The Essential Epicurean Guide To Restaurant Week in NYC: Summer 2016 Edition

This is not a drill people, Restaurant Week is once again upon us! Despite what the haters and hipsters have to say, I, for one, am super excited to head over to the greatest city in the world and chow down on some epic eats! This year’s Restaurant “Week” runs from July 25, 2016 to August 19, 2016 (I know that is more than a week, DEAL WITH IT!) and will run you $29.00 for lunch and $42.00 for dinner. Here is a link to all the participating restaurants; NYCGO.

Restaurant-week-2016-summer

However, if picking a restaurant seems more daunting than hitting a Noah Syndergaard fastball, then keep reading. To make your life easier, I have compiled my essential epicurean guide to this event once again. This time, I embarked on a mission to steer clear of the ordinary haunts and attempted to find the spots that are slightly off the beaten path, gastronomically speaking.

These restaurants might scare people off on a regular Monday, due to their rather adventurous cuisine and, let’s be honest, New York City price tags. However, thanks to the beauty of Restaurant Week, we can give these eclectic establishments a whirl without the worry of buyer’s remorse. So, without further ado, let’s take a Gastronomic walkabout around the globe, simply by driving across a river. (The following list is in no particular order, so make sure to scroll to the end)

The Cecil

Cuisine: African

Restaurant: The Cecil

Address: 210 West 118th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue New York, NY 10026

Why You Should Go: The Cecil has basically created a culinary style that is unique to their establishment deemed Afro-Asian-American. Pair that awesome sauce with their chic décor and hip ambience and you have a recipe for a memorable night out.        

What You Should Order: Collar Green Salad, Fried Chicken Fried Rice, and Triple Chocolate Cake

TenderSteak

Cuisine: American New, Japanese Sushi

Restaurant: Tender Steak + Sushi

Address: 130 West 47th Street, NY 10036  

Why You Should Go: This unique and modern eatery flawlessly combines a traditional American Steakhouse with an authentic high end Sushi joint. Tender made my list because of its culinary range, offering everything from burgers to sushi. This restaurant is great for the group that just can’t decide on one type of cuisine.

What You Should Order: Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice, Tender Wagyu Burger, and Crème Brulee

Distilled NYC

Cuisine: American New

Restaurant: Distilled New York

Address: 211 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Why You Should Go: Distilled New York is a throwback to a near forgotten era where public houses, pubs, and bars were not just full of D-Bags looking to get drunk and laid. Back in the day, these establishments were home to impromptu town hall meetings and actual political discussions, based on informed opinions as opposed to what party you are affiliated with. Distilled is trying to harness that vibe and reinvent the old school Public House. Not to mention they have a standup beer menu and their food is pretty epic.

What You Should Order: Distilled Wings, Country Fried Duck and Waffle, Night Cap

Chefs Club

Cuisine: American New

Restaurant: Chef’s Club

Address: 275 Mulberry St. Manhattan, NY 10012

Why You Should Go: Brought to you by Food & Wine, this swanky restaurant boasts a collaborative menu from a rotating list of some of the world’s most renowned young Chefs. The Chef’s Club also offers eaters the unique experience of watching the drama of the kitchen unfold before their eyes thanks to their open kitchen, which is located in the center of the eatery.

What You Should Order: Calamari & Giardiniera Salad, Spicy Beef Ribs, and Chocolate Pretzel Whoopie Pie

Blenheim

Cuisine: American New

Restaurant: Blenheim

Address: 283 W. 12th St. New York, NY 10014

Why You Should Go: First and foremost this sexy eatery has just earned itself a Michelin Star, which should be reason enough to visit. However, that is only the tip of the romaine. Blenheim is redefining the term Farm to Table, by literally growing the food that appears on their impressive menu on their own farm, located in the Catskills. Plus, they are serving this amazingly fresh fare in a beautifully inviting atmosphere. Reservations are hard to come by, but try to score one of the outdoor tables which allow you to enjoy your dinner while participating in one of my favorite NYC past times, people watching.

What You Should Order: Poached Farm Egg, Roast Chicken, and Honey Semifreddo

smoke jazz club

Cuisine: American New

Restaurant: Smoke Jazz & Supper Club

Address: 2751 Broadway Manhattan, NY 10025

Why You Should Go: Smoke Jazz & Supper Club is one of NYC’s most distinguished Jazz Clubs and they just so happen to have a world renowned Chef playing her tunes in the Kitchen to boot. Let Smoke set the mood for your date night with their vintage décor, candlelit tables, soulful live jazz performances, and remarkable food. It is like the Barry White songs of restaurants, if you are picking up what I am putting down.

What You Should Order: Mousse of Foie Gras, Lobster Ravioli, S’mores Brownie

BurkeWillsNYC

Cuisine: Australian

Restaurant: Burke & Willis

Address: 226 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024

Why You Should Go: Visiting Australia has always been a dream of mine, alas the never ending plane ride has always scared me away. Thanks to Burke & Willis, I can now try traditional Southern Hemisphere food, without having to endure crying infants, stale air, and 3 inches of leg room for 21 hours twice in 2 weeks.  

What You Should Order: Kangaroo Ham (+$5.00), Australian Lamb Rack (+$10.00), Affogato

Resto_Logo

Cuisine: Belgian

Restaurant: Resto

Address: 111 East 29th Street New York, NY 10016

Why You Should Go: Resto’s attempt to replicate the quant bistros that are all over Paris and Brussels is spot on, and the food transports you to these foodie havens as well. Furthermore, Resto offers outdoor seating to add to the already wonderful dining experience.

What You Should Order: Country Ham, Chicken & Liege Waffles Bacon, Honey Panna Cotta

Vermillion

Cuisine: Eclectic

Restaurant: Vermillion

Address: 480 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10017

Why You Should Go: Sticking with the theme of this article, Vermillion’s culinary exploration of the intersection of Indian and Latin-American cuisine is distinctive and playful. The Restaurant Week menu was not available at the time that I published this post, which usually keeps a restaurant off my list, but I am a sucker for Indian Cuisine and their regular menu looked straight up fantastic.

What You Should Order: Your guess is as good as mine…

 Noreetuh

Cuisine: Hawaiian

Restaurant: Noreetuh

Address: 128 First Avenue Manhattan, NY 10009

Why You Should Go: Why shouldn’t you go? Unless you have access to a private jet and unlimited money, I would imagine that you don’t eat traditional Hawaiian food very often. Noreetuh offers a small slice of paradise in this otherwise brick-faced world. Plus they have a decent craft beer list and an impressive wine selection to get you into that serious vacation mood.

What You Should Order: Noreetuh Salumi, Mentaiko Spaghetti, and King’s Hawaiian Bread Pudding

KHE YO

Cuisine: Laotian

Restaurant: Khe-Yo

Address: 157 Duane St. Manhattan, NY 10013

Why You Should Go: I pride myself on rocking every single style of food that I can literally and figuratively sink my teeth into, and I have yet to have Laotian food. So, to be honest, I am not exactly sure what I would order or if it will be at the level of some of the other spots on the list. However, I am damn sure, that it will be an experience and just a quick peek at their website will show you that although I can’t guarantee anything, I am betting on Khe-Yo punching me right in the taste buds.

What You Should Order: Maine Lobster Dumplings, Steamed Red Snapper in Banana Leaf, Vanilla Rice Pudding

 Pig and Khao

Cuisine: Malaysian

Restaurant: Pig And Khao

Address: 68 Clinton St. Manhattan, NY 10002

Why You Should Go: It is not a secret here on the internets that I love pork more than the internets loves videos of cats. I have a rule whenever I am searching for a restaurant or bar and it is quite simple; follow the pig. While it may have been the name of this eatery that drew me in, it was the pork centric menu that landed it on my exclusive list of where you should eat. Oh, Pig And Khao, you had me at Pork Jowls.

What You Should Order: Grilled Pork Jowl, Pork Belly Adobo, Baby Back Ribs, Turon

Russian Tea Room

Cuisine: Russian

Restaurant: The Russian Tea Room

Address: 150 W. 57th St. Manhattan, NY 10019

Why You Should Go: For 80 years, the Russian Tea Room and its ornate décor has been wining and dining NYC’s elite. Much like a baseball fan walking into Wrigley Field, a foodie can feel the culinary history oozing from this legendary eatery. Not to mention they have, arguably, the best Russian Food this side of the Atlantic.

What You Should Order:  Team Room Red Borscht, Boeuf à la Stroganoff, Cheesecake

Root and Bone

Cuisine: Southern Fare

Restaurant: Root & Bone

Address: 200 E. 3rd St. Manhattan, NY 10009

Why You Should Go: Southern food is not for everyone, I respect and acknowledge that. However, I assure you, Southern food is for me and that is why Root & Bone lands firmly on my short list of must visit eateries in NYC. Root & Bone combines high end comfort food, southern hospitality, and culinary expertise to form, IMHO, one of the best true eating experiences the city has to offer.

What You Should Order: Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits, Braised Short Rib Meatloaf, and S’mores

socarrat paella bar

Cuisine: Spanish

Restaurant: Socarrat-Paella Bar

Address: 953 2nd Avenue New York, NY 10022 / 284 Mulberry Street New York, NY 10012 / 259 West 19th Street New York, NY 10011

Why You Should Go: What is not to like about Paella? The math is sound folks! Handfuls of amazingly seasoned seafood, meat, and vegetables + perfectly prepared rice + gigantic portions = Hot Damn. Socarrat-Paella Bar brings this amazing dish to Restaurant Week in style with several variations available.

What: Pulpo a la Plancha (Grilled Octopus), Paella de Arroz Negro (Seafood Paella with squid ink), and Churros Con Chocolate.

Green Dragon Brings World Class Sushi Back To Fair Lawn

As a local restaurant slowly becomes your go to spot, it is comparable to a blossoming friendship. At first you stick to the basics, small talk is tantamount to the rudimentary menu items, but as the relationship continues, a sense of trust develops and gradually, this new friend, errrrrr… eatery can do no wrong. In other words you have rocked every item on the menu and have never been disappointed.

Sadly, much like some of your most memorable BFF’s, these local haunts relocate without notice. No matter the reason, taxes, rent, or the necessity for more space, at first you feel optimistic. What is a thirty minute drive among friends after all? Unfortunately, as many a bumper sticker from the 1980’s communicated, “Shit Happens,” and as we all know Life Happens as well. Your visits become less frequent and excuses are flung around like excrement at a monkey preserve.

Most of the time, this is where the story ends, however recently, I was able to rekindle a foodie friendship with an amazing Chef that happened to move right back into my hometown. The restaurant I am referring to is Green Dragon and the amazing culinary mind behind there cuisine is Chef Huarong Chen A.K.A. Ken. This kids is the story of How I Met Your Sushi Chef. Ba Bum Bum Bum Bum Ba Ba Ba Baaaaaaa…

One of the first places I reviewed as The Blue Collar Foodie was the amazing Six Happiness that was located on Morlot Avenue, in Fair Lawn New Jersey. One of the reasons I fell in love with this seemingly ordinary, yet extraordinary, Chinese Take-Out joint, was the addition of Chef Ken, who was churning out some of the most intriguing and remarkable Sushi I have ever eaten. We are talking NYC good people!

Ye Olde Six Happiness

Ye Olde Six Happiness

Sadly, Six Happiness went through some changes and the original staff moved to Lodi under the name of Taste of Asian, located at 122 Essex Street in Lodi, and the food at the Fair Lawn location was never the same. To add insult to injury, Chef Ken disappeared from my life for quite some time and I was forced to eat sub-par sushi like a common street vagrant. I know… I know… First world problems, but still a problem none the less.

Thinking I had tasted Chef Ken’s epic oceanic goodness for the last time, I tried to put it out of my mind. That is until I walked into Green Dragon for the first time! In my head, Chef Ken jumped over the counter in slow motion and ran towards me, Bay Watch style, as I threw chairs and tables out of my way as I ran to him even slower. As we met in the middle of the restaurant we embraced in the greatest man hug of all time, the man hug between the foodie and the long lost Chef. In all reality, we saw each other from across the restaurant, and gave each other the obligatory standard manly greeting, the nod of acknowledgement,  but that doesn’t seem like a good ending to this anecdote at all, so we will just say the first version happened and forget about the boring truth.

Green Dragon recently opened its doors at 19-01 Fair Lawn Avenue in Fair Lawn New Jersey in place of Dish Eatery. Even though it is always unfortunate to see a new-ish restaurant like Dish close its doors, I was extremely happy to see that a Sushi and Chinese Restaurant was moving back to Fair Lawn. This happiness turned to unbridled jubilation when I saw that it was Chef Ken at the helm.

I Heart Dragons of any color.

I Heart Dragons of any color.

This establishment ain’t your normal Chinese Food take-out spot though, this is a sit-down restaurant with a fair amount of tables and a pretty extensive menu. They of course have the elementary Chinese food fare that we all crave from time to time, but they also offer specialties like Duck Fried Rice, a Bento Box, and the aforementioned Sushi.

Welcome to Green Dragon, your table to waiting.

Welcome to Green Dragon, your table to waiting.

The first time I visited Green Dragon I phoned in an order for normal, everyday Chinese Food and picked it up because that is what Kat and I were craving.  However, after seeing Chef Ken behind the Sushi counter I knew we were coming back. A few short days later, Kat and I returned to Green Dragon to experience a sit down meal at this somewhat new eatery and… Spoiler alert, we were not disappointed.

When we were seated our delightful waitress brought us a couple of glasses of water as well as a portion of Crispy Chinese Noodles complete with a side of duck sauce. *Note, I scoured the internets to find what these scrumptious little fried crunchy strips of amazeballs are actually called and came up with the utterly unimaginative designation you see above.* However, whatever you call them, they are always welcome on my table and never unappreciated.

Crispy Fried Strips Of Amazeballs

Crispy Fried Strips Of Amazeballs

Kat and I then began the constantly slothful and arduous task of ordering something from a menu that is new to us. With only a small amount of hemming and hawing Kat and I were able to come up with what we thought was a solid selection. I ordered the Shrimp Teriyaki Bento Box which comes with a garden salad, shrimp shumai, haru maki, rice, and normally a California Roll, which I paid extra to bench, and replaced it with a spicy tuna. Kat decided on the Fried Tofu and invited a Peanut Avocado Roll to the party as its plus one.

The only reason I order a salad at a Chinese Restaurant is the heavenly ginger dressing that tops the roughage. With an almost paste like consistency, this dressing is what really separates this salad from that of an ordinary pizzeria salad. Simple and fresh components make up the body of this garden salad and the ginger dressing adds a much needed flair to make it worth the nod, instead of any soup on the menu.

If they bottled this stuff I would eat it for days.

If they bottled this stuff I would eat it for days.

After our salads were devoured our entrees hit the table and Kat’s looked magical. The crispy outside of the fried tofu was the perfect complement of the warm silky inside, and when paired with the tangy sauce, this dish was spot on. Not to mention the vegetables that were served with it were fresh and had a distinct bite to them, which is always a bonus when dealing with steamed vegetables.

#AnyFriedTastesBetter #Don'tJudgeMe #TofuIsHealthyRight

#AnythingFriedTastesBetter #Don’tJudgeMe #TofuIsHealthyRight

As for my Bento Box, it what everything I wanted and more. For one thing the reason why I love Bento Boxes is not only the glutenous amount of food that is provided, but the variety as well. This box was no magnificent! (TWSS) Each element that graced this dish was undeniably tastier than the last… Until of course I took a bite of something else. The only problem I had with this wonderful meal was which bite would be my last… It was the Sushi… I freaking love that stuff. In fact, as I write this I am now realizing that I have to have more tonight.  *Edit:  I did in fact go to green dragon after writing this, and it was glorious.*

Anything with the word box in it still makes me chuckle.

Anything with the word box in it still makes me chuckle.

Speaking of Sushi, Kat’s was not half bad either, I mean for being fake Sushi and not containing any seafood at all. The presentation though was beautiful and the sushi rice was cooked expertly. Take that California, we know how to eat Avocado too and we have four seasons! HA! NEW JERSEY 1 – CALIFORNIA 0

Even Fake Sushi is better than no Sushi.

Even Fake Sushi is better than no Sushi.

In case you just looked at the Food Porn and failed to read any of the words that seeped out of my brain and landed firmly on the interwebs, I highly recommend hitting up Green Dragon. Not only is it my new Sushi spot, but it is also my new Chinese Restaurant too.

Green Dragon Asian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

A Foodie Approved Date Night!

Every once in a while this Blue Collar Foodie decides to attempt to impress his Blue Collar Wifey with a date night de jour. For most people this entails a dinner and night out on the town, but for Kat and I, who run around like Usain Bolt on amphetamines every day, this involves eating at a new restaurant and pulling up some couch with our mammals. No that is not a euphemism, I literally mean sitting on the couch with my lovely wife and our furry children and watching whatever programs are scattered across our DVR. I know this sounds dull and perhaps even slightly unromantic, but I assure you that if you looked at the anarchy that is our calendar, which resembles a Jackson Pollock painting most of the time, you would agree that a relaxing evening would be utter bliss.

As a food writer I tend to turn towards the internets quite often to locate local restaurants that I should be eating at, and I suggest you do the same. As I was planning our date night, I came across a restaurant called Pearl Restaurant,which is located at 17 South Broad Street in Ridgewood, NJ. After reading some of the reviews that were scattered across the great plains of the interwebs, I made the executive decision to have our date night at Pearl Restaurant.

Pearl Restaurant Since Pearl is designed to be an intimate setting that is perfect for the couple experience, I recommend making a reservation before your arrival. Not only will you be guaranteed a table, but it will appear classier to your partner who you are trying to charm. When making said reservation keep in mind that Pearl Restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, and if you are a people watcher like me, the streets of Ridgewood are absolutely perfect for this voyeuristic hobby. Since we had a reservation, even on a busy Friday night, Kat and I were seated within minutes of our arrival in the dining area.

The interior of Pearl is simply enchanting and should make any female foodie swoon, making you look like a prodigious partner. The muted lighting is soft and pleasing as is the modern yet subtle music that is played throughout the restaurant. Furthermore the addition of a small candle on every table adds to the already romantic composition of this eatery.

Within seconds of our rumps resting in the seats, we were cordially received by our waiter who furnished us with the menu of today’s fare. One of the reasons that Pearl Restaurant was extremely appealing to me was the fact that their menu changes daily, based on the availability of the highest quality meats and fish that were found at the market earlier that morning.   Additionally, Pearl does not have a freezer or a microwave on the premises, so everything that you will be served at this epicurean honey hole is fresh and cooked to order.

By the way to add to the appeal of Pearl, it is a BYOB establishment which always makes this frugal foodie happier than TMZ when a rapper gets arrested. With our bottle of white uncorked, poured, and placed in a bucket by the once again extremely helpful wait staff, we turned our focus on tackling the serious menu that was placed in front of us. With the precision of a Bill Belichick defense, get used to a myriad of football references in the coming months I am not only a foodie but a hardcore sports fan, we sorted through the menu and found what we considered to be the perfect dishes to embody the philosophy of Pearl.

I decided on the Goffle Farm Raised Crispy Pearl Duckling that was served with an Orange- Lavender Honey Gastrique, with a side of Seasonal Vegetables and Starch Du Jour. My delightful dining companion went with the Goffle Farm Raised Hen that was also paired with Seasonal Vegetables and Starch Du Jour.   Considering that we are both trying to remain someone healthy while still participating in as many gastronomic adventures as our wallets will allow, we also ordered a Pearl House Salad to accompany our enticing entrees.

Pearl BreadKat and I sipped our wine and caught up on each other’s recent undertakings, accomplishments, and tribulations while enjoying the ambiance of Pearl. While pontificating and politicking fresh warm bread was brought to our table that was joined by a bowl of high end olive oil and a mysterious orange paste. Since both Kat and I are intrigued by new and uncommon foods, we of course immediately halted our conversation and almost in unison, with the grace of an Olympic synchronized swimming team, broke a piece off of the bread and dipped it directly into this cream of curiosity. Our lack of food related anxiety paid off, as this hummus like concoction made our taste buds sing louder than this demonic six year old on America’s got talent. The texture was somewhat velvety and the flavor was not overpowering which made it the perfect accomplice for the flakey warm bread that was served. We later asked our waiter what this magical mixture was and we were informed that it is basically a white bean hummus.

Pearl Restaurant Salad After annihilating the bread and most of the dip, our house salads arrived. I was tremendously impressed with not only the size of this salver of greens but also the quality of the produce. Normally when you order a house salad at an elegant restaurant it is smaller than Kate Hudson’s waistband and overdressed more than Elton John circa 1977. This just was not the case when it came to Pearl’s salad. The light vinaigrette allowed the fresh and crisp garden greens to show off their delightful flavor creating a perfect introduction to the amazing meal that we were about to partake in.

Pearl Chicken With our appetites properly teased, we were appropriately prepared for our main dishes. Without delay, they were delivered to our table and both dishes were visually stunning. It was obvious that whoever plated these meals was painstakingly attentive to every iota of eatable that graced our plates. On top of the fact that the food in front of us looked as if it should grace the cover of Bon Appetit magazine, the aroma that was wafting off our plates was damn near intoxicating. I almost had to go fifty shades of grey all up on Kat in order to restrain her from attacking her meal like a honey badger attacks a snake before I could get the sufficient amount of pictures.

Pearl Chicken 2With the photographs taken, it was time to taste the artwork that was sitting in front of me. I slowly cut into my duck with the meticulousness of a surgeon and lifted the first bite of my duck towards my mouth. The instant this savory, crispy, citrusy, deliciousness I fully understood why Elmer Fudd relentlessly hunted Daffy. The skin of the duck was expertly cooked to a crunchy perfection while the flesh of the duck was moist yet surprisingly not greasy at all. To add to the overall excellence of this dish, the orange lavender gastrique brought this flawlessly prepared poultry to a whole other level of divinity. I have had quite a bit of duck in my day, being that it is my favorite fowl dish, and this was by far the best I have eaten in my foodie career. I had to force myself to stop eating the duck and at least try the vegetables and mashed potato that accompanied my delightful duck, and I was happy I did. The green beans were exquisitely cooked with just the right texture and the potatoes were bursting with flavor.

Perfect Bite of DuckKat being the wonderful wife that she is, cut a piece of her hen dipped it into the sauce that accompanied it, and fed me the forkful. I am never prepared for the difference between store bought poultry and farm bought poultry, and this was no exception. As I masticated, it means chewing people get your mind out of the gutter, on this heavenly chicken, I pondered why any restaurant would purchase frozen food when locally sourced farm raised fare is available literally one town over. I then realized that the answer is simple, some people just don’t have the same passion for food as the proprietor of restaurants like Pearl.

Pearl Chocolate MousseOne of the notations about Pearl that I read on the internet was that most of their desserts are prepared table side. I always enjoy a little showmanship when out to eat, so Kat and I decided to throw caution to the wind, break our diets and order something sweet to finish off our already pleasant night. After careful consideration, because dessert ordering is not to be taken lightly, we decided on the Chocolate Mousse with a Peanut Butter and Graham Cracker Crumble, topped with a raspberry marshmallow fluff that was toasted table side with a torch. Yes it was as good as it sounds, in fact, I would venture to say that it was better than it sounds! This is the type of dessert that could cause you to fall off the diet wagon and descend deep into the self-loathing hate spiral that is diet failure, but it was well worth the risk.

The Pearl Restaurant was as advertised, a restaurant that is unique as a Pearl. Their quixotic ambiance, exceptionally helpful and gracious wait staff, and their remarkable food make this establishment one of Bergen Counties must try eateries. I strongly suggest that the next time you are trying to dazzle your significant other, you allow Pearl in Ridgewood to assist you in making your night a memorable and scrumptious evening.

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