My goals for this summer's Restaurant Week? To not break the bank, of course, and to find some new favorites. I figured one lunch and one dinner would be easy on my purse strings, and since I made my reservations on the first day possible on OpenTable, I scored my top two choices: A Voce in Columbus Circle, which serves up modern Italian cuisine, and Rouge Tomate on the Upper East Side, whose modern American menu focuses on sustainable, local food.
What to try and what to avoid? Check it:
Evidence: Italian should not be pricey. A Voce is. Hence, why I am visiting during Restaurant Week. And though it's a lovely, modern restaurant with an exceptional view of Central Park- and one of the best places, I think, to take your out of town guests- I don't know that I would visit outside of Restaurant Week. The food was excellent, and though the menu had vegetarian options for Restaurant Week, there were no vegan options, and vegans be warned, there are only some vegetable sides for you to consume. (though many of these do sound quite yummy!) Vegetarians will find a couple pasta dishes, salads, and fresh veggie sides to enjoy, all prepared with a creative twist on traditional Italian. I started with a spicy melon salad- cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew topped with just a touch of olive tapenade and drizzled with chili oil. The sweet and spicy combo was unexpected and delicious, and I loved it with the brininess of the tapenade. My ricotta-eggplant ravioli entree, however, was swimming in butter sauce (isn't this more typical of French food?) and though at times I did get some earthy eggplant essence in my ravioli, I wouldn't have guessed that there was eggplant present in the dish- am I crazy to think that my veggie ravioli should've been filled with, um, veggies? Dessert was as quickly devoured as it was brought out- dark chocolate gelato with sea salt, olive oil, and a chunk of pignoli brittle. It could be that I'm a gelato addict, but it was the highlight of the whole meal.
Verdict: Overall, a great Italian restaurant, but it doesn't compare to my all-time Italian fave, Lupa (aka- the House of Batali resto to which I unfairly compare all other Italian places to).
A Voce, 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor, 212-823-2523
Oh, this lovely heirloom squash salad? Just a little bite of heaven at Rouge Tomate.
Evidence: Modern, sustainable, delicious is everything a resto should be. Good vegetarian and vegan options are a must. Though I was surprised that Rouge Tomate, a Michelin starred establishment that prides itself on local, sustainable cooking, didn't offer more vegan options, I'm sure some of their vegetarian dishes can be made without cheese... and though the vegetarian options on their regular menu are not numerous, the ones I sampled for my Restaurant Week dinner will have me coming back for more. I couldn't even identify all the squash varieties in my hearty heirloom squash appetizer; served up with a savory sweet garlic & tomato vinaigrette and basil pistou, this salad was fresh, innovative, and filling. The sweet corn farrotto entree took a spin at being a fresher, more colorful version of risotto- with chewy, creamy farrotto, peppers and corn that truly were sweet, and just enough cilantro to lighten up the dish, I finished the whole plate (not an easy task!) and I'm eager to attempt this dish at home! Dessert was a fresh plate of melons, and though melon is always delicious, I was clearly missing out when I saw my dinner companion's banana-chocolate pudding cake with peanut butter gelato. But no worries at my end- I figured I would definitely be back here!
The Verdict: Rouge Tomate bills itself as an urban retreat, and this is one of the few occasions the resto lives up to what it's selling. The menu skims the line of being pricey, especially on the appetizer front, but for delicious, quality food that you know is coming in locally, Rouge Tomate is worth it, and that little Michelin star too.
Rouge Tomate, 10 E. 60th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues, 646-237-8977