Mesa Grill is Meh

Restaurant Week.
We have already covered the pros and cons of  it.
So let’s just jump right into a restaurant that I went to under DURESS.
Did NOT want to go here, because the menu just never looked exciting or interesting to me. 
But, does anyone listen to the nice Jewish girl with the food blog?
Of course not. 
The restaurant was kind of nondescript – nothing that really bothered me, just nothing that was interesting or memorable.
A harbinger of things to come.

Prickly pear margaritas were pretty and strong, but not especially flavorful. They tasted like a regular margarita without any of the sweet-tart flavor that I so look forward to in a prickly pear drink.
Jalapeno corn muffins.

Ok, I will admit it…here, I was totally in love. Like…totally. The muffins were warm, crumbly little cakes of love filled with the savory taste of cornmeal, buttery bursts of corn kernels, and subtle flares of heat from jalapeno slices. The sweet, unsalted butter added a creamy note to the crunchy muffins. These were just fab, and I will be making htem at home.
Sophie’s Salad.

I got this because it is something of a signature item – I mean, it has been on the item forever and I do love an inventive salad. 
Inventive being the missing component here.
Romaine lettuce, kidney beans, chickpeas, cheddar cheese, tomatoes and tortilla strips in a balsamic dressing.
Oh wait, did you just fall asleep?
Me too. Everything was fresh, and the cheese was especially sharp and delicious, but it was seriously boring. Not any new flavors. Blah.
Grilled Mahi Mahi, with New Mexico Red Curry Sauce and Creamy Green Chile Rice

This was well cooked mahi mahi. I love the taste of mahi mahi, which is a clean, mild tasting fish, so this was fine. And thankfully I do like that taste because the curry sauce was literally tasteless. As in, I kept dipping my spoon in it to see if I was missing something…anything! but other than a bit of heat, there was no taste there. I was truly disappointed. The chile rice was creamy and well cooked, but once again…where is the spice???
Mexican Chocolate Pudding with Gingersnap Crumble.

Now this was also delicious. Thick, creamy, sweet chocolate pudding that was more akin to milk chocolate than dark – just the way I like it. The gingersnaps added crunchy and  – dare I say? – SPICY – notes to the dessert. It really was a great way to end the meal.
This meal was basically a downer. Other than our FABULOUS waitress Kelly, a heck of a bread basket and great portion sizes, this meal lacked what I most look for in a dining experience – than being taste. I just didn’t like the way the menu looked, and I have to say…I didn’t like the way it tasted. Sorry, Mesa Grill…I will need to look elsewhere for my kick of Southwestern Flavas.

Mesa Grill on Urbanspoon

Barzinho, Quinto Quarto and Hats Off to Fedora

Sometimes you don’t want a full meal at a restaurant. You just want a quick drink, a little snack and a good time. I had a couple experiences like that last week, at 2 restaurants I had never heard of.
Do you know how hard it is to get someone to serve you a drink before 4 p.m. on a weekday?! It is like we live in a Puritanical society or something!
Or like some people don’t drink…
Whatever that means.
Anyway, my party and I happened upon Barzinho, a tiny Brazilian restaurant that is open all day and has a 4-7 p.m. happy hour offering 2-for-1 caipirinhas.

Within a few moments of sitting down in the small but cheerful space, we were each handed a sugary, limey drink that was reminiscent of a sweeter gin gimlet. It is made with cachaca, which is a Brazilian liquor that is similar to rum.  The first sip was nothing less than BRACING – as in, I thought i would have to ask for a glass of wine, because this was just too strong.
But something sort of remarkable happened between the first and second sips. By the time I returned to my drink, the flavor of the booze had mingled with the citrus and the sugar to create a bright, smooth drink. The melting of the ice tempered the alcohol’s bite, and by the end of the glass, I was SO ready for another one!

We ordered some Pao de Queijo to share – Brazilian cheese bread. These are tiny, soft puffs of airy bread surrounding stretchy and gooey mozzarella-type cheese. Literally nothing was wrong with these, although they would have been delicious if they were served with some sort of dip…

like the dip served with the delicious Yucca Fries. Yucca is a starchy plant and these fries were awesome. Some people might think they were too mushy, but I rather enjoyed the soft, bland interior next to the crisp exterior. Dipped in the zesty, but not incendiary, jalapeno-cilantro sauce, it was perfect for sopping up the alcohol. Barzinho is an inexpensive, sweet and delicious bar serving very serviceable snacks.

A few nights later, I visited totally fabulous Fedora.
*Where, by the way, I had the most wonderful applejack and apple cider based drink called Louisa May’s Favorite Table – it was a tart, light, sweet ode to the apple. Totally drinkable with that smooth, deep taste of applejack. And when the management very apologetically asked my party to move from the bar so that patrons could order dinner there, they were gracious enough to buy us a round of drinks. That level of class is rarely seen, especially by trendy establishments, and I will ABSOLUTELY return. I just SO appreciate a management that appreciates the diner. One gratis drink bought them a lifetime loyal customer. And next time, I’m getting those shoestring fries!*

When we tried to get into ‘ino to try the famous truffled egg toast, the wait was over an hour, so we walked across the street to a small Italian trattoria called Quinto Quarto. The small, rustic restaurant was positively booming at 10 p.m., and service was quick and friendly. Though the bread was sub-par and the pasta was merely serviceable, there were some totally outstanding soups.

I ordered the Pappa al Pomodoro. It was this thick, spicy, tart tomato soup that lacked that sickly sweetness that so much canned soup has. This was clearly homemade, thick enough to coat my spoon, and redolent of bright tomatoes, hearty bread and salty Pecorino Romano cheese. Truly excellent.
Passata Di Cipolle-thick breaded and grated onion soup with Pecorino Romano cheese and rosemary. 

This came to the table looking and smelling like French Onion Soup. And then we dug in…

Can you see how thick that is? That isn’t a soup, that is a dip! It is actually thick enough to stand a spoon in upright, and equally as delicious. It was a tad too salty, but the bread played with that nutty cheese and those sweet, caramelized onions so well. It was MUCH more hearty than a standard onion soup, and, I felt, much more delicious. We all love dipping our bread into soup – here it was already done for you. There was so much bread that it actually soaked in all the moisture, and this was more a bread pudding than a soup. So delicious that I can’t wait to try it at home!
 
Barzinho on Urbanspoon

Yerba Buena Perry Street es Muy Bueno

…ps I took French in high school…so if I misspelled the above title…tell it to the judge!  Cause I parle Francais!

 

ANYWAY-my boyfriend decided to take me out to an awesome dinner for Restaurant Week.http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek/

 

 

 In case you do not know, Restaurant Week is one week in the summer and one in the winter where high class restaurants do specially priced menus, so pretty much anyone can afford to go to them.  Lunch is usually $25 and dinner is $35. REALLY awesome, four star establishments participate. While some people feel you get lesser quality and service during Restaurant Week, I think it is a wonderful opportunity to experience  upscale dining at pennies to the dollar.  You just have to do your research carefully, and choose restaurants who really care about getting repeat customers, and rely on Restaurant Week to spread their customer base. Which is why Kyle and I chose Yerba Buena Perry Street http://ybnyc.com/index_nm.html

 

Yerba Buena Perry Street is a restaurant run by Julian Medina, who runs Mexican restaurant Toaloche.  It is a Latin American restaurant with Argentinian, Brazilian, and Venezualan influences.

 

 

Located right hear the 123 stop at Union Square, Yerba Buena is an unassuming, almost incognito spot that you would miss if you weren’t looking for it.  Inside is a small, dark, modern dining space with a beautiful bar.

 

 

 

After we sat at a booth, we were presented with the Restaurant Week menu.

 Tacos de Pescado – Tilapia Baja style, mango slaw, chipotle salsa.

 

 

 

These beer battered fish were lightly coated and quickly fried.  The fish was flaky, greaseless, and resting on clearly homemade, bursting with corn flavor tortillas.  The rough, deliciously grainy tortillas perfectly folded into the sweet mango slaw, spiked with pungent cilantro, and the only vaguely spicy chipotle salsa. I loved this appetizer. If you like fish and the briny taste that only wonderful seafood brings,  you will definitely like this appetizer.  If you don’t like fish…I just feel sorry for you, and hope whoever caused you to hate fish…

 

Mean Old Lunch Lady Royalty Free Stock Photos

…is justly punished!

 

 

 

I chose the Arepa Peluda-braised beef short ribs “carne mechada”, Chihuahua cheese.

 

DUDE!!! These tasted like…and I mean this in the MOST complimentary way…TACO BELL SOFT TACOS ON CRACK!  They were gently cooked till they just about melted in your mouth, seasoned with cumin and garlic-not spicy at ALL-then topped with mozzerella like cheese!  They were sandwiched on airy  yet crispy arepas, which are made out of corn.  These were outSTANDING.  I mean-look at the FLAVA speckling the plate and bun in delicate orange droplets that signify the lushness that only beef can yield.

 

 

 Was it greasy?  YES.  Was it worth it? YES. Do i want more right now? WHAT DO YOU THINK?!?!

 

 the Chaufa de Pato – duck carnitas, cilantro chaufa fried rice, scallions, piquillos, duck egg, rocoto crema .

 

 

 

Not gonna lie, I was not crazy excited about this dish. I mean-I go to Chipotle.  I know what carnitas are.  I’ve gone to Chinese restaurants.  Duck is great in one of those little mushu pancakes but-duck carnitas?  Who the hell cares about that?

 

Boy was I an IDIOT!!!

 

 

This was a standout dish, if for no other reason than that I was expecting it to be pretty dull.  Imagine duck confit-that is, duck cooked for hours in it’s own fat until it is falling off the bone in supple submission.  Then add  cumin, and coriander to that.  Then add fried rice made with sweet and spicy red peppers and the most tender, creamy, yolk-y scrambled egg in the world,  Then add a little bit of spicy sour cream.

 

 

 

That is what i ate.  And yeah, I liked it.

 

If you like Asian food.  If you like Arroz con Pollo.  If you like Duck A L’Orange.  If you have ever believed in Santa Claus.  GET THIS DISH!!

 

It is meaty, rich, spicy, tender, soothing, and filling.  It is absolutely outstanding.  though a bit of extra heat-like from some Portuguese Pio-Pio sauce-would have been welcome, the dish was a home run.. In that, if it was the first date, I would have slept with it…Anyway…

 

 

The Trio of Fries  included watermelon, hearts of palm, and avocado battered, fried, and served with housemade ketchup and a very mild chipotle crema.

 

 

 

This was my number one favorite dish of the meal.  i mean WATERMELON FRIES??? That sounds gross.  But pair some watermelon with some salty, panko like batter and some tart, tomato-ey housemade ketchup-and its like Edison invented the telephone all over again!

 

 

I mean it is THAT life changing!!  If you are someone who loves the sweet and salty of chocolate dipped pretzels or the sour and spicy of pad thai-you are gonna love the HECK out of these fries.

 

The hearts of palm fries were just like regular old potato fries, and the avocados actually turned kinda mushy in the heat of the fryer, but the watermelon fries are a brilliant and totally unexpected take on my all time favorite snack food!  Do yourself a favor and GET THESE BABIES!!

 

 

All in all, the service was kind and attentive, the atmosphere was romantic and private, and it is a WONDERFUL Restaurant Week deal!