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NYC Restaurant Week - Winter '12 - Top Picks?

With reservations opening today for NYC Restaurant Week, 1/16 - 2/10, I was wondering what establishments are most worthy of a visit. Specifically, which restaurants are the best deal, considering the fixed menu prices? Seems like an unbeatable opportunity to check out some new places.

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  1. Are you interested in lunch or dinner? Are you available to dine during the week for lunch? If so, that opens a LOT of options.

    For example, I have enjoyed past RW lunches Maialino, Lupa, SD26 (though my next meal there was not so great), and A Voce, all of whom are participating this winter, but lunch only, save for SD26.

    Just make sure you don't choose a place that already has a lunch prix fixe in the same price range (like Aldea or Tocqueville) all year round.

    IMO Restaurant Week is worth it if you plan ahead, choose restaurants carefully, and don't walk in with superhigh expectations. Unfortunately, a lot of the restaurants who used to participate in RW no longer do (Bar Room at the Modern, Blue Smoke, Gramercy Tavern, Breslin).

    Here's an existing thread about this winter's RW:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/824733

    Here's a bunch of reports about last summer's RW:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/792425

    FYI, for anybody who is reading this who doesn't know about RW: participating restaurants will be serving special lunch and/or dinner menus: three-course, prix-fixe meals for $24.07 and $35, respectively, not including beverages, tip or tax. Some restaurants participate only for lunch, others only for dinner, and others do both. Many of the restaurants will restrict participation to Monday-Friday (no weekends) and do lunch only. (They're trying to drum up business on their slow days, and if a place is going to be full on a Friday night or Saturday night anyway, they usually don't need additional diners during those times.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      I'm bummed that Bar at the Modern is no longer participating, nor is River Cafe. Had to do some scrambling as I'd already booked both of the above in anticipation. My lunch experience at Lupa last ywinter wasn't so hot, though a previous non-restaurant week dinner there was excellent. Thanks for the tips.

      1. re: kathryn

        Lunch during the week is perfect . . . as is any neighborhood.

      2. I made reservations for lunch at Maialino and Riverpark! I haven't been to either of them before. Speaking of which, can anybody describe how to get to Riverpark? I looked on their website and on Google Maps but I can't figure out how to actually walk there. I'm in that neighborhood all the time and it looks like 29th Street stops before Riverpark's address. Do I walk down that brick road past the security guards? (I've always been too initimidated to do that!)

        10 Replies
        1. re: brighton312

          Yes, exactly. If you're walking north on 1st Av., turn right and walk to the last building on your right.

          1. re: Pan

            I never knew that road was open to the public. Thanks for helping me not get lost on the way to my RW lunch!

            1. re: brighton312

              Enjoy! Riverpark is a very good restaurant.

              -----
              Riverpark
              450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

          2. re: brighton312

            Riverpark is the only RW meal we did last summer, and I'm completely convinced that their margin had to be razor thin during that time, if any. It was a ridiculous steal. Just ridiculous. Good food too.

            -----
            Riverpark
            450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

            1. re: uwsister

              They probably lost money. I'd have happily paid $50-60 for my RW dinner there last summer. It's too bad the restaurant is so out of the way. Otherwise I'd definitely visit somewhat regularly.

              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                We also loved the RW dinner we had at Riverpark -- all choices were off the regular menu, nothing chintzy, and there were a lot of choices -- and have been meaning to go back and don't mind a few extra blocks for such a terrific meal!

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  It probably doesn't help you, but it's super easy to get there if you have your own vehicle. You can park downstairs, and they validate (how many good restaurants in NYC can you guarantee to park for free?) Last summer we'd zip down in our motorcycle, park, take the elevator up to the restaurant.

                  1. re: uwsister

                    Ah, unfortunately, I don't have my own mode of transportation. I have to make a couple of train transfers, and THEN walk many blocks to get to the restaurant. Alas.

                2. re: uwsister

                  Made it to Riverpark for RW today. Fabulous meal in every way. I took a chance on the oyster tacos and they were to die for! The RW week menu is the same as the normal $28 prix fixe lunch menu, with a $3.93 discount, thus for a few bucks more, you can go there anytime. Thanks to those who recommended Riverpark. It was the highlight of our RW meals, which also included Nougatine, Ruth's Chris, Fives and Le Cirque. The lowlight was Fives where the food was average at best and the courses served one on top of the other to the point we felt very rushed, despite the general lack of business in the lovely dining room.

                  -----
                  Riverpark
                  450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

                  1. re: bruce3404

                    I too hit Riverpark for RW yesterday. The whole experience was excellent - great options, well sized portions, friendly service, delicious food, interesting location - couldn't have enjoyed it more. Personal favorites were the Roasted Provolone appetizer and the Chocolate Pot de Créme for dessert.

              2. in my experience, Restaurant Week is an awful sham...restaurants usually give you their B-/C+ game and it's rarely a reflection (good or bad) of what the place is really like...

                If you just want to see the vibe of the place OR if you want to try the food on the cheap, a far better option is to go the bar and split a couple dishes: this is usually 1) a better representation of what the food is like, 2) gives you a wider menu to choose from, and 3) is roughly the same price as Rest Week...

                IMO, Restaurant Week is useless at best: a net cast to snare rubes into eating a given restaurant's sub-standard food/gussied up dishes as a Blue Plate Special just so the people are able to tell their friends they are at: ____

                For example, Bar Masa is a perfect example of a year-round version of a Restaurant Week style scam: sub-mediocre sushi served at medium/high prices, yet which allows tourists/rubes to say: "I ate a Masa, kind-of!"...

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                Bar Masa
                10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

                7 Replies
                1. re: Simon

                  A RW experience depends entirely on the specific restaurant and I think it's impossible to make blanket statements. One of our best dinners ever was at Riverpark's RW last summer, items from their regular menu; Adour, the Bar Room, Perilla, Park Avenue Summer, and several others have also been excellent. There is the occasional salmon or chicken paillard menu, but with a bit of research RW can be a great way to experience some of NYC's best restaurants. Too bad so many of the standouts are not participating this time.

                  -----
                  Perilla
                  9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

                  The Modern
                  9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

                  Park Avenue Cafe
                  100 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10021

                  1. re: City Kid

                    I agree with City Kid the RW experince depends on the resturant and they way you as a diner go about it. I actually came up with a little list of guidelies for my blog from my past experinces I thought might help people a bit. Maybe you all agree.

                    1. Research the menus BEFORE booking. Just because you’ve always wanted to go to a certain restaurant doesn’t mean RW is the time to do it. One of my first RW experiences I showed up at a place I had been dying to try out and there were only two entrée choices- Salmon and Mushroom Risotto. I’m allergic to salmon and at the time I was in a serious risotto funk. Obviously I did not enjoy my meal very much. The menus are there for a reason- check them out before booking.

                    2. Lunch is the best way to go. Most RW places have the same menu for both lunch and dinner or simply add a different appetizer choice at night with a higher price point. Paying $24 for three courses anywhere is a pretty good deal in my book. However when the cost rises to $35 I start to scrutinize if it’s truly worth it or not. I better not get a measly salad, pasta and sorbet when I could have a delicious Fontina Meatball and spectacular Chocolate Hazelnut Layer Cake from Gramercy Tavern at a lesser cost.

                    3. Speaking of Gramercy Tavern- Danny Meyer places are ALWAYS a good choice. Danny Meyer is a great restaurateur and he knows how to attract customers. He does RW right with great choices, spectacular service and usually a little something extra (ie. a gift certificate to come back again). His reservations always go fast so book early if you can.

                    4. Bring a friend. I tend to do a lot of solo lunches but during RW it’s much better with a companion. Each person can order a different option so more of the menu can be explored and many restaurants offer $24 bottles of wine as part of the deal too. This makes it a huge bargain! I’ve been solo and thought about getting a bottle myself since it's such a deal. But that would make me a restaurant week lush not a restaurant week lady.

                    5. Treat it like a regular fancy meal- TWDW- tip well and dress well. If your going to a four star restaurant don’t show up in tattered jeans and a baseball hat. The guests in a restaurant become a part of the atmosphere- don’t ruin that for others. The same goes for service. If you have four star service don’t skimp on the tip. These waiters and waitresses are giving the same service they usually do for a lot less. Make sure they know you appreciate that.

                    BTW I have also had great meals at Riverpark, Park Avenue Summer, Maialino, City Hall and Quality Meats which are all participating this year.

                    http://www.nyctastes.com/2012/01/rest...

                    -----
                    Gramercy Tavern
                    42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

                    Park Avenue Cafe
                    100 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10021

                    Quality Meats
                    57 W 58th St, New York, NY 10019

                    City Hall
                    131 Duane St., New York, NY 10013

                    Maialino
                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                    Riverpark
                    450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

                    1. re: roze

                      i agree that everything you recommend above is good advice...

                      Yet, my past experiences w/ RW have been poor despite doing all of the above. Even service was often lacking (and there more than one occassion when after we told the waiter we were having the RW menu: we got a snide/disappointed look in return: i.e. "Ugh, another table of these RW people?? My tips are going to be low today" (because the check before tip would be lower than usual and maybe because, despite being well-dressed, we were not the usual clientele of older business people). But my main qualm was that the food wasn't usually representative of the real menu (not unlike the way many restaurants have a set/contrived menu on Valentine's Day).

                      However, if there was a place which Chowhounds recommended as doing RW particularly well, i'd be willing to try it.

                      1. re: Simon

                        I think you should try out Park Avenue winter or Riverpark for lunch then. The food and service was great when I went. Too bad The River Cafe isn't on the list this year as I never had service or food issues there either.

                      2. re: roze

                        Great suggestions, Roze! I agree with all. I like TWDW -- I also think people should dress appropriately for an upscale restaurant (although dress codes have gone the way of the buggy whip) and I wonder how many people are stingy with the tip when they are already getting a bargain.

                        1. re: City Kid

                          Not saying all but a lot of people who are into bargain tend to be stingy on tips.
                          Anyway, I've been to a few restaurants during RW and I vowed myself never to do it again. I usually end up spending more than $100 for two , gets mediocre foods and services. I can find a lot of good restaurants in NYC where I can have good food at that price.

                        2. re: roze

                          Unfortunately Gramercy Tavern no longer participates in Restaurant Week; Bar Room at the Modern and Blue Smoke dropped out this year. I think the only Danny Meyer place that is participating this time around is Maialino.

                          -----
                          Maialino
                          2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                    2. I am not a fan of RW. Tried it in the past and generally, the RW menu is a pale reflection of the restaurant. The only exception is when the prix fixe is already similarly priced but then why am I going for RW? These days, I actually avoid going to any places doing RW meals as they're over run and the staff is often harried. I guess my attitude is colored by the fact that I don't have to wait for RW to eat at any of the places that participate. Its just not worth the bother for me, but I see the attraction for others. As to those who comment that River Cafe isn't participating, I will point out this is RW for Manhattan. There is a separate RW in Brooklyn in which RC has participated in the past though only for lunch I recall.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Bkeats

                        That is true Bkeats but River Cafe has participated in both RW weeks in past as well as Dine in Brooklyn week. I actually always found it surprising they did both. Too bad because it was always such a wonderful meal and yes- lunch only.

                        1. re: roze

                          I stand corrected. I'm guessing this means that they may not join in for Brooklyn week then.

                      2. Any updates from this years selection that are good for this last week? (Dinner weekend)

                        For me:

                        Park Ave Winter: Great, scallop sandwich = awesome
                        Burkes Kitchen: Not so great

                        -----
                        Park Avenue Cafe
                        100 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10021

                        David Burke Kitchen
                        23 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: JBG89

                          Had a surprisingly good RW dinner at Le Cirque. I posted about it on another RW thread.

                          -----
                          Le Cirque
                          151 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Hi ellenost, did you see my reply to you on the other RW thread?

                            So funny, ellenost, I think I was sitting at the table next to you at Le Cirque last night with my husband and father-in-law!! I also found it very enjoyable with warm service and very good food. (Did you notice the identical twin young women who were bussing tables?) My grilled chicken with mushroom and tomato and the whispiest, crispiest fries was terrific, as was the chocolate fondant, hazelnut ice cream. Very enjoyable!

                            1. re: City Kid

                              That's such a great coincidence! Unfortunately my back was to the room so I didn't get much of a chance to see anyone. Would have loved to say "hi". Didn't realize that the women were twins. Glad to hear you also enjoyed your RW dinner at Le Cirque. I'm looking forward to my return visit to Le Cirque in Las Vegas next month. The former chef at Veritas, Gregory Pugin (one of RGR's favorites), is now the chef at Le Cirque in LV.