Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winter Restaurant Week is Here - Hurrah!

When I got the e-mail that Restaurant Week is again upon us, I was so happy!  I keep looking at the list of participating restaurants, trying to figure out which places I want to try.  I normally pick restaurants that I've long wanted to try but can't really afford, so the first choice was Mario Batali's Spanish restaurant Casa Mono.  My boss also wanted to get into the act - his way to choose was to look at the restaurants in the vicinity of our office.  Fine with me.  So, last week, I had my first two Restaurant Week lunches (I have a couple more coming up; thank heavens Restaurant Week is actually three weeks long!).

Thursday, my boss and I went to Triomphe, a very nice French restaurant in the Iriquois Hotel.  Even though it's in my office neighborhood, I've never been there before.  It's a lovely spot, very elegant and quiet, and rather Impressionistic in look (the faux Monet artwork helped with that feeling, my boss coined the term 'fauxnet,' ha ha).  For my three-course lunch, I chose the lobster bisque (which costs a supplemental fee over the normal $25 Restaurant Week lunch cost, but hey, if lobster bisque is on a menu, I will order it), the beef stroganoff "parmentier" and the honey panna cotta.

The lobster bisque was delicious, though not very attractively presented.  It was seasoned nicely with plenty of rich lobster meat throughout.  It was a very nice starter.  My boss ordered the french onion soup and he said it was very good, too.

We both enjoyed the beef stroganoff entree.  It was a rather deconstructed take on the classic dish.  Anything that is served with a dome of mashed potatoes is fine with me.  The potatoes were rich and creamy, the beef was juicy and the gravy was fantastic.  We practically licked our plates to make sure we got all of that gravy.  Thumbs up on the stroganoff.

The honey panna cotta was also delicious.  It was sweet, but not overly so, very creamy and the pomegranate seeds served alongside were a nice, crunchy and tart taste that uplifted the whole dessert.  Very nice.  I definitely enjoyed my meal at Triomphe and would love to go back.

Friday's lunch at Casa Mono was incredible, though it started off with a bit of an annoyance.  When I arrived for my reservation, the hostess asked where my guest was.  I said I wasn't sure if he was coming - the gal told me that I wouldn't be seated as only one diner.  I'm thinking my confirmation e-mail when I made the reservation should've made that clear.  It's not my fault my friend got sick and couldn't join me.  The hostess seated me at the bar instead and I was a tad grumpy about it.  Especially since the gent sitting to my right was left-handed and practically ate with his left arm at a 90 degree angle, which meant he kept bumping into my personal space.  Grrrrr.  But when you sit at the bar you can watch the chef prepare the food, so that made me happy and I was ultimately glad I sat there (though I do still think the reservation confirmation e-mail should point out you may not be seated at a table as a solo diner).  And the left-handed annoying guy left soon after I started eating my appetizer, so that was good, too.

For my appetizer, I got the jamon croquetas with a 'pan con tomate' aioli and tomato raisins.  This was so delicious!  Three croquetas were creamy, salty, hot and yummy, and that rich aioli was really amazing and a terrific accompaniment to the croquetas.  The tomato raisins were also so good, juicy and acidic, perfect to cut the richness of the aioli and the fried salty goodness of the croquetas.

My main course was fried skate wing, served on top of a type of puttanesca sauce with tomatoes, capers and anchovies, along side some sauteed tuscan kale.  I believe that kale may have been splashed with a little sherry vinegar, which makes everything more delicious.  This was another delicious dish, with a very light and delicate fish on top of a bold sauce that had everything - briny, salty, tangy, slightly acidic.  SO good.

For dessert, I actually ordered the sorbet, but for some reason they brought me the churros and chocolate sauce.  I was not disappointed.  Who doesn't love fried dough?  Fried dough tossed with cinnamon and sugar?  Served with a rich chocolate sauce spiced with a bit of chile?  YUM.  Massive yum.

So even though the lunch started off a little disgruntledly (new word?), it ended up being terrific.  I chatted with my bar seat neighbors, the chef and the servers - everyone was really nice.  Maybe the hostess felt sorry for me and told everyone to be nice to me.  I'll take it, though the food was amazing enough to forgive most anything.  I'll definitely be going back.  Maybe even again during Restaurant Week, since the other dishes on the menu looked fantastic.  There was a chicken leg confit/egg dish that looked so interesting, I just might have to try it.

Way to go so far, Restaurant Week!  Looking forward to more good food on the way soon!!

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