It’s that time of the year again folks! NYC Restaurant Week has returned, and I’m loosening my belt and cheating on my summer health kick to indulge in some of the best food the city has to offer. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to check out my reviews from this past winter Restaurant Week (Part 1, Part 2), I’ll fill you in. Restaurant Week (which is more like Restaurant Month) is a city-wide promotion that happens twice a year—once in the winter, once in the summer. Participating restaurants offer a pre-fixe three-course meal at $25 for lunch and $38 for dinner. A special Restaurant Week menu provides a list of appetizers, entrées, and desserts, and you select one from each list to comprise your meal. For foodies like me who dream about eating in Michelin-starred, celebrity-chef restaurants on the daily, it’s not a bad way to get a taste of the good life.
As before, here’s the first installment of my Restaurant Week reviews!
The Lamb’s Club Bar
Executive Chef: Eric Haugan
Cuisine: American New
- Appetizer (top): king salmon tartare with bonito, red radish, and preserved lemon
- Entrée (middle): grilled hanger steak with sugar snap peas, yukon gold potato purée, and pickled ramp chimichurri
- Dessert (bottom): milk chocolate mousse with nougat and dark chocolate sorbet
My Rating (out of 5)
The Lambs Club opened in 2010 by Food Network chef and personality Geoffrey Zakarian (or should I say, Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian). I ate at the Zakarian’s other restaurant The National during a previous restaurant week, and it was pretty dang good! I was expecting a similar experience at The Lambs Club. The restaurant is very classy—which was obvious as soon as you walk through the wrought iron doors. The interior has a modern art deco vibe with dark wood fixtures and with red leather and accents. One of the coolest things was that our table was covered in beautiful black leather…so fancy!!! The kitchen is now headed by Executive Chef Eric Haugen, and like The National, The Lambs Club specializes in American New cuisine. Basically that means the food takes a modern twist on American classics. So of course, I chose the Restaurant Week essential. For my appetizer, I got the king salmon tartare with bonito, red radish, and preserved lemon. If you love sashimi like me, you’d love a good tartare. The fish was fresh, but the acidity of the lemon juice was just a bit too strong…the sourness almost overpowering the other ingredients. I got the grilled hanger steak with sugar snap peas, yukon gold potato purée, and pickled ramp chimichurri for my main course. Although the steak was a tender medium rare, it wasn’t jaw-dropping. The highlight of the dish was definitely that potato purée, which I basically licked clean. It was buttery and creamy without a gummy texture, which can sometimes happen when making starchy purées. My dessert was good—milk chocolate mousse with nougat and dark chocolate sorbet. The whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts, as none of the components were really breathtaking. Together, though, the textures of the fluffy mousse and the creamy sorbet was a nice contrast to the crunchy hazelnut nougat. To sum it up, the food was good…not spectacular. But if you’re looking for a classy place to impress a special person before seeing a Broadway show, The Lamb’s Club is where it’s at!!
Executive Chef: Bobby Flay
Location: Union Square
- Appetizer (top left): fish cakes with grapefruit-avocado-mango salsa and poblano vinagrette
- Entrée (bottom): wild striped bass with smoked tomato-black olive relish and hot red chile garlic vinaigrette
- Dessert (top right): chocolate bread pudding with passion fruit ganache
My Rating (out of 5)
Superstar Chef Bobby Flay takes you back to his culinary roots at Mesa Grill, one of his very first restaurants. It was nice to see how Southwestern/Mexican food could be so refined from my typical go-to burrito joint. Mesa Grill is located on 5th Ave and 15th St…which is literally right next to campus. I came here on my lunch break with my coworker from one of our on-campus jobs. So if you’ve got a break between classes and you’re looking to treat yo’self, you should definitely pop in. The interior could be a little nicer for a fine-dining restaurant, though the simple decor and the fun pueblo-esque colors definitely made me feel more comfortable rather than intimidated, which I sometimes feel when eating at such nice restaurants. And god forbid this place actually has some NATURAL LIGHT. Huge windows in the front are left uncovered, allowing sunlight to pour in during the lunch rush. Now, for the food. Fish cakes with grapefruit-avocado-mango salsa and poblano vinagrette for my appetizer. The term “fish cake” might sound a little jarring, but trust me, if Bobby Flay had a hand in creating it, you won’t be disappointed. Flakey pieces of fish with bread crumbs and seasoning were pan fried so the exterior was crispy, and that bitter-sweet salsa added some needed moisture. For my main, I had the wild striped bass with smoked tomato-black olive relish and a hot red chile garlic vinaigrette. The bass was perfectly tender and buttery on the inside, crispy on the outside. The tomatoes in the relish had such an incredible smokey flavor that they almost tasted like sausages. The spicy and acidic vinaigrette also added a nice kick to the fish. I chose the chocolate bread pudding with the passion fruit ganache for dessert, which had that perfect sticky, gooeyness that makes bread pudding so awesome. A warm chocolate sauce within the bread pudding almost gave it a lava cake kinda vibe. The passion fruit ganache was also a perfect compliment to the chocolate, adding a contrasting tartness to all that richness.
David Burke Kitchen
- Executive Chef: Chris Shea
- Cuisine: American New
- Location: Tribeca
- Appetizer (top left): lobster dumpling soup with coconut fennel crème and watercress
- Entrée (bottom left): short ribs with aged cheddar mac and cheese, english peas, and peach BBQ
- Dessert (right): frozen Arnold Palmer (sweet tea semifreddo, meyer lemon granita, candied mint)
My Rating (out of 5)
Upon entering the restaurant, I was taken back…in not such a great way. The dining room was loud, packed, and chaotic. The restaurant sits in a kinda split-level basement, so there’s only a few strips of windows lining the top of the walls. It made the space feel even more cramped. We were finally seated after waiting about a half hour after our reservation time. And we get seated next to a concrete column, on the side where waiting diners and staff would constantly bump into our small table. Claustrophobia aside, the food definitely made up for the ambience. This was my first time at a David Burke restaurant, and I was happily surprised to see an ENORMOUS list of options on the menu! Typically, establishments participating in Restaurant Week will offer 3-4 options per course, and it differs from their à la carte menu. At David Burke Kitchen, the menu was essentially identical to their normal menu, just that you could pick three items for only $38!! I ordered the lobster dumpling soup for my appetizer, which was TO DIE FOR. The broth was rich and savory with a beautiful lobster aroma, and the dumplings themselves were stuffed with huge pieces of mouthwatering lobster. For my entrée, I got the short ribs with aged cheddar mac and cheese, english peas, and peach BBQ. The short ribs were a bit on the dry side around the edges, but the interior was so tender, the meat literally just ripped off. But I’ll be damned…it wasn’t even the short ribs that blew my mind. That mac and cheese could quite possibly be the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had…and this is coming from somebody who swears by S’MAC. Instead of macaroni noodles, the mac and cheese was made with thick, chewy shells. The cheddar wasn’t too rich, which is often a turn off for me for fancy mac and cheese. For desert, I tried to choose something a little bit out of the box. First thing to catch my attention—frozen Arnold Palmer. No, I didn’t just get a glass of sweet tea and lemonade. Instead, I got a sweet tea semifreddo, meyer lemon granita in a mason jar with candied mint on the rims. A deconstructed Arnold Palmer translated into a creative, brilliant dessert. Incredible!
Restaurant Week ends on August 16, so if you happen to be in the city before then, definitely book a table! Especially for those of you moving into the dorms on the 15th and 16th, these restaurants would be a great meal to bid your parents farewell!