuzu gelee, light foamy and really nice offset against the gelatinous gelee stuff. The miso cod was well cooked and tasty and light, about the size of a large finger. I liked my otaku soba, Husband's kanban soba seemed a little mushy. We had two pieces of sushi each, and we thought they were nice enough. I guess I would say nothing let us down, and very few things stood out.
OFF-RW MENU: Now this is where it gets interesting. We ordered a "box" of sake, the Otter-fest. It was an unfiltered sake that was sweet and delicious. We seemed to get a LOT of it for $36. Don't know how much, sort of a milk-jug size. With both of us drinking, we still struggled to finish it. So I will definitely come back to Matsugen, but it may well be for the sake instead of the restaurant.
1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003
62 Thomas Street, New York, NY 10013
241 Church Street, New York, NY 10013