Went to Brasserie 8 1/2 on Tuesday night, where my date and I each had the $35 Restaurant Week menu.
I had the pork belly appetizer, the sea bass main course, and the chocolate buttermilk pancake with blood orange mousse for dessert.
She had the rouget a la plancha appetizer, the chicken with chimichirri spices, and the "popsicle" (more like an ice cream bar on a plate).
I felt the pork belly had a distinctly Asian flavor, but maybe it's because I haven't had that cut of meat since I was living in Hong Kong. It was room-temperature and fairly tasty, but may have been outstanding if it had been warm. The sea bass was a small but very tasty and firm inch-thick piece of fish in a very aromatic sauce at the bottom of a comically large bowl. I can't remember the exact preparation (mea culpa) but it was quite good. The chocolate pancake dessert just didn't come together, to be honest. It was standing on the cusp of greatness, but just lacked the extra oomph to put it over the edge. It wasn't chocolate-y enough, nor did the blood orange mousse have the biting pizzazz it should have. The whole dessert just didn't have enough flavor.
My date seemed to really enjoy the rouget (which was by far the best-presented item, with water added to the concentrated tomato at the table to create a souplike sauce). She liked the Argentinian-style spiced chicken as well. We were both a little perplexed by the popsicle, and it seemed to be another fairly forgettable dessert.
All in all, good but not spectacular food in a spectacular setting. My biggest problem was the vibe/scene/crowd/whatever. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings, but I felt like I was surrounded by youngish tourists who had spent the last 12 hours watching "Sex in the City" reruns on TBS and were now in the midst of a studied and altogether unsuccessful attempt at urban chic.
That having been said, the two of us had three-course meals, including two $10 cocktails, tax, and tip in a very cool place for a grand total of $111. Not bad. Not remarkable, but not bad. Still, there are probably better ways to spend your restaurant week dollar.
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