The Blue Collar Foodie Helps You Decide! Restaurant Week 2013 Edition

Restaurant Week 2013

Restaurant Week 2013

It is that time of year again folks! New York City Restaurant Week is about to commence and this year 317 restaurants will be serving up some of the finest food New York City has to offer, from January 14th until February 8th.  Each and every year more restaurants jump on the proverbial chuck wagon and attempt to compete for your business during the most hectic two weeks in the New York City restaurant business and the hardest part is choosing which restaurant to visit.  If you are as bad at making a decision as Notre Dame was at playing football this week, The Blue Collar Foodie has got you covered!  I have reviewed, inspected, and studied the New York City eateries participating in restaurant week this year and handpicked a few of my favorites to make your decision making process go a wee bit easier.

Before I get to the restaurants that made this exclusive list I first want to explain how these establishments were selected.  I evaluated each restaurant using the following criteria; the restaurant’s history, the building the restaurant is housed in, the menu offered, and of course the food they serve.  I then used a complex algorithm, not really but this sounded way too awesome not to write, and selected restaurants that not only serve remarkable food but also provide an amazing eating experience for the customer.

Considering I only get to visit these prestigious restaurants twice a year during restaurant week, due to budget restraints, my restaurant selection has to be more than just about food.  I want to visit famous buildings, have the chance to rub elbows with celebrities, dine where history actually happened, and do it all for 38 bucks plus tax and gratuity.  If you are looking for the best food this immense list has to offer this is not the review for you, but if you are looking for a once in a lifetime New York City experience keep reading!

It should be noted that I have not visited all of the restaurants that are on my list, so most of my research was done using the interwebs.  So if the restaurant that you choose is not as amazing as I say it is, please forward all your hate mail to dealwithit@Doyourowndamnresearch.com

To make your life even easier, I have broken down my selections to match the “by cuisine,” categories that are used on the NYC GO website, which lists all the restaurants that are participating.  I have also decided to follow Twitter’s lead and only use 140 characters to capture the essence of each eatery, I call them TweeViews.  If you like what you see in the Tweeview please visit the restaurant’s website to see more about the venue, by clicking the establishment’s name.  Furthermore, these selections are in Alphabetic order by cuisine type then restaurant name.  If you use this list to pick a restaurant out, I would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below, so please post.  Remember an outing into the City is really what you make of it, so as Barney from How I Met Your Mother would say, “Suit Up, and have a Legend, wait for it, Dary evening!”

 

Food Map

Gastronomic Map

American New

Butter:  A unique interior design inspired by nature paired with an eclectic menu featuring uncommon dishes make Butter a force to be reckoned with.

Hospoda:  Czech inspired fare paired with fresh pilsner instead of the normal wine creates a fresh take on fine dining at this upscale eatery.

The Lambs Club:  A famous chef and a building on the National Register of Historic Places that was home to one of America’s oldest theatrical organizations.

Leyla:  Boasting one of the finest menus on the restaurant week circuit, what it lacks in history it more than makes up for in culinary creativity.

Kutshers:  A modern Jewish American bistro, with roots in the Catskills, which offers Grandma’s favorites with a contemporary twist.

Park Avenue Winter:  A rustic American restaurant offering seasonal fare and a corresponding design that is only open until the end of winter begets spring.

Perilla:  With only 18, it is hard to score a table at this neighborhood restaurant, turned foodie mecca that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Sprig:  Located in the Lipstick Building this posh eatery offers artistically prepared seasonal fare inspired by Northern California cuisine.

 

American Traditional

‘21’ Club:  A former New York City speak easy, still frequented by many celebrities, expertly serving awarding winning food with high class flare.

The Darby:  This former legendary Jazz and Blues Club turned chic eatery serves up creative cuisine with a side of swag in the form of live music.            

 

Asian Fusion        

Ajna Bar:  Beautiful interior design, renowned DJ’s, and a collision between French and Asian cuisine make Ajna Bar an appealing spot for 2013.

 

Barbecue

Hill Country BBQ:  New York’s own piece of Texas, serving up huge portions of fresh Barbecue for all of us with a city addresses but country souls.     

 

Chinese

Hakkasan:  This ain’t your local Chinese takeout joint; this is refined Chinese fare which is combined with a sophisticated and stylish dining area.

 

Continental

The Russian Tea Room:   A New York City Icon that was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet and is frequented by the worlds’ most fastidious foodies.

 

French

L’ecole:  The ground floor of Fine Dining, located in the Int. Culinary Center; students from everywhere collaborate to create awe inspiring dishes.

 

Greek

Kellari:  A warm and inviting atmosphere that sets the tone for a Grecian inspired meal that the Chef lovingly prepares to celebrate his homeland.       

 

Indian

Junoon:  An extensive selection of interesting and delicious Indian dishes that offers the restaurant week veteran a wonderful escape from monotony.

Tamarind:  This trendy eatery is one of the most popular Indian restaurants in NYC, and one look at the décor coupled with the menu should explain why.

 

Italian

Asellina:  Sleek, posh, and chic describe this hip establishment where authentic Italian food collides with the modern day reality starlet scene.   

Barbetta:  Known as one of the most romantic restaurants in New York City, this is a great place for a couple to fall in love all over again.

Cipriani Dolci:  Located inside the majestic landmark that is Grand Central Terminal, Cipriani offers something to the architecture lover that others cannot.  

Pó:  An intimate space and fresh ingredients delivered daily by foot or bike by the surrounding markets, serving Italian food as it should be.     

The Leopard at des Artistes:  First time diners come for the buildings historical significance and the impressive art collection, but they come back for the food.

 

Japanese

Megu:  This establishment transports you to the Far East like no other restaurant I have ever been to, from design to dish, Megu is a phenomenal.

 

Korean

Bann:  A fantastic place to experience a variety of tantalizing Korean food while being surrounded by stunning authentic Korean décor.

 

Mediterranean

Ilili:  Ilili combines Lebanese cuisine with a Mediterranean flare, an epicurean delight perfect for the foodie looking to expand their palate.

 

Mexican

Maya:  Traditional Mexican cuisine meets modern culinary expertise at this contemporary eatery that promises warm Latin hospitality.

 

Pan/Latin

Raymi:  Billed as the best Peruvian restaurant in New York City with a menu and dining area that appears to back up that claim.

Rayuela:  A truly innovative and beautiful restaurant that created its own culinary genre known as estilo libre Latino or freestyle Latino.

 

Seafood

FishTag:  Mediterranean inspired seafood dishes expertly paired with wine from the imaginative culinary mind of world renowned chef Michael Psilakis.   

 

Southwestern

Mesa Grill:  Bobby Flay combines his passion for Southwestern cuisine and his love for grilling which leads to a marriage made in foodie heaven.

 

Spanish

Andanada 141:  A restaurant week menu truly built for adventurous foodies combined with a bull fighting theme makes this a great spot for thrill seekers.

 

Steakhouse

The Capital Grille Chrysler Center:  Located inside the Chrysler Center’s Trylon Towers, this highly rated chain steakhouse is an architecture aficionado’s dream.

 

Thai

Kittichai:  An exquisite design that lends itself to a romantic dinner for two with a menu that offers an inventive take on traditional Thai dishes.

 

Vietnamese

Le Colonial:  This one of a kind eatery transports you to a forgotten world known as French Indochina and serves French inspired Vietnamese cuisine.

The Blue Collar Foodie Thais one on in Ridgewood Foodie Style at Malee!

Every foodie in Bergen County is familiar with the Ridgewood Avenue Restaurant row that offers a plethora of cuisine from every corner of the world.   The best part of this seemingly endless strip of remarkable eateries is that most of them are bring your own bottle and for the most part a reservation is usually not needed.  The latter is the key to this foodie haven because one could potentially park their car in one of the municipal lots and meander through downtown Ridgewood in search of a restaurant that tickles their fancy.    I stumbled upon Malee Fine Thai Cuisine, located at 2 East Ridgewood Avenue, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, doing just that many years ago and fell in love with their food, hospitality, and overall charm.

Ever since we happened upon Malee Thai all those years ago, whenever anybody suggests we get Thai food, I instantly recommend this establishment.  So when our friend Lorin, whom you may remember from my Blue Moon Café review, came to town and requested Thai, I knew just the place to take him.

The first thing to remember is that Malee Thai is a “bring your own bottle” restaurant, so you should stop at a liquor store on your way, or bring one of your favorites from your personal collection.  The second thing to keep in mind is that parking can be a bit of a pain in the arse, but have no fear Malee Thai is situated just minutes away from a municipal parking lot that is located just around the corner.  If you are parking in any of the lots or on the street in Ridgewood it is imperative that you read the signs regarding the rules and regulations of your parking space, or you will have a great dinner at one the Ridgewood Restaurants and then have no chariot to take you home for a relaxing after dinner cocktail.  Once you are packing a bottle or two of the happy juice, and parked LEGALLY, you can make your way to your destination.

As you approach the restaurant you may notice that there is outside seating located on their patio.  You may also notice that this beautiful outdoor region is Train Track Adjacent.  I am not saying that you should not dine outside, because on occasion I have been known to choose this option, I am merely reminding you that trains are loud and they will be close by when they whiz by your delicious meal.  I have seen too many reviews of Malee, that bring up this point and condemn the restaurant for this seemingly obvious point, as if when they sat down outside the restaurant they were oblivious of the giant train station a mere three feet from their table.  On this particular occasion, Kat, Lorin, and I decided that we were in the mood to eat inside due to the noise and the fact that it was at least 215 degrees out.

We visited Malee on a Friday at approximately 8:00 P.M. and did not have a wait at all for a table for three.  As soon as we were seated, we were greeted by our amicable server with a smile and our menus as well as three glasses of water, which on a summer evening is always appreciated.  After perusing our menus for a rather long time, due to the large selection of variety Malee offers, we finally made up our minds, and it seemed as soon as we placed our menus on the table our server arrived and was happy to take our order.

Lorin, whom is a vegetarian, had an extensive selection to examine before making his decision, which is a welcomed rarity for veg heads like Mr. P.  After quite some deliberation, his final verdict was the Vegetable Pad Woon Seng which was described as Bean thread noodles stir-fried with mixed vegetables and egg, for $14.00.  Kat, who I was almost sure, was going to order her regular surprised me once again and decided to go with the Pad See Eew which was described as steak stir-fried with thick, flat rice noodles, egg, and broccoli in a sweet brown sauce, for $12.00.   As for your fearless blogger, I ordered The Gang Ped Yang, which was described as boneless roast duck simmered in red curry sauce with fresh basil, pineapple, bell pepper, and cherry tomatoes, for $19.00.  Finally as an appetizer for the table to share we requested the Fried Tofu described as deep-fried, crispy tofu served with a tangy sauce with ground peanuts for only $5.00.

After sending our order off to the kitchen our server returned with a complimentary basket of Shrimp chips, which can be described as simply the best Styrofoam you will ever eat.  Try them and you will understand just how tasty they are.  Our server also opened the bottle of wine we brought from our personal stock, I recommend bringing a sweet white wine due to the spic that some Thai dishes deliver.  With a glass of wine in our hands and tales dripping from our tongues, we anxiously awaited our first course.

As the plate of fried Tofu arrived at our table, we all peered inquisitively at the plate in front of us.  None of us had ever had fried Tofu before, but all agreed that everything tastes better fried, so we each took a triangle of our fried goodness from the plate and dipped a corner in the sauce that was provided.  The tofu itself was pretty much what we expected, the fried out coating was crispy and fried to perfection while leaving the inside soft and palatable, yet like all Tofu slightly tasteless and bland.  Like Superman swooping in to save Louis Lane, the sauce rescued this dish; it provided a tangy and vivacious flavor that brought this dish from purgatory to heaven.

After we polished off the 6, which by the way is very good portion size for 5 bucks, fried tofu triangles, we poured ourselves another glass of wine and pontificated until our entrees departed the kitchen and landed on our table.  Their arrival caused a pause in conversation due to their brilliant appearance and intoxicating aroma.  I should add a small caveat at this point in my review and discuss the heat options that are available at Malee for most of the dishes they offer.  If a dish at Malee contains an element that is traditionally spicy they give you the option of mild, medium, hot, or very hot.  Believe me, when dealing with ethnic food, one must never be a hero.  Unless you have climbed the ladder of spice at any particular restaurant, I recommend taking some caution when ordering hot or very hot from any Thai restaurant.  The chefs at these restaurants have a very different idea of what spicy is than their Americans counterpart, so just because you can rock a five alarm chili means absolutely nothing. To be completely honest the “very hot” they serve us, from what I have been told is really their medium.  Precede with caution my fellow adventurous foodies, for the hottest I have been able to enjoy is Hot which is what I ordered on this occasion.

The food at Malee Thai is always so fresh and succulent that I am honestly never disappointed in any dish I order, but this was the first time I ordered a duck dish, and I was extremely satisfied.  The skin was crisp and the meat was juicy and tender.  As with a lot of Indian or Thai plates, my dish came with a side of rice that you place on a plate as a bed for the entree to be placed on.  The combination of the rice, the broth, and the duck concoction was tremendous.  The heat of the broth was expertly countered by the sweet pineapple and the rice, creating a flawless balanced package on every forkful.

Kat’s and Lorin’s both had noodle dishes that not only looked spectacular but seemed to offer quite a large portion size for their price.   They both must have been impressed by them as well, because by the end of our meal neither of them had any food left on their plates.  Kat commented that she was full half way through but just could not stop eating because of its phenomenal taste.

Malee Thai offers a wide variety of dishes for foodies to experiment with but I do suggest that anyone that is visiting Malee for the first time try the Pad Thai.  Pad Thai is the most commonly eaten Thai meal in the United States, and sadly most people have never had a truly great Pad Thai dish.  I have eaten at quite a few Thai spots in my day, and believe me when I say that Malee Thai has the best Pad Thai that I have eaten in the Tri-State area.

When the ambiance of Malee is combined with the food and the staff this restaurant just can’t be beat, and the fact that it is around the corner is a welcomed bonus for any family bound foodies.  To top it off, this establishment allows you to bring your own bottle of wine which can save you quite a bit of money.   I love eating at Malee, and I think if you give it a whirl, you will too.

 

Judgment:

Taste:                        4 out of 5

Presentation:          4 out of 5

Value:                       3 out of 5

Overall:                    4 out of 5

Malee Thai on Urbanspoon