Restaurant Week: Ai Fiori

Anyone familiar with my blog probably knows how much I love the Altamarea Group and their restaurants – whether it is the Michelin-starred Marea or the affordable Osteria Morini (I still miss The Butterfly and Costata!). I finally crossed Ristorante Morini off my To-Do List this Restaurant Week, but I always make room for a RW lunch at Ai Fiori, one of my all-time favorite restaurants.

This year, I went with my cousin and her boyfriend (Who I’ve turned into Ai Fiori lovers!) and my mom. Compared to the very first time I had a RW lunch at Ai Fiori, its popularity has grown immensely! We arrived on time, but had to wait a few minutes for our table. We all opted to do their Restaurant Week menu, which doesn’t really change – a fact I am forever grateful for because I love their RW menu so much! We all opted to go with the same exact choices – despite the fact that the menu has 3 appetizer, 3 entrée, and 2 dessert options. I suppose this makes it extremely easy for our waiters!

For our appetizers, we opted for the Zuppa di Zucca, or chilled zucchini soup with Calabrian chili, lemon, and basil seeds. I’m always a fan of their chilled zucchini soup – it’s perfect for a hot summer day since it’s so light and refreshing!

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For our entrees, we all chose the Pollo Arrosto, or pan-roasted chicken with summer beans, Vidalia onions, and guanciale. Ai Fiori’s roasted chicken is, by far, one of my favorites. It’s tender, moist, and perfectly seasoned. I wish the portion sizes are a little bit bigger because it’s so tasty that I want more!

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For our dessert, we went with the Torta di Olio, or olive oil cake with Chantilly and mixed berries. I am a huge fan of olive oil cakes – when done right – and Ai Fiori definitely does it right! The cake is super soft and has just the smallest hint of fragrance from the olive oil. I really liked the use of tart berries and raspberry sorbet to bring out the natural flavors of the cake.

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Service was attentive enough – I can understand that they’re not super busy during the RW lunch rush. I never felt neglected by any accounts. I cannot wait until next season to have this delicious meal again!

Restaurant Week: Distilled NY

For every Restaurant Week season, we try to do one family dinner as well as a family brunch since meeting for lunch during the weekday is next to impossible. This season, I decided on Distilled NY, since it’s on the Soho area and had a very interesting menu. We’re always up to trying something new, so a restaurant that advertises itself as a “New American Public House” definitely fits the bill! Their brunch menu ($29 per person) features 3 options for starters, entrées, and desserts. Although one of those desserts is an alcoholic “nightcap”!

Since we were a group of three, we decided to order a bunch of items and share them so we could try as much as we can. For starters, we opted for an order of their biscuits and two orders of their Distilled Wings. The biscuit comes with orange marmalade and whipped honey butter. The biscuit wasn’t heavy or crumbly at all, which I quite liked. The Distilled Wings, however, stole the show. It’s modeled after Korean chicken wings with a gochujang glaze. It’s served with Point Reyes blue cheese, which really hit the spot. I highly recommend ordering their wings – despite the messiness!

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For our entrées, we ordered one of each item on the menu – French Toast Waffles with banana foster; Country Fried Duck with a French Toast Waffle, smoked chili maple syrup, and whipped honey butter; and the Smoked Salmon Scramble with salmon roe, chives, and a mini baguette.  All three entrées were very good – the French Toast Waffles were perfect for someone craving a sweet dish. The bananas were perfectly caramelized.

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The Country Fried Duck was very moist and tender. The smoked chili maple syrup contrasted nicely with the saltiness of the fried duck. I think this was my favorite entrée out of them all – it was hearty and savory. The skin of the fried duck was super crunchy and crispy!

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The Smoked Salmon Scramble was also quite delicious – the salmon and salmon roe were very fresh – not fishy at all. The scrambled eggs were creamy and practically melted in our mouths!

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For dessert, they ran out of their Lemon Bars, which we were really looking forward to. We ended up ordering two of their Banana Bread and a S’mores. Turns out, since the S’mores is on their regular menu, you get half a portion – which I thought was a bit stingy of them. It’s not our fault that you ran out of the Lemon Bar! Both desserts were good enough. If I wasn’t so full from the previous dishes, I’d have definitely enjoyed the Banana Bread more since I’m a sucker for whiskey in cakes and breads.

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Service was attentive and our dishes all came out in a timely manner. When we arrived around 1pm, we were seated right away. The dining room was mostly empty with a 2-3 couples and one large group. When we left about an hour and a half later, the inside dining room was mostly full! Definitely come early or make a reservation on OpenTable!

Restaurant Week: Ristorante Morini

Ristorante Morini has been on my Restaurant Week list for a while – but like all other Altamarea restaurants, they only offer lunch so I would definitely need to wait for a summer Friday to go. Located in the Upper East Side just steps away from Central Park, Ristorante Morini is quiet, unassuming, but a true gem in the Altamarea Group. We arrived a bit early for our reservation but they sat us anyways. We opted to sit on the upper level, which was brightly lit with natural light and perfect for some food picture-taking!

Their Restaurant Week menu offers 3 options for both appetizers and entrees and 2 options for dessert. There is also a nice selection of wine pairings by the glass available for a $10 supplement. I’m never disappointed with any of the wine pairing options for an Altamarea restaurant so I opted for a glass of their Rosé, which was very refreshing on the hot, muggy day – a perfect Rosé for the summer!

For our appetizers, we both opted for the Quaglia, or grilled quail with creamy farro and radish and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.  I quite enjoyed my appetizer – the quail was tender and juicy. The farro was creamy and soaked up the flavors of the balsamic vinegar and quail very well.

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For my entrée, I opted to go for the Pork Lion, which features slow-roasted pork loin with a summer peach marmalade and pancetta. I am a sucker for anything with summer peaches so I was instantly drawn in, despite my original plan to try the pasta since I love Altamarea pasta dishes. The pork lion was cooked thoroughly but not tough at all. The peach marmalade and pancetta paired really well together since it was sweet and salty at the same time with each bite.

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My mom ordered the Orata, or grilled sea beam with stewed leeks, gem lettuce, and bagna cauda. I think I might have liked her dish better than mine! The sea beam was very well cooked – almost melt-in-your-mouth tender. I particularly liked the bagna cauda, which is similar to a creamy cheese sauce or fondue, since it gave the fish a more “wet” mouth feel.

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For dessert, we both decided on the Tiramisu, which was presented in a slice of layers of lady fingers soaked in amaretto and espresso and topped with marscapone mousse. The tiramisu was phenomenal – slightly sweet but mostly bitter and fragrant from the espresso. I wish there was more!

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Service was attentive without being intrusive. Our courses arrived in a timely manner and were very well paced. I will definitely be back outside of Restaurant Week to try out their pasta dishes and other desserts!