There is a phenomenon that takes place twice a year in New York City. It’s called Restaurant Week, and many restaurants, including some top Zagat picks participate, which means that it is possible to nab delicious three-course lunches for $28, and dinners for $38, when normally it could run double the price for the identical meal. So the possibility exists to grab a bang-for-buck experience if you order wisely.
As soon as Restaurant Week restaurants are announced, I scan the list for special treat places that are not on my usual roster. This year, I made a reservation at Rouge Tomate, a 2012 Michelin choice on 60th Street, DBGB Bistro Moderne, a gem in the stable of the the Daniel Boulud empire on 44th Street, and Telepan, an Upper West Side place that I had heard had a cuisine kinship to Gramercy Tavern, but at lesser price points.
Each experience was different and memorable, but not because the meal ended in a deal. That was thrown out the window with the check.
At Rouge Tomate, where I had invited my mother and my sister to dinner, I found out, after we had ordered the wine, that they did participate, but only for lunch. I had forgotten to read the “fine” print and we were handed the regular menu, where some of the entrees are priced at $38.
I went with a friend to DBGB Bistro Moderne for lunch. Everything was perfect, from the appetizer of a winter salad to the braised beef paleron (actually a very tender wine infused brisket), to the cheese plate offerings for dessert. Of course I had to have a glass of wine, and of course, the cost of the wine was basically equal to half the cost of the prix fixe meal. With tax and tip, my prix fixe lunch came in at double the bargain. It was delicious and lovely and a treat because certainly, a three-course feast at lunch on a Wednesday afternoon is an excessive indulgence.
Then there was Telepan.
Everyone has said, “You must go.” I asked a friend of mine if he was available. He told me he was in the middle of a budgetary balancing act. But I am persistent, and repeatedly mentioned $38! For a three-course meal! At a great restaurant! I (and a menu featuring smoked brook trout, shrimp with grits and a medley of heritage pork cuts), wore him down. With a little creative financial juggling, including a raid on his coin stash, hoarded in a plastic food container, we had a yummy dinner at Telepan. But not for the amount we calculated based on the Restaurant Week special.
Rather, the bill was three times the amount of the $38 dinner per person.
Willpower went out the door when we saw the wine pairing option. Who could resist? Each selection a perfect foil for the food, and even though we’d eaten three courses and were stuffed, we felt compelled to order dessert. So, throw in tax and tip, and there you have the killing of the bang-for-buck theory.
In any case, I would definitely return to this place. The impeccability of the way the food was prepared and presented, combined with the feeling that you are dining in a friend’s home conspire to make a wonderful experience. But you can have it all, and probably cheaper, if you decide to stay away during Restaurant Week.