This past weekend, I had the good fortune of sampling two outstanding restaurants back-to-back: Public, a new Australasian eatery at 210 Elizabeth Street, and Raoul's, a French restaurant at 180 Prince Street. Both are in Soho, have classy but casual atmospheres, and like many restaurants offer appetizers that outshine the entrees.
At Public, I started with the pan-seared foie gras on a coffee and cardamon scone with candied ginger-lemon sauce and pumpkin seed oil, and the grilled kangaroo on a coriander falafel ball with tahini-lemon sauce and green pepper relish. I had never tried kangaroo before, but consider it one of the best red meats I had ever tasted (they prepared it medium-rare). I also had a bite of the deep-fried minted mozzarella brick pastry, which was good.
For the main course, I had roast lamb chop on crispy goat cheese polenta with minted yogurt, which was predictably superb, although by then I was getting full. Alas, I did not have any room for dessert.
The menu at Raoul's seemed underwhelming at first, and my first instinct was to return to Public. But I had an equally good foie gras appetizer (seared over a ginger-pear tart) and another first--bison carpaccio, served with steamed white asparagus, slices of parmesan cheese, and white truffle oil. Were it not for the mayonnaise/aioli smothering the parmesan, it would have been the perfect dish.
My entree was lemon sole served with a poached egg, creamed spinach, and a green sauce, which tasted best eaten together. Once again, my appetite was beginning to wane. For dessert I shared a chocolate brioche pudding, which I was too full to finish (which is why I sometimes eat desserts before my meals).
Either of these restaurants make a fantastic place to take a date or someone you're trying to impress; just be prepared to shell out some serious cash. Altogether my meals and wine cost more than $30 (three of us at Public and two at Raoul's). And if you go to Raoul's, be sure to sit in the garden in back, where it's a bit quieter and more secluded.
Thanks to everyone for the recommendations!