Fancy Lunch Time- Delmonico's

It’s celebrate Rioja week here in NYC where various restaurants across the city are offering $25 lunch and $35 three course dinners that include a glass of wine from the Rioja region of Spain. I checked out their website and much to my surprise Delmonico’s was on the list. After looking at the menu online it was a no brainer- I needed a day off of work badly and what better way to spend it than with a fancy lunch.

Now I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I have never even been inside Delmonico’s before. I’ve walked by it hundreds of times but never had to good fortune to eat or drink there. Being that it opened way back in 1837 as NYC first fine dining place, you would assume that I would have gone by now. Not only that- it’s also the birthplace of Eggs Benedict, Lobster Newburg and the Baked Alaska! Needless to say I was pretty excited to finally be going.  I made a reservation for 1:30 and when I entered the restaurant I would say it was only about half full. I was seated towards the back with plenty of room to admire the gorgeous red walls, big old fashioned paintings and the overall historic feeling of the place. Now when I told Mr. T I was going on a solo lunch at Delmonico’s his response was “Isn’t that really manly?” I like manly places I responded!

Well once I was seated and really took a look around I understood what he meant. I was pretty sure I was the only one in the whole restaurant that had shaved their legs that day. There wasn’t one other woman dining. Not one. It was me and a bunch of Wall Street suits eating red meat.

I felt a little awkward and tried to get it out of my mind by perusing the menu. That’s when I realized there was no special Rioja week menu given to me. I’m staring at the $44 filet mignon and $90 porterhouse listed and panic starts to set in. Did I have the wrong week? I didn’t really do too much research I just kind of assumed it was still going on.  Luckily right then my waiter came by and I inquired into the Rioja menu. He confirmed it was still going on and quickly got me the menu without any pretension or snobbery. In fact he gave me a big warm smile and continued to be a wonderful, attentive server the entire meal.

I knew I was getting a nice glass of red wine included in the meal but I wanted to save that for my meat course. To start out I decided to have a nice glass of Chardonnay and my bread basket appeared with my wine.

Four different kinds of bread were inside and I tried out two- the baguette and the Cranberry Walnut. The Cranberry Walnut was just okay, a little too nutty for me actually. The baguette was nice but unfortunately the butter was too cold and very hard to spread. This is one of my biggest pet peeves at restaurants- leave the butter out! It makes all the difference.  For my first course I opted for the Seafood Ceviche.

This was simply divine. Huge chunks of lobster, crab and shrimp were covered with lime onions, grapefruit and tarragon. This was lively, refreshing and paired perfectly with my Chardonnay. I couldn’t get over how much meat they gave me. I had at least 3 lobster claws, not to mention all of the crab meat.

After my ceviche was gobbled up and whisked away my included glass of wine arrived just in time for my meat course, a Tempranillo Bodegas “Campo Viejo”, Crianza 2006. This was a very nice easy drinking wine with a soft touch of vanilla on the nose. For my main course I ordered the Coffee Spiced Filet.

Wow- this was a big piece of meat that smelled and looked absolutely delicious. I cut into the filet and it literally fell away in silky, almost melty red slices.  The steak was cooked a perfect medium rare and it was obvious that copious amounts of butter that been used in the grilling process making it extra decadent.

Now the sides to me were a little odd. My dish was supposed to come with baby spinach but asparagus came out instead. Plus this asparagus was hands down the weirdest tasting asparagus I have ever had. It tasted like meat-. Straight up grilled meat. They must have cooked it right alongside the grill with the steak because the flavor was beyond powerful. It was honestly a huge turn off for me and I couldn’t figure it out until I got home later. I had Mr. T taste some of my leftovers and he loved the asparagus.Of course! This is a meat eating man’s establishment. Men don’t want a wimpy asparagus. They want big bold flavors! Well if you’re having trouble getting your man to eat veggies, tell him to come here that’s for sure.
The other side was two tostones that didn’t have much flavor at all. In my mind tostones always have the texture of a hockey puck and I’ve never really cared for them. I saw a plate of fries go by my table that looked amazing! Next time I’ll spring for some of those instead.

I was excited about my dessert since it was only listed on the menu as Delmonico’s Chef Selection. I was hoping it would be the Baked Alaska but I was pretty sure they wouldn’t have that on a bargain prix fix menu.

I was right- no Baked Alaska but a pretty wonderful Crème Caramel to round out the meal. I’m a huge custard fan so this was just perfect for me. It had just the right balance of smooth eggy middle and sweet caramel top.

Overall I found Delmonico’s to be fabulous and the Rioja week menu was such a great deal. I really felt like I was in an old school NYC establishment. Not only were the food and atmosphere fantastic- the service was top notch. Every time my waiter came around he would say things like “Would the lady like some pepper?” “Is the lady all finished” “Does the lady find everything to her liking”, etc. I’ll be honest it made me giggle a little. I kind of wanted to respond in the third person “Yes the lady would like more wine” “Yes the lady would like her check” “Could the lady know who it is we’re talking about because I’m the only one here!”. I kept it classy and polite however and truly enjoyed the old fashioned form of communication.

So I can finally cross Delmonico’s off my list and another fancy lunch day was a success. (sigh) I wish every day could be fancy lunch day.