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CLOSED: Dinner at Chinatown Brasserie, 1/28/08

For those of you who aren't aware of/don't live in the NYC area, twice a year, there's a glorious little event called "Restaurant Week." Per gonyc.about.com, here's their quick description: "Twice a year, in January and June/July, there is a unique opportunity to experience some of New York City's finest restaurants for a fraction of the usual price. Throughout the city, restaurants participate in "Restaurant Week" where they offer a three-course lunch for $24.07 (& some even offer dinner for $35). Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try out a restaurant that may usually be out of your budget, or test some new restaurants with a little less financial risk." I've done various "Restaurant Week" meals in the past, and honestly, most of them have been subpar, even those served in Gotham's most fabulous establishments. But for $24.07 (at lunch time) and $35 (at dinner time), who can complain extensively when you get a 3-course all-inclusive meal?

Who more perfect to introduce Winter Restaurant Week to than a brand new New York City resident? A darling life-long friend of mine from home had just moved to the city, and we decided to meet for dinner on Monday night. After going back and forth regarding which cuisine to choose, Whitney and I finally decided on either Thai or Chinese and ultimately made reservations at Chinatown Brasserie for Monday, January 28th at 6:45 p.m.

I was the first to arrive at Chinatown Brasserie, which I always like, because it gives me just the perfect amount of "alone time" to study the restaurant's atmosphere and vibe (typically while sipping my first cocktail at the bar). As you can see in the picture above, the restaurant is housed in a very old bi-level space, but modernized and updated with Chinese lighting and decor. I loved how the plank wood flooring, tall ceilings and pillars synchronized so seamlessly and beautifully with the bright red chairs, splashes of black lacquer and Chinese lanterns.

After giving my name to the host, I made my way over to the bar. For 6:30 p.m. on a Monday night, there were definitely a good number of patrons both enjoying dinner and drinks. I ordered a Pear Batida, made with: Cachaca, fresh pear and prosecco. While my drink was being made, I couldn't help but notice that I was being stared down. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn't help glancing out of the corner of my eye to see if I was still being "assaulted." Finally, I gave in...That damn bowl of fried wonton skins would not stop looking at me! After greasy handful number one and one half, my drink arrived. I couldn't quite taste the prosecco, but the outrageously-strong cachaca definitely took a couple of years off of my life! Luckily, the fragrant and mealy fresh pear nectar assisted in numbing some of the throat sting. My only option was to chase my cocktail with fried wonton skins after every three sips!
Whitney arrived shortly thereafter and we were seated. The waitress handed us both a regular dinner menu and a Restaurant Week menu. After perusing, each of us decided that the Restaurant Week menu looked like the best value for our money, as the offerings were quite generous and sounded delicious. For my meal, I went with: St. Louis-Cut Ribs, a dim-sum assortment (shrimp and Chinese chive dumpling, barbequed duck spring roll, beef/onion/mushroom triangle, and a pork potsticker), filet mignon with white asparagus, and a mini lychee/chocolate molten cake. After placing our order with the waitress, I inquired if she could bring us one of those heavenly bowls of fried wontons. "Sorry, but I can't do that. The fried wontons are only for the bar." Um...ok?

It was great catching up with Whitney, but not ten-minutes in to our debriefing session, we were interrupted by our first appetizer. When those St. Louis ribs were placed in front of me, birds started chirping in the background and all I could see were rainbows and waterfalls, for these two meaty morsels of shear rib pleasure were the best damn ones I've ever had. Not more than 3 1/2 inches in length, the ribs were thick with flavorful, slightly spicy, fall-off-the-bone meat. After practically licking all of my fingers and the plate, our dim sum appetizers arrived. I definitely favored the dumplings over the duck spring roll, as I still have a hard time eating the meat of such an adorable animal. However, all of the dim sum was wonderful and clearly homemade with the freshest and highest quality ingredients.
Within ten-minutes of our appetizer plates being cleared, our entrees arrived. Plate presentation was both artistic and attractive, accompanied by a small bowl of white sticky-rice. My filet mignon swam in shallow chocolate-brown gravy and was dotted with chopped white asparagus spears. It was certainly a good thing that I was able to cut my steak solely with a fork, because there was not a knife in sight. The sliced filet was cooked medium-rare, making each bite more tender and delicate than the one before. The asparagus added just the right amount of subtle crunch, while the perfectly salty and buttery brown gravy brought out the rich flavor of the steak.

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect (atleast 99% of the time), and my dessert under whelmed. Imagine a mini sized molten chocolate cake, but instead of the molten center, it's replaced by a lychee. In my opinion, the combination of flavors was awkward. To make matters worse, the cake itself was very dry.
From beginning to almost-end, my meal at Chinatown Brasserie
was outstanding. What made it more phenomenal was the fact that I was so impressed by a prix fixed Restaurant Week meal, as most of them rarely are associated with such complimentary adjectives. For $35 per person, my dear Whitney and I made out like bandits in a successful bank robbery!

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