I went above and beyond the call of foodie duty last Friday - I had not one, but two Restaurant Week three-course meals. It was all in the name of VittlesVamp reportage - of course.
It's tough to be The Vamp...
Lunch was idyllic. I climbed the steps to Tudor City Place and found myself in a world of quiet repose - with L'Impero, Scott Conant's well-regarded Italian eatery at the center of it all. Gleaming mirrors, creamy white walls, whisper-thin drapery and powder blue leather greeted me at the door along with a gracious hostess. Walking towards my table, with my pal Stacy heading up the rear, we were amazed that this little slice of urban sanity was actually located across the street from the chaos that's the UN.
So, I guess L'Impero is the Switzerland of restaurants. (Notice how I'm continuing with my "diplomacy" theme from yesterday's posting?) Thankfully, however, the food kept to the Southern side of the Alps - no Schnitzel today. Instead, Stacy swooned over a bowl of chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Riesling Gelee. I went for the heartier option of Fricassee of Seasonal Mushrooms with
creamy polenta and truffle reduction.
How decadent. How delicious. How civilized.
The main courses didn't fare as well. Stacy's House-Made Spaghetti with
Tomato and Fresh Basil was definitely tasty - although nothing outrageously special. But, my Roasted Free Range Chicken with Currants and Almonds was just that - nary a side dish to compliment. The chunks of poultry were nicely seasoned and well-prepared, but it missed the mark without a proper foil. Next time, I strongly suggest they throw some veggies into the mix, or at least a brave bean or two.
The desserts were also a mixed blessing. Stacy's sorbet plate lacked punch - althought the Passionfruit Sorbet really tried its darnedest. And, my Sesame Cannoli with Strawberries also aimed to please, but fell short.
Still, there was something so sophisticated about the dining room that we both left feeling like we'd been pampered. And, at $20.12 a head, we definitely felt that to be quite a bargain.
My dinner wasn't as successful. Making our way through a monsoon, my friend Jennifer and I hightailed it up to the Upper West Side to take advantage of Calle Ocho's three-course deal. The restaurant is beautiful (pictured above), but the noise level and tight tables make the eatery feel like a frat fave, rather than a fine dining destination.
And, then there was the food.
The Mushroom Empanada appetizer was bland. (I think that might be considered a cardinal sin in Latin-American kitchens. No?) My main dish of Steak Rollatine stuffed with Spinach was a bit better, but I can't really give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. Add to that a Passionfruit Tart that featured a wimpy crust and gummy center and I'd have to say that I won't return. Heck, even Jennifer's regular menu entree of Pork Chop was just mediocre.
Hasta la vista Calle Ocho.
And, now that the weekend is behind me, I finally feel recouped enough to venture out for another Restaurant Week expedition. I better run, lest I be late. Tonight: I Trulli. Tomorrow: the full report.