Restaurant Week, Part The Third

The third restaurant we went to during Restaurant Week was AZ (sorry, it's a horrible website).

AZ is a fusion restaurant: it's supposed to be a fusion between east and west (I'll save my ranting about what constitutes 'oriental' cuisine for another day). I've eaten more than my fair share of bad fusion food before, so I tend to approach these sorts of things with a grain of salt.

I have to say that any trepidation I might have had was misplaced.

The restaurant takes up all three floors of a smaller-than-you-think building wedged between industrial lofts in the Flatiron district; there's a lounge on the first floor, a bar on the second floor, and the main dining room, replete with large glass roof, is on the top floor.

One significant difference between AZ and the other restaurants that I visited this week was that instead of adding a three-course prix fixe to their regular lunch menu, AZ's entire lunch menu was turned over to Restaurant Week. Four appetizers, four entrees, and three desserts.

I started with the Beef Pho and noodles. It was really very, very good -- a perfect replica of what Hong Kong thinks southeast asian food is like. The julienned carrots and bell peppers added the perfect crunch to the sweet sesame paste on the noodles. Another appetizer was beet (beet with a 'T', not beef with an 'F') carpaccio and a third was a reportedly superb lentil curry soup (it was not shared at the insistence of the diner involved).

My entree was essentially a grilled hanger steak with a teriyaki glaze. Despite the fact that it came out nowhere close to medium rare, it was truly delicious. Other dishes included near-perfect miso-encrusted tuna (sweet and flakey on the outside, sashimi-like on the inside) and smoked chicken.

I had pear shortcake with poached pear and vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. It was very good, but it wasn't as good as the chocolate cake peanut crunch that most of my dining companions opted for: a slim rectangle of chocolately goodness with a hidden peanut crunch inside. Another dessert was a coconut and yuzu sorbet served in a martini glass.

The meal was truly remarkable, and it really represented what the restaurant was really about.

The only catch was the service, while attentive, was a bit sloppy. For example, when the first course was cleared, I ended up with one knife and no forks in front of me. And when my steak was set down in front of me, I still had no fork. Since I wasn't planning on eating it with my fingers, I had to swipe a fork from a nearby table. And when they were resetting the table for the appetizers, one of my dining companions had her salad knife placed inside her regular knife, rather than outside (the basic rule of which fork or other implement to use is that you start from the outside and work your way in). I know, just scandalous, isn't it?

In the context of Restaurant Week, I have to give it four stars out of four on the Times scale, despite the flaws in the service. It really was that good.