nyc restaurant week

Earlier this week, my mom and I made a spur-of-the-moment trip into New York with some friends to have a Restaurant Week lunch at La Promenade des Anglais in Chelsea. “Restaurant Week” is a misnomer, as it lasts from July 16 to August 10, which makes it 20 days long (Saturdays aren’t included and Sundays are up to the restaurant’s discretion).

Restaurant week gives restaurants a boost during some of the slow weeks of summer and allows patrons to try new restaurants without having to break the bank. This year, a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée, dessert) will set one back $24.07 at lunch and $35 at dinner. Not bad considering one of the entrée options is normally $28!

There may have been only a handful of choices for each course but it took quite some time to decide what to order because everything sounded delicious. I started with gazpacho “Riviera Style,” with ricotta and extra virgin olive oil. It was the perfect beginning to a refreshing meal on a ridiculously hot day.

a view of la Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France from my trip there in 2005

For my main dish, I chose the branzino filet, which came with basil mashed potatoes and marinated heirloom tomatoes (I looked up the description, which also says nicoise olives, but we didn’t have any on our plates). The branzino was perfectly done, a nice white fish with crispy skin. While the basil mashed potatoes were such a bright color they closely resembled guacamole, they were unlike any mashed potatoes I have ever had, and in a good way. They were light and packed with flavor. We’ve made basil pasta at home, and I think basil mashed potatoes have now made their way to the top of our “must make as soon as possible” list.

Even though I had the warm chocolate fondant with whipped cream, I tried all three of the dessert offerings — which also included a berry “soup” with champagne, basil, and marinated berries and a greek yogurt panna cotta with roasted peaches and a crumble. What can I say, I’m a dessert person: they were each fantastic in their own ways. The chocolate cake was perfectly cooked on the outside and melting on the inside, and it is always hard to say no to chocolate for dessert. The berry soup and the panna cotta were unique and they each had the perfect blend of flavors.

We were told that the restaurant has only been open since September, and coincidentally, when I got home later that day and finished the July 9 edition of The New Yorker on my Kindle (I began reading it on the train ride into the city), I came across a review for it. The ceiling is a bird’s-eye view resembling the restaurant’s namesake, la Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, complete with a striped umbrella and the rocks that comprise Nice’s beaches. The restaurant is not normally open for lunch, which perhaps helps to explain why there were so few people eating when we were there, perhaps three or four other tables. As a result, we received a lot of attention from the incredibly knowledgeable and friendly staff. If you find yourself in New York sometime soon and looking for a great lunch deal with delightful ambiance, I would highly recommend La Promenade des Anglais; I hear dinner can be a bit noisy, however.

Moral of the story: I need to try making basil mashed potatoes ASAP. Oh, and Restaurant Week is awesome.

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