Twice a year restaurants all over New York City offer three-course meals priced at $25 for lunch and/or $38 for dinner. It’s an opportunity for anyone to have a full dining experience at establishments that would normally be way out of one’s budget.

NYC Restaurant Week should be an official foodie holiday, because for me, it is a long and delicious marathon. This year, I decided I wanted to fully embrace it and waited on the website impatiently to make my reservations at some of the most notable restaurants in the city. Here is a breakdown of my experience with NYC Restaurant Week Winter 2016 (January 18–February 5).

Nobu NYC

NYC Restaurant Week

Photo by Cole Neuffer

Appetizer: Black miso cod with lettuce
Entree: Assorted sushi platter
Dessert: Kabocha tiramisu

In all four years of going to school in the city, I’ve yet to go to a nice sushi place so this year, I lept at the chance to eat at Nobu NYC. The restaurant was a modern design and dimly lit, and while the main dining room where the sushi bar was located seemed like the best area to be, my fellow guest and I were seated in the back space of the restaurant. It was not a terrible table, but it definitely was not the best.

We decided to get the same three courses based on some previous research I had done (on Yelp). The appetizer was somewhat small, two cooked pieces of marinated cod on a leaf of lettuce with some spiraled daikon (white radish), but the fish was piping hot and very soft with a delicate sweet flavor.

The assorted sushi platter consisted of six pieces of sushi and a roll, which was a decent amount for what we were paying ($25 for lunch). The sushi had nothing noticeably special about it, I’ve had some damn good sushi for 1000 yen (equal to 10 US dollars) in Japan and would choose that over this. Perhaps they were using lesser quality fish because it was for Restaurant Week, but that’s just my guess.

The highlight of the meal was definitely the kabocha (winter squash) tiramisu that came out in a cup and dusted with cocoa powder. The dessert seemed super tiny, but it ended up being perfect as the cup was deep and filled to the brim. The kabocha gave the tiramisu a great texture and a slight nutty flavor. It was also not overwhelmingly sweet as the cocoa powder added some bitterness for balance. I’m glad that I was finally able to have a meal at Nobu NYC, but don’t think I would ever go if I had to pay full price.

Bar Boulud

NYC Restaurant Week

Photo by Cole Neuffer

Appetizer: Cauliflower soup
Entree: Duck confit with lentils
Dessert: Vanilla bourbon custard

Daniel Boulud is a French chef and prominent restaurateur with multiple establishments in NYC (Daniel, db Bistro Moderne, Cafe Boulud, etc). Bar Boulud is one of his casual/fine dining restaurants located across the street from Lincoln Center. Being an architecture major, I really appreciated the design of the space as it is dominated by a longitudinal dome that naturally bounced around the warm lighting that flooded the space. I did end up spending $15 on a glass of wine because the restaurant made me feel fancy.

I started with the cauliflower soup with raisins, pine nuts and chive oil. The cauliflower was light in flavor and served as a base for the other ingredients that each brought a unique texture to the mix. While the raisins were chewy and sweet, the pine nuts provided the necessary crunch to contrast with the smooth texture of the cauliflower. The chive oil’s earthiness rounded out the entire dish.

For entree, I opted for the duck confit on a bed of stewed lentils. While the duck was well cooked, I didn’t get the crunch I wanted from the skin on the top. I also wanted a good kick of spice that the lentils were unfortunately lacking. The entree was disappointing, but the dessert definitely brought back the high.

The vanilla bourbon custard with macerated orange and crunchy meringue was a refreshing end to the dinner. The bourbon taste was a faint accent to the vanilla custard and was not overpowering on the tongue. I loved the droplets of meringue as it made the dessert very playful and contrasted with the somewhat stuffy atmosphere of the restaurant.

ABC Kitchen

NYC Restaurant Week

Photo by Cole Neuffer

Appetizer: Lentil soup
Entree: Crispy shrimp salad with grains and lemon
Dessert: Salted caramel ice cream with caramel popcorn and chocolate sauce

I’ve always wanted to go to ABC Kitchen, but it is super popular and also on the pricier side, so when I saw that it was a new participant at NYC restaurant week, it was the first reservation I made.

The interior is beautiful and exactly where you would imagine a farmhouse style wedding would take place and made for some awesome Instagram photos (for those interested). The options for the three courses tended towards the healthier side, which both my fellow diner (who is somewhat vegetarian) and I appreciated, but seemed limited when compared to the options at Nobu and Bar Boulud.

I ordered the soup appetizer expecting a hearty bowl of lentils, so I was very surprised when it came out looking watery and strangely oily. The soup was packed with flavors and had a great kick of spiciness. Although I would have appreciated more lentils.

The crispy shrimp salad was essentially organized with chopped lettuce at the bottom, grains in the middle then a handful of crispy shrimp on top. It was not a bad dish, but I was disappointed with my choice in entree (my friend’s portobello mushroom sandwich looked significantly better) but I was excited about the dessert.

ABC Kitchen’s famous salted caramel ice cream sundae was just as perfect as I had expected. It consisted of two scoops of ice cream crowned with fresh cream and adorned with caramel popcorn. I took a scoop and discovered a pool of chocolate sauce and peanuts scattered along the bottom of the plate. I left the restaurant promising myself to reunite with ABC Kitchen’s sundae.

Perry St.

NYC Restaurant Week

Photo by Cole Neuffer

Appetizer: Salmon sashimi
Entree: Parmesan crusted chicken with broccoli rabe
Dessert: Almond cake with grapefruit sorbet

My final reservation, which ended up being the fanciest restaurant out of the four I went to, was actually an invite from my cousin to celebrate her birthday. Perry St. is another one of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s establishments and is pretty fancy with predominantly white furnishings and a dress code.

There were only two options for each course but the items were very varied. We were given small glasses of potato leek soup with truffle oil as compliments of the chef before the main meal. It was packed with interesting flavors.

The salmon sashimi was arranged in a circular fashion with sprouts, cilantro-chili seasoning, chopped jalapeno and grapefruit sorbet. The fish was incredibly fresh and went well with the spice of the jalapeno and the sweetness of the grapefruit.

My parmesan-crusted chicken was decently sized and very filling. The golden-brown cheese was not overpowering to the perfectly moist chicken and the broccoli rabe added a subtle bitterness. While the chicken was delicious, I feel like the fish may have been a more interesting culinary experience.

My meal ended with a slice of almond cake and grapefruit sorbet. The pastry was on the denser side but had great buoyancy and the sorbet was more sweet than sour. Overall, Perry St. was the most solid out of all the restaurants I had gone to and was a great experience for a foodie wanting to taste dishes that required more advanced cooking techniques.