Let me preface this by saying that I don't go out to eat all that much anymore (although I used to try a lot of new restaurants). When I do go out, I tend to eat out at cheap, ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Korean, Ethiopian, Mexican, etc.). One of the reasons is that I rarely feel like I get a real bang for my buck at a regular, run of the mill restaurant. Unless I go someplace super-nice (and expensive) or super-cheap, it's not worth it.
That said, here is my review:
(I apologize, I don't remember the exact ingredients in each meal - I'm remembering the best I can)
JUdson Grill for lunch is a very business-y affair. Aside from an Ed Koch sighting, nothing very exciting. Our waitress was bright and cheerful. One thing that I liked about 11Mad better than JG was that they offered the Rest. Week menu on the bottom of their regular menu. It took quite a while to flag someone down at JG to get the Rest Week menu. Annoying.
I started with a salad. It was enjoyable - jack cheese dressing, curls of cheese, yummy croutons and 2 chunks of bacon. The dressing and croutons were good.
We all got a fish dish (can't remember the fish). It had decent texture, but not much flavor. It sat on top of soupy mashed potatoes and large chunks of leeks. Wasn't very memorable. Somewhat tasteless, actually. The portobello mushrooms on top were flavorful.
The dessert was a chocolate terrine with 2 chocolate cookies on top. It was great - dense, cold, chocolately, but nothing out of the ordinary.
At 11Mad, there seemed to be a lot of diners there to enjoy the Restaurant Week promotion. The room is nicely done, high ceilings, tasteful decor. The waitstaff was courteous, smiling and without attitude. My dining partner and I got 1 of each on the menu and shared. One warning - do not eat too many of those cheese puffs - they'll ruin your appetite for dinner!
The appetizers were salmon carpaccio with frisee salad and bread pudding with green beans and hazelnuts. Neither of the appetizers were particularly memorable. The salmon was, surprisingly, quite tasteless. The bread pudding was fine - soft, creamy, nothing special.
The main courses were fluke with tomato concasse, olive tapenade on rice, and vegetables; and braised short ribs with mint? creme fraiche and some potato side and mustard greens?. The fluke was somewhat tasteless, and completely overpowered by the olive tapenade. The tomato concasse went better with the fish and added flavor. The short ribs were game-y and too fatty. The potato side was good - cheese-y, and the mustard greens were flavorful, but a little bitter.
The desserts were chocolate terrine (again!) topped with chocolate/marshmallow ice cream, and some sort of cheesey pumpkin creme brulee type dish with pumpkin ice cream with pecans. The terrine was yummy - rich and decadent. The pumpkin dessert was off - slightly chunky - like a pumpkin cheesecake I beat by hand a while ago.
After being so full, we got what I call little happy endings (no, not THAT kind). Tiny muffin-like pastries, and a selection of chocolates at the end of the meal. Unfortunately, we were stuffed at that point.
The chef came out to see how the dinner was and say hello, which was very nice. Even though the food wasn't impressive, we felt well taken care of at 11 Mad Park.
It's nice to treat myself to nice decor and good service. And I also appreciate the opportunity to try these top notch restaurants for such a low price, but am unimpressed by the food.
Next up... Union Square Cafe for dinner tonight. Gotham is also on my list to try for their $20 lunch.