Last week, I participated in a time-old tradition in New York: the 20th anniversary of Restaurant Week. In a city of beautiful restaurants, fashionable people and high prices, Restaurant Week gave me the opportunity to try some swanky restaurants for a prime price. Let’s just say this foodie was quite happy!
Now before I babble about my experience at trendy restaurants, let me explain what Restaurant Week is. Held twice a year, Restaurant Week is a 20-plus day event where more than 300 restaurants offer fixed-price menus for weekday lunch and dinner, giving New Yorkers an opportunity to try the best of the best of NY’s dining scene at a fraction of the cost. According to nycgo.com, this event is “a dining celebration and a pioneer in the dining industry.” And little did you know, New York was the first city to have hosted Restaurant Week in 1992 as a part of the Democratic National Convention. It wasn’t meant to be an annual event, but NYC residents enjoyed it so much, it became one!
Now, as someone who enjoys to wine and dine, I was anxious to try the variety and deliciousness the New York dining scene had to offer. Here is where I went:
Gusto Ristorante, West Village
From the first two weeks of my time in New York, I had to wanted to try Gusto. Located in the West Village (plus), Gusto is a modern Italian restaurant. It’s the perfect place to go if you want a rustic, charming neighborhood feel with a trendy meal. As I love Italian food, for $35.00, I got eggplant cake with smoked mozzarella for an appetizer, steak with parmigiano and arugala and the tiramisu for dessert. Topped with a glass of Pinot Grigio, this meal was amazing! And luckily, because I went with my boyfriend, I got to try his meals too… zucchini risotto, mozzarella appetizer and a chocolate torte cake! Unlike some restaurants in New York, I enjoyed that Gusto actually gave you a sampling of some of their best meals, although the price was knocked off. I am not sure if I would have come here otherwise, so I was thankful for Restaurant Week! It really inspires NYC residents to get out of their neighborhoods and see what New York has to offer gastronomically!
Spice Market, Meatpacking District
So I might like the West Side, because I tried yet another restaurant there. But for Restaurant Week, I wanted to try a restaurant I absolutely was dying to go to but couldn’t necessarily afford. This was Spice Market. An Asian-Fusion (Thai, Indonesian, Japanese) restaurant, Spice Market is a staple restaurant in the NYC food scene. Trendy, exclusive and located in the MPD, Spice Market, under chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was one of my top restaurants to visit this summer. So when I saw this restaurant was on the list, I almost died. It took forever to find a night where reservations weren’t completely taken, but when there is a will, there is a way. And I found my way into Spice Market.
Grabbing a Passion Fruit Sangria, I ordered the salmon sashimi, the Indonesian Fried Rice with coconut and the ginger cookie with condensed milk. Dying to try this meal, I was a bit disappointed in the quality. As you don’t have to order off the Restaurant Week menu, I tried my friend’s meal, and it tasted delicious. It was then that I learned the dark side of this event: some high-end places dumb down their food for those ordering off the Restaurant Week menu. Although it was disappointing, it is New York after all, and it didn’t surprise me that some restaurants wouldn’t care about those who were paying less. But for me, I at least got to go to Spice Market and get a glimpse of what trendy life is like in the MPD. And I learned the valuable lesson that New Yorkers really can be as stuck up as the world portrays them.
So in the battle between Restaurant Week restaurants, I think I’ll have to choose Gusto. Good neighborhood. Great selection on the menu. Charm. And you can tell they really enjoy people coming in and trying their food. And that’s the best part of Restaurant Week. Getting out and trying the versatility of food in New York! So if I have any advice for future interns in the summer, go to Restaurant Week! It is truly a culinary celebration!