Chow Time: Winter Restaurant Week 2014, Pt. 1

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So my last post featured my biannual trend analysis from New York Fashion Week…but even more fun for  foodie like me are my biannual reviews for New York Restaurant Week!  So what exactly is Restaurant Week?  It’s an opportunity for culinary crusaders to fine dine on a budget!  From February 17th to March 7th, hundreds of restaurants around the city featuring menus of varying cuisines are offering a special three course, pre-fixe menu.  In the past, I’ve gotten the opportunity to at some incredible places where I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.  My list includes some New York City staples such as The 21 Club, Michelin-starred Depending which establishment you choose, the Restaurant Week menu may only be available on certain weekdays or for certain mealtimes, so be sure to check before you book your table.

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MAZE by Gordon Ramsay

Executive Chef: Gordon Ramsay
Cuisine: French
Location: Midtown West

maze

  • Appetizer (top): Cauliflower soup with golden raisins, white cheddar cheese, and cumin oil
  • Entrée (middle): Beef short rib with charred eggplant, and beluga lentils
  • Dessert (bottom): Salted milk chocolate mousse with coconut coco nib dacquoise, and a passion banana sorbet

My Rating (out of 5)
Ambience: ★★★
Service: ★★★★★
Food: 
★★★

My Thoughts
You might’ve seen Gordon Ramsay raise hell on television, but there’s no doubt that his harsh personality and ferocious leadership has helped him build his culinary empire.  Located in The London Hotel adjacent to his highly-revered flagship restaurant Gordon Ramsay at The London, MAZE by Gordon Ramsay is his more casual counterpart.  The restaurant’s interior glistens with art deco flare.  Mirrors and shiny angular metal fixtures help to disperse light throughout the dining room, which is a relieving change from most other dimly-lit, fancy restaurants.  I chose the cauliflower soup with golden raisins, which was definitely delicious…but it was so thick and rich, it resembled more of a sauce than  a soup.  There’d be no possible way I could eat more than the small serving portion.   For my entrée, I chose the beef short ribs.  Short ribs are no stranger to Restaurant Week menus, and I’ve had my fair share of dry, mediocre beef.  Gordon Ramsay’s, however, was not of that sort.  You could tell just how perfectly the meat was braised just with a simple scrape of the fork.  Oh so tender.  The desert was a particularly intriguing milk chocolate mousse.  Different elements plated together formed a single dish, resembling the kind of weird stuff you see on TV they call “molecular gastronomy.”  Salty foam replaced crystals, and the light, melt-in-your mouth meringue was an interesting contrast to the silky smooth mousse.

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The Monkey Bar

Executive Chef: Marcos Gonzalez-Donato
Cuisine: American Traditional
Location: Theatre District

monkeybar

  • Appetizer (top left): Roasted sweet breads with sunchoke and cippolini onions
  • Entrée (bottom): Wild striped bass with artichokes, fennel, and baby spinach
  • Dessert (top right): Beignets with vanilla custard and strawberry preserves

My Rating (out of 5)
Ambience: ★★★★★
Service: ★★★
Food: ★★★★

My Thoughts
Taking a step into The Monkey Bar is like a taking a step back in time.  Dark wood interiors, plush red booths, and a  panoramic Ed Sorel mural brings you back to the Jazz Age.  I chose The Monkey Bar after reading a recommendation on a food blog, and my meal definitely didn’t disappoint.  For my appetizer, I got the roasted sweet breads.  For those of you who may not be very adventurous eaters, sweet breads are far from any pastry you’d find in a bakery (if you don’t know what they are, I’d suggest a quick Google search haha).  But trust me, one bite, and it’ll turn you skeptics into believers.  It was only a small piece, but I wanted to savor every crispy, creamy bite.  I opted for the wild striped bass for my main course, which was tender and flakey, though I think they could’ve gone easier on the vegetables since the fish sat atop an enormous pile of artichokes.  The beignets were not impressive, but I could have definitely used more of that vanilla custard plate scraper.

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The Mercer Kitchen

mercerkitchen

Executive Chef: Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Cuisine: American New
Location: SoHo

  • Appetizer (bottom left): Black truffle pizza with fontina cheese
  • Entrée (top): Crunchy baked organic chicken with glazed carrots and tarragon
  • Dessert (bottom right): Ginger bread cake with apple butter and walnut brittle

My Rating (out of 5)
Ambience: ★★★
Service: ★★★★
Food: ★★★★

My Thoughts
You can’t really go wrong with a Jean-Georges restaurant.  As one of the world’s most acclaimed chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen certainly lives up to his reputation.  Having a choice between tuna tartare and a pizza for appetizer, I would typically opt for the tartare since, in my mind, I can get pizza anywhere I want in the city.  But after glancing at the table next and snatching a nice whiff of the truffle, my mouth was watering for some pizza.  And boy, did I make the right choice!  Sprinkled with a healthy topping of shredded black truffles, this was definitely not your $1 Two Bro’s pizza.  Then came my entrée.  Once again, I usually don’t order chicken dishes because I’d normally choose a more “expensive” meat or fish option, but wow.  The chicken was juicy and moist, and the incredible baked crust gave the sensation of fried chicken except BETTER.  The glazed carrots were a little strange with the chicken since they seemed to be braised in vinegar or something else acidic, but it wasn’t anything overwhelming.  As for the desert, the ginger break cake was a bit dry, but different components comprised of the apple butter, walnut brittle, and green apple sorbet made for a beautifully harmonious dish.

For more of my Restaurant Week recommendations, you can also check out some of my previous reviews! (1, 2, 3, 4)

Bon appetite!
-Syd

About Syd

Sup! I'm Syd. I just recently graduated from the Strategic Design & Management program this past fall, but I'm still kickin' it on iheartparsons.com to offer some words of wisdom! I love Sriracha sauce, quoting Spongebob Squarepants, solving Rubik's Cubes, and electronic dance music. Go Parsons!

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