I used to love taking advantage of Restaurant Week, checking out hot spots that I might not visit otherwise if it wasn't for the special menu that was kind on the wallet.
Over the past few years, however, I've found myself going out of my way to avoid Restaurant Week spots (especially hard, since the "week" has now ballooned into a full month). Lunches and dinners at restaurants participating are usually jam-packed and the quality of service and food often takes a sharp tumble to boot.
So, it was a happy accident when I stumbled into two separate lunches last week that were both lovely -- and part of the Restaurant Week hoopla.
First up was The Dutch. The place was buzzing, but no more so than on an average sunny afternoon in Soho. Our Southern-bred waiter was pleasant and on top of his game. Biting into a salad of Beets, Avocado, Cloumage Cheese and Pistachios and I knew the kitchen was on top of its game too. And then there was the chicken -- Fried Chicken graced with touch of chili heat, served alongside Honey Biscuits and a vinegary-tart Cole Slaw.
Oh yes, this was the real deal, no matter if I was getting a deal when it came to the meal's price tag.
Keeping the theme of great poultry in play, my next unexpected Restaurant Week lunch was in the West Village at Mas (la grillade), a warm and welcoming charmer with sunshine streaming in from an oversized skylight. After ordering a glass of Cremant and tucking into a perfectly seared piece of Duck Confit, served up with Grilled Corn, Pickled Eggplant, Bacon and Swiss Chard, I was feeling quite cosseted. Pictured above, I have to say that this is most certainly one of the best duck dishes in all of New York City, the meat meltingly tender and rich with flavor, offset by the crisp skin and melange of flavors and textures in the glorious riff on succotash below.
And, as an extra incentive to return, my waitress let me know that the restaurant regularly serves up a three-course lunch menu throughout the year -- for only three dollars more than during Restaurant Week.
In the end, I guess what I shunned has showed me up by showing me a good time. Will I still stay away from Restaurant Week reservations in the future? Probably. But, I will happy to revisit to The Dutch and Mas (la grillade) at any time of year, Restaurant Week included.