NYC Restaurant Week: Nobu Next Door

If you can find a spot in their busy reservation calendar (I recommend calling), Nobu is a don’t-miss dining experience during Restaurant Week. My previous Nobu experience was in Las Vegas (with a couple of my favorite SinglePlatformers), where we put ourselves in the chef’s hands and let him design a choice menu for us based on a couple of preferences and a desire for adventurous eating. I now know I don’t like sea urchin.
Accompanied by my boyfriend and my brother, our trio took a similar approach to Nobu Next Door’s NYC Restaurant Week menu, ordering each combination of the three prix fixe meal options and eating them family-style. Standing at over six feet tall, the boys brought similarly tall appetites, so we supplemented the three-course meals with two additional cold dishes.

The appetizers stole the show

The special menu appetizers featured some of Nobu’s fan favorites. The rock shrimp tempura was crunchy, a little spicy and cooked perfectly. The squid pasta isn’t pasta at all – simply squid in a pasta-like shape, asparagus and mushrooms in a tangy sauce with a kick. The boys fought over the last bites of it, so if you like heat, this is the dish for you. I preferred the sashimi over salad: fresh, rich-red tuna over greens in a light dressing.

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Off the Restaurant Week menu, the first cold dish we ordered was the yellowtail with jalapeno. It came in a light citrusy reduction, beautifully presented and flavorful. We also shared the crispy rice: squares of fried rice “tater tots” (as my brother put it) and a dish of traditional spicy tuna sashimi. Total crowd-pleaser; even the seven-year-olds next to us loved these treats on toothpicks.

Main courses made a great following act

The sushi entrée was the biggest of the main course options, featuring six various pieces of fish (tuna, yellowtail, crab, and snapper to name a few) and a tuna roll. All fresh, all tasty.

The cooked dishes were done perfectly. Their signature Black Cod with Miso is an absolute must.   The servers push it for a reason; it melts in your mouth and its sweetness is even more appreciated in this smaller serving. Our strip loin steak dish was a tender medium-rare, and we opted for the spicier of the two seasonings, which was a little overpowering. The teriyaki may have been a better option.

The desserts fell flat

They sent out two panna cottas with pistachios, a fruit glaze and coconut. The coconut was overpowering, and the overall texture was a little too reminiscent of Jell-o.

Nobu Next Door

The other dessert was described as chocolate-based, but was more of a crumble with a blueberry topping and lemon-flavored whipped cream. Anything that tastes mostly of butter covered in fruit and cream-based sugar is okay by me, but it wasn’t anything special.

The drink special price breaks were significant compared to their regular wine and cocktail list, and although we were all tempted by the special tequila-based cocktail, we opted for beer and wine. The featured rosé was crisp, and the Sapporos cold.

The service was excellent, and the atmosphere surprisingly casual. We were seated a little too close to our neighbors (those seven-year-olds I mentioned earlier were playing loudly on an iPad throughout dinner), but aside from that, the experience was wonderful!

Fast Food Wage Hike: It May Impact More Than Just Industry Workers

Fast food employees and their advocates can trace their campaign for higher wages back several years, and these past few weeks appear to show their efforts are finally paying off.
On July 22nd, the Fast Food Wage Board voted on three motions, all of which passed. The motions include raising the minimum wage to $15 a hour, a phasing plan that laid out the increments in which fast food chains must raise their minimum wage, and finally, the definition of a fast food chain: “a fast food establishment that are part of chains that have 30 or more locations nationally.”

Since the Department of Labor’s press release announcing the vote, there have been celebrations, objections, plans for lawsuits and countless questions.

Here are some major points of contention:

Wage Increase Chart

  1. The phasing process: fortunately for chain owners, there is plenty of time to figure the process out. However, the scales are different for New York City than the rest of the state. One of the points behind this reasoning is the increased cost of living in New York City. Additionally, because New York City has a large population with such high tourism rates, there is belief the city is better suited to adapt to wage changes.
  1. The focus on the fast food industry: This has been a long-standing point of controversy. The fast food industry feels as though they are being singled out, and this belief is pushing them to seek legal remedies. Why are fast food chains different than other restaurants? Governor Cuomo believes it’s because of the impact this change could have for more than 180,000 minimum wage earners employed by the fast food industry in New York state. The $15 wage would represent a raise for more than 70% of workers earning the state’s current minimum wage of $8.75 an hour.

It’s important to note that not only are fast food employers upset because they feel they have been singled out, but angry workers from other industries are wondering why their wage is not being raised. In response to this, policy researcher Irene Tung said the change “will likely put pressure on employers in others industries to raise wages in order to compete for workers.” For example, retail workers now may flock to the fast food industry seeking higher wages, ultimately forcing the retail industry to eventually raise the minimum wage as well.

  1. The fast food ordering experience: One major question is how this decision will affect his or her experience when ordering at a fast food chain. What will it be like the next time they order that Big Mac or Whopper? Governor Cuomo believes New York will not be the only state to raise the minimum wage to $15. “When New York acts, the rest of the states follow,” he said when discussing same-sex marriage. Similar increases in minimum wage have already been considered in cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and will take affect by 2020.

Fast food chains, such as Tropical Smoothie, are already raising prices to prepare for the wage change. Laura Jankowski, owner of multiple Tropical Smoothie locations, explains “[the wage increase] is really going to come down to less people.” “What I envision is cutting labor, hiring less people, having less people per shift,” she stated. It may seem impossible to sustain a restaurant without staff, but many fast casual restaurants, such as Panera Bread, already have tablet operated ordering systems. Some staff is necessary but many owners are looking to automated systems to reduce their reliance on workers. It may seem impossible to have a restaurant without staff – but like the tablets used at Panera Bread and the drink filling carousels at McDonald’s, other initiatives are popping up as a way to offset the higher cost of employment and reduce headcount.

Several researchers have found that a small raise in the minimum wage can raise the standard of living for workers with limited to no job loss. However, the 171% increase being proposed in New York has no precedent. Still, proponents are bolstered by a 2003 Santa Fe wage change that was not quite as steep, but proved through economic analysis to have had minimal affect on employment.

Still, there are a few more pieces of uncertainty. If this change does lead to price changes across the board, you must consider the people who did not receive a raise. They may think twice before purchasing a nice refreshing smoothie or hamburger, ultimately affecting business in the long run. Additionally, the larger fast food chains such as McDonalds or Taco Bell should have no problem surviving the change, while the smaller ones, with just over 30 branches, may feel the brunt of the impact.

It seems there is limited data Americans can use to understand what the fall out of this change will be. However, Americans, especially New Yorkers, seem to be acknowledging that a change is coming. Whether they are rejoicing about their newly gained wages or planning for the increase in employment costs, arrangements are being made.

NYC Restaurant Week: Gotham Bar and Grill

Celebrating NYC Restaurant Week, my father, sister, and I took advantage by dining at Gotham Bar and Grill; located just off Union Square, it’s nestled on 12th between 5th and University Place.

The dining room was airy and open. The pillow-hung lighting creates a spacious effect while suffusing the room in soft golden light. Tables are arranged close together without being cramped, and the attire around us ranged from business casual to formal.

Service was attentive and knowledgeable, our waitress ably handled our more technical questions and we never had to request our wine glasses refilled from the bottle. It also bears mentioning the waitstaff was smartly dressed in black ties, vests and slacks with not a knot out of place or a shirt untucked. The maître-d was affable and made conversational rounds through the dining room without ever being intrusive.

Between the three of us, we ordered and shared almost the entirety of the lunch Prix Fixe.  Quality and freshness of ingredients shone through the dishes throughout. The bean salad was crisp and lightly dressed and the gazpacho cool and refreshing.

Gotham Bar and Grill

The Striped Bass Crudo bears mentioning; Wild Striper is a tough fish to do raw, in my experience, and I was impressed. Three thin filets arranged under mixed greens with radish and jalapeno were the perfect texture, lightly chilled, and delicious. The watermelon-lime emulsion was where the dish really shone; the lime was perceptible only in accenting the coolness of the watermelon and how it had begun (only very slightly) to cook the fish at its edges.

I didn’t try my father’s halibut, but the chicken was moist and flavorful with the white wine reduction shining through. I had ordered the steak (pictured), and it was exceptional. The edges were caramelized to perfection, crisp and savory but unblackened. I had ordered it rare. The bordelaise was striking, just the right consistency to cling to the steak and add a tangy sweetness without overpowering the meat’s own flavor.

The sorbet was pretty standard though the pear gets a shoutout; it’s not an easy flavor to maintain but they’d managed to amplify its intensity without making it syrupy. The Gotham Chocolate cake was the standout dessert. It tread a perfect line between flourless and normal chocolate cake. The only way I can describe it is that it was, paradoxically, simultaneously fudgy and cake-like.

Overall, Gotham Bar and Grill provided a stunning dining experience – one I will return for again in the future.

Presentation is Everything

When it comes to dining (and drinking) out, visual presentation is everything. It takes 1.5 seconds for a wine label to make an impression on us. Talk about fast right? Before someone can speak two words, they will have been affected by the design of a wine bottle.

Deciding to purchase is based on three key factors; if it grabs attention, looks expensive, and sells for a value price, the consumer is more likely to convert to a customer. Overall, it is clear that when something is aesthetically pleasing it is more likely to be a popular purchase amongst consumers.

This concept doesn’t just apply to wine. Restaurant chefs have noticed that in order to have the top dishes on their menu sell, the food needs to be presented in a way that is appetizing to the eye as well as to the palate. Perhaps this is because the effort put into the presentation of a dish makes consumers feel that their food is made with their dining experience in mind. According to Charles Spence, a Professor at The University of Oxford, “When you see presentation, you can see that someone has put effort into it, and that may convey expectations and impact the experience.” When people see that a chef put a personal twist or extra pizzazz into the presentation of an entrée, they are more likely to not only have a positive dining experience, but also visit the restaurant again in the future.

By appealing to diners’ senses through visual presentation, you empower your business to not only increase your sales, but your customers’ overall satisfaction as well.

NYC Restaurant Week: The Capital Grille

First of all, I am an incredibly picky eater. My diet mirrors that of an average 4 year old, plus the occasional steak or chicken parm. That being said, I still love to dine out. To me, the desire for a “home-cooked” meal is non-existent. I want to eat what I like to eat, made by someone whose profession is to cook.
Today I had the pleasure of enjoying a $25 three-course lunch with four of my colleagues at The Capital Grille, courtesy of NYC Restaurant Week.

I had been to this restaurant before and requested to be seated downstairs by the vault (the restaurant used to be a bank)! Our request was more than honored as we were seated in a private room.

As any picker eater does, I had already checked out the menu online and decided what I was going to order. The dilemma picky eaters face during Restaurant Week is finding something we are able to eat for all three courses, and if not, deciding whether or not it still is financially worth it to order from the Restaurant Week menu. Naturally there were no appetizers that appeased my dietary restrictions, but hey, two out of three courses, plus the lovely warm bread and butter, were more than enough for me.

The Grille's Signature Cheeseburger

Even though I didn’t eat it, the wedge salad with bacon was very well received by my colleagues. For my main course, I ordered the Grille’s Signature Cheeseburger (with nothing on it but the cheese, of course) and Parmesan Truffle Fries. I was very impressed to say the least. The burger-to-cheese ratio was just right, and every bite was as juicy as the first. The fries had the perfect kick to them, and my self-imposed “No Fry Left Behind” policy was handled with ease. The Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake was phenomenal and the perfect complement to my salty burger and fries.

From sitting in the private room, to the bank vault décor, and not to mention the food, The Capital Grille did more than enough to get me to dine with them in the future!

NYC Restaurant Week: Lure Fishbar SoHo

Sales Manager by day, tech nerd and foodie by night, I’ve been with SinglePlatform since June of 2014. I guess it’s pretty perfect I work for a company that brings my two hobbies together; promoting a new technology that helps restaurants reach foodies like me by providing their number one asset across the web – their menu! I love keeping up with the newest trends in technology; yes, I’m that girl that religiously reads TechCrunch and Mashable. I’m also a complete foodie and everyone knows it; I love food. I love cooking it, eating it, and of course photographing it.  I actually have a food blog and Instagram account to share my foodie adventures on, so feel free to check out and follow @big_city_eats.
Kicking off one of my favorite times of the year, Restaurant Week in New York City, a friend and I dined at Lure Fishbar in SoHo – and we didn’t leave disappointed.

First of all, the ambiance is incredible!  The restaurant is located below street level, and when you walk in, it feels as if you were out at sea – the décor of the restaurant is that of a luxury yacht.

The décor was a close second, but my favorite part about my experience at Lure Fishbar was the quality of the food. Everything we ordered was fresh, flavorful and of course plated and adorned in a simplistic yet beautiful way. To start, we ordered a bottle of Pinot Bianco. Almost immediately, our bottle was brought to our table and poured for us by our waitress. Looking at the appetizers, our eyes were drawn to the deluxe seafood platter. Consisting of oysters, crab claws and shrimp, everything was flawlessly fresh and delicious. We also split the tuna tacos as they were recommended by many of my friends as a must have. My friends were 100% right; they were bite-sized and delectable, complimented by a soy vinaigrette, and filled with fresh tuna, avocado and cucumber.

For the main course, I could not decide between the halibut and the salmon, so my friend agreed to share both. Lucky me!  Unfortunately, when we went to order, our waitress informed us the kitchen had just sold out of the salmon. I guess I have an excuse to go back to try it! We ended up ordering the Nori Crusted Salmon and the Fresh Baked Halibut, which both proved to be incredibly tasty and satisfying.

Overall, my friend and I were extremely happy with both the food and the service we received at Lure Fishbar, and will certainly be back again in the future.

eGuide: Control your online presence by claiming your listings

Regardless of the device they’re searching on, whether it’s a desktop, tablet, or smartphone, consumers are searching to become customers. Claiming your listings is essential to being discovered across the web; it allows you to not only control the information about your business, but enhance it with pictures, menus, and announcements, making your business more marketable to potential customers.
In this eGuide, you will learn how to claim your listings in a step-by-step process on these major publishers:

  • Google
  • Yelp
  • Foursquare
  • TripAdvisor
  • YellowPages

Click here to download the free eGuide