Restaurant Week at Union Square Cafe

For my second restaurant week lunch I was very excited to land a reservation at Union Square Café. This was Danny Meyer’s first restaurant and a classic example of fine dining in New York City. The day I went there was even a rumor that Mr. Meyer himself would be working one of the tables! Unfortunately it wasn’t ours but I did see the back of his head on my way in.

We had a reservation at 2:00 PM and got a table in the large room up front. The place was absolutely packed with people. I’ve never seen such a crowded restaurant with the bar completely full and tons of people waiting for a possible seat. They started us out with usual basket of baguette, bread and crackers.

Which we enjoyed alongside some black olives and delicious rosemary dusted butter.

We were having trouble deciding what to order form the Restaurant Week menu so we started out with some oysters. These little guys were from Rhode Island and they were absolutely delicious. Sometime you get an oyster that has just the right amount of brine and acidity and it amazing! This was one of those times.

For our first course I started with the Melon-Watercress Salad, Ricotta Salata, and Preserved Lemon which I have to say was somewhat lacking in its presentation. I was honestly a little disappointed at first since it didn’t taste much more than fruit and arugula with some cheese. Then I got a bite towards the bottom and hit the flavor. Big chunks of rock salt and a delicate olive oil laced the fruit and made that melon explode with flavor. Sometimes it amazes me how subtle ingredients can turn one dish from average to extraordinary.

Sean’s first course however was even better- the Three Onion Risotto. Risotto always kind of enthralls me since I can’t even make regular rice at home without overcooking it. I have some sort of mental block when it comes to rice. This dish was so smooth and rich it could almost be described as decadent. With the addition of some sweet caramelized onions on top this round goes completely to Sean.

For our entrees I ordered the Grilled Trout with Green Bean Salad, Crispy Salt Baked Potatoes and Seasoning Pepper Vinaigrette. Wow- this fish was awesome. Trout is always a tad on the oily side and the sharp lemon vinaigrette was exemplary in cutting though that oil. The salt potatoes were so crispy I think I enjoyed them better than most French fries and the Green Bean Salad was simply delightful.

Sean ordered the Summer Fried Fish Basket with Remoulade, Pickled Vegetables, and Corn on the Cob. I have to say his presentation was kind of like my Melon Salad presentation- disappointing. The fish looked small and the whole thing just didn’t really go together. However the fish itself was wonderful. The batter was so light and the fish was truly a notch above what you would get anywhere else. However in the end it was all a bit pedestrian. Round two goes completely to me:)

For desserts I ordered Lavender Crème Brulèe with Greenmarket Berries. This dish was certainly beautiful but I have to say I didn’t love it. What is this whole Lavender thing that’s going on lately? Lavender should only be used as a scent- not a spice. It just made me feel like I was eating perfume. Luckily the Brulee itself had a nice crackly top and a smooth vanilla middle. I probably would have enjoyed it more had it not been for the bite of Sean’s dessert I had.

His Peach Tarte Tatin with Crème Fraîche Ice Cream was flawless. The tart was so light and airy even the French would be proud. The sour crème fraiche was the perfect cooling component for the sweet, juicy peaches. I was so jealous it was unbelievable. Round Three goes totally and completely to Sean.

Overall it was an excellent Restaurant Week Lunch. Our service was up to the Danny Meyer standard. Water glasses were constantly refilled, crumbs constantly cleared away and while each course took a tad bit longer than usual to arrive, the wait staff did a fantastic job keeping calm, cool and collected in such a busy lunch rush. Two solid RW lunches so far. Hopefully I can get at least one more in before the deal ends.