A first trip to NYC

Restaurant week in New York has long since wrapped up, but I’m not getting around to writing about some of the restaurants I was able to visit until now. Oops. It’s just as well though, because I would return to any of these restaurants again. If I could afford them…

What I love about restaurant week is that it gives you the chance to try out places that would ordinarily devour an unhealthy portion of your paycheck. You’d save places like these for special occasions. Granted, a $38 dinner is still pricey, but worth every dollar at the restaurants I was able to go to.

Telepan, in the Upper West Side, offers very elegant American favorites, using organic and seasonally changing ingredients. Though the restaurant emphasizes freshness in its ingredients, the mood felt a little stale because of the outdated furnishings and artwork that bordered on cheesy. But the food is really well executed. It’s the kind of place I would take parents visiting from out town, though not my first pick for a dinner date.

corn blini with smoked trout - truly awesome
corn blini with smoked trout – truly awesome

Favorites from the meal included a corn cake with smoked salmon and burrata-stuffed ravioli with meatballs. The pasta was well prepared and had the right texture. And the tiny lamb meatballs were amazing. The most tender and flavorful meatballs I can remember eating.

The desserts were really good as well. I loved all the multiple textures and flavors in my reimagined s’mores, which ended up being similar brownie with marshmallow topping and ice cream. All good things.

roasted lamb with a corn pudding and the delectable ravioli with meatballs in the background
hangar steak with a corn pudding and the delectable ravioli with meatballs in the background
s'mores reimagined
s’mores reimagined

I try to stay away from restaurants with multiple locations during restaurant week since the menus at the chainier places are often boring. But I decided to try Hakkasan since I needed a place close to Times Square, also known as the New Yorker’s most hated place in New York, and the land of overpriced, overcrowded, indubitably terrible restaurants.

blue and pink
blue and pink

Thankfully I felt thousands of miles away from Times Square in the cool, modern, quiet of Hakkasan. The dim sum was excellent, though I preferred the fried to the steamed (duh). Both entrees of the shrimp hot pot and pork fried green beans were great, though I was glad not to pay full price.

steamed and fried dim sum
steamed and fried dim sum. the fried dumpling with duck was my favorite

The new found popularity of the macaron is breeding tasteless, feetless, overly chewy or crunchy imposters all over town, so I was hesitant to order the macarons as the dessert course. Thankfully, the macarons at Hakkasan were truly beautiful, and as macaron-y as if they’d been made in Paris. My favorite flavor was the chai spice through all the others tied for a delicious second place.

chai, cassis, pistachio, and key lime macarons
chai, cassis, pistachio, and key lime macarons

My last restaurant week stop was at L’ecole, in SoHo. L’ecole is the restaurant associated with the French Culinary Institute, and even outside of restaurant week offers great prix fixe menus at reasonable prices.

a really cute amuse bouche
a really cute amuse bouche
Gnocchi with peas and tomato
Gnocchi with peas and tomato

The gnocchi appetizer and the desserts weren’t terribly impressive. But L’ecole definitely handles duck well, since both the duck with cherry reduction and corn bisque with duck confit were great. Sadly neither are pictured since the lighting was dim enough they photographed terribly… But the cod with chorizo and saffron infused broth was great and didn’t have to worry about being runner-up to the duck.

buttery fish in a clam and chorizo broth
buttery fish in a clam and chorizo broth
strawberry short can with cream and mint
strawberry short can with cream and mint

My favorite part of the experience at L’Ecole actually came after the meal. Since we had a late dinner and the kitchen was slowing down, and my obsession with food was probably (annoyingly) evident, our waiter offered us a tour of the kitchen. He explained the different stations within the kitchen, the roles of the students in the kitchen, and introduced us to the head pastry chef. And on the way out, he gave us the most delicious pistachio biscotti to enjoy “on the train home,” Ummm, let’s just say the biscotti didn’t make it that far.

free cookies!!
free cookies!!

Telepan on Urbanspoon

Perfect for: impressing an out of town visitor

Perfect meal: corn blini with trout, burrata ravioli and meatballs, “s’mores”
Hakkasan on Urbanspoon


Perfect for: Escaping the hell of Times Square

Perfect meal: any and all of the dim sum, followed by at least one chai spice macaron
L'Ecole Restaurant of the French Culinary Institute on Urbanspoon

Perfect for: French-inspired and relaxed fine dining

Perfect meal: corn bisque and roasted duck

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Chuck says:

    I like the fried dim sum better myself although I have recently started to find the steamed variety more and more appealing.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Chuck! I actually tend to go for steamed also, but those crispy duck ones at Hakkasan were amazing.

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