Chow Time: Winter Restaurant Week 2014, Pt. 2

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Friday marks the final day of New York Restaurant Week, but never fear!  You’ll be able to satisfy your appetite for some of the city’s finest culinary offerings again when Restaurant Week returns this summer.  Here’s my second round of reviews from this time around, but you’re also welcome to check out my other recommendations (1,2,3,4,5).

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EN Japanese Brasserie

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Executive Chef: Abe Hiroki
Cuisine: Japanese
Location: West Village

  • Appetizer 1 (top left): Handmade tofu (freshly-made scooped tofu with wari joyu)
  • Appetizer 2 (top center): O-Banzai (Chef’s selection of two Kyoto-style appetizers)
  • Entrée (bottom): Ankake salmon (salmon lightly fried in a savory dashi broth with an array of mushrooms) served with ongiri and EN miso soup
  • Dessert (top right): Homemade raspberry sorbet

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

My Thoughts
All I can say is “wow.”  EN Japanese Brasserie definitely takes the cake for providing me with one of the most incredible meals I’ve had the pleasure of eating this Restaurant Week.  Even before putting my chopsticks to my mouth, a glance around the dining room is enough to take your breath away.  Blonde pine dining surfaces juxtaposed against dark concrete and high warehouse ceilings synthesizes the aesthetic of  Japanese refinement with that edgy, urban, New York vibe.  Even something as seemingly simple as the arrangement of tables were carefully determined, since every table seemed to nest comfortably in its own space without feeling cluttered or crowded by its neighbors.  Now for the food.  Besides an option for the entrée, the rest of the menu was set.  The first bite was a delicate, handmade scooped-tofu.  EN is famous for their array of fresh, homemade tofu, and after one savory, sweet, melt-in-your mouth bite, I could see why.  The second appetizer included two small Kyoto-style dishes.  One was a sort of pickled mushroom, while the other was a slaw of seaweed and beans.  Both were so packed with umami flavor, but were still light and elegant.  Then came the main course: a lightly fried salmon swimming in a savory dashi broth.  And if that wasn’t enough food, they also provided a plate of ongiri rice AND a bowl of their own miso soup.  This is not your $7 lunch special sushi joint.  There’s something incredibly refined about the way dishes are created and paired together in Japanese cuisine.  The textures and flavors work in tandem to create a harmonious bite, that is neither overwhelming nor heavy.  To finish, a simple homemade raspberry sorbet became the perfect palette cleanser.

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Butter Midtown

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Executive Chef: Alex Guarnaschelli
Cuisine: American New
Location: Midtown

  • Appetizer (top): Cavatappi pasta with spicy lamb sausage and a yellow tomato sauce
  • Entrée (center): Spice rubbed & slow-cooked heritage pork shoulder
  • Dessert (bottom): Ginger snap ice cream sandwich with pecan streusel and dark chocolate sauce

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

My Thoughts
You may have seen Alex Guarnaschelli on Food Network as a judge on the competition series “Chopped” or as the the newest addition to the roster of Iron Chefs.  I loved my experience at The Darby, one of her other restaurants, and I was extremely impressed by my meal at Butter a few years back at it’s original location on Lafayette St.  Now in a new home in Midtown, I knew I had to give it a second go.  Walking through the doors, you immediately descend a staircase to the basement, where the restaurant is nestled beneath an office building.  Compared it’s birth home, Butter Midtown lacked a certain intimacy and coziness.  The acoustics were strange, amplifying the sound as it bounced all around the room, making it difficult to hold a conversation with my date without screaming.  And the food was a bit below my expectations.  I started with the cavatappi pasta with lamb sausage, which honestly tasted like something I would make in my own kitchen.  Not to say it was bad, but I guess I had higher expectations.  The pork shoulder was fantastic, however, and I indulged in every delicious, tender bite.  The ginger snap ice cream sandwich was brought to the table, and then our server poured a luxurious serving of the dark chocolate sauce on top.  I love me some ice cream cookie sandwiches, but the ginger snaps were rock solid, making it difficult to eat.

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The Marrow

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Executive Chef: Harold Dieterle
Cuisine: Contemporary German/Italian
Location: West Village

  • Appetizer (bottom left): Prime beef carpaccio with frisee, focaccia croutons, and parmesan
  • Entrée (top): Braised lamb neck with a rutabaga puree and red cabbage
  • Dessert (bottom right): Milk chocolate panna cotta with grape jam and a peanut biscotti

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

My Thoughts
Back in 2006, Executive Chef and co-owner Harold Dieterle won the first season of Top Chef.  He’s since opened three restaurants in the city, including his newest venture—The Marrow.  This quaint West Village gem is among the many great little restaurants in the neighborhood serving some really amazing food.  I rarely pass on the opportunity for some very rare meat, so naturally I chose the prime beef carpaccio.  It was delicious, but tasted like any other beef carpaccio I’ve had in the past.  My roommate who joined me for dinner opted for the à la carte menu, starting with their signature bone marrow topped with sea urchin.  She let me have a taste…that bite alone was enough to make me a fan.  Definitely gonna order that next time I come!  I had the braised lamb neck for my main course, which literally fell apart tenderly with my fork.  The meat itself was delicious, though I thought they went a bit overboard with the pickled red cabbage, which completely overpowered the dish with sourness and acidity by the end.  The rich, decadent milk chocolate panna cotta for dessert was a perfect ending to my meal, especially for this peanut-chocolate fanatic.

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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