How big has New York’s Restaurant Week become? Big enough that it can’t be contained in a single week. Now running from July 22 through August 16, the summer program (there’s a winter version, too) brings together nearly 300 New York restaurants in offering three-course prix-fixe meals — $25 for lunch, $38 for dinner — often translating to real discounts for the diner.
While it’s always fun to visit a new spot and save some money in the process, some Restaurant Week menus are much better deals than others. The pitfalls are numerous. Sometimes a restaurant will offer steep discounts off a regular menu that’s overpriced to begin with. In yet another scenario, some restaurants offer prices so similar to their usual menu that you might as well order a la carte. Or, perhaps, the restaurant doesn’t have the staff to handle larger-than-usual crowds and the dining experience will suffer. And some offer very limited choice; there’s nothing worse than getting excited about a night on the town only to find out that your dinner options are chicken and a Caesar salad.
With that said, there are great experiences to be found at Restaurant Week, and there are some eminently professional restaurants that will take care of every customer, whether they’re in for Restaurant Week or not. Here are five reservations to make that won’t disappoint. Go to nycgo.com/restaurantweek for more info and the complete list.
Boulud Sud (dinner)
At Daniel Boulud’s warm, elegant Boulud Sud across from Lincoln Center, entrees tend to run in the mid-$30s, so the three-course $38 menu is a steal. Your dinner options showcase the restaurant’s distinct Mediterranean bent: Choose from Marrakesh-spiced flank steak with red pepper couscous, albacore tuna with Sicilian caponata, or summer corn ricotta ravioli with fennel, olive, and confit lemon. While many restaurants discount menu prices for Restaurant Week — only to jack up your tab with wine — Boulud Sud offers two bottles, a Muscadet or Côtes de Provence Rosé, for just $25. 20 W. 64th St.; 212-595-1313; bouludsud.com
The Dutch (lunch)
Andrew Carmellini’s lively SoHo spot excels at gutsy interpretations of American food, and that’s exactly what you’ll find on the Restaurant Week lunch menu. Unlike the limited menus you’ll find elsewhere, The Dutch’s lists almost all of its heavy-hitters — the extremely popular dry-aged burger or hot fried chicken, along with house-smoked turkey and grilled lamb sandwiches; if you’re feeling something lighter, try the steamed blackfish or spiced salmon salad. Nine dollar wine specials keep you in good drink. And with talented pastry chef and resident pie whisperer Kieran Baldwin in the kitchen, you’ll be glad lunch includes dessert; the cherry crisp and salted lime pie are both unforgettable. 131 Sullivan St.; 212-677-6200; thedutchnyc.com
EN Japanese Brasserie (dinner)
With its emphasis on pure, high-quality ingredients and meticulous preparation, good Japanese fare doesn’t come cheap. That’s why EN Japanese Brasserie’s three-course dinner is such a find. Forgoing the appetizer-entree-dessert format, EN tacks on a few more courses: the set menu starts with its stellar handmade tofu (one of the best bites in the restaurant), before two small plates (o-banzai) that come before your main course — either tuna, vegetables, or Kobe beef for a $13 supplement — all with onigiri and miso soup. Ice cream finishes it off. To drink? Ask the waiter about the $18 sake flights, and learn about the difference between junmai and junmai dai-ginjo while you’re there. 435 Hudson St.; 212-647-9196; enjb.com
With lofty ceilings and full-length windows looking out onto Gramercy Park, Maialino is an exceedingly pleasant place in the daytime — so it’s easy to linger over a three-course lunch. As at other restaurants, there’s a $25 lunch menu, here with a good number of options: assorted salumi or perhaps tripe to start, one of Maialino’s excellent pastas, a seafood stew, or a chicken saltimbocca to follow. But a separate $35 lunch menu offers a number of otherwise big-ticket dishes: prosciutto di Parma and buffalo mozzarella, tuna crudo, summer fava bean salad as antipasti; suckling pig (the restaurant’s namesake, “maialino”), lamb shoulder, and hanger steak to follow. Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave.; 212-777-2410; maialinonyc.com
Harold Dieterle may have won the first-ever season of Top Chef, but New Yorkers now know him for three excellent restaurants in the West Village, Kin Shop, The Marrow and flagship Perilla. This cozy, superbly staffed establishment is comfortably relaxed but with fine-dining standards, which makes a $38 three-course meal such a steal. The options illustrate Perilla’s internationally inflected fare; begin, perhaps, with chilled cucumber soup with Greek yogurt, jalapeño, and ras el hanout; follow up with roasted hake with fava beans, baby bok choy and a lemon-almond broth. Even the desserts can be a bit unusual, such as a distinctly Middle Eastern nectarine and blueberry financier with mint, kataifi (shredded pastry), and ginger ice cream. 9 Jones St.; 212-929-6868; perillanyc.com