Time for first half of Winter Restaurant Week reviews. And, so far, I must say I am giving three resounding thumbs up.
My first prix fixe dinner was eagerly anticipated: Union Pacific. As avid readers might recall, I recently met the restaurant's sommelier. And, after letting him know that I was going to be paying a visit, he promptly promised an extra "slap and tickle." (Usually, I require dinner and a movie beforehand, but I thought I would make an exception in this case.)
Before I go any farther, let me say that no slap and tickle was forthcoming.
That said, however, dinner at Union Pacific was a delight.
The room, newly refurbished, is beautiful - Asian-inspired with accents of deep pink, soaring wooden beams and a tranquil waterfall at the entrance. One recommendation - connect the bar with the waiting area. It's pitifully small and could use the lounge space for extra thirsty souls.
The service was friendly, but not overbearing. Just right.
And, then there was the food: Glorious. We started with an amuse bouche of slightly seared Mackerel with a pineapple sauce. Then, I selected a Thai-influenced Beef Carpaccio with Thai Basil Leaves for an appetizer. The meat was perfectly ruby red and was a nice counterpoint to the crunch of veggies on top and the slightly sweet/spicy sauce drizzled on top. Then, I indulged in the Pekin White Duck, a large plate of crackling duck breast, sitting atop rich duck confit and sauteed Chinese cucumber. There were no choices for dessert. But, frankly we didn't need a choice, since dessert featured two tastes on a plate: an oozing miniature chocolate cake and a wee panna cotta. Our waiter also brought a plate of itty bitty cookies to round out the dinner.
Needless to say, I was a bit rounder after that meal. And yet I forged on. Next stop later in the week was Bolo, where I once had a dreadful meal, but was now hopeful after the NYT gave its new menu a whopping three-stars.
Once again, a cheery room and amiable service started things off on the right note. My appetizer pick, Steamed Mussels with Sherry & Tarragon, was sublime. The rich, fragrant broth was a treat unto itself. The mussels just gilded the lilly. Could the main dish live up to this standard? Well, the Slow Roasted Salmon with Creamy White Beans & Cauliflower, Broccoli Rabe & Black Olive Vinaigrette most certainly did. The beans were tossed in a creamy cauliflower reduction and proved an ideal foil for the meaty salmon. Dessert wasn't quite as sublime, but still it was hard to complain about my warming helping of Apple Tart with Verjus Ice Cream - a well-suited finish to a meal that was to be followed by a walk through the blustery wind to the N/R train.
To cap off the week's culinary adventures, I became a lady who lunches, joining my friend Stacy for lunch at Craft. Let me just say that I loved the decor there so much, that I was about ready to try to hustle out several pieces of furniture and the massive bathroom copper sink in my pocketbook. (Remind me never ever to get another bag smaller than the size of a pick-up truck.) The service wasn't as "on" as at the other two restaurants earlier in the week, but I must admit that if Stacy didn't have to rush back to the office, we might not have minded as much.
As with Craft's regular menu, we were able to pick and choose an appetizer, main dish, side dish, dessert and accompaniments. The Smoked Arctic Char I selected for my first course was buttery and briny - everything I'd hoped for. The steak which followed was seared rare and served in a demi-glace. Lovely. But, it was the side dish of Roasted Cauliflower served with bit of mashed alongside that put me over the edge.
And then, just to make sure that I really fell completely over an epicurean precipice, there was dessert. There is a reason that Craft's Pastry Chef Karen DeMasco was named "Pastry Queen" in the recent Best Chefs 2003 issue of New York Magazine. I had an Apple and Golden Raisin Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream that was pure heaven, served heated in a copper pan. It was hard to share with Stacy. But then again, we had promised to split and she had ordered a Chocolate Tart with Carmel Ice Cream that looked divine. Puffy and brownie-like in a deep, dark chocolate shell, it was sinful. The ice cream couldn't hold a candle - but it wasn't missed.
And, now I'm about to embark on Winter Restaurant Week Part II. More reviews to be posted shortly...And, a two-week stint of dieting to follow that...