Restaurant Week, a Redo
August 15, 2017
New York City’s restaurant week has been around for 25 years. It’s a right of seasons now, for winter and for summer, that some seek out reservations at some of the city’s finest dining establishments. And all for an excellent pre-fixe menu.
My best Restaurant Week memory came about in 2011 when my best friend, Christina, and I took a half day off from work to meet at Fig & Olive in the Meatpacking District for a three-martini lunch.
We were young, it was rebellious, and it was delicious.
Things have come full circle. For starters, I work for the Meatpacking BID now and Christina for a production company, so taking a half day to lunch at Fig & Olive over a few martinis doesn’t jive. And while I still enjoy them, there are other ways to lunch with your best friend and return to the office to be productive. So we did it again, six years on.
Fig & Olive still reigns for me, with its soaring ceilings, bright Mediterranean light, and big flavors. By happenstance and to our delight, we were seated at the same table as our first restaurant week meal. Dionysus and Demeter were smiling down.
We started with a trio of the crostini – spring pea and asparagus over ricotta with lemon; burrata atop heirloom tomato, pesto, and balsamic; and a manchego, fig paste, marcona almond, which harkened me back to late afternoon tapas in Spain, all on lightly toasted crostini. Each distinct, but the burrata was divine: the cheese, luscious and gooey (as the more advanced sister of mozzarella should be), heirloom tomato at its peak ripeness, bright basil in the pesto, with the sweet tang of balsamic created an explosion of summer at its finest. Sips of Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc worked well with each.
I had the Zucchini Carpaccio, for an appetizer; Christina, the Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho. Each a light mid-course for what was turning into quite a power lunch. We were surprised with a sampling of the third appetizer, the Truffle Mushroom Croquettes, lovingly described by Leo, our affable server, as “balls of happiness, the most popular item on the menu.” I second that emotion.
We paused between appetizer and entrée to check emails, each of us chuckling as when we were there six years ago during restaurant week, neither had our work email on our phones, or really the desire to check in mid-lunch. So, you know, #adulting.
Entrée: Paella del Mar and the Penne Funghi. The Paella, more Peruvian than Spanish in style, was a profusion of gifts from the sea: mussels, shrimp, squid, scallops, all steamed, seared, and sautéed, resting on a bed of saffron-hued rice with peas. My pasta (I’m a vegetarian) was exactly as it should be: al dente, light yet pungent in flavor, the various mushrooms enhanced by slices of scallion and parmesan. It was at this point when we stopped talking. And just ate.
Our palates awash in flavor, we laughed and sipped our wine, discussed the men we gushed about last time, and then about those we’re currently dating – or trying to. On we went about work, the beach, wondering where summer went, all laced with bits of gossip, of course.
We finished up, cooed over how good a meal we consumed, and went our respective ways. She hailed a cab back to midtown and I walked two blocks south to the office.
Two best friends, still at it in NYC, doing as they always have, but in a wholly different manner.