Saturday, July 18, 2009

Restaurant Week Report Card

Yes, it's that time of year again. I went to 4 places for lunch this week, and the reports that follow will be in the same format as this post:
Everything is pretty self-explanatory anyway, and the prix fixe yes/no just means whether the restaurant normally has a lunch prix fixe even when it's not RW.

Sushi Samba (Park Ave location)

I've only been here once previously for dinner on the company dime what seems like a lifetime ago. The menu looked interesting so I decided to give it a try. For the starter I had the seared otoro kobe beef with warm honshimeji mushrooms, ponzu gelee, and truffled tofu crema. Very thin slivers as expected, and the ponzu gelee was way overpowering. For my main I chose the organic berkshire pork tenderloin with feijoa purée, quince, and yucca chips. This was a sizeable portion of a medium well pork tenderloin and it was quite good. I saw some people at another table get the sushi assortment and it did not look particularly appetizing. For dessert, I had the tapioca coconut soup with açaí sorbet, passion fruit, and ginger crumbles. This was also pretty good. When it's not RW, they have bento boxes, but no real 3 course set lunch.

Food: 3 Value: 3 Ambiance: 3 Prix Fixe: No


This was the place where Ryan Skeen last left his mark and a special burger recipe before he went to Irving Mill. The place wants to be a casual restaurant, but just gave me the feeling that it was sloppy. To start, I had the greenmarket gazpacho with tzatziki and fennel crouton. This was nice and refreshing, with the tzatziki a nice touch to add some depth to it. Then I had the burger, which came with mayo, onion, pickles, gruyere, frites, and greens. The burger was quite good, but not spectacular, and was pretty small in size, although that was kind of expected. For dessert, I got two scoops of chocolate stout-flavored ice cream from the Greene Ice Cream Co which was okay. In the end, this just did not feel like a $30 lunch to me.

Food: 3 Value: 2 Ambiance: 2 Prix Fixe: No

Nobu (the original)

I had never actually been to the original Nobu, considering that it seems to always be fully booked well in advance. My friend and I showed up as walk-ins at 1:30pm (with lunch ending at 2:15pm) and managed to get a table easily, though it wasn't a very good table. It was different from what I expected it to look like on the inside, but I warmed up to the architecture. We both had the rock shrimp tempura with creamy spicy sauce to start and it was good. For my main I had the broiled black cod with miso which came with a bowl of rice. It's not often that you get to taste two of a restaurant's signature dishes in one RW sitting, so I liked that. The black cod (which is sable, not cod) was quite good and my friend said that it was better than the one he had at Morimoto for RW. My friend had the sushi assortment which was very good in terms of freshness, portion size, and variety. I had a couple pieces of the tekka maki (simple tuna roll) which was quite good. As I noted at the time, when you go to a really really nice sushi place, you rarely order something like a tekka maki. The dessert was an above average blueberry crumble, but nothing spectacular. I've always said that while Nobu was the innovator, so many of his dishes have now been copied everywhere that you don't really have to go there to experience that food. However, the original proves emphatically why it is still fully booked well in advance all the time.

Food: 5 Value: 5 Ambiance: 5 Prix Fixe: No

Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro

I'd never actually been to a Terrance Brennan restaurant, although I've always been fairly confident that I'd like his food. He offers a game-themed (as in wild animals) tasting menu every year at Picholine during the fall. The space is quite big and has a nice buzz. It is exactly how you would picture a nice bistro. They offer a prix-fixe menu year-round, so RW is just a way of helping them advertise that. I started with the sheep's milk ricotta cavatelli a la carbonara. I love cavatelli and this did not disappoint. A generous portion as well. I asked my server to choose between the chicken and the skate and he chose the sauteed skate wing. I tend to like firmer fish, but this was pretty good. Another generous portion with a lot going on in terms of flavors and accompaniments. Too much in fact, I thought, but I enjoyed it still. The server came by saying that the cheesecake is wonderful, but I thought that that would be too heavy. I opted for the creme brulee "le cirque", which was a good custard, but by design did not have a hard sugar crust on top. There was caramelized sugar, just not enough to make a hard layer on top. I was very impressed by the portions and would highly recommend this place for its prix fixe lunch even when it's not RW.

Food: 4 Value: 5 Ambiance: 5 Prix Fixe: Yes

No comments :