A few weeks ago, on a dreary, cold, and blustery, Thursday afternoon, I planned an early lunch for Restaurant Week with my two friends at Colicchio & Sons: Tap Room. I do admit I’m going on a streak eating at Tom Colicchio-owned restaurants for Restaurant Week but as I might have indicated from my last RW post, it’s one of the better reputable ones on that list. Other reasons why I was there: I’m curious if the food is as good as Times’ head food critic, Sam Sifton said back in 2010 and it’s easier for one of my friends, H, to go back to work as she has to whisk herself away straight uptown right after lunch.
Entering the Tap Room (their dining room is not participating RW), this room is spacious and handsome with lots of dark wood and wooden shelves that set partitioned off the hostess/kitchen area to this room and smooth black leather banquettes that lined along the walls. The most eye-catching area is the bar. Gleaming bottles of wine and liquor encased at the top with a beautiful small tree as the centerpiece bordering the dining room from the tap room.
Unfortunately, my other friend, G was under the weather that day so she had to soothe herself with a pot of Dragon Wood tea, while we’re nibbling our way through their wee thimble-sized, room temperature butter and crusty roll.
For our first courses, we ordered the Caramelized Onion Soup, Bone marrow, and Salmon belly. G’s soup was a lighter reinterpretation of the French onion soup. It’s more broth-like than rich and hearty (not a bad thing, especially if it’s for someone with a cold). The broiled, cheesy thick-cut toast on top was soaking in the sweet soup, melding the two flavors into one bite. The salmon belly was simply served chive crème fraiche. This minimalist dish was perfect for my salmon-loving friend, as it lets the silky, sweet salmon speak for itself. The chive crème fraiche played along the smooth texture and giving it some gentle onion-y, slightly tangy flavor. My bone marrow with truffle vinaigrette and drunk onions was a dish I’m happy to eat (as you might have known, my dear readers, I love offal). The wide column of marrows that’s luscious and rich, cut with the musky truffle vinaigrette and danced along with sweet for the onions.
G’s roasted lamb rib was wonderfully tender and meaty, despite its dark colors that doesn’t necessarily make a great photo. Sitting on a bed of creamy lentils and topped with bitter greens, this was a hearty dish that I can imagine craving on a cold winter day. H’s Surf & Turf their version of this famed dish; instead of the usual lobster (surf), you have scallops and steak (turf), you have pork belly. These proteins sat on a bed of bacon-mayonnaise and fresh supreme oranges. It’s tastes lighter than the traditional dish yet it’s so flavorful from the creamy pork belly and bacon-mayonnaise that you won’t miss steak that much. The scallops played on the inherent sweet characteristic of the pork belly and the citrus gave it some sweet, acidic brightness to this dish. My roasted quail with farro, sunchokes and saba was very good. This small, all-dark meat bird was roasted whole and cooked until it’s tender and juicy. The farro added some heft to the dish, sunchokes played on the earthy, nutty quality of the farro, and the saba gave it a gentle sweet/acidic kick.
For the finale, we ordered vanilla ice cream parfait with red velvet cake, zeppole with butterscotch sauce and malted milk ice cream, and Meyer lemon meringue tart with blood orange sorbet. H’s parfait is not as messy as the traditional version. Large cubes of dense red velvet cake, drizzled in rich hot fudge sauce, sprinkled with crushed Oreos, and two medium scoops (approximately 3-inch diameter) vanilla ice cream. G’s zeppoles came in a folded napkin, shaped as a pouch, and stuffed with five piping hot, heavily coated of powdered sugar, knobs of fried dough (that’s what zeppole essentially is). It’s very sweet, borderline saccharine but G said she’s used to it being much sweeter than this (and she’s Italian-American). The butterscotch sauce was a nice touch as it tempered down the sugar a bit, as it’s laced with rum. My Meyer lemon tart was something as close as you can say it’s seasonal – for spring that is. The tart’s filling was florally tart from the lemon and the crust was wonderfully crisp with a touch of flakiness. The sorbet went along with the citrus theme, adding a darker kind of citrus sweetness and acidity.
At the end of our meal, we were each sent off with $20.10 gift certificates for a future meal with Colicchio & Sons (but not for Restaurant Week). An unexpected but generous parting gift. Even without the gift certificate, I would come back as I enjoyed my meal there. Very good food and service was spot-on (no need to ask for my water glass to be refilled, waitress checked on us at every meal).
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