Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I ate at Union Square Cafe with a friend for lunch today, my only Restaurant Week experience. Usually it would be out of my price range -- and even at $20.12 for a three-course lunch it's still not cheap -- but we figured we could see what the fuss is all about.

The food was good, but not unbelievable. Last week's Restaurant Week article in the Times talked about how restaurants sometimes need to cut corners for Restaurant Week, using cheaper ingredients, smaller portions, etc, but quoted Danny Meyer, the guy who runs Union Square Cafe (and Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack among others) as saying he provides "a license for chefs to toss food costs out the window" in the hopes of using Restaurant Week to attract new customers.

I did notice an absence of expensive ingredients like truffles and foie gras and other stuff that's sometimes on menus to justify charging a lot for food. I had the goat cheese / bacon / onion tart with "shaved asparagus" (shaved asparagus = asparagus sliced length-wise) as my appetizer, and grilled swordfish over a wheatberry and spinach salad as my entree. Good, and portion size was more generous than I expected, but it didn't really make an extraordinary impression. My friend had chilled melon soup as his appetizer (he liked it but said the melon and mint flavors were kind of in conflict) and fluke as his entree. The other entree choices were a pork thing and a chicken thing. The other appetizer choices were a tuna salad with olives and a summer squash risotto. Why I remember all of this is kind of scary.

The dessert did stand out. I had a rhubarb panna cotta with cherry coulis. Panna cotta apparently means firm custard, and coulis means sauce. My friend had a frozen caramel custardy thing. The other choices were a chocolate cookie cheesecake and a cornmeal pound cake with strawberry. My dessert was really, really good.

So the check came, we paid, and then when they gave back the change, they included two coupons for $20.12 off if we come back sometime this summer when it's not restaurant week. And that's how you get new customers. I mean, really smart. Because of course I'll go back, and it'll cost more than $20.12, and they'll end up having made a new customer. I mean, not a regular customer, since it's out of my price range, but if they can put themselves in a position where they become the "fancy restaurant" I think of if I need a fancy restaurant for something, then that's not terrible.

Anyway, that's my restaurant week experience.