5 Spots Actually Worth Visiting for Restaurant Week

Oh, NYC Restaurant Week! You come and go every year, leaving us keenly aware of what handful of fancy restaurants are like on an off night. Insipid salmon on every plate and waiters upselling us on pricey plonk only make us hate you more. But we’ve decided to be amenable this year, scouring the BlackBook New York Guide for participating restaurants that have the chops to transcend the mediocrity.

We’ve plucked some of our Top Picks (and a few lucky others) who can’t help but deliver a divine dinner, even if they’re forced to sell it for far less than they’d like. Here are a few of our picks for the most seductive prixe fixes for Restaurant Week 2011.

5Ninth, a delightful townhouse with garden seating, continues its porcine tendencies with a packed-with-pork fixed-price dinner. For appetizing, we’d pick the Lyonnaise salad with anchovy dressing, poached egg, and loads of bacon bits. The main course of house-made papardelle with pork ragu makes us ready to pig out.

10Downing never ceases to offer creative chow, even during Restaurant Week. The heirloom tomato and watermelon salad with mint, almonds, and radish sounds, well, mouth-watering. The curry & coconut pot pie as our main speaks for itself: a puff pastry filled with roasted chicken or veggies, if you must. Maybe not the heartiest of meals, but there’s poached rhubarb and strawberry consomme for thirds.

Bless the person who recommended sacrificing Kittichai’s baby back ribs for Restaurant Week hoppers. Soaked in Mekhong whiskey barbeque sauce, you’re a weirdo if you don’t love it. Skip the salmon and savor the pan-seared branzino and bay scallops, conveniently surrounded by a toothsome coconut turmeric broth.

One If By Land Two if By Sea is the perfect spot for a romantic rendezvous–what with all those flowers, an in-house pianist, and candle chandeliers. Therefore, an uninspired prix fixe would never do, not even this week. We’d request the marinated octopus with sugar snap peas and shiitake mushroom vinaigrette for the first round. For seconds, we’re thinking the sautéed Atlantic rock shrimp with spaghetti, hazelnut pesto, and Thai basil will suffice.

Restaurant Week gets sexy with Yerba Buena Perry on the list. The ceviche Chifa for first course pickings, composed of flounder, scallions, ginger, carrots, cilantro peanuts–the list goes on–makes us wonder if this was a menu glitch. The sea bass chorrillana with yucca puree, tamarind-aji panca glaza, and “pickled slaw,” seems worth the $35 price tag and then some.

These Restaurants Will Make You Thin

What are the thin people really eating? The British Journal of Nutrition just published a study this month saying that the trimmest people, those who weighed the lightest, flaunted the slimmest waists, and were proud owners of the smallest hip circumference, had the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acids in their blood. After investigating the commonality, I found that these people were in fact not freebasing flaxseed oil. They were, however, loading up on foods that were rich in omega 3s — grass-fed beef, flaxseed, soy, salmon, etc. No one knows for sure what omega 3s do for the diet exactly … they may stimulate hormones that make you feel full, and they have been shown to improve circulation, which can also aid in weight loss and reducing inflammation. Whatever the case, you can get slim while you dine in New York this weekend; head to a few of these “healthy” joints to load up on the good stuff.

Salmon This cold-water oily fish is optimal for omega 3 intake, and these restaurants are extra careful on choosing their fish. If you’re worried about that whole mercury poisoning thing, take heed: Harvard’s School of Public Health reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the benefits of fish intake far outweigh the potential risks. Petrossian (Midtown West) – Perhaps the Carnegie Hall scene is a bit on the hoity-toity side, but the Guatemala shrimp & smoked salmon, salmon roe salad, and premier smoked salmon served with toast points, crème fraiche, and fresh dill are all delish and good for your waist, One If By Land Two If By Sea (West Village) – Feel great on your romantic date by imagining your ass is shrinking with every bite of your smoked salmon. Blue Ribbon Sushi (Soho) – Double your pleasure with a menu that’s heavy in salmon and soy — another omega 3 favorite. Sake tataki, salmon tartare, and that sake shiso salmon with shiso are some to sample. Lure Fishbar (Soho) – A great seafood hot spot, the salmon tartare and grilled salmon with spaetzle, peas, smoked onions, and herb vinaigrette make everything about the resto well-rounded, so your midsection won’t be.

Flaxseed Though is sounds like something health nuts go nutty for, flaxseed is six times richer than most fish oils in omega 3s. The Pump (Flatiron) – Get your flaxseed on with the Pro-Omega shake, a mixed fruit, apple juice, acai, flaxseed oil, and whey protein concoction that is not as scary as it sounds. Actually, I would venture to call it yummy. Organic Avenue (Lower East Side) – Organic health food emporium where you can add flaxseed to just about anything. Try the flax-full fiesta chips.

Grass-Fed Beef Beef fattened on grass is typically waayyyy healthier than all the other crap out there. Now that restaurants know that we now know this, they’ve upped their game. Here are a few restos that get it and get it right. Craftsteak (Chelsea )- Superchef Tom Colicchio’s flesh venture does meat right, and just because the beef is priced by fattiness doesn’t mean it will go straight to your hips. Savoy (Soho) – Their hamburger, made from divine grass fed beef and served with French fries and house ketchup, is pitch perfect. Blue Hill (Greenwich Village) – They have their own farm. You have to guess the Blue Hill Farm veal with broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes, and string beans is true to its name.

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The Things We Do For Love: New York’s Top Date Spots

To some, love is motivated by how fat one’s pocketbook is. To others, it’s based on where one is able to get a reservation at peak time on a Friday night. Excite your summer love with these unabashedly romantic restaurants — incredibly sexy date spots, dripping with intimacy, dishes that arouse the senses, good lighting, or otherwise just priced to impress. For more inspiration of the culinary sort (inspiration of the other sort may be too, uh, inspirational for this site), check out Restaurants in the guides and choose the Romantic/Date Spot vibe.

Casa la Femme (West Village) – Former downtown romantic gone uptown returns to camp out in the West Vil. The softest of soft lighting, plush seating, and intricately detailed decor set the mood; signature fig martinis and French Kiss cocktails spell romance; the hip-swiveling belly dancers spell something else, but it’s all sexy. ● The Bourgeois Pig (East Village) – A dark, red room that’s a perfect post-dinner spot when things are going well, or a date spot to pull out all the stops. The fondue makes things romantic for him and her, because let’s face it; dip-able things are sexy as hell.

August (West Village) – Raw bar for those that still hang on to those aphrodisiac superstitions; comfort food for a cozy atmosphere. Sweet nothings will have to be whispered quietly, as this place is tiny. Size in this case is just an excuse to get closer. Hold hands in the romantic garden and cherish the moment — September will be here before you know it. ● Babbo (Greenwich Village) – The only dirty talk you’ll need here is “Baby, this is Mario Batali’s place,” and “I pulled strings to get a res here on short notice.” If this isn’t enough to set the mood, then the fact that you’re sandwiched between a former mayor and Gwyneth Paltrow should do the trick. The food, of course, stands on its own as reason enough to bring your summer lover by. ● One If By Land Two If By Sea (West Village) – Whenever I poll the office on where I should take my date for a romantic evening, the unanimous cry is this place. Aaron Burr’s haunted carriage house is true romance: flowers, firelight, and a piano that plays the lilting soundtrack to your dream date. Get engaged here if you think you might need some persuasion. Fall in love here by accident. ● JoJo (Upper East Side) – For those of you buying Vineyard Vines for him, and pearls for her, here is your classic UES date spot. Slightly stuffy but enduring townhouse romancer. Love, Franco-American style. Conclude with infamous warm spicy Valrhona chocolate cake. Sex to follow. ● Capsouto Freres (Tribeca) – Long-running French romantic will get you laid. But it’s not about that, it’s about romance and the presentation — the candles, tablecloths, quiet corners, and booze make the perfect ambiance to get you feeling romantical. The French know romance, and the exceptional desserts and the extensive wine list add to the way you’re looking at your other half. ● barmarché (Nolita) – Relaxing go-to brunch spot. Because honestly, brunch done right is one of the most romantic things. Subdued, rendezvous lighting. Wear his button up belted as a dress and enjoy the Barmarche Cuban Burger. The New Old American cuisine and the sight of you with bed head makes the Saturday brunch rush worth the wait. ● Relish (Williamsburg) – Cute place for young love — perhaps you might not perceive this classic diner as a place where romance blossoms at first sight, but give the outdoor patio five minutes, and suddenly you have found “your” place. But really, nothing says romance like sangria. In pint glasses. ● Dressler (Williamsburg) – Food to die for, and just enough off the beaten path to call it your own. The mirror/light/candle combo works magic, the food is above par and quite impressive for foodies, and the dark and stormys will take care of the details.

New York: Top 5 Wine Lists below 14th Street

image1. One if by Land, Two if by Sea (West Village) – Best for: Those with hearts streaming out of their eyes, feeling lucky in love. 2. Tia Pol (Chelsea) – Best for: Pals who want to gossip over Spanish wines and tapas. 3. Chikalicious (East Village) – Best for: Those with a sweet tooth — it’s all dessert all the time. There’s even a three-course dessert menu with wine pairings.

4. Azul Bistro (Lower East Side) – Best for: Meat lovers. Steaks, steaks and more steaks. Oh, and red wine. 5. Fresh (Tribeca) – Best for: Fishetarians who like a little wine with their catch of the day.