FOOD: La Villette’s Restaurant Week Menu Is Good, Yet Misleading

It’s here again… New York City’s biannual Restaurant Week!  The “Week” part is just in the name, of course – the event this winter spans from January 14 to February 8, and features a long list of delicious eateries.  Restaurant Week is a great way to experience fine dining at some of the city’s top (and usually pricey) restaurants at a lower price – it’s $25 for lunch and $38 for dinner, which usually consists of an appetizer, entree, and dessert. There’s still time to make a reservation, which you can do so on the website.

This year, we chose to check out La Villette, a fairly new French restaurant in the West Village.  The Restaurant Week menu online featured dishes such as an escargot and lobster appetizer as well as a braised mustard rabbit entree – these dishes were the deciding factor in where to eat, and the menu looked more extensive than the others, giving patrons a larger selection of dishes to choose from (it’s usually three dishes per each course).

And here’s the biggest warning out for Restaurant Week: the online menu may not necessarily be the exact menu that they serve.  When we were given the Restaurant Week menu, a lot of the choices weren’t on there, and unfortunately, neither were the appetizer and entree that we went there for (the whole reason we chose the restaurant).  Undaunted, we ordered the roasted and marinated red bell pepper and the slow braised leeks (which were now listed as accompanied with a dijonaise sauce, not the vinagrette like it had said online).  The leeks were delicious (and probably better with the sauce) – but the “red bell pepper” was actually a bunch of different colored peppers that did not seem like they had been marinated (but they weren’t bad).

We also ordered the same entree, which I guess on the online menu would be the Ottomanelli Filet Mignon with baby summer squash, baby zucchini and fennel, however there was no fennel (which is fine because I don’t like fennel) and there was also some kind of really delicious potato frittata-like square.  The menu at the restaurant may have listed something different.  We both ordered a medium-rare filet, one of which arrived perfectly medium rare, however mine was practically still bleeding and would definitely be classified as rare.  I didn’t mind though, because I usually expect things to come overcooked, but I would expect the two steaks to be the same if they were on the same order.

The dessert, creme brulee and chocolate mousse, were both delicious and there are no complaints there.

So, why the mix-up in the menus?  It’s often noted (especially if you Yelp these places) that Restaurant Week service sometimes differs from normal service, as you are really there for the deal – maybe they believe the change in menu shouldn’t matter, as the price for all the dishes is the same.  I really enjoyed my meal at La Villette, as I left full and thought everything tasted good.   However, I think that if I had seen the real Restaurant Week menu online, I would have traded the place for a more exciting selection of dishes.  For example, I didn’t head to a French restaurant to get a steak.  I almost feel tricked, to be honest.

Another tip, which didn’t apply to today (but has applied to me in past Restaurant Weeks) is that you should always double check to make sure that the Restaurant Week menu is being served at your meal time – some places don’t offer the menu on the weekends, or Sundays, or for lunch, or dinner, and so on.  So make sure you check or you might be stuck with the normal, more expensive menu!

And another criticism (which has been discussed many times) – Restaurant Week really only applies to Manhattan restaurants, but why not Brooklyn?  There is one lone Bay Ridge restaurant on the list, which is strange to me, and you can’t even make reservation for that one online, which probably doesn’t help.  There’s also one in Park Slope as well.  Fortunately, there is a separate Brooklyn Restaurant Week which should be coming up in March, but its significantly less publicized than the one going on right now…and anyway, what about the rest of the boroughs?  Long Island City has one restaurant, but what about the rest of Queens, or the Bronx?  Not to mention that Harlem only has one restaurant on the list, as well.  It’s seriously time for people to expand their borders (both eating and geographic) – but that’s for another article…

All in all, don’t not go to La Villette, because it was really a delicious meal – just make sure you know what you’re getting when you sign up for a Restaurant Week meal, in case you have your heart set on a particular dish.

La Villette
10 Downing Street
New York, NY