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One if by Land, Two if by Sea – American (New) – West Village
Jan 28th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

So I forgot to charge my camera battery before we went to One if by Land, Two if by Sea for Restaurant Week, and I was reminded that what photographers always say about great pictures coming not from great cameras but from great photographic eyes is entirely untrue. I had to use this seven-megapixel Sony with the tiniest LCD, and it just didn’t compare in any way to my Canon S90. Of course my Canon doesn’t compare in any way to a real DSLR, so now I’m wondering how different my pictures would be if I went crazy and decided I’m willing to lug ten pounds of camera around with me everywhere. Anyway, there’s your explanation as to why these pictures are decidedly funky.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
portobello soup, chives

This amuse bouche smelled like it was going to be really meaty, like maybe it was flavored with bacon. Though it was plenty rich, the smell was actually better than the taste, which we found a little bland. More salt (or some actual bacon!) would’ve fixed it.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
heirloom radish salad, wild arugula, pecorino cheese, popcorn, citrus vinaigrette

This was such a nice wintry salad, with layers of flavors provided by the slightly fruity radishes and the slightly stinky cheese. The popcorn, which wasn’t listed on the menu, provided a pleasant surprise crunch and added a little whimsy.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
roasted butternut squash soup, Bonnie Blue farm goat cheese, cranberry coulis, pecans

Though not as good as the bacony Métrazur squash soup, this bowl had plenty to offer with its crunchy nuts, smooth cheese, and herbs (tarragon, my boyfriend said). The goat was maybe a smidge too strong for the delicate squash flavor, but it’s not like I’m really going to complain about too much cheese.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
red beet risotto, beet greens, fennel, crème fraiche, dill

I really considered ordering this but decided I’d be dumb to pass up steak for a dish with no protein, so it was my boyfriend who ended up with the best dish of the night. The initial flavor was just plain super-buttery risotto, with the beet taste trailing as the bite hit the back of my throat. The green tint around the edge of the plate is the hint of beet greens, and the slivers of orange on top are what tasted to us like sweet potatoes. Those and the fennel added a nice crunch.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
pretzel bread

This was an $8 addition to the $35 Restaurant Week menu and was worth every penny. The strips of bread were exceptionally soft and buttery in the middle with crunchy ends crisscrossed with melted cheese.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
grilled bavette steak, swiss chard, pearl barley, roasted cipollini onion, beef jus

The bavette (or flank) steak comes from the stomach muscles of the cow, so while it wasn’t as tender as a filet mignon, it was a great cut for the price and cooked just to suit me. The beef jus tasted like mushrooms to me and added a nice depth to the barley. Some bites of the steak were melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the whole dish was such a comfort on the blustery night.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut) mousse, caramel compressed bananas, banana bread, banana bread ice cream

I’ve had a thing for soufflés lately, so my boyfriend asked if I could substitute the restaurant’s chocolate chip soufflé for the regular Restaurant Week desserts. Our server agreed to it with a small supplement in price, so I spent the meal feeling ecstatic about dessert. When it came time, however, our server had to break the news that the kitchen hadn’t prepared any soufflés, thinking no one would be ordering them during Restaurant Week. I was disappointed for sure but really appreciated the effort and was plenty pleased with this chocolate dessert in its place.

The chocolate and hazelnut mousse was formed into a cylinder and rolled in a flaky crust that provided a nice contrasting texture. The bananas had been sous vide(-ed?) in caramel that the banana bread sopped up the remainder of, giving it moistness that would’ve been missing otherwise. I loved that the ice cream was plated on top of the bread, as there’s nothing I hate more in a dessert than melted ice cream hanging out alone on one side of the plate.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC
mascarpone cheesecake, spiced foam

My boyfriend’s dish was again the superior one with this barely-sweet mascarpone cheesecake. The super-crunchy cookie bits were much better than some plain, old graham cracker crust, and the nutty foam reminded me so much of Christmastime. This was the perfect winter dessert. I mean, other than a chocolate chip soufflé.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarBlank Star

One if by Land, Two if by Sea NYC

With the ultra-low candlelight, the fresh roses, the live piano, and the windows that displayed the terrace out back piled feet-deep in snow, I can see why One if by Land, Two if by Sea is considered one of NYC’s most romantic restaurants. The decor was rich, the service professional but not uptight, and the food well-executed if not wildly inventive. I’ll be talking about that beet risotto for weeks and thinking about that soufflé until I can finally get a taste of it.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea
17 Barrow Street
New York, NY 10014 (map)

Restaurant Week Summer 2010: Park Avenue Summer – American (new) – Upper East Side
Jul 14th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

It’s Restaurant Week Summer 2010 here in NYC, and my boyfriend and I finally made a reservation for a place I’ve been eyeing for a couple of years now. Depending on the season, it’s called Park Avenue Summer, Autumn, Winter, or Spring, and the decor changes entirely with the seasons. Appropriately, all of the dishes we had on the first night of Restaurant Week were incredibly summer-y and some of the best we’ve had in all of our years of Restaurant Week-ing.

Park Avenue Summer
watermelon amuse-bouche

Does this look like a chunk of pineapple or what? 10 points for surprising me, and another 10 for serving me cream cheese and herbs with fruit. My boyfriend ate the pink hunk and said it was spicy, so another 10 for that. Not that these points mean anything or can be redeemed. Sorry.

Park Avenue Summer
burrata, cucumber, tomato

I kind of got this against my will. It was an extra $5, I hate tomatoes, and I wanted the corn soup. But whew, boy, if the menu had explained in detail what this was, I would’ve ordered two. The cheese is regular mozzarella on the outside, but the inside is a blend of mozzarella and cream, making it this dreamy texture. And also making it funky. It was at once the youngest-looking and oldest-tasting cheese, and it paired so nicely with the fresh cucumber. And the tomatoes? They were actually not as gross as I expected, because there was this rich tomato sauce under them that drowned them out.

Park Avenue Summer
salmon tartare

I hear chefs talk about how important acid is, especially when it comes to raw fish, but I never got it until this tartare. The first thing I tasted was CITRUS!, and it was glorious. This was probably my favourite dish of the night, just because I’m usually not a fish person, and this made me want to be.

Park Avenue Summer
veal chop, summer succotash

This was an extra $10, and my boyfriend made me get it just to be nice, but I secretly wanted his chicken. I’m really bad about not getting all of the meat off anything served on the bone, so I thought it was going to be a waste of good meat. And then I took one bite and realized I’d be picking up the bone and gnawing on it later. (There are pictures.) Super-chargrilled on the outside, super-pink on the inside.

The funny thing was the side. Now, I love corn like nobody’s business, but do you know what I tasted with the first forkful of succotash? PIZZA. I swear, it tasted exactly the way green peppers on a pizza do. And my boyfriend said the exact same thing without me telling him that’s what I was thinking! They must have used a lot of oregano in that salad or something.

Park Avenue Summer
free-range chicken, peaches

The peaches were really the highlight here and almost overpowered everything else, which is not a complaint, because the chicken, in my opinion, really would’ve benefited from some spice. I really loved the crispy edges, though, and the crunchy pine nuts. My boyfriend liked the sweet sauce and was reminded of zereshk polo, a Persian dish from his childhood made with chicken, rice, and barberries.

Park Avenue Summer
goat cheese mouse in phyllo, honeyed raspberries

Grace Kang from Serious Eats said this was like eating frosting and was “so decadent I could never finish one by myself”. So obviously I didn’t even look at the other desserts. I would say that she was right about the goat cheese being frosting-esque, but I could’ve eaten a whole mixing bowl of it easily. I loved the thin yet moist wafer and the lemony sauce under the raspberries. This dish was so un-sweet that my boyfriend said it was like having a cheese course for dessert, but the honeyed fruit added just enough natural sugar that it completely satisfied me.

Park Avenue Summer
banana parfait, chocolate crumbs, banana butterscotch puree

You know how the best part of a Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, or Carvel ice cream cake is the uber-crunchy layer of chocolate bits? Now imagine a whole glassful of those, drizzled in banana-flavored butterscotch. WHAT? YES. Delicious.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

Park Avenue Summer
100 East 63rd Street
New York, NY 10021 (map)

Restaurant Review: Metrazur (Restaurant Week Winter 2010)
Feb 5th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Charlie Palmer’s Métrazur was an obvious Restaurant Week choice for my boyfriend and me: we’ve passed by it a million times inside Grand Central, we’re interested in Palmer’s restaurants in general, and I wanted the Sichuan spiced pork tenderloin on the Restaurant Week menu.

As far as atmosphere goes, not much beats Métrazur. Located on Grand Central’s East Balcony, it overlooks all of the chaos of commuters rushing to their trains, but the immense space overhead captures all of the noise and leaves the restaurant cozy and quiet. It was definitely unlike any other restaurant’s decor.


I made Kamran pose like this, just so you don’t think he often sits around in public with his mouth agape.


Crab and lobster cake, mango, shaved frisee and radish salad, brioche “Melba”, lemon butter nage

Crab is literally the only seafood that makes my mouth water, and this was one of the finer crab cakes I’ve had. The breading on the cake was thick and crunchy, as was the brioche. The nage (or broth) was super intense and basically overwhelmed all of the other flavors, but it was a lemony, buttery, and rich as all get-out. The cake was good enough on its own that it didn’t need the nage, but lemon and lobster go so well together.


Roasted butternut squash soup, pumpkin seeds, applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, créme fraiche

Hands down the best butternut squash soup I’ve had, but how could it not be with all of the bacon hiding on the bottom of the bowl? After one bite of this, I understood why everyone makes such a big deal about squash soup, and I was still thinking about it two courses later and wishing I could have more of it instead of my dessert. And I don’t not eat dessert.


Sichuan spiced pork tenderloin, gingered butternut squash puree, baby bok choy, maple soy glaze

When I ordered this, the waiter asked me how I wanted my pork cooked, and I said to him, “No one has ever asked me that in my life.” HOW DO I WANT MY PORK COOKED?! I WANT IT COOKED THROUGH, THAT’S HOW. I asked for medium well so it wouldn’t come out grey, but it came out completely pink, and I didn’t die, so I guess the chef knows best. There was definitely not any bok choy on my plate, and the squash puree was more texture than flavor, but the maple soy glaze was sweet and yum-MY. And the pork itself was spiced to perfection.


Lamb shank, sweet potato gratin, Brussels sprout leaves, black trumpets, red wine jus

Maybe you can’t tell from the photo, but this was a giant portion, especially for Restaurant Week. My boyfriend had to share part of it with me, and even then, he was packed full. Now, if you really love the sort of gamey taste of lamb, this was not the shank for you, but if you love a slow-cooked beef roast, this was the best lamb shank you’ve ever had. My boyfriend found one big pocket of lambiness, but the rest of it was delightfully mild enough to showcase the other flavors on the plate.


Bittersweet chocolate torte, passion fruit, candied orange, clubber cream

The best things about this for me were the smear of super-sweet passion fruit and the whipped cream (whatever “clubber” means). The torte itself was creamy, slippery chocolate with a crispy cookie crust, and it was nice, but it was another in a long line of desserts meant for non-gluttons.


Key lime pie, tropical fruit compote, chocolate nibs crisp, Italian meringue

This was a light, refreshing finish to a rich, heavy dinner. I don’t usually care for light and refreshing and am a huge chocolate person, but this was the superior dessert. The pie was very well done, with a nice key lime custard and a crunchy shell. The crisp tasted like sesame seeds to me, oddly, but maybe my palate was still recovering from the passion fruit in my dessert. I did really like this pie in the end, but I didn’t feel like the same care that had been put into that crazy-delicious soup was evident.

Aside from our completely indifferent and slow server, we were extremely happy that we finally tried Métrazur and that the food exceeded our expectations. I’d go back for the atmosphere and the squash soup any time, and with their every day $44 prix fixe menu that includes a bottle of wine, I can.

Charlie Palmer’s Métrazur
404 Grand Central Terminal, East Balcony
New York, NY 10017 (map)

Restaurant Review: Craftbar (Restaurant Week Winter 2010)
Feb 3rd, 2010 by plumpdumpling

The Craftbar winter 2010 Restaurant Week menu is huge! Most restaurants have three to four choices in each of the appetizer, entrée, and dessert categories, but Craftbar has at least ten. If that isn’t reason enough to go, check out some of the offerings we sampled at lunch yesterday:

Craftbar Smoked Pig Head Terrine
Smoked pig head terrine, citrus mostarda

I ate head cheese. There. I said it. I ate headcheese. I’ve been interested in it but never interested enough to actually order it, but I thought, “Hey, it’s Restaurant Week. This meal is going to be incredibly cheap, so even if I end up vomiting it up all over my shoes, I don’t have to feel bad about it. Plus, if anyone can do pig head meats right, it’s Tom Colicchio.”

It tasted like a lightly-smoked bacon and had the consistency of week-old ham. I know that sounds kind of gross, but it was delicious. The fat wasn’t chewy like I thought it’d be, and the slight gelatinous feel of it was about a hundred times less jellyish than any other head cheese I’ve seen. It was firm enough to sit on top of the bread but also soft enough to be spread, and the sweetness of the mostarda of lemon and orange peels went so well with the spices on top of the terrine and the sweet mustard seeds on the side.

I would order this again and again from Tom, but I’d still be a little scared to try it anywhere where it looked like this.

Craftbar Salt Cod Croquettes
Salt cod croquettes, piquillo peppers, capers

Just before he met me for lunch, my boyfriend came out of the subway and saw Bobby Bacala (aka Steve R. Schirripa) of “The Sopranos” fame walk by wearing a track suit. (A track suit! So perfect.) Call him nerdy, but he couldn’t resist ordering the salt cod croquettes, because he knew that the Italian word for salt cod is bacala. (Isn’t he so smart?)

The croquettes themselves mostly just reminded us of fish sticks, but the piquillos were especially sweet and marinated. He liked them, but in the end, he wished he’d ordered something more adventurous.

Craftbar White Anchovy Bruschetta
White anchovy bruschetta, soft-cooked egg, braised leek

Our friend ordered the bruschetta, not realizing it came with anchovies. Luckily, she’s a fish person and didn’t mind them, but she did seem especially willing to share.

Craftbar Fried Chicken Breast
Fried chicken breast, potato puree, pipérade

I was especially excited to try the pipérade after just learning what it is recently, and as deliciously tomato-sauce-y as it was, the fried chicken definitely didn’t require it. We had a to-die-for pan-fried chicken during a previous visit, and this one might have been even better. The batter was thick enough that I got to really enjoy all of the rosemary flavor in it but thin enough that it didn’t overpower the succulent chicken. The potatoes were creamy, salty, and thick, making this a true comfort dish.

Craftbar Braised Pork Belly
Braised pork belly, grits, cippolini onions

We’d also had craftbar’s pork belly once before, and just seeing it on the menu made my mouth water. You’d think something that fatty would be tough to eat, but it all just falls apart as you cut it and disintegrates when it hits your tongue. The grits were fine, but I prefer the dark and earthy richness of the black currant puree that accompanied the pork last time. Still, um, this is the best pork belly ever.

Craftbar Salmon
Salmon, root vegetables

Our friend ordered the salmon, which looks totally lame next to all the lard in the last two dishes, but I guess you can’t hate a girl for trying to play it cool. I didn’t try this, but she said she liked it aside from the abundance of onions.

Craftbar Apple and Cranberry Crumble
Apple and cranberry crumble, maple whipped cream

I got this solely for the maple whipped cream, and it did not disappoint. It was only lightly maple-y, but that was enough to satisfy me. The sugar topping was so thick and chunky, and the apples, cranberries, and golden raisins all had different levels of sweetness that really complimented each other.

Craftbar Brownie
Warm brownie, caramel ice cream, whipped cream

The best thing about this brownie is that it has a really thin, really crunchy top layer and then a thick fudgey layer below. The caramel ice cream was much better than the banana ice cream that used to come with this dessert, but I’m a bit biased against bananas, so think what you will.

Craftbar Cheeses
Selection of cheeses

Who ever actually orders the dessert cheeses? My boyfriend, that’s who. I sort of talked him into it, actually, and while he genuinely liked them, he was obviously in pain when he sampled my apple crumble and then had to go back to his coagulated milk. Sorry, Kamran.

Craftbar remains one of my favourite NYC restaurants because of the way the chef uses such basic ingredients but makes them taste better than they ever should. At $25 for lunch, it’s a total steal, and if you can’t get there in the next few days for winter Restaurant Week, you’d better be prepared for the next one.

Guess Who’s Going to Colicchio & Sons Before You Are, Suckas
Jan 22nd, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I know the saying goes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but it’s true for the ladies, too. Or this lady, at least. Which is why my wonderful boyfriend allowed me to book us a reservation at Colicchio & Sons, the new Tom Colicchio restaurant where Tom Colicchio’s actually the one cooking, for Valentine’s Day.


Photo by Nick Solares

I was excited enough just having the reservation, but then I saw the Serious Eats slideshow. And then I saw the menu. Gnocchi with chestnuts, bone marrow, and black truffle?! Spice-roasted duck with sauerkraut, licorice root, and kumquat chutney?!

I’m also looking forward to 21 Club, Métrazur, and craftbar for winter Restaurant Week. What a wonderful, fattening world.

Restaurant Review: Tocqueville (Restaurant Week Summer 2009)
Aug 24th, 2009 by plumpdumpling

For our final Restaurant Week meal, my boyfriend and I were torn between:

A) Tocqueville, which had a decent menu but looked especially formal, and

B) City Crab, which we’ve been meaning to go to anyway but which only listed their entree as any of the chef’s daily specials. And that’s scary to a non-seafood-lover.

So we chose Tocqueville in the end and think it may be the best Restaurant Week dinner we’ve had. It’s hidden down 15th Street near Union Square, and although I’m sure it cuts down on their business, the restaurant’s quiet location only adds to the feeling of being special–maybe even elite–that you experience upon entering. The hostess leads you back a short hallway to the dining room, which is the size of your studio apartment but with much higher ceilings and much posher furniture. Soft French music complements your intimate conversation as you recline on a pillow at a plush corner table.

And the service! Our waiter was not only attentive but well-dressed and equipped with a brilliant accent. The manager came to talk to us twice, first to ask us how we found out about the restaurant and to explain the greenmarket menu, which is decided upon daily based on what’s available at the Union Square farmer’s market. The second time he came around, it was to ask us if we’d visited a nearby restaurant; it seemed like a friendly conversation about Portuguese food, but we figured the two restaurants must be related somehow. (Later, we found that the former Tocqueville chef is now there.)

The best part, though, was that we were brought not one but two dishes on the house. The first was a cool watermelon soup with giant lumps of crab, meant to be sipped directly from the tiny bowl as an amuse bouche,

and the second was an array of amazingly flavorful sorbets that arrived when our ordered desserts were taking too long.


From left: dark chocolate, kiwi (the best!), melon, lime-coconut, and pineapple.

Here’s the Restaurant Week menu:

• APPETIZERS •

Creamless Puree of Chilled Asparagus Vichyssoise

Union Square Market Tomato Salad and Consome
Olive oil thyme sorbet

Chickweed Salad
Sautéed chicken liver, pickled onions and pancetta vinaigrette

• ENTREES •

Homemade Gnocchi
Wilted arugula, parmesan and brown butter

Seared Flat Iron Steak
Tomato hyssop marmalade and confit potatoes

Mediterranean Sea Bass
Carolina sweet corn, summer succotash and huitlacoche flan

• DESSERTS •

White Peach Gazpacho and Peach Sorbet

Warm Chocolate Torte
White chocolate sorbet and maldon sea salt

Frozen Strawberry Souffle
Berried treasures strawberries and star anise rhubarb compote

I don’t like tomatoes, and Kamran warned me that I probably wouldn’t care for chicken livers (WRONG!), so I went with the asparagus vichyssoise, and it was both lovely and refreshing. I’d heard the word vichyssoise before but had no idea what it was, so when the waiter plopped a bowl of asparagus parts down in front of me, I thought that was the deal. But then he poured a super-creamy soup around the parts, and it only got better.

Kamran’s chickweed salad was even better, though, because the salad wasn’t the focus at all. The toasted bread and chicken livers were crunchy and sweet, and even as a tomato-hater, I loved the garnish and vinaigrette.

I was slow to give up the steak, but gnocchi is one of my favorite foods, and I knew I’d regret not ordering it. I know it’s supposed to be light and fluffy, but I have no idea why anyone would want a non-dense dinner. It was the perfect density for me, so do with that what you will. I could take or leave the arugula, but the cheese and the butter sauce were mouth-watering.

Kamran thought his steak was perfectly cooked and loved the tomato hyssop marmalade around it. I thought it was horribly rare, of course, but even I’ll admit to not hating the marmalade.

After the assorted sorbets, we were already so in love with Tocqueville’s desserts that what we actually ordered didn’t much matter, but we happened to enjoy them, too. My torte was the darkest, richest chocolate

and Kamran’s souffle was creamy and light with berries at the peak of their ripeness.

Even if the food had been terrible, the service and atmosphere were so nice that I would go back in a second for another quiet, romantic meal. Their Restaurant Week menu is available until August 28th, and they have a year-round lunch prix fixe, so there’s plenty of opportunity for you to try it out, too.

Restaurant Review: Primehouse New York (Restaurant Week Summer 2009)
Aug 11th, 2009 by plumpdumpling

My boyfriend, Kamran, and I base most of our Restaurant Week dining decisions on the inventiveness of the menu, which is why we chose Primehouse New York over Smith & Wollensky or Delmonico’s on the 31st. Passion fruit and gazpacho? Yes, please.

• APPETIZERS •

Passion Fruit Gazpacho
Lump Crab & Avocado

Grilled Double Cut Bacon
Roasted Figs, Frisée, Maytag Blue Cheese

Heirloom Tomato & Goat Cheese Salad
Micro Basil, Sea Salt, Aged Balsamic

• ENTREES •

Scottish Salmon
English Pea & Mushroom Risotto,
Preserved Lemon Beurre Blanc

Marinated Hanger Steak
Grilled Portabella & Arugula Salad, Roasted Pepper Salsa

7oz Dry Aged Petit Sirloin
Caramelized Summer Vegetables

• DESSERTS •

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart
Ladyfingers, Nutella Ice Cream

Strawberry Shortcake
Coconut sorbet

I don’t care for seafood and absolutely can’t eat tomatoes, so even though a salad is the least-appealing appetizer in the world to me, it was my only choice, and it turned out to be one I didn’t regret. The lettuce was lettuce, but the goat cheese with the bacon was perfect for the glutton in me, and figs are one of my favourite fruits. There was a upper-thick slice of bacon on either side of the plate, and while one was perfectly crisp, the other was chewy and fatty. While I’m usually much more of the burnt bacon type, I welcomed the diversity.

Kamran ordered the passion fruit gazpacho, of course. It arrived with the mound of crab and basil (or tarragon–we weren’t sure) looking rather lonely in the center of the large bowl, but then the waiter poured the soup around it for a delightful presentation. I don’t know that I’ve ever had gazpacho in my life, so I’m not sure how it’s supposed to taste, but this tasted exactly like salsa. A really, really good salsa. The kind you always want in Mexican joints but never actually get.

Kamran and I like to get different entrées and sample each other’s, so when I decided on the filet (obviously), he went for the hanger, thinking he’d appreciate the larger size. But no. The moment he saw the look on my face as I tasted my first bite, he knew he’d made a mistake.

I know the steak looks a little crusty and the vegetables a little drab in this photo, but the dish was very much the opposite of both these adjectives. Kamran’s hanger was a little bit embarrassing next to my filet, and although he tried to tell himself that it was just delicious in a different way, it wasn’t. It was decent and nothing more, and Kamran didn’t even want all of the extra portion size in the end. Sorry, hanger.

We didn’t even discuss getting a side, but as soon as our waitress walked away, I casually mentioned macaroni and cheese, and so it was. It was very homemade-tasting and had a nice crunchy topping. It was pretty standard, but standard mac and cheese is still pretty special.

My bittersweet chocolate tart was rich and fudgey, although the cake crust dumbed it down. No complaints, though. I ate every last bite of it and mopped up the chocolate drizzle on the plate with the sliver of chocolate stuck in my ice cream, too.

Kamran prefers a lighter dessert, so he was happy with his strawberry shortcake. The crunchy coconut slivers provided a nice texture, and there was no chance of the coconut sorbet with fresh strawberries being bad. I finished Kamran’s dessert for him, too, if you must know.

For the remainder of Restaurant Week, Primehouse appears to be lunch only, but we went at night and were surprised at how many couples weren’t trying the Restaurant Week menu. All around us were tables with raw bar towers, and one in particular caught Kamran’s eye, because he swore Tom Colicchio was sitting at it. I wasn’t convinced, so we called it a truce by deciding that it was his younger brother, Rod Colicchio. (Who doesn’t really exist, of course.) But watching to see how the supposed Rod Colicchio was enjoying his food became the focal point of the dinner nonetheless.

I really thought my filet at Primehouse was as good as any I’ve had in the city, although I hesitate to say that, knowing that the restaurant is part of the B.R. Guest restaurant conglomerate. However, a waiter near us flaunted the fact, telling his table that their size allows them access to the best ingredients. And they’re serious about what they serve, going so far as to have their own Kentucky bull (named Prime) that provides all of the beef they serve in the dining room. So maybe I shouldn’t be embarrassed to have liked it so much.

The only thing the older steakhouses have on Primehouse in my mind is the environment. While I appreciate a more trendy setting for a date, I also like how the sparse, serious décor of a steakhouse like Peter Luger lends itself to more of a focus on the food. Primehouse was full of soft chairs, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and an inexplicable slick 80s feel. It was lovely, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t my grandpa’s steakhouse. Which may be just what you’re looking for.

Restaurant Review: Tao (Restaurant Week Summer 2009)
Jul 27th, 2009 by plumpdumpling

I’m sure I knew what Tao was all about by virtue of watching this past season of “Celebrity Apprentice” and seeing how many times Dennis Rodman recommended it, but the Restaurant Week menu somehow made that seem unimportant. It became important again, though, about five seconds after I walked in the door and heard the thumping club music and saw the crowds of yuppies and tourists holding drinks in the waiting area.

After an uncomfortable fifteen-minute wait where we were bumped into multiple times despite leaving plenty of room around us for people to get by, my boyfriend and I were led upstairs, across a bridge, and to a booth along one wall. Kamran ordered two TAO-tinis for us (a super-girly raspberry drink served in a martini glass to make it look more masculine, $12.50), which were very alcoholic and delicious.

We drank them as fast as we could in an attempt to forget how annoyingly trendy the atmosphere was and prayed to the giant two-story Buddha statue in the front of the restaurant for our appetizers to arrive quickly. And they did.

I had the pork potstickers and thought they were really good aside from the completely unnecessary baby greens on top. The spicy sauce was good enough to be eaten on its own by the spoonful, and the side of each dumpling that was seared brown and crispy made me want to not share them.

Kamran ordered the TAO Temple Salad simply because he was trying to choose the healthiest option, but not only was he disappointed in how unexciting the salad was, but there were fried dough strips on top that made it unhealthy, anyway. I thought the dressing made it bearable as far as salads go, but I only had to eat one bite before I got to go back to my potstickers, so maybe I’m biased.

My entrée was truly, truly delicious. The wasabi-crusted filet mignon was what had drawn me to the menu in the first place, and it only exceeded my expectations. I’d asked for it to be cooked medium-well, as I don’t care to see my meat bleed, but the chef as usual had insisted on sending it out still very red. And of course it was perfect. The wasabi crust on top had the consistency of sugar crystals and enough spice to please me but not so much that it made my nose run. The beef was tender and flavorful, and the portion was huge.

The real standout was the pile of onion rings on the side, though. I hadn’t expected them, which made them all the more delightful. They were sweet, they were buttery, they were crunchy, and they had chive blossoms poking out of them. They were undoubtedly the best onion rings I’ve ever had and are worth the $35 dinner prix fixe price tag themselves.

Kamran ordered the Chilean sea bass, and for someone who doesn’t make much to-do about great food, he was very intent on making me try it. I’m the type of person who hates seafood so much that I’ll spend twenty minutes picking all of the clams out of my clam chowder, but I have to admit that this fish was awesome. It was extra flaky on one side and extra crispy on the other, and the crust that gave it its crisp was so delicious that I held on to a hunk of it to eat after my steak was gone.

Desserts seem to err on the side of caution during Restaurant Week, but the banana bread pudding I ordered was no slouch. It wasn’t actually bread pudding at all, though. It was banana pudding (as good as the kind you get at Magnolia Bakery) with a layer of vanilla wafer cookies underneath, a layer of cookie crumbs on top, and a tempura-battered banana to boot. The fried banana and the banana pudding were both so good that I had a hard time figuring out which to save for my last bite. Kamran was ridiculously jealous.

Kamran ordered the ginger fruit having no idea what it was but figuring once again that it was the healthiest option. It turned out to be a huge dish of the sweetest, freshest fruits with a scoop of ginger sorbet on top. The lychees were the finest I’ve had, and all of the fruits were so sweet that the sorbet didn’t seem to compete with them. I couldn’t necessarily taste the ginger, but Kamran assures me he could, and he does have the superior palate, after all. My picture’s too dark to see the dish, but we’ll always have the memory of it.

On the way out, I got into a scuffle with a guy on the bridge who wouldn’t move to let me pass by (“Take it easy, girl.”), but that’s the sort of thing I expected from the clientele. I commented to Kamran that it’s a shame there were so many people there who probably couldn’t appreciate the food at all, but he called me a snob, so I guess I’m alone in thinking that.

Aside from my astonishingly negative thoughts about the too-loud, too-obnoxious atmosphere, my dining experience was top-notch. I don’t have a bad thing to say about my food, the huge loft-like space was surprising to find in Manhattan, and the waitstaff was accommodating. I’d love to go back sometime, although maybe at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday night.

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