Restaurant Week is my new favorite thing. Seriously, did you guys know about this? I sort of did, but it was in the same way that I know Staten Island exists. It’s there, and I guess other people interact with it, but that’s just not something I do.
Then I made dinner plans with my wonderful and beautiful friend Susan (hi Susan!). Susan realized it was Restaurant Week, which meant that the culinary delights of New York City were available to us at steeply discounted prices – or, put into the proto-caveman level on which my brain sometimes operates, we could walk into fancy restaurants, give them reasonbly-sized piles of money, and they would give us food. My brain could barely contain the possibilities. This is how I wound up at Blue Water Grill, the New York seafood institution, without having to sell a kidney.
The way Restaurant Week works is that for three weeks in January and February, top (and occasionally not-so-top) NYC restaurants put together menus offering an appetizer, entree, and dessert for a set price. It’s prix fixe if prix fixe menus weren’t mostly ominous tourist trap food in the shitty restaurants on 46th and 48th Sts. This year, a Restaurant Week dinner will run you $35, and before you balk at that price, realize that a place like Blue Water Grill has multiple entrees that cost more than $35 on their own. The real beauty of Restaurant Week is how it puts otherwise unaffordable food comfortably within reach of most gainfully employed people, and as a gainfully employed person, I feel it is my bounden duty to take some of that otherwise unaffordable food off the restaurants’ hands.
Susan and I made the very wise choice of colluding on our orders and splitting everything. You can see the menu here. There are three options for each course, which means that our clever scheme allowed us to sample two-thirds of the menu. Let me begin by discussing with you our appetizers.
Because I hate mushrooms (the third option was mushroom bisque), we ordered the seared fluke roll with marinated kohlrabi, shiso and ruby red grapefruit, and the heirloom citrus & baby arugula salad with Picholine olives and aged Manchego in a pistachio vinaigrette. I’m not normally a huge sushi eater, but that fluke roll was the goddamn best sushi I have ever had. It was light and flavorful, without any of the uncomfortable texture stuff going on that typically frightens me away from sushi. With the exception of the grapefruit I was unfamiliar with all the ingredients, so I can’t tell you what balanced what or outbalanced what. What I can tell you is that I could have eaten a tower of that shit. The salad did not fare as well; neither of us seemed particularly excited by it. I’m not a fan of arugula (I guess that makes me a real American?), and it turns out I don’t much like Manchego either – it tasted sort of like blue cheese to me, which I detest. But the vinaigrette was lovely, and I enjoyed the citrus. And I mean, let’s be real. We didn’t leave much in the bowl. We just ate with less gusto than with which we devoured the fluke roll.
For our main dishes, we ordered the thyme-roasted arctic char on a bed of sweet shrimp & Tuscan kale risotto with black mission figs and port wine, and a dish that doesn’t seem to be on the online menu – crisp Snake River brook trout over confit potatoes, toasted pecans, and endive with a maple bourbon vinaigrette. (Since that is not on the online menu, I called BWG and had one of the maitre d’s look it up. For you.) Both of these dishes were off-the-charts incredible, though I did prefer the char. It was firm and meaty, not unlike the halibut my parents and I had for Thanksgiving, but the flavor was purer. Fish this good don’t need no stinkin’ seasoning. What really made this dish for me, though, were the number of textures at play. You had crispy fish skin (and as I’ve discussed before here, I am a slave to the word “crispy”), firm yet flaky char, and intensely creamy risotto with a ribbon of kale cutting through it all. This ranks in my top dishes ever.
Which is not to impugn the honor of the trout! It also had “crisp” in the name, and to its credit, that was one crisp fucking trout. Battered in what I think was panko, it was the lightest, crispest, least-fried-tasting fried fish I’ve ever had. The potatoes on which it rested were creamy and slightly oily, as confit is wont to be, but deeply flavorful. I suspect baby Yukon golds. And the vinaigrette, which somehow managed to maintain a distinct flavor, was exquisite. I wanted to pour it all over my body. Overall this didn’t have the punch the char did, but it was still a lovely dish.
Finally, for dessert we got the double chocolate espresso bar with Nutella ice cream and the citrus panna cotta tart with tangerine sorbet. I’m a total ho for panna cotta – which you’ll know if I ever finish my Italy posts (it is here that I take inspiration from Robyn, The Girl Who Ate Everything, who routinely writes posts months after the fact yet maintains a passionate following of readers including myself) – and get it pretty much any time it’s a dessert option. For those of you not in know (AND IF YOU’RE NOT LET ME HELP YOU WITH THAT PROBLEM), panna cotta is an Italian pudding sort of like a cross between Jell-o and flan in texture and flavored with sweet cream. One of the interesting things about most panna cotte I’ve had is that if they are additionally flavored, it’s through toppings rather than infusions (i.e. chocolate panna cotta = panna cotta with chocolate sauce). They are also usually served as individual standalone puddings on your plate. This panna cotta came in a tart shell – which I didn’t love, because panna cotta is really really soft and light and the tart shell was too hard and the textures were not complementary – but, more importantly, it was both sitting in a citrus syrup and infused with citrus flavor. Coupled with the tangerine ice cream, this was an exceptionally delicious panna cotta. I did not consume as much of the chocolate espresso bar, but I can inform you that it was decadent – soft chocolate cake, some sort of chocolate mousse cream thing, topped with chocolate ganache, with espresso flavor throughout, and with the Nutella ice cream (which did not taste like “Nutella” but like “fucking perfection”) it was one crazy-ass, rich, chocolate-lover’s-dream of a dessert.
Also, we had some sparkling white wine.
So that was my Restaurant Week experience. I relate it only, like, 80% to make you jealous. The other 20% is so you learn from my fucking awesome choices and go out for Restaurant Week too! You still have tonight and tomorrow. And there’s always next year…