Photos from Smith & Wollensky as taken by my iPhone
Restaurant Week NYC is soon upon us again for the summer edition (July 25-August 19). It is now twice a year, winter and summer. Moreover, it is basically a Restaurant Month because it lasts for about a month. It is a great event to try a three course prix fixed meal (appetizer, main entrée, dessert) at some of the better restaurants in New York City. Below are a list of my favorite spots to hit up during Restaurant Week.
1. Smith & Wollensky (797 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022) – Mon- Fri Lunch Only
Without a doubt, Smith & Wollesnky is my top choice for Restaurant Week. Since the winter edition of the event in 2015, I dine here on multiple occasions each Restaurant Week because different friends always want to go. Among the best of the best steakhouses in New York I have tried (Peter Luger’s, Del Friscos, Wolfgangs), Smith & Wollensky is the only one that participates in Restaurant Week. In my opinion, it is the best deal because they do not cut back on portion size for the event. For appetizers, I always go with the New England Clam Chowder or fried calamari. The chowder is very good. The calamari is excellent. Of course, I mainly go to Smith & Wollensky for the steak. The filet mignon (10 oz.) is plenty of meat. If you want a little bit more, you can upgrade to a 14 oz. Dry-Aged Sirloin for an extra $10. I normally go for the sirloin. Both cuts are top notch cuts of steak that are usually cooked perfectly with a nice char on the outside but tender in the inside. In addition to the sirloin having more meat, I prefer the sirloin a little more in taste too. It will be difficult but try to save room for dessert. It is stellar as well. The pecan pie is as good as any pie I have eaten anywhere. The chocolate mousse cake is excellent too. From the appetizer through dessert, you receive top notch quality.
2. Hatsuhana (17 E 48th St, New York, NY 10017) – Mon-Fri Lunch/ Dinner
Whether it is Restaurant Week or not, I love going to Hatsuhana. In my opinion, it has the freshest sushi of any restaurant I have been to in New York. When it is not Restaurant Week, I order the Box of Dreams. The Restaurant Week menu is simple because it offers a similar box and you only need to choose a sushi roll. You also receive a salad and miso soup. The soup is excellent and differentiated by spinach inside it. The fish in the box varies each time I dine at Hatsuhana. Nevertheless, the selections are fantastic. My favorite piece of fish is the fatty tuna. It is so soft that it could pass as avocado. I save it for last.
3. Ai Fiori (400 5th Ave #2, New York, NY 10018) – Mon-Fri Lunch
Looking to dine at a restaurant with a Michelin Star during Restaurant Week? Look no further than Ai Fiori. When you arrive, you take a set of stairs up to the second floor. The dining area is beautiful and has a great atmosphere. The food lives up to the Michelin Star. For an appetizer, I ordered the Zuppa di Zucca (chilled zucchini soup, calabrian chili, lemon, basil). The server poured it into your bowl at your table. For my entrée, I had the Pollo Arrosto (pan-roasted chicken, summer beans, vidalia onions, and guanciale). The chicken was cooked perfectly and full of flavor. The medley of vegetables on the side and sauce were great complements to the entrée. The Panna Cotta was an excellent way to finish my meal. Nevertheless, the entrée was definitely the highlight of the meal. While Ai Fiori has great food, the portions are not huge. It is perfect to just make you full. If you have a huge appetite, manage your expectations. Please also note that the Restaurant Week menu is only available for lunch.
4. Fogo de Chao (40 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019) – Mon-Fri Dinner
Brazilian Steakhouses are one of my favorite meals. If you have not been, it is quite the experience. You start with the salad bar. However, it is a trap. You want to eat just a little bit to save room for the meat. You have a card that you flip to green (you want more meat) or red (you need a break or are done). The gauchos will come with a skewer of meat (steaks, chicken, ribs, pork, sausages, etc.) and offer you some if your card is green. They will probably ask offer anyway even if your card is red. By far, Fogo de Chao is my favorite Brazilian Steakhouse. Except for the Beverley Hills location, I have never had anything but an amazing experience. They have the best salad bar. I love the prosciutto and smoked salmon. In addition, they cook their meats the best compared to other Brazilian steakhouses I have tried. Their meats are very tender and have the best flavor. The complimentary sides of mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas, and polenta. They are all good. In particular, the bananas are awesome. Since dinner is usually $60, the reduced Restaurant Week price provides a great opportunity to try Fogo de Chao. Although they will exclude their most premium cuts for the event, you get dessert which is normally not included. In the rare times I have made it to dessert, the selections were very good too. Furthermore, Fogo de Chao features my favorite soda, guarana. It is basically a cherry ginger ale.
5. China Grill (60 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019) – Mon-Fri Lunch/Dinner, Sun Brunch/Lunch and Dinner
It is one of the best Asian fusion restaurants anywhere. It is a great spot to go with a few friends and order different dishes to share. Everything I have eaten here was excellent. For me, the two dishes that stood out the most were the crackling calamari salad starter and the wokked shaking filet of beef main dish. The starter is one of my favorite calamari dishes in any restaurant. The beef was very tender and had great flavor. The lo mein that came with the beef was awesome. I also really enjoyed the ahi tuna but it does not appear to be on the Restaurant Week menu this time.
6. Gotham Bar & Grill (12 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003) – Mon-Fri Lunch
Gotham is one of the better restaurants in New York. It has great food and the restaurant looks beautiful with an excellent ambiance. The appetizer is good but nothing memorable. I had the salad. The halibut entrée was excellent. For dessert, I ordered the sorbets. I made a mistake. The sorbets are good but the chocolate cake is amazing. Luckily, my co-worker ordered the cake and allowed me to share some of it. The portion sizes are not huge but it is enough so you are full. The Restaurant Week menu is only available for lunch.
7. Megu (355 W 16th St, New York, NY 10011) – Mon-Fri Dinner, Sun Dinner
It is a trendy and hip spot (decorum and food) in a basement. The food is very unique. For an appetizer, I ordered the crispy tuna tartare. It looks like two ice cream cones with sprinkles. The cones taste like sugar cones but with tuna inside. The sprinkles are actually colored rice krispies. In addition to a great appearance, it tastes good too. For my entree, I was deciding between the skuna bay salmon and sake braised short rib. I went with the salmon and it was very solid. The kale in the dish is cooked very well too. For the dessert, I went with the matcha crepe cake. The cake is awesome. I did not care for the ice cream on the side because it tasted more salty than sweet. Overall, it is a nice spot with a hip atmosphere and good food.
8. Ruth’s Chris Steak House (148 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019) – Mon-Fri Lunch/Dinner, Sun Dinner
It is one of the better steakhouses in New York. Definitely order the steak. It comes out sizzling hot and you will hear the plate crackle when it arrives.
9. Bobby Van’s Steakhouse (135 West 50th Street New York, NY 10020) – Mon-Fri Lunch/ Dinner, Sun Dinner
Five years ago, it was my go to Restaurant Week Restaurant. It has multiple locations throughout the city and I have been to a couple of them. I have never had a bad experience at a Bobby Van’s. It is consistently and reliably very good. It is never a bad choice for Restaurant Week. Of course, it is a steakhouse so I would recommend paying the $10 supplement fee to get a New York Strip. If you do not want to, the Salmon is solid too. Naturally, I eventually branched out to other restaurants.
10. Spice Market (403 W 13th St, New York, NY 10014) – Not participating in January 2017
Spice Market is not to be confused with the many Spice locations throughout the city. They are both excellent and Thai themed but different restaurants. Everything I have tried here has been very good. As such, it is definitely a great choice for Restaurant Week. On the other hand, its pork dishes (pork buns and pork vindaloo) are the best items on the menu. When I brought my friend to Spice Market, he appropriately commented that they are “pork you go to sleep thinking about”. I would definitely go off the Restaurant Week menu and order some pork buns as an appetizer.
11. Zengo (622 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10017) – Mon-Fri Lunch/Dinner
Zengo is unique as a Latin/Asian fusion restaurant. I had very few expectations eating at this restaurant and was surprisingly very impressed by it. It features a good mix of both Latin and Asian dishes and flavors. The Restaurant Week menu has changed from the winter edition. When I went during the winter event, I enjoyed sushi, a fish entrée, and croissant bread pudding which is shaped like a blondie.
12. Fig & Olive (10 E 52nd St, New York, NY 10022) – Mon-Fri Lunch/Dinner, Sun Brunch/Lunch and Dinner
I loved Fig & Olive for Restaurant Week. The truffle mushroom croquettes were awesome. My chicken entrée over risotto was very good. The “Crostini” (Amarena cherry, mascarpone, pistachio, shortbread with micro-basil) was a good dessert to finish off the meal. I have heard mixed reviews from others who have been there. For example, my co-worker dined here for New Year’s Eve. She had high expectations, especially with the increased prices for the occasion. It may have also had an off night so she was very disappointed. Nevertheless, I still recommend it as a good Mediterranean option at the Restaurant Week prices.
The below are a list of great restaurants that are on the Restaurant Week list but I do not really go to them for Restaurant Week.
1. Becco (355 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036) – Mon-Fri Lunch, Sun Brunch/Lunch
Becco is one of my favorite restaurants in New York. It was opened by celebrity chefs, Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe [Master Chef]. It is a popular spot in Hell’s Kitchen for lunch or dinner before and after Broadway shows. It is always hopping. I generally come here for the unlimited pasta, Sinfonia di Paste, for $19.95. The pastas are handmade and different every time. The price and pasta are awesome so you do not need to come here for Restaurant Week to get a great deal. Nevertheless, everything else I have eaten here is awesome. I really enjoyed the steak too.
2. Estiatorio Milos (125 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019) – Mon-Fri Lunch, Sun Brunch/Lunch
It is my favorite Greek restaurant in New York. I was brought here by a Greek co-worker. In particular the seafood, is phenomenal. In my opinion, it has the best salmon entrée anywhere (Sorry Seattle. I think I like this salmon more even if it is farmed salmon). The restaurant is beautiful. The ambiance is perfect and upscale. In addition, it has the freshest basil you will ever find. How fresh? They have a small pot of basil still growing at your table and cut it straight from the plant into your olive oil for your bread. It is really not necessary to dine here for Restaurant Week. They have the same prix-fixed menu for lunch regardless. It is only a few dollars cheaper for Restaurant Week. I recommend Milos anytime of the year if you want a nice Mediterranean meal for business or pleasure.
3. Tao Uptown (42 E 58th St, New York, NY 10022) – Mon-Fri Lunch
Tao is an awesome Asian fusion restaurant. It has one of the best prix-fixed lunch deals in New York if you want a lot of food. The portions are definitely generous. The prix-fixed menu is almost identical whether it is Restaurant Week or not. It is only a couple of dollars cheaper for the event. Everything I have had here is excellent. The crispy vegetable rolls are my favorite appetizer. In my opinion, the hanger steak is the best entrée. It is very tender and marinated great. For dessert, the chocolate zen parfait is phenomenal. The sorbet and fruit is a good alternative if you want to finish your meal with a healthier option.