When I moved to NYC in 1999, I really looked forward to Restaurant Week. Back then, it was a lunch promotion to ring in the new year. In 1999, you paid $19.99 for a three-course lunch and in 2000, $20.00 and so on. It was a great opportunity to taste signature dishes from some famous, and often expensive restaurants that you may not have eaten in otherwise. The original New York Restaurant Week dates back to 1992 and has evolved into what it is today. Unfortunately, today’s New York Restaurant Week has no resemblance of the original except in name.
The Restaurant Week we have now is $29 for lunch and $42 for dinner. It primarily consists of a three-course, most cost-effective menu that almost never includes their signature dish(es). It usually equates to a free dessert when you compare it to the standard menu. It gets customers in the door but I imagine more discerning diners look at the limited choices and opt to order off the regular menu— It’s the perfect bait n’ switch. It’s gotten so gimmicky that I no longer look forward to it and rarely partake.
This year’s winter Restaurant week ran from January 27-February 10, 2017. We decided to go to Morimoto (Chelsea Market, 88 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011) for lunch. Morimoto is owned by its namesake, Masaharu Morimoto of Nobu and Iron Chef fame. It’s a large and visually appealing restaurant to walk into. We’ve eaten there for dinner a few times and have always enjoyed the food but have never been for lunch. The restaurant has high chairs but no kids menu so if your child only eats chicken fingers, this is not a place to go.
Not to anyone’s surprise, the menu is limited and lacks the more popular dishes that make Morimoto famous. In the spirit of Restaurant Week though, we ordered from the special menu but added our favorite appetizer, the Toro Tartare. The presentation alone makes it worth ordering but the interaction you have with the dish is what makes it special. The Toro is hand chopped and then spread on a dish and served with caviar. Along side is a perfectly laid out dish of accoutrements consisting of wasabi, crème fraîche, nori paste, chives, guacamole, and rice cracker balls then a bowl of dashi soy.
Inga ordered the Veggie Bop and I had the Dry Aged Burger. Everything that is included in the lunch arrives together, as a set on one tray. The Veggie Bop is Morimoto’s version of vegetarian bibimbap. It’s extremely flavorful and makes for a hearty lunch. I’m not sure why I ordered the burger but I am glad I did. What popped out at me was reading the description on the menu: miso russian dressing, sake kasu soba ale cheese, soy-ginger shiitakes, house-made nori bun. What? I wasn’t sure what to expect but as soon as I took my first bite, I was in umami heaven. If you’re unsure what exactly umami tastes like, this burger will answer that real quick.
As for Gianluca, he had a little of everything we had. The veggie bop, the tofu from the miso soup, and part of the bun from my burger. I think the burger had too much going on for his young palette to handle but it’s okay. He was very happy, as always.
Some other menu items that we’ve really enjoyed in the past are the Ramen Soup (a simple yet incredible chicken noodle soup), miso glazed roasted bone marrow, spicy king crab, braised black cod, and the ishi yaki buri bop. A bibimbap with yellowtail that cooks table side in a hot bowl.
Other interesting things to eat and see in the area include:
- The High Line (www.thehighline.org), a 1.45 mile elevated park built on a section of the old New York Central Railroad
- Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011), an enclosed urban food court, shopping mall, office building and television production facility
- Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014)
- Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex (62 Chelsea Piers, New York, NY 10011)