Now through Feb. 8 is winter Restaurant Week in NYC. “Week” is used loosely, as it lasts a lot longer than just seven days. Restaurant Week is a special time when middle class citizens get to feast like royalty and try out some of their city’s fine dining that they would not otherwise be able to afford, as you can score a 3-course dinner for $38 (or lunch for $25).
I realize $38 is not cheap, but on the regular menu, the filet mignon I ordered goes for $48 alone (as in, no vegetables, much less no appetizer or dessert). So yeah, from that perspective, it’s a steal!
Sean and I decided to go to Delmonico’s, a historic steakhouse located in the Financial District. Delmonico’s has existed in various locations, a number of which burned down, but has existed in some operating capacity since 1837 and was once known as one of the finest restaurants in the country. The likes of Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Oscar Wilde, and Charles Dickens were known as Delmonico’s patrons. Wilde was quoted in a newspaper as saying, “Indeed the two most remarkable bits of scenery in the States are undoubtedly Delmonico’s and the Yosemite Valley.”
There you have it.
I didn’t know all this until after we ate there, but there’s a definite sense of history in the gorgeous dining room. Maybe it had to do with huge paintings of diners of yesteryear occupying the walls? (Haha…Occupy. Walls. Ha. And the restaurant is near Wall Street? I give up.) We went to their oldest currently operating location, here:
Needless to say, the food, service, and ambiance were some of the best I’ve experienced in the city — no, in my life — to date. We got there a little early after work for our 7:15 reservation, so we were lucky and got seated in the main dining room, and not in the basement or side rooms like a lot of the other Restaurant Week diners. You easily could tell who the, uh, “regulars” were: the women in glamorous floor-length fur coats and the men in immaculately tailored suits. I imagine this is where the Wall Street bankers unwind after a long day’s work.
Anyway, we tried a cavatelli pasta with wild mushrooms and lobster bisque for our two appetizers. We both got filet mignon with harvest vegetables for the main course. And for the finale, we dug into their Baked Alaska, because they claim to have invented it; at any rate, there is proof that the restaurant named the dessert in 1876 shortly after the U.S. acquired the Alaskan Territory.
Let me tell you what I knew about Baked Alaska prior to this evening: on the computer game Sims 2, only after your Sim has acquired all 10 possible points of Cooking Skill can they prepare Baked Alaska. In the game, it is an unidentifiable dessert that somehow incorporates fire.
Needless to say, I had high expectations for this mysterious, sea-urchin looking thing they presented to us.
I don’t know about all Baked Alaskas, but ours was essentially a glamorized cousin of banana pudding. There was a layer of walnut cake, topped with apricot jelly, a generous bit of banana gelato (mmmmmm), then ample amounts of meringue and an unidentifiable but yummy sauce. I guess the gelato part represents Alaska? In that case, I have discovered a new appreciation for our icy 49th state.
I am now a huge fan of Restaurant Week. I felt quite fancy without all the guilt. Well, at least the money kind of guilt. I forgot to mention we shared both the Baked Alaska and a NY-style cheesecake. So calorie-guilt might be in effect right now.
(This is the face you have to make to fit in these kinds of places, by the way. Channel Gatsby.)