Oh the empty promise of Restaurant Week. That special "week" that comes and goes twice a year in New York City and without fail, always seems to be extended for nearly a month. I guess Restaurant Month doesn't sound nearly as exotic or enticing. Nevertheless, it's still quite easy to fall prey to this biannual event, especially if you are a newcomer. Don't get me wrong, I love a good deal (3 courses for $35 sounds pretty appealing). But, over the years, I have ended up spending much more money than a usual outing while settling for just mediocre options - all in the name of Restaurant Week. The obvious perk - checking out a new restaurant and having an excuse to order all three courses - all too easily outweighed by several drawbacks. Time and time again I find myself disappointed in the 2-3 options per course of the specially crafted Restaurant Week menu. Shouldn't I be struggling (as I do with any of my favorite restaurants) to make my choices from those dishes I have been dying to try? There is no excuse for a mediocre meal in NYC - even if you are somehow saving a few pennies. And, let's be honest - when do you usually order all 3 courses - so are you really saving in the end?
Well, I finally met my Restaurant Week match during a night out at Apiary last month. My positive Restaurant Week experience this year says it all about this east village find. For every course on the prix-fixe menu, the choice was not necessarily obvious - allowing a variety of plates to land on our table. And, when the dishes came out, I was still pleased with them. I will admit that there were many more options on the regular menu that I am now eager to return and try (hamachi crudo, thai beef salad, peking duck breast, and grilled hanger steak to name just a few!). But, based on the great preparation of each dish that we did order, I know that I will be heading back to Apiary to check them out. I guess that is the ultimate goal of each and every restaurant participating in the event - tease the guests in hopes of guaranteeing return customers. It is just hard for me to believe that it has taken me six years of Restaurant Weeks to feel this way.
I started the evening with the artichoke and baby arugula salad with sweet gold cherry tomatoes and lemon. It is hard to top this combination when putting together a salad. On the other hand, I don't normally crave roast chicken in the summer, and rarely even order chicken when I eat out. However, we all know that this summer has had some of the oddest weather in history. And, it just so happened that the night I was at Apiary was that cold, rainy day in July (every New Yorker is probably nodding their head and grimacing right now). It was definitely an unforgettable, odd evening and seeing roast organic chicken with mascarpone polenta, spring peas, carrots and tarragon jus on the menu just about made my night. Although it could feed an army, this dish was every bit as delicious as you might imagine. Just thinking back on the perfect preparation of the chicken, I can easily say that I would even return on a truly warm summer's evening to order this dish. I did manage to take it right back to summer by ordering the trio of ice cream and sorbets for dessert. With another tough option in front of me, I settled on passion fruit and strawberry sorbet with caramel ice cream. For a moment, I was worried that these three flavors would not go well together - but the presentation of three separate, small bowls made my strange combination completely acceptable. And, in the end, the strawberry sorbet was the winner.
So, the big question - am I back on the Restaurant Week train? We did end up at Apiary during this week by coincidence. But, perhaps the week had already been extended and we were lucky enough to reap the benefits. Either way, I went into the night thinking I might have 1-2 nice courses, and ended the night having 3 great ones. Apiary is just completely reliable - solid food, attractive setting, and central to downtown. If Restaurant Week will introduce me to an Apiary every 6 months, then, yes - count me in.
60 Third Avenue (at 11th)
New York, NY 10014
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):