Restaurant Week now takes place twice each year, and lasts more than a week each time, but who cares? The event provides an opportunity to break out of your dining habits and try something you've not yet experienced, or enjoy your old standbys at reduced cost. The winter edition runs from January 14 through February 8. This year, 317 restaurants are participating around the city including high-end venues like "21" Club and A Voce, destination spots like Alison Eighteen and Ktchn, and an endless variety of international hotspots. A three-course lunch costs $25 (excluding alcohol and gratuity), while the dinner is only $38. Visit nycgo.com/restaurantweek to reserve now (the most popular spots fill up quickly). Below, a few menu samples from some of our favorites:
Hospoda: This Czech-inspired import attracts a young social crowd drawn here by chef Katie Busch's inventive and incredibly balanced menu. Pair dishes with a rotating roster of fresh indy brews from an innovative beer delivery system that serves up Pilsner Urquell at four different levels of carbonation from no foam to all foam. For Restaurant Week, you'll find appetizers like wild mushroom risotto or butternut squash soup with cinnamon spiced creme fraiche. Schnitzel, featuring Yukon gold mashed potatoes and a roasted garlic paprika aioli, is a perfect winter Czech dish. For dessert, a warm Maker's Mark poached pear with dulce de leche foam ought to hit the spot. 321 East 73rd St, 212.861.1038 hospodanyc.com
Raymi: This celebrated Peruvian fine dining space has been making "best of" lists for everyone from Adam Platt at New York Magazine to author and food critic-at-large Gael Greene. In an welcome twist, chef / owner Richard Sandoval is offering the chance to select three courses from Raymi's entire menu (rather than a special, limited Restaurant Week menu). $38 gets you any one appetizer, main course and dessert. We recommend the fresh and flavorful ceviches to start. Arroz con pato (rice and duck) or the roasted pork belly "carapulcra" with Andean style potatoes and roasted peanuts are excellent among the mains (as is a succulent dry-aged New York strip steak). Finish off with an Arborio "rice pudding" with brown butter ice cream. For an added treat start your meal with the country's signature Pisco Sour cocktail (additional cost) featuring one of the 30 house-infused Pisco brandies on hand. 43 W 24th St, 212.929.1200 richardsandoval.com/raymi
The Russian Tea Room: This recently upgraded, opulent icon (now serving breakfast) is busy introducing new generations to its over-the-top experience. The bar features an extensive vodka program and a year-old, innovative small bites menu, while little-known, international teas are perfect with lunch or dinner. During Restaurant Week, opt from Old World classics like a traditional Tea Room borscht, filet of beef with mashed garlic potatoes and baby vegetables in red wine sauce. For dessert, a bittersweet chocolate mousse pyramid features a raspberry filling. 150 W 57th St, 212.581.7100 russiantearoomnyc.com
Casa Nonna: There are a huge variety of Italian restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. Casa Nonna ("Grandmother's House") is a Theater District classic emphasizing rustic, authentic Italian dishes. You'll find nothing stodgy about the menu however: last fall, the restaurant debuted a black truffle pizza featuring fresh sliced Burgundy truffles from northern Italy. The restaurant has also been offering up a regional dinner this month focused on the Veneto region ($44 per person for four courses). During Restaurant Week, swing in to Grandmother's House for executive chef Julio Genao's winter-themed menu. Zuppa di Zucca (pumpkin soup), Tagliatelle Bolognese and Budino di Pane with pumpkin bread, winter spices and vanilla gelato. 310 West 38th St, 212.736.3000 casanonna.com
Ilili Restaurant: It's rare enough you step out for Lebanese food, but what if they sweetened the pot a little with free Lebanese wine? Each week during Restaurant Week, the Flatiron District is featuring a different wine from Lebanon's Wine Country (one of the oldest in the world!). Pair your three-course dinner with a wine from Chateau Musar, IXSIR Winery, Massaya Winery, Domaine Wardy, or Chateau Kefraya, depending on when you visit. The meals aren't shabby either. For dinner, pick not one, but two appetizers from an extensive list that includes moussaka, falafel, glazed yams and kibbe naye beirutieh (steak tartare). Your entree could be a forest risotto with chanterelle mushrooms, lamb makloubeh with eggplant and spiced rice or (for an extra $6) divers scallops with basterma chutney and an almond mouharama mousse. Dessert? Choose from an Ilili candy bar (chocolate ganache and fig caramel) or a Labne cheese cake with a semolina brown butter crumble. UPDATE: Ilili is also serving lunch during Restaurant Week, but the complimentary wine tasting is only available during the dinner service. 236 Fifth Avenue, 212.683.2929 ililinyc.com
Haru Sushi: The NYC chainlet is once again participating in Restaurant Week, this time at at three of its locations: 220 Park Ave South, 1327 Third Ave, and the Wall Street location (dinner only at Wall Street). A variety of first courses on the dinner menu include fish tacos, king crab dumplings and seared tuna tataki. Specialty rolls dominate the main course, like the Gramercy Park (crunchy super white tuna, jalapeños, yellowtail and salmon, pictured above). But you can also opt for filet mignon and a sushi/sashimi assortment platter, among others. Dessert gets you a banana "spring roll" with chocolate dipping sauce. harusushi.com
Thirsty for more? Check out National Spirits Examiner or NY Drinks Examiner.
Do you have a cocktail trend, new product, bar or teahouse you'd like me to review? Want to give me a heads-up on your favorite hot spot? Please email me at NYDrinksExaminer AT gmail.com. Or follow me on Twitter @roberthp.
FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author's own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author has received no comps or meals in connection with this article, though he may swing by Raymi for a drink or two soon.