Restaurant Week is upon us again! Some people are not in favor of RW menus because they believe it's not such a great deal. There are certain places around the city where the meal seems like a good bang for your buck. Nougatine routinely comes up as one of the places to visit. They actually offer the RW lunch deal year round, Monday through Friday. I actually visited Nougatine for summer Restaurant Week but it was uninspiring. This time around it was a much better experience. The best part about the meal was that it occurred on a Sunday. Due to the economy being in the shitter, it seems that many restaurants are participating in Restaurant week even on the weekends. It used to be that Restaurant week was only Monday through Thursday, but now there's Friday and even Sunday! Anyway, stuffing my face is always a good recipe for forgetting about the economy.
If you're curious about the menu, here was the menu that I saw on the first day (Sunday the 18th) of Restaurant Week at Nougatine:
Butternut squash soup (sorry the picture blurred out the details of this dish)
Tuna tartare, avacado, spicy radish, ginger marinade
Baby romaine and wild arugula salad, cherry, tomatoes, Pecorino vinaigrette
Roasted beet salad, black olive, feta
Crispy goat cheese fondue, frisee, crystallized pecans, pear vinaigrette
Artichoke, mustard mayonnaise, chervil and lemon
Salt and pepper calamari, citrus-chili dip
Shrimp salad, avocado and tomato, champagne vinegar dressing
Slow cooked salmon, potato puree, julienne vegetables and basil vinaigrette
Sauteed red snapper and caramelized cauliflower, poppyseed-buttermilk vinaigrette
Steamed skate with roasted pumpkin seeds, spaghetti squash and soy-yuzu broth
Roasted chicken, white bean puree, broccoli rabe, lemon truffle vinaigrette
Niman Ranch cheeseburger, crispy onions, Russian dressing
Jean Georges warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream
Citrus semifreddo, almond sponge, crunchy merangue
The format was simple: select any two from the top and pick one of the two dessert options. Since I was a greedy pig, two entrees seemed like a good iea
For my first entree, I picked hte sauteed red snapper with caramelized cauliflower and poppyseed-buttermilk vinaigrette. It was an excellent dish. The fish was fresh and the flesh was tender. They managed to crisp the skin a bit and that was a nice contrast to the texture of the red snapper. The poppyseed-buttermilk vinaigrette really was tasty and the acidic bite of the vinaigrette really made the flavors pop. The only minor thing was that they left a scale on the skin. When I eat whole fish at home, there's always some scales, so I'm pretty used to it. But critics of Restaurant Week would say that this just goes to show restaurants are too busy pumping out dishes and don't have time to really focus on what they normally do well. Whatever, I loved the red snapper and would eat it all day, scales or not.
Next up was the Niman Ranch Cheeseburger. Here's where I sort of fail you as a food blogger. I have no idea what kind of cheese they used. It had some pepper flakes in there and it was mild. I also didn't ask if they griddled or grilled the meat, although it was probably the latter. Oh and also have no idea about the size of the patty. It was kind of massive, probably in the 10oz range. It was easily more than twice the size of any Shake Shack patty.
The burger comes adorned with rabbit food (lettuce, tomatoes, and slices of pickles) and I took care of that real fast. They also gave you two fried onion rings instead of raw onion. This was fantabulous! Seriously, if all onion rings were this good? I would order it for breakfast along with bacon. It was that tasty. The batter was light and the onion was cooked through. Yum.
So if you subscribe to the American Zen or as I like to call it, the Nick Solares school of burger eating, then you sample your burgers with just cheese. As you see above, I took care of all the rabbit food first and cleared the way for the burger. The Russian dressing stayed because I just wanted to see how it worked with the mild cheese and the brioche bun.
The brioche bun was ok. It's definitely not as soft as a plain white hamburger bun, but the sweetness of the brioche was toned down. The only time when you really noticed the bun choice was when you ate the edge of the burger. That's when the crust of the top bun comes into play more. When you take bites from the middle of the burger, you're not encumbered with extra crust and it tastes better. It's a really really minor detail, but whatever.
You might think the Russian dressing was a turn-off but you really couldn't taste it at all. Maybe the cheese or the brioche bun drowned it out. At least that's what I thought at first. If you notice closely in the picture, the dressing comes on the top bun. Half-way through my burger, I inverted my normal grasp of the burger, and the top bun faced down. This way, the side with the Russian dressing would hit my tongue before the patty hits my tongue. As it turned out, when you eat the burger in this manner, the dressing comes into play more and it was noticeably sweet. I quickly reverted to the default and ate it the right side up.
As for the patty itself, they definitely cooked it to temperature that I requested, medium-rare. If anything, they erred on the side of rare, which I prefer as opposed to erring on the side of medium. The beef itself lacked an outter crust that some really find enjoyable in a burger. It wasn't a big deal not to have a crust. The meat was juicy but not drippy. The whole thing with Niman Ranch? Couldn't taste the difference yo. And here we come to the great short-coming of this burger. It needed salt. Sure, they gave me some ketchup for the french fries, but I didn't want to use any on the burger. Burgers should be properly salted. Maybe it was just mine, who knows.
The fries were pretty good because they were McDonald's style. They were thin and fried to perfection and properly salted. You gotta love fries like that but I was so full from the burger that I didn't even finish the fries. Sad.
Then the semifreddo came out and it was awesome. It was light and refreshing and citrusy. If you expect some innovative dessert, well then you would be disappointed. It was simple and refreshing and a pretty good way to end the meal.
I think Restaurant Week at Nougatine can be hit or miss. If you get the red snapper, it would be tremendous. If you get the cheeseburger, maybe not. Some people might say it's stupid to order a cheeseburger at a place like Nougatine, but I say if it's on the menu, it should be tasty. And why not? A cheeseburger is simple and could easily be a great dish at Nougatine.
For Restaurant Week, I've had good experiences with my sister and friends at The Modern and at Grammercy Tavern with Steph. Nougatine is not quite up there with those two experiences but it's definitely close. For the Restaurant Week haters, this place may not sway you. For the RW lovers, this is a great choice.
1 Central Park West.
New York, NY 10023
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