Flashback Friday – 2018 NYC Summer Restaurant Week

TGIF — It’s Flashback Friday and it’s been over six weeks since I’ve last posted here.  Well, it’s restaurant week again and we are entering the last seven days of this high end eating on a budget event.  This year’s restaurant week started on July 23 and ends next Friday, August 17.

Did you know that NYC restaurant week started 26 years ago to welcome the Democratic National Convention (DNC)? We all know who won the election.  Anyways, back to food, NYC restaurant week started with 95 participating restaurants in 1992 to approximately quadrupling to 380 in 2018.  This season, few restaurants in Brooklyn, Queens and even Staten Island are jumping on the bandwagon for this budget friendly opportunity.  This season was disappointing because lunch/brunch meals are only two courses (appetizer with entree or dessert) for $26 and a three course dinner remains at $42.

After 3 weeks of thorough review of 317 menus out of the 380 restaurants, here are the logistics that are broken down into: best lunch, dinner and brunch for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5+ people.  Our criteria is comparing what the restaurant is offering for restaurant week to their daily lunch/dinner/brunch menu; for example, if crudo is part of the regular lunch appetizer menu, we want to see if the restaurant is serving the same item on their restaurant week menu.  Some restaurants are even offering parts of their regular as part of restaurant week, which is a great way to go.

We will begin with the total number of restaurants that are offering the best value meals for lunch, dinner and brunch based on our criteria.

Slide1Personally one of the reasons why I have yet to participate in this year’s restaurant week is because I am on a diet, which I will disclose at some point this weekend. Therefore, we created another table that breaks down the overall number of best value meals to accommodate the vegetarians, pescatarians, people in low carb diets (that’s me) and comfort (those who want to YOLO)!

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Even though I am on a diet, I do plan to take advantage of restaurant week, which is easier said than done because there is no control of how the food is made.  However, with the comfort meal types, the appetizers are either on the vegetarian, pescatarian and low carb side.  The hard part is dessert, which in case, lunch is ideal, but due to my full time job, I can’t take advantage of the lunch offerings this season.

In the past, I have shared my experiences of eating at restaurants for restaurant week and if you need any ideas or suggestions,  below is the list of places I have eaten at for past restaurant weeks:

Capital Grille at all three New York City locations (Grand Central, West 50s and wall Street) their 14 ounce bone-in dry aged sirloin steak is still being offered for this restaurant week.  In addition from now until September 2, Capital Grille is also offering what they call a “Generous Pour”, which costs only $28 for a tasting of seven wines with the purchase of dinner.   The suggestion for this restaurant week:

Lunch for 1: Caesar Salad & Signature Cheeseburger with Truffle Fries

– Dinner for 2: Wedge of Bleu Cheese or Clam Chowder

Bone-In Dry Aged Sirloin Steak  (14oz) w/ Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans

Seared Citrus Glazed Salmon w/ Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake and Creme Brulee

Fonda (Comfort Food) in the East Village has awesome happy hour specials, but for restaurant week it’s a good way to get four friends to get together for drinks and happy times.  Check out my post on what the guacamole, enchilada suizas and dessert (morenitas).

Blenheim (Comfort Food) a Michelin rated restaurant offers a stipulation from my experience eating here two years ago.  The menu changes frequently for the season, which makes it exciting.  This season, a solo dinner is the way to go with the following: Fried Chicken, Pork two ways and Chocolate cremeux.

Tavern 62 by David Burke (Comfort Food) located at the beginning of the Upper East Side is one of the few restaurants that are utilizing their regular menu have new customers try their food and feel that they belong. They have great happy hour specials, where there are $10 burgers and $8 fries.   Check out the pictures and previous write up about the transition from Fishtail to Tavern62 by clicking on the “Tavern 62 by David Burke” link.  I do plan on returning to this restaurant because I feel welcomed but more importantly it’s a great deal for restaurant week and the customer will get their money’s worth.

Other restaurants I definitely want to try are the following:

Smith & Wollensky – Dinner for 4 – Comfort Food

Appetizer: Mixed Green Salad, Caesar Salad, Calamari, and Pea Soup

Entree: Filet Mignon, Lemon Pepper Chicken,  Salmon Waldorf, and Pan Roasted Branzino

Dessert: Cheesecake, Bourbon Pecan Pie, Chocolate Mousse Cake and Coconut Layer Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Barraca – Dinner for 2 – Pescatarian/Vegetarian

Appetizer: Ensalada de Mercado and Pulpo a Feira

Entree: Paella de Verdura (minimum 2 people) and Paella de Calamares

Desserts: Churros de Rellanos and Corte de Helado

In addition, offering a great $18 wine pairing deal for restaurant.  They are also one of the few restaurants that are offering a three course lunch meal for restaurant week for $26.  Plus, they have a great $6 happy hour menu from 4pm to 7pm.

Nickel and Diner – Dinner for 1 – Pescatarian/Low Carb

Appetizer: Smoked Salmon Chowder

Entree: Ginger Crusted Halibut

Desserts: Honey Semifreddo

In addition, they have a great happy hour menu from 3pm to 7pm.

Lugo Cucina Italiana – Lunch for 2 – Low Carb/Pescatarian/Vegetarian

Appetizer: Kale Mango Salad, Mussels Fra Diavolo

Entree: Salmone Al Forno, Eggplant Parmagiana

Although I may have disappeared here on my own site, but I am posting on my Instragram page: tablespoonsandteaspoons.  Please follow me.

I will continue to strive to post more often here.  Stay tuned….

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Blenheim

Happy Thursday so as promised and better late than never I will be posting my dining experience from NYC restaurant week.  Although it was painful to see the $4 price hike on a prix fixe meal, I want to get my money’s worth eating a restaurant with a reputation e.g. Zagat rated, Michelin starred.  In my previous post categorizing where I would eat while getting my money’s worth plus collecting bonus OpenTable points.

Well guess what, I did not include a farm to table Michelin rated restaurant called Blenheim.  The reason why this restaurant was not on my list of restaurants to eat during restaurant week was that their menu was not yet posted on their website or NYC.go’s site.  Anyways, the ambiance and West Village location, the restaurant was cozy, local and low key.

Unfortunately I missed the happy hour special, which ends at 6pm but very excited to indulge in their summer cocktail that contains a hashtag called “#WildWestVillage.  This cocktail consists of watermelon, tequila, honey and berry.  At at splurge of this $16 cocktail, one drink was definitely enough but more importantly it was very refreshing.

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Two of my girlfriends joined me in this restaurant week experience.  The restaurant week menu and the regular menu were given with instructions.  If we wanted to order from the restaurant week menu, the whole table had to participate, which we all did.  Now in hindsight, service treatment was biased because we felt that we were not treated as regular customers.  For example, bread was served to us but in a smaller plate compared with the rest of the customers.  My friend actually called it out where our server heard it and the host had to “clean up the mess”.  Anyways, back to the food, the food served during restaurant week was in small portions compared to their a la carte menu.  However the quality of food did not disappoint.  For appetizers, I ordered the poached egg served with beans and asparagus.  My friend ordered the chilled soup and my order friend got the salad.  I had a tasting of all three dishes and they were all good, but my favorite of the three was the poached egg with asparagus and bean.  The presentation was natural and pretty, but more importantly the flavors were perfectly balanced.

One of the major reasons why I wanted to eat here was their english pea agnolotti and was so glad it was part of their restaurant week menu.  In addition to the agnolotti my two other friends ordered the roast chicken and fish dishes.  Portion wise, the agnolotti and chicken entrees had one of the smallest, the best entree buy was the fish.  I loved the agnolotti entree and enjoyed tasting the freshness of the roast chicken and fish entrees.

Blenheim’s restaurant week menu dessert did not have many options so we went with the waitress’s suggestion of the honey semifreddo and the suggestion was spot on.   The portion size of this dish was also good.  The semifreddo and the fresh wholeness of the berries with honey was a great end to the meal. 20160728_202921

I would actually return to the restaurant just to have another order of the agnolotti regardless of the mediocre service.  But it would be interesting to actually see whether I would be served differently if I ordered from the regular menu than from the restaurant week menu.  Time will only tell…

Flashback Friday – Ayada

Happy Friday, after a week of planning and cooking healthy meals on a budget for Cinco de Mayo, it is time to head to one of my favorite Thai restaurants to date.  Ayada Thai is a neighborhood gem and a great place to eat with a group of friends.  I usually take my relatives from out of town here and even have held small birthday parties here.

Ayada Thai is located in Elmhurst, Queens.  The restaurant offers authentic, affordable and tasty Thai food that will feed an entire family.  The restaurant received a lot of press and awards for their amazing cuisine.  They have been covered by ABC NewsNew York TimesVillage Voice, New York Magazine, and even was voted as one of the best Cheap Eats and best Thai Restaurants in Zagat.  More importantly they received recognition of  Bib Gourmands by Michelin Star.

I can definitely testify to Ayada’s success by the food portion and quality of food that is provided to us.  Below are images of my family and my personal favorite dishes:

BBQ Pork $10

BBQ Beef $10

Satay Chicken $7

Shrimp in a Blanket $5

Crispy Chinese Watercress Salad $15

Crispy Catfish Salad $15

Shrimp Pad Thai $11

Chicken Pad Thai $9

Beef Pad Cee Eiw $9

Fried Banana (only sold on Saturdays)

Thai Ice Tea $3

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1) BBQ Pork 2) Beef Pad Cee Eiw 3) Fried Banana (sold on weekends), 4) Crispy Catfish Salad, 5) BBQ Beef and BBQ Pork 6) Chicken Satay and Shrimp in a Blanket, 7) Crispy Watercress Salad, 8) Shrimp Pad Thai

Best times to go is during lunch and early dinner before 7pm.  I have not tried their lunch special yet because I work on the weekdays.  Given that half of my heritage is Thai I can testify to the authenticity and taste of the food.  Food is overall consistent and I will definitely return for another family meal.