My feelings about Restaurant Week(s) have changed over the years. I used to get really excited about it and spend hours planning which restaurants to hit.
I still spend hours picking out a restaurant.
But I’ve had enough mediocre meals at normally highly rated restaurants to know that most places aren’t pulling out the stops for the Restaurant Week crowd.
Want steak? You’ll probably get a bad cut, poorly cooked. Checking out a celebrity chef? Be prepared to pay the surcharge for whatever dish they’re actually known for. Thinking of getting the promoted bottle of wine? Think again.
It makes sense obviously. You’re paying the same amount for your whole meal as that steak would normally cost. But still, it’s disappointing.
Negativity aside, I think there’s a good way to do it. Basically, don’t go to the most expensive restaurant on the list, just a place that you’ve been meaning to go to and haven’t gotten around to yet. The non-celebrity-chef-non-steakhouse places are more likely to treat it like any other meal so you’ll actually get your money’s worth.
This year, ignoring my own advice, we went to Park Avenue [Insert Season Here]. We wanted to go to Vandal but couldn’t get a last minute reservation.
And even though the service was bad, the food was actually pretty ok. I’m glad I went but I don’t think I’ll ever go for a normal meal. Nothing was particularly mind blowing – except the women’s bathroom. More on that later.
But before I get into the details, a quick announcement that I’ll be going on hiatus for a week because…I’m going to Alaska! I’m leaving tomorrow at the crack of dawn and this city girl will be camping and kayaking and just generally experiencing the great outdoors in the Last Frontier.
I’ll gram when I can but I’m not expecting to have great service (although, as the friend I’m visiting has had to remind me multiple times, Alaska is in fact part of the United States of America and not the remote frozen tundra which I may or may not be picturing).
Anway, back to Park Avenue:
The place. Obviously I can only speak to “summer” but they decorate depending on the season which is kind of cool. When we went there was a shell motif going on with lots of yellow. In contrast, the aforementioned ladies room has this Italian palazzo theme going on. It makes zero sense but, hey, whatever.
The food. Our meal started with bites of watermelon on sticks because why not, and amazing cornbread which was honestly the highlight of the meal.
I learned a lot of things through this dining experience. For example, I’ve always avoided hamachi because I thought it was some kind of whitefish like a tilapia. I don’t know where I got that from. Turns out, it’s yellowtail! Who knew! Armed with this newfound knowledge, I ordered the seared hamachi crudo with grilled pineapple chimichurri.
“Seared” and “crudo” don’t really go together given that crudo means raw and seared is, well, a method of cooking, and the chimichurri was too sweet but it was still enjoyable.
The second thing I learned is that branzino is a type of sea bass! The fact that it’s usually served whole always puts me off because fish bones terrify me, but I like sea bass so I decided to give this trendy fish a try. It was served with a charred ratatouille, had a nice crispy skin and was perfectly fine. It will definitely not be my last branzino.
For dessert I had the peach basil sorbet with honey poached peaches but if I wasn’t allergic to dairy I would have gotten the “bases loaded,” below, a concoction of chocolate, peanut butter and a chocolate dipped potato chip. Because, again, why not?
The drinks. I tried all of the trendy things on menus in one meal – hamachi, branzino and on the drink front, frosé.
When I first saw a recipe for frozen rosé I was intrigued, but then I saw that involves blended up strawberries. I like dry rosé so I definitely don’t want to blend it with anything sweet. But since frosé is on, like, every drink menu, I decided to try it.
I thought it was wayyyyyyy too sweet. Like, so sweet I couldn’t drink it and need to get checked for cavaties now. Erg.
Oh well. I tried it and I learned that my frosé is much, much better (if you haven’t made it yet DO because it involves two ingredients and is extremely refreshing, barely sweet and perfect).
NYC Summer Restaurant Week goes until August 19th so make sure to take advantage! Just take my advice and skip the super-hyped places. If I was doing it again I’d check out Bar Primi, Virginia’s or Tuome.
And with that, I’m off to the wilderness! See you in a week. Unless I get eaten by a bear or die from exposure or something.