A Super Belated NYC Restaurant Week Winter 2012 Round-Up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this blog, but given that Summer Restaurant Week is upon us, I only thought it would be appropriate to kick things back into gear. I began writing this post in February and had originally intended to post this entry when it was actually still, you know, winter, but as I got busy and the season started to change, I figured it would serve better to just delay this until now so it would at least be a bit more relevant. All of the restaurants I went to in the winter are still participating this summer so feel free to use my reviews and Restaurant Week guide to help decide where to book!

[The following was written in March 2012….]
As I’ve said before and as shown by my guide to NYC Restaurant Week, I’ve had my fair share of pre-fixe meals. This go-around, I went to 5 places total: Ai Fiori, Tribeca Grill, and Nobu for lunch, and SHO Shaun Hergatt and Brasserie Les Halles for dinner. Needless to say, I’m getting that Amex statement credit (so my lunch at Nobu is practically free!)

House made tagliatelle with mushrooms from Ai Fiori. SO GOOD.

House made tagliatelle with mushrooms and parmesan from Ai Fiori. SO GOOD.

To summarize, the newer additions to the NYCRW list (Ai Fiori and SHO Shaun Hergatt) definitely trumped the older standbys. I really wanted to try Michael White’s Ai Fiori, which has been listed as one of the best new restaurants for 2011, but they only did the RW pre-fixe Monday thru Friday lunch and it’s located in midtown (aka way too far from work). Luckily, Martin Luther King day was the first day of RW, so I took advantage of the day off and made a reservation and boy, was it worth it. Check out my review of all the restaurants (including a bunch of food porn) after the jump!

Everything at Ai Fiori was delicious (more pictures at the end of the post). A big standout was my hand-made tagliatelle pasta with mushrooms. It’s one of those moments where you’ve been used to eating 99 cent Trader Joe’s pasta for a while, and then you have a bite of the real stuff and you remember that scene in Eat Pray Love where all Julia Roberts does is eat freshly made pasta, and then you kind of hate your life for not having freshly made pasta for every meal of the day. Yeah, I’d say eating that dish went something like that. Aside from the food, the selected wine was also really good and priced pretty cheap at less than $30, and of course, the service was great.

Flounder from SHO Shaun Hergatt - melt in your mouth delicious

Flounder in a carrot, cardamom, citrus emulsion from SHO Shaun Hergatt – melt in your mouth delicious

SHO Shaun Hergatt is probably one of my favorite RW dinners I’ve had since I’ve been living in the city. While the Restaurant Week menu was missing a bit of the Asian influence and uniqueness that the restaurant is known for, the food we had was damn good regardless. Plus with their use of local, seasonal ingredients, the menu was a perfect fit for the winter weather. From decadently rich and creamy potato leek “espuma” (that would be soup to us normal folk) to the simple but delicious “sous-vide” chicken, everything we tasted was incredible. The restaurant also features a gorgeous, open glass wine corridor which you walk through to enter the dining area.

Squid "pasta" from Nobu - garlicky and super tasty

Squid “pasta” from Nobu – garlicky and super tasty

Since I work within proximity to TriBeCa, I was able to take a couple of long lunch breaks and try out 2 RW mainstays: Tribeca Grill and Nobu. Tribeca Grill offered a menu that didn’t necessarily “Wow” but certainly fit the weather with seasonal menu items that made for a solid lunch worth the $24.07 price tag. Having had an amazing dinner at Nobu before, I was looking forward to seeing what they offered for lunch, but to be honest I wasn’t that impressed with their winter RW offering. While the clever “squid pasta” they offered was delicious, everything else wasn’t anything memorable – just good. That said, having taken a peek at their summer offering which features their famous black cod miso in a salad as well as their similarly incredible arctic char as an entree, Nobu definitely looks like a good choice for a reservation this season.

Moules frites from Brasserie Les Halles - a better choice over the Restaurant Week menu

Moules frites from Brasserie Les Halles – a better choice over the Restaurant Week menu

Since I also live in the Financial District, I tried out the downtown outpost of Anthony Bourdain’s original restaurant, Brasserie Les Halles. Given the affordable prices on their regular menu and a pretty basic (read: boring) restaurant week menu, we ended up just forgoing the pre-fixe offerings This is definitely a place where you’re better off skipping Restaurant Week and instead just trying out the dishes you really want, like moules frites in my case. Cooked in a delicious creamy sauce with bacon bits, paired with a giant plate of fries, and ringing up to a $17 price tag, it ended up being a great decision.

Overall, I’d say that when it comes to Restaurant Week, go with your gut. I mean this literally: check out all the menus and just go to the restaurants that have the tastiest sounding food that make you hungry just reading. While RW is a great time to try some of New York’s best and most well-known restaurants, you also want to make sure you’re actually getting to try the food that got them the acclaim in their pre-fixe offerings. So do some research, book some reservations, and enjoy. More food porn to follow: