The Glutton’s Guide to NYC Restaurant Week

After 4 years of living in the city and active participation in both the winter and summer restaurant weeks despite being a college student (read: poor), I’ve now managed to eat at enough places to come up with this guide. Now there’s certainly way more than 25 restaurants that have RW (I’ll be abbreviating restaurant week as that from now on for obvious reasons), and I’m no expert by any means, but hopefully this guide and my tips will still helps those of you who need a hand at making your reservations. And yes, RW is officially ending this Sunday, but don’t be surprised when you find out its extended until Labor Day. Feel free to share your own recommendations in the comments.

But first, some tips on making your reservations and dining during RW:

  • Go for the $$$’s – RW is all about dining at some of NYC’s best (read: expensive) restaurants at a fraction of the cost. As a result, I always make sure to go to places where my entrée alone would cost around $30. So look for places with the most $’s to get the most value out of RW.
  • Register your American Express card for a $20 statement credit – Amex cardmember? Register, dine at least 3 times during RW, and get a $20 statement credit. That’s practically a free lunch.
  • Be generous when tipping – Waiters and hosts tips typically get cut during Restaurant Week since most tables’ bills add up to less, yet they usually still provide you with the same impeccable service as they would to those dining on the full-priced menu. You’re already saving a good deal with RW pricing, so don’t be stingy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more bread – Seriously. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. A lot of places will even ask you if you want a refill.
  • Try Savored.com to save 20-30% if the RW menu is unappealing – I’m a member of this great site called Savored.com that allows you to save 20-30% off your full-priced bill at many restaurants that participate in RW, including Aquavit, DB Bistro Moderne, Butter, and Le Cirque, making it a great way to try these places at a similar discount if you aren’t impressed by their RW offerings. Book by Friday to pay only $2 (usually $10) for any future reservation (pro-tip: just make a reservation for any future date, and you can always modify it when you decide on when you actually want to go)

And now, onto the list!

Disclaimer: Since this list spans 4 years, some of the restaurants may no longer participate in RW, have different menus, may have gotten better, or may suck now. I’ve included when I ate at each restaurant as reference (thank you, OpenTable). Try the RW website or Yelp if you need more help deciding, or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to respond.

The Best of the Best

David Burke Towhouse's Pretzel Crusted Crabcake

David Burke Townhouse’s Pretzel Crusted Crabcake

  • Any David Burke restaurant (New American) – Having dined at both David Burke Townhouse (Winter ’11) and Fishtail by David Burke (Winter ’10), I’ve come to the conclusion that this guy really understands what people want from RW. With memorable food (from cheesecake lollipops on a tree to the best lobster bisque that even came with a mini lobster roll), an extensive selection for restaurant week (always at least 3 choices, if not more), great service, and good portions, David Burke has yet to disappoint me (We’ll see if I’m proven wrong if/when I try out David Burke Kitchen)
  • JoJo (French, Summer ’11) – See my review here
  • Porter House (Steakhouse, Winter ’10) – Amazing soups, perfectly cooked, sizable, melt-in-your-mouth steaks, and Central Park views.
  • The Water Club (Seafood, Winter and Summer ’10) – Apparently they didn’t do it this year, but I’ve dined there twice for their “Lobster and Lobster” RW menu with their delicious lobster bisque appetizer and a whole lobster entrée. Add that to the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for the most gorgeous views along the East River, and you’re in for a truly memorable dinner.
  • Morimoto (Japanese, Summer ’08) – There’s a reason he’s an Iron Chef – everything we had was amazing and the sushi is so fresh it’s practically still alive. The restaurant itself has great interiors, especially the wall made entirely of glass bottles.
  • Thalassa (Greek, Winter ’11) – Greek cheeses to go with our wine while we waited for the rest of our party, a spanikopita amuse-bouche in between our delicious appetizer and entrée courses, and simply gorgeous, nautical-inspired interiors make this Tribeca restaurant a standout.

Amazing food, but you’ll probably leave hungry
You’ll get to try some of the best food of your life that would normally cost way more than RW’s $24.07/$35 (meaning, try out these places!), but you should probably have a snack beforehand if you’re used to bigger portions (meaning, you should probably have a snack…)

  • Cafe Boulud (French, Summer ’09) – The best French I’ve ever had in the city. The. End.
  • Craftbar (New American, Winter ’11) – I actually found their portions perfectly sized for lunch, but others wanted more. Regardless, everything we tasted at Tom Colicchio’s Flatiron restaurant made us understand why he’s a judge on Top Chef.
  • Megu (Japanese, Winter ’10) – My main course was Kobe beef served on a hot stone that was set on fire to cook. Tiny, but undeniably delicious. And the interiors of this Tribeca gem will blow you away.

Great restaurants that will leave you satisfied
Not necessarily amazing, but for great food for all 3 courses, portions, service, and ambiance, these are definitely worth trying out during RW.

Lure Fishbar's Steamed Branzino

Lure Fishbar’s Steamed Branzino

Great restaurants that I’ve only tried outside of RW but are probably great during RW too
While I’ve never actually dined at these places during RW, based on my experiences there and their offerings on their RW menus, I’d say they’re a safe bet for a fantastic pre-fixe meal.

  • Il Cantinori (Italian, Fall ’10) – Some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had, and their RW menu looks just as appealing.
  • Kittichai (Thai, Summer ’09) – See my description for Il Cantinori, change Italian for Thai.
  • Spice Market (Southeast Asian, Fall ’10) – Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s upscale take on SEA street food is some of the best I’ve had. If you’re up for spending a bit more than the RW price range, the restaurant has a 5-course, 10 dish tasting for $48 that will leave you so full you’ll feel like your going to burst.

Hit or Miss Restaurants
Some courses are good, but others are just mediocre. Your call.

  • City Crab & Seafood (Seafood, Winter ’10) – My jumbo lump crab cakes were fantastic, as was their lobster, but appetizers and dessert were just ok. Maybe they’ve changed up their offering for those courses so could be worth a shot. If anything, go for their $1 oyster and half-price drink happy hour.
  • Mesa Grill (Southwest American, Winter ’08) – Sorry Bobby Flay, but as good as your profiteroles were, my chicken was dry.

Go to these great restaurants, just not for Restaurant Week

These restaurants are great, but they either a) have year-round pre-fixe menus for around the same price as RW
b) are affordable enough to order from their regular a la carte menus or
c) have amazing food on their a la carte menus that you would miss by ordering from their RW menu. Better to save your reservations for one of the places listed above and check these out when RW is over.

Beacon's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Souffle

Beacon’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip Souffle

  • Beacon (New American) – Their wood-roasted oysters are absolutely amazing. Seriously. They will blow your mind. The wood roasted pizzas and souffles are phenomenal as well.
  • Chinatown Brasserie (Chinese) – One might not understand why dim sum would ever cost more than $4 per serving, but one bite of Chef Joe Ng’s elevated dumplings and other small bites will make you forget all about having to chase a lady pushing a cart for good dim sum. Entrees are supposedly mediocre, so just go for the dim sum. Make a reservation through Savored.com for 30% off your bill.
  • Nobu (Japanese) – Honestly, their RW menu kind of sucks in terms of offerings. Their black cod miso, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of suck, as are their tempuras.
  • Tao (Pan-Asian) – their $24.07 lunch pre-fixe is available year-round, and the family-style portions can be shared so dining a la carte is still in the RW price range
Hope this guide helps. More food porn below. Happy eating!

Foodparc & Beerparc: A diverse, tech-savvy food court meets cool, but confusing beer garden

Delicious duck bun from Foodparc's RedFarm Stand

Delicious peking duck bun from Foodparc's RedFarm Stand

One of Foodparc's many touchscreen ordering terminals

One of Foodparc's many touchscreen ordering terminals

On Sunday, I checked out the recently opened Foodparc and its attached beer garden Beerparc, located on 6th Ave. between 29th and 30th St. The 20,000(!) square foot indoor/outdoor space hosts multiple eateries featuring everything from pasta served on flatbreads at Fornetti (which looked amazing) and burgers and other grilled fare at 3B’s to French press coffee at the appropriately named The Press and fresh salads at Quality Greens. Foodparc’s unique factor is their ordering system, which features touchscreen self-serve terminals that even have the option of receiving a text message notification when your order is ready. I personally thought the system was awesome since I could take my own sweet time ordering, but I could see some issues if you had to pick up food from multiple counters.

A step-by-step guide to Beerparc

A step-by-step guide to Beerparc

Beerparc itself has its own stands, such as a raw bar from the man behind Ed’s Chowder House (which featured an intriguing Lobster Avocado BLT roll which I really want to go back and try). They also have a stand from Top Chef 1 winner Harold Dieterle of Perilla and Kin Shop, as well as Fatty Snack, an offshoot of Fatty ‘Cue and Fatty Crab. Of course, what’s a beer garden without beer. Strangely, the beer at Foodparc’s outdoor space is actually served inside, and only features 5 beers on tap, though it’s a pretty respectable selection. Unlike the rest of Foodparc, however, Beerparc uses an ordering system based off food and drink tickets, which you purchase at one register then present to each stand in exchange for your fare, with a beer adding up to two $3 tickets ($6 for those lacking in mental math skills) and most food items ranging from 1-3 tickets. While this works well conceptually, since servers at the outdoor food stands don’t have to deal with money, I feel it could be messy business for customers purchasing items at both the indoor Foodparc eateries and outdoor Beerparc stands and for people who aren’t good at holding onto tickets.

The sleek and modern interiors of Foodparc

The sleek and modern interiors of Foodparc

BUT OK, ordering systems aside – onto what I actually ate. As you can see from my photo at the top of this post, I chose to order from RedFarm Stand after checking out some tips on Foursquare. The dumpling and dim sum stand was created by the guys behind one of my favorite dim sum places, Chinatown Brasserie, so naturally, I had to check this place out. Ironically, I wasn’t actually in a dumpling mood, so I went with one of my favorite foods ever – a duck bun. At $6 a pop, I had high expectations, and they were pretty much met. The duck meat was juicy and perfectly complemented by the typical accompaniments like hoisin sauce and cucumber in a yummy bun. I honestly still don’t know what the surrounding fried vegetable chips were, but they were good (isn’t everything fried good?). I just wish there was a teeny bit more duck meat considering it was probably the size of a McDonald’s cheeseburger, but then again, 2 tiny, mostly-pork-fat Smiley Buns at Je’Bon are $5, so the pricing is justifiable to me.

My Foursquare name on a big screen at Foodparc

My Foursquare name on a big screen at Foodparc

One thing that stood out to me on a non-food level was Foodparc’s social media savvy. Not only did I get an @mention from the establishment’s Twitter account, but my Foursquare check-in was displayed on a flatscreen for everyone to see, which I’ve personally never seen before. Speaking of Foursquare, Foodparc also has a special for first-time visitors, where you can get a complimentary beverage from their eateries by showing that you’ve checked in. It’s always good to know that there are real benefits to checking in other than virtual badges.

The outdoor space complete with LCD screen at Beerparc

The outdoor space complete with LCD screen at Beerparc

Overall, it’s a pretty nice space both inside and out, complete with a giant outdoor LCD screen on which they apparently show games and movies. While the ordering system has its pluses and minuses, I still think it’s intriguing enough to give a shot, especially when you add Food/Beerparc’s array of promising food. I’ll personally be going back for that Lobster Avocado BLT Roll with a side of pasta on flatbread and beer (but maybe after Warrior Dash).

Today I had juice for lunch (and breakfast and dinner…)

My meal for the next 3 days - 24 oz. of juice

My breakfast, lunch, & dinner for the next 3 days

So I just started a 3 day combination juice/raw cleanse. Considering all the junk and alcohol I consume, I’ve always wanted to do a cleanse to detox my system (and maybe even shred a few pounds). Of course, the idea of a diet consisting of solely juice is kind of scary, especially for someone who loves food as much as me. Luckily, I found a cleanse called Kaeng Raeng through an online deal from my favorite health-digest Vital Juice where you can eat all the raw veggies and fruit you want to supplement the juice, which means I won’t be a hungry irritable bitch for the next 3 days. I actually purchased a 6 day cleanse, but I chose to split it in half since, let’s face it, the weekend is coming up, I’m reuniting with some of my favorite girls from NYU (chinitas, whattup), and alcohol is unfortunately not cleanse-approved.

3 Packets from Kaeng Raeng's Veteran Cleanse

3 Packets from Kaeng Raeng’s Veteran Cleanse

In any case, I’m 1/3 of the way through my cleanse and it actually hasn’t been bad at all. The Kaeng Raeng cleanse consists of pouches of freeze-dried, pulverized fruit, pictured here, that each contain “more than a full serving of fruit and fiber, 15g of lean non-gmo protein, 2 billion live probiotic cultures, essential amino acids, and daily vitamins”. You just mix the pouch into water or juice, or you can blend it with raw fruit and ice to make a smoothie. I think I’ll probably try out the latter option tomorrow since to be quite frank, freeze-dried, pulverized fruit isn’t the tastiest thing ever, but I think some fresh strawberries and kiwi should make it awesome.

Regardless, the juice version has been surprisingly filling – I’ve only had a handful of baby carrots aside from the juice. I’ve even had enough energy to do 20 minutes on the elliptical. At one point in the afternoon, I thought I was feeling light-headed, but then I realized I was just melting outside in this goddamn heat wave. Hopefully I last through the next 2 days and reap all the benefits Kaeng Raeng claims, which include jump-starting weight loss, removing toxins, improving digestive health, bolstering immunity, relieving bloating, reducing cravings, and even enhancing skin and hair quality. It would certainly be a good way to kick off my training for Warrior Dash in August (more on that in another blog post).

So here’s to no meat, seafood, grilled vegetables, basically everything until Friday. Wish me luck!

Edit – 7/13/11: I’m now on the second day of my cleanse, and I already feel great. I made a smoothie out of their reunn (strawberry, raspberry, pineapple) flavor, blending it with ice, frozen strawberries, and fresh kiwi and it was delicious. I’m still full and it’s been 4 hours. While I do get small cravings for carbs, right now I’m surviving and I should make it through tomorrow.

Review: Refined French Prix Fixe for NYC Restaurant Week at JoJo

NYC Restaurant Week at JoJo - Skate with broccoli rabe and leeks in a lemon broth

In case you’re out of the loop, it’s Restaurant Week in NYC, where for a very reasonable $24.07 or $35 you get a 3-course pre-fixe lunch or dinner, respectively, at some of the city’s best restaurants. Now anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of it, dining at a minimum of 3 places in both the winter and summer runs. Having dined at Spice Market before, I’ve always been meaning to try some of Jean Georges‘ other restaurants, so for my first meal for this summer’s restaurant week, I went to JoJo, the restaurateur’s first mainstay in the city.

 

I wish I had taken pictures of the interior, because it is definitely one of the cutest places I’ve been to in the city. The restaurant is situated in a 2-story townhouse that reminded me of a quaint French chateau with its delicate and rustic details. But appearance aside, JoJo’s restaurant week menu for lunch was superb. Unlike other places which offer a very limited selection, I actually had difficulty choosing my appetizer and entrée with so many tempting choices. In the end I went with the sweet pea soup, which came with a sourdough crouton that went perfectly with the soup. My entrée was the skate wing, pictured above, which just melted like butter in your mouth and had such great flavor, especially with its vegetable accompaniments.Tuna tartare with chive oil and gaufrette potatoes

Alfred also had the skate wing for his entrée, but chose the tuna tartare for his appetizer which distinguished itself from the standard tartare with its waffle potato crisps. I thought my sister won for choosing the best appetizer, though, with peekytoe crab meat that you eat with cumin crackers and mango salsa like an open-faced sandwich. Then again, pretty much anything with either crab or mango will win in my book.Peekytoe crabmeat with cumin crackers and mango salsa, surrounded by lobster oil

Now, anyone who knows me knows I HATE raw tomatoes. They literally make me gag. I’ve tried to like them, I really have, but my taste buds and gag reflex keep refusing. In any case, I still tried out my sister’s entrée of salmon which, as you can see, was covered in cherry tomatoes. She made sure to give me a portion without a tomato, and while the salmon with corncake mash itself was good, the tomato juice that lingered still threw it off for me. She ensured me that the entire dish with all components was delicious though, so take her word for it.

Salmon with cherry tomatoes on a corncake mash

My sister and Alfred ended their meal with JoJo’s signature molten chocolate cake, which was heaven. I had the strawberry mousse was equally delicious and came with a red wine sorbet that elevated the dessert to the level of the rest of the meal. Overall, it was a great meal with impeccable service that came to a cool $30 each with tax and tip – a great way to kick off summer restaurant week.

Welcome to No Gut Glutton (plus a Disclaimer)

Welcome friends and strangers to my finally conceived food blog. As someone who has always been a foodie, trying new places, recommending restaurants to friends, and spamming Facebook with my own food porn in the form of mobile uploads (sorry for that, btw), I’ve been saying for the past 2 years that I’ve always wanted to make a food blog. And now, with over a month of free time left before full-time employment begins, I figure it’s time to stop talking and start doing (I also couldn’t sleep, hence the ridiculous timestamp).

Being a glutton with one of my ultimate indulgences, a döner kebap, in Berlin

Now as a disclaimer, the title of this blog is a bit deceiving. I am not exactly “gutless”, for which you can blame 4 years of college and a semester abroad in the country with the highest consumption of beer per capita (Prague, CZ represent). However, I do my best to keep that shit under control. When I’m not dining out for Restaurant Week or trying the new all-you-can-eat sushi buffet in my NJ hometown (both of which I did yesterday), I’m doing yoga, going for a run, and eating food that’s chock full of whole grains, veggies, lean proteins, and other stuff that’s good for you (which I did this past Tuesday thru Friday). I’m even starting a 3 day combo juice/raw cleanse today (which me luck).

Hence the name of this blog: No Gut Glutton. (Side note: I wanted to call it a bajillion other things like Foodie not Fatty but they were all apparently taken)

Anyway, in this blog I’ll highlight my various food adventures in NYC as they happen and may do some retrospective posts about some of my favorite places in the city as well (sidenote: I’m really indecisive so those links are truly a random assortment of a much larger list of favorites). Of course, I’ll also document my healthy side with recipes for meals that are both yummy and guilt-free and other random things concerning my attempt to get rid of my gut.

This is obviously still in infancy and will change over time. With that, I’d love any suggestions or feedback, love, hate, share it with your friends, whatever. I’m just really excited to finally be doing this. And so it begins…