Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fastest Food Club EVER: Orsay

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While we pride ourselves on food adventures in the City, we Foodies in NYC, rarely take advantage of a New York tradition – Restaurant Week. This summer, we gave it a shot. Orsay was our choice, a “traditional,” pricey, UES French bistro. Now, you’d be naïve to expect perfection during Restaurant Week. It’s one of the four weeks each year that restaurants around Manhattan open their swanky doors to common folk, dumbing down their high-priced menus to serve a three-course dinner for $35 (a three-course lunch is $24.07). For dinners, it’s a great opportunity to try something you might not be able to afford otherwise, or to test drive a joint before spending serious cash. I have had some really wonderful Restaurant Week experiences over the years (Tribeca Grill and Mesa Grill to name a few)…. I must say this was my worst!

We walked into the old school dining room and immediately encountered its clichéd Parisian décor (small white floor tiles, dark wood trim and marble table tops). In the sweltering heat, we were “blessed” to be seated directly next to the door. Every time a patron walked in a gust of hot, muggy air hit our table. The only plus of our seating location was the people watching. If you want to check out some GREAT UES stereotypes go to Orsay! You’ve got Grandma in her Chanel suit (in 90 degree weather), the girl on a date who doesn’t eat (and is wearing Lilly Pulitzer with pearls – barf), and old stuffy men trying not to look like pigs with their high-end cufflinks and custom-made shirts. And us classy girls, mais oui!

Now, on to the food. We tried everything on the Restaurant Week menu. Here were some of the highlights and lowlights (mostly lowlights): our appetizers included Gazpacho (a waste of 100 calories with no taste or kick), a feta and watermelon salad (with not enough feta or watermelon) and blood sausage, which requires more detail. The dark brown, post-digested-like substance caused me to nearly “lose my lunch (dinner)” at the table…. all of the Foodies tried the “delicacy” and the consistency - combined with the flavor left much to be desired.

Onto the highlights - we ordered a delicious bottle of Prosecco, proving once again that when in doubt, go Italian and go BUBBLY! This effervescent delight made a great pairing to the meal. The one non-Restaurant Week item we ordered was escargot. This dish was everything that makes a French bistro worth coming back for. The snails were perfectly cooked and the butter, garlic and herb pool that they swam in almost led me to ask for a straw. Even Anne, who is not a fan of seafood, organ meat and other strange creatures, took a risk in our recommendation and tried some (note: she didn’t like it -- and we’ll spare you her reasons why) -- but we still give her credit for trying).

The rest of the meal was simply average and not worth rehashing - we consumed all three courses in under an hour, as it was clear our waiter needed our table for big spenders and regulars. With the record set for fastest food club ever, we felt the need to unwind from the race that just occurred and headed to one of Foodies in NYC’s old standbys– Uva. We finished the night with more Prosecco and a Torta Di Mandorle (almond tart served warm with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce). We stayed for approximately the same amount of time as it took to consume all three courses at Orsay and did what we do best, ate, drank and laughed (a lot). Overall, our Restaurant Week experiment ended up being an interesting experience, one made better with amazing friends…and plenty of booze!

1057 Lexington Ave (At 75th St)
(212) 517-6400

1486 2nd Ave (btw 77th and 78th)
(212) 472-4552

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FC Nibble: I'll Have The Gin Cocktail, But 86 The Lettuce

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This saucy little Italian place has been generating some buzz in Tribeca for its unusual décor and more even more unusual cocktail menu. So I went off with a bunch of friends to try it out. The huge booths sitting on platforms are said to rotate (but we didn’t see it) and the tables were covered in a white rubber mat with grenade-shaped salt and pepper shakers.

The drinks were...inventive. Check out the menu for yourself! Some of the combinations are incredible – and we were excited to try something new! I ordered the La Signoria which was: gin, lemon juice, sugar, lettuce, strawberry and balsamic reduction. No – that wasn’t me doing my impression of Rachel making a trifle on Friends (STILL cracks me up!). As much as I wanted to LOVE this drink…it tasted like lettuce water. I even made everyone at the table try it to confirm.

My friends ordered the Paco-Taibo white tequila, pink peppercorn, thyme, cherry tomatoes, honey rimmed with parmigiano (yes the cheese!). Shawn kept calling it “aggressive” – so I gave it a sip – the tequila and the parmigiano WERE aggressive – they fought the whole way down!

Note fellow Foodie in NYC member, Danielle, also recently dined Il Matto and tried the Bloody Frida and really enjoyed it.

So – the drinks were by FAR saved by the wine – a great, crisp, floral French white.

The food fared much better. For apps – go for the parmigiano-style zucchini with smoked mozzarella- it was savory and smoky – almost with the consistency of chutney. Yum!

I was conservative on the meal choice and (given my roll of the dice on the drinks didn’t go my way). I ordered the black olive triangle shaped ravioli, stuffed with buffalo mozzarella over tomato sauce topped with fried eggplant. The eggplant was more of a thin chip that garnished each creamy little ravioli.

My friend Krista got the pine nut crusted chicken over celery root puree and garlic chips. While they SAY it was pine nuts – we’re pretty sure they MEANT peanuts. And when they say crusted – they mean smothered within an inch of that poor chicken’s life! (read: we all were craving some jelly after trying Krista’s dish! )

The others opted for saffron pappardelle with osso buco ragout and bone marrow sabayon. It was very rich – but also very good.

I would recommend Il Matto…but just opt for the wine instead of the overly ambitious cocktails!

Mangia tutto!

Il Matto
21 Church Street (between White and Franklin)