Jules eats world.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Restaurant Week(s)

The Upside of the Early Shift

Every weekday morning my alarm goes off at 3:15, and my brain belches out a wordless exhalation, profound and complex in its misery and resignation, but if forced to boil it down and render it into a simple phrase, that phrase would be: Shit, not again.

One of the few compensations for my daily awakening, followed by gropings in the dark and a near-unconscious shower, is what happens when my working day is done. It's midday, and I'm free. Sometimes free to be exhausted and immobile, but free nonetheless. So I was resolved to take advantage of the two weeks dubbed Restaurant Week, which offer prix-fixe, three-course lunches at fancy spots around town for the bargain price of $24.07 (and at one of these restaurants, inexplicably, $24.08). Here's the rundown:

A Voce

I love the high ceilings and the window that runs the height and length of the front of the restaurant. The decor is very Scandinavian, down to the Eames chairs, and quite elegant.
Since my ears were still thawing on this chilly day, I began with the artichoke soup, accented with cubes of what tasted like Jerusalem artichoke; swirls of mint pesto and yogurt; and lamb raviollini. A delicious combination. My main course, sauteed scallops with pumpkin puree, apple froth and sauteed wild mushrooms, was just this side of too sweet. But I liked the unusual mixing of flavors. My dessert, a riff on tiramisu, wasn't as rich as I would have liked.

The service was excellent, and this restaurant gets high marks for not skimping on adventurousness or ingredients on its RW menu. That means I'll be going back to pay full price.

Cafe Boulud

I expected classic, and classic is what I got, from service to food. The name "cafe" is pretty amusing; there's nothing casual about this place, from its low ceilings and clubby feel to the white tablecloths and changing of silver to reflect one's order.

I started with a green salad with grapefruit and an orange-shallot vinaigrette, which I foolishly expected to be more exciting than it was. My main, skate with pearl onions, carrots and swiss chard, was one of the best pieces of that fish I've had, very tender and rich. (Presumably a heavy hand with the butter, in the classic French style, was partly responsible). I finished with a peanut-butter-caramel-chocolate cake, and tasted my friends' molton chocolate cake and lemon tart. All were decadent.

Funny that I picked these two without remembering the chef at A Voce used to be at Cafe Boulud. You'd never know it from the restaurants.

A Voce
41 Madison Ave. at 26th St.

Cafe Boulud
20 E. 76th St. at Madison Ave.


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