From what the great internet told us, NYC Restaurant Week began as a lunch-only event in 1992. Today, NYC Restaurant Week is kind of like Christmas for foodies. Twice a year during January/February in the winter and June/July during the summer, we wait with feverish excitement to see what new restaurants and old favorites will be listed for a rather inexpensive, three course $24.07 lunch and $35 dinner (prices do not include drinks, taxes, and tips). Each restaurant can participate in one or the other, or both. Check the list to see who is offering what on each day. Some of the more upscale joints only offer weekday deals, so read carefully and prepare to be flexible.
The truth is that we have probably experienced worse Restaurant Week meals than good ones. One restaurant whose name translated in English means The Circus (you can figure it out from there) provided an appetizer of a single tiny shrimp on a plate. No garnish, no flavor, no nothing. Moreover, the service at this establishment was horrendous. How about a smile sour puss? You would think that some of these places are doing you a favor. As if they are letting the common folk in for one or two weeks a year for a… pity party for those less fortunate folk that could otherwise not afford to dine in their fine establishment. It is completely perplexing to us why some restaurants decide to participate in Restaurant Week given the food we have eaten in some places over the years (*Cough* One if by xxx, Two if by xxx). I believe the point of the entire event isn’t just to offer an otherwise unobtainable cheap meal but to entice the patrons to return at a later date for the full experience (at the full price). The concept seems simple? Right?
The good news is that most of the restaurants on the list are entirely affordable when it’s not Restaurant Week and that over the years we have found some of our favorite go-to spots because of the event. At the MESA Grill we fell in love with Bobby Flay’s upscale southwestern comfort food. Or the classic and historic Delmonico’s, inventors of the melt in your mouth Baked Alaska! Just sitting in that restaurant gives you the feeling of what it was like in 1800′s New York. Dine where every President in US history has dined since the 21 Club opened in 1929. Sit in Frank Sinatra’s old seat as you sample Steak Tartare and a really martini in this historic prohibition speakeasy on 52nd Street. Even Artisanal, the midtown French classic with the amazing cheese selection and Paris vibe, makes an amazing showing.
As it turned out, this year we were only able to make one visit to a restaurant participating in the annual event. For some time now we have been meaning to hit up Tanuki Tavern located in the Gansevoort Hotel. We’ve been walking by the restaurant often during visits to the area. It’s impossible to miss being located in prime real-estate in the Meatpacking District.
Now, what we are about to write is without exaggeration. Tanuki Tavern was hands down the best Restaurant Week meal we have ever eaten. Besides it being the most massive portions we have ever seen, it was insanely fresh, delicious and inventive. Every single part of the meal is still as vivid now as it was going down into the gut (especially that Lemongrass Mojito!).
Well… enough about how cool Restaurant Week is. Take a look at the reviews of our favorite Restaurant Week places below and maybe they will entice you to visit one. THIS JUST IN! RESTAURANT WEEK IS EXTENDED UNTIL SEPTEMBER 5TH! Go to http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek and check out who is still offering this amazing deal. Go now. Go! We are timing you!
NYC Restaurant WeekManhattan, Queens, Brooklyn www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek
What holiday comes twice a year and is celebrated by all? Restaurant Week! Occurring in the winter (January) and the summer (July), it’s our favorite time of year. When it comes around, we become busy little bees, planning awesome meals for every night of the week!
First to clarify, when you hear the word ‘week’, one automatically thinks 7 days… but this is not the case. At a minimum, restaurant ‘week’ lasts 12 days… Sunday through Friday for two consecutive weeks. After the initial two weeks, most restaurants continue to participate for varied lengths of time.
All kinds of eateries participate, from super high end, fine dining, 5 star venues, to more low key, casual, 3 stars. Some will offer a 3 course lunch for $25 bucks, while others also have the 3 course dinner for $35. Often wine pairings can be purchased to accompany your courses. When we receive the first email announcing the next Restaurant Week installment, we go straight to our dream list restaurants and the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck… 4 and 5 star cuisine and $$$$ pricing. Try out all those places you’ve always wanted to go! But book right away! Chances are, everyone else has been dying to go there too. Using www.Opentable.com is probably the easiest way to set up your reservations.
Be advised… while most venues use Restaurant Week as a method for gaining new customers and to ‘show us what they’ve got’, others try to pass off catering quality meals that are mass produced. Don’t be discouraged though, this doesn’t happen as much as you’d think. About 70% of our Restaurant Week experiences have been highly favorable! For a guaranteed good time, check out places that have a known reputation for their cuisine… try Mesa Grill, The 21 Club, Nobu or the Loeb Central Park Boathouse, all Restaurant Week veterans.
A: I am always pumped when its time for Restaurant Week! This is a great way to motivate you to get out there and try some place new, or otherwise too expensive. You can always find several places from your wish list. Another favorite of mine was Butter… Fantastic!
L: It’s always exciting to see who is on and off the Restaurant Week list. Picking this years top favorites and then trying to make a reservation as quickly as possible.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- A discounted taste of New York’s best eats
- Coordinates- 5: Block- Fun is right next door. Participation is all over the city!
- Return Rate- Green light!
Dinner- A+Lwww.chinagrillmgt.com Japanese, Cocktails/ Sake, Manhattan
It seems that if it’s not in the Meatpacking District, it’s just not happening. Exploding with life, this Westside oasis is THE place for trendy restaurants and hip, expensive cocktails. Located in the epicenter of this cobblestone section of town, the boutique Hotel Gansevoort is known for modern rooms and exclusive rooftop libations, but also the Japanese Gastropub Tanuki Tavern, our destination for the evening. Utilizing the traditional, understated, monochromatic bleached wood motif, but with buckets full of additional flair, this contemporary Asian eatery is a perfect choice for a date or dinner with friends.
Our visit was during NYC Restaurant Week, which can sometimes, but not always, translate into a lesser experience. However, Tanuki delivered our best experience to date! The service was attentive and helped by suggesting the best of the menu items. Our waiter was spot on with the Lemongrass Mojito recommendation! Accompanying the $35 three-course (but in this case four course) dinner, a sake or wine flight could be added for a nominal fee, which was totally worth it. Rather than a smaller tasting pour, full glasses appeared with every new dish! You cannot beat that.
The cuisine was an array of our Japanese favorites. Offerings spanned from detailed sushi rolls with multiple, colorful layers, to noodle bowls, to hibachi and to light and fluffy delectables from the fryer. Is it bad that we had to try it all? Starting with a basketful of crispy Fish and Chips and skewers of full size Teriyaki Chicken Wings, we were exploding by the time round 1 was done. How were these appetizer portions? They were definitely meant for sharing. Absolutely delicious, we had a hard time not eating the whole plate! The menu included a sushi roll to share, and even A, still on the fence when it comes to eating raw fish, sucked it down. Besides its lovely presentation, the melding of flavors was executed with precision.
With not a single bit of space left in our stomachs, our entrees were presented. With mixed emotions, we gazed at our main course. On one hand, it may be physically impossible to eat another bite, however, the aromas and expert staging of the dishes meant that defeat was not an option. L’s Cha Shu Ramen Noodle Bowl was a fresh and light mixture of gingery pork belly and bamboo shoots. He did not want to share! A’s Creekstone Prime Hanger Steak was served atop a personal stone hibachi with a single, ember red coal glowing beneath the mini grate. How could we not eat this?! After interesting desserts and a belly full of sake we headed home. This was a successful Restaurant Week outing! Tanuki Tavern understands that if you present your best, you will make life long patrons. We will be back soon and highly recommend it to you.
- Lemongrass Mojito (A)
- Wine Pairing- Rioja Blanco [Caceres Spain 07], Chardonnay [Wagtail Australia 09] (A)
- Sake Pairing (L)
- Edamame (A+L)
- Tebayaki [Grilled Chicken Wings with Citrus Salt] (A)
- Fish and Chips with Yuzu Tartar Sauce (L)
- Ikasu Roll [Wild Salmon, Tuna Toro, Avocado, Shishito Pepper, Asparagus, Kimchee Mayo] (A+L)
- Creekstone Prime Hanger Steak Hibachi (A)
- Cha Shu Ramen [Sliced Kurobuta Pork Belly and Bamboo Shoots in Ginger Pork Broth with condiments of Garlic Paste and Tobang Jan] (L)
- Mochi Ice Cream in Vanilla, Green Tea and Mango (A)
- Banana and Chocolate Cream Pie with Whipped Cream (L)
A: I was utterly surprised by this place. Everything that was put on our table was beautifully prepared and delicious! The service was impeccable and friendly and the atmosphere swank and fun. Highly recommended.
L: Dang! This place was great. We had been hankering for some really good Asian food for a while and Tanuki Tavern didn’t disappoint in the least. Throw in the fact that they had the hands down biggest and most delicious Restaurant Week menu so far… winning!
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Everything you love about Japanese food in one swanky package!
- Food/Drinks- 4: Stellar! Wouldn’t change a thing.
- Tip Worthy- 4: Double the tax and then some
- Coordinates- 5: Fun is right next door!
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green Light!
Mesa Grill102 5th Avenue 212-807-7400 www.mesagrill.com Southwestern, Cocktails, Manhattan
OK, we admit it… we have a ridiculous foodie crush on Chef Bobby Flay! We have been to almost every restaurant he has, including completing the Trifecta of Mesa Grills (several times over!)… New York, VEGAS (at Caesar’s Palace across from Pure) the the Bahamas (at the Cove, at the Atlantis in Paradise Island). Mesa offers lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The food is spicy, inventive and ExCeLLeNT!
For dinner, start off with the Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale, the Blue Corn Pancake with BBQ Duck and the Sophie’s Chopped Salad (with chick peas, olives and tortillas). Famous for southwestern cuisine and grilling, be ready for some spicy meat! The New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with a Sweet Potato Tamale and Crushed Pecan Butter… damn! The Grilled Lamb Porterhouse Chops with Red Chile, Lime and Rosemary, with Green Corn Pudding… whew… sexy! Blue Corn Soft Shell Crabs with Bacon, Green Onion and Chile Vinegar… I could go on and on. Is it getting hot in here? This place is food porn to the nth degree!
If you can make it for brunch, please do! We think it may be better than dinner. First off, a ridiculously amazing bread basket- our favorite is the spicy corn muffins with pieces of corn in it and swirls of spice. For your entree, definitely have the Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs and Green Chile Hollandaise. I cannot even explain how good this is. Sort of like a spicy Eggs Benedict with chicken and sweet potato homefries. Some one always orders the Eggs and Aged Sirloin Tortilla with Roasted Peppers and Avocado Relish… and loves it! It is simple, but delish… think make your own tacos with steak and eggs. Now matter what meal you eat, the tequila cocktails are the perfect accompaniment. Hands down, the Cactus Pear Margarita wins it! Watch out boys… its pink!
What we ate…
- Cactus Pear Margarita
- Peach Margarita
- Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs and Green Chile Hollandaise
- Eggs and Aged Sirloin Tortilla with Roasted Peppers and Avocado Relish
- Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale
- Blue Corn Pancake with BBQ Duck
- Sophie’s Chopped Salad
- New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with a Sweet Potato Tamale and Crushed Pecan Butter
- Grilled Lamb Porterhouse Chops with Red Chile, Lime and Rosemary, with Green Corn Pudding
- Blue Corn Soft Shell Crabs with Bacon, Green Onion and Chile Vinegar
A: We got into Bobby Flay completely by accident. We didn’t really watch the shows until after we ate at Mesa Grill, first found by checking out Restaurant Week. Since that day probably 7+ years ago, we’ve been loyal customers, still just as giddy for a visit as when we first tried it. Vegas isn’t complete with at least a visit OR TWO!
L: I love MESA Grill. There is a reason that the restaurant has been open for 20 YEARS! Way before Bobby became one of the most recognizable chefs in the country, the Mesa Grill was known as one of the best restaurants in the City. Let it be known that the food here is what made the man famous. The inventiveness of the dishes and his flair for adding just the right amount of fire and flavor.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Always bustling and full… full of foodies! Lively!
- Food/Drinks- 5: Mind Blowing and Life Changing
- Tip Worthy- 5: The New Yorker 25-30%
- Coordinates- 4: Neighborhood- Centrally located!
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green light! Between the three Mesa’s we have had at least 10 meals. We bring everyone we know when there is one close by.
Delmonico’s56 Beaver Street, NYC 212-509-1144 www.delmonicosny.com Steak, Wine, Manhattan
A classic- real old school New York! This place has been around since 1837… that is unheard of! The restaurant is located in the Financial District in a beautiful corner building. Although bustling by day, come night time it is pretty desolate down there. The interior is large and elegant with lots of dark wood, projecting a fine dining feel, without being completely stiff.
Start off with some classic cocktails. This is the type of place you order a Tom Collins or a Manhattan. Delmonico’s is a classic American steak house and the originator of many popular dishes of today including Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska and the Delmonico Steak, among others. For our visit we went with the Filet Mignon and the Delmonico cut steak, which were both cooked perfectly. Pair it with some typical steak sides like creamed spinach, hash browns and whipped potatoes and you will be so full you won’t be able to stand. Make sure that you leave a little room for the meringue covered Baked Alaska. It was worth the wait.
What we ate…
- Martinis (A+L)
- Filet Mignon (A)
- Delmonico Cut Steak (L)
- Creamed Spinach, Hash Browns, Whipped Potatoes (A+L+4)
- Baked Alaska (A+L)
A: I love places with history! This place is legendary and its awesome to be able to take part in the experience.
L: A great steak and an even better Baked Alaska. It’s awesome to sit in the restaurant and the think about all the famous people who used to frequent the dining room.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Elegant, Old School New York Steakhouse
- Food/Drinks- 3.5: Pleasantly Stellar!
- Tip Worthy- 3: Gratuity Included. Service started off a little snippy, but the waiter warmed up and became extremely helpful and friendly.
- Coordinates- 3: City- 10 Minute Ride to Fun. When you walk on to the street after dinner, you will be the only one there. Hop a cab uptown for some action.
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green Light