I want to preface this by asking - why do we have Restaurant Week? Isn't the whole point so that people can taste test restaurants they normally wouldn't, for one reason or another? And wouldn't you, as a restaurant, want to put your best foot forward in this case, so that you can gain another longtime customer?

I had a horrible, HORRIBLE experience at the Smith & Wollensky location in Midtown on 3rd Avenue. Now mind you, we've been to some quality steakhouses - Peter Luger's, Morton's, Quality Meats, The Palm, just to name a few. And yes, I AM name dropping, just to prove my point. NEVER have we ever been so disrespected nor served such disgusting fare as we had at S&W. NEVER. And to top it off, my review of the place was subsequently ridiculed by possibly one of their staff. How's that for constructive criticism?

Let me rewind. I will be posting snippets of my Yelp review since I'm a bit tired of telling and retelling this story.

On Sunday July 19th, we arrived at S&W for our Restaurant Week dinner. Walking in, we were greeted by a guy with a clipboard and instructed to go upstairs. We went up, and stood there like morons for a good 5-10 minutes before someone noticed us. He led us to our table, which was right smack in the middle of the dining room. There was a lot of natural light, which I definitely appreciated, since most steakhouses tend to dim their lights for ambiance or effect.

We were greeted by a John Goodman look-alike waiter. Gave us a bunch of menus and then not more than 5 seconds later asked us what we wanted to drink... dude, we didn't even have time to get to the beverage page?!?! So we just said water for now, and it seemed like after that, we were doomed for the rest of the meal.

After 10 minutes or so, we were greeted by yet another waiter. Let's just call this guy J; he was of Chinese origin. To be quite honest, we felt like we were given the Chinese dude 'cause of our youthful Asian appearance (we are professionals in our late 20's and still get carded for lotto?!) and the fact that it seemed like we were not going to be big spenders... this greatly disturbed me. But I was willing to give him a chance.

However, here's a sample conversation with J:
K: "One of each oyster please (pointing to the menu)"
J: "Whaa? 1 Kumamoto and whaa?"
K: "No, one of each (pointing down the list)"
J: Blank look
K: (Points his finger down the list of each oyster)
J: "Oh. 4 oysters (writes on a piece of paper like in a Chinese restaurant)"

Now, I NEVER like to complain about Asian waiters and J must've done SOMETHING good to be hired at this well-known establishment. But there was just no professionalism, no courtesy, no friendliness. And you would expect that from a place like this, no?! He did not seem to have a firm grasp of the language, nor did he treat us like guests. I tried to notice whether or not J was taking any other table's orders. Nope. He only took ours. In fact, it seemed like his main job was to bring dishes to customers' table and clear tables. So in other words, he was a glorified bus boy. It seemed quite discriminatory how they shoved us into the care of J, who was obviously ill-prepared to to be a professional waiter.

I ordered the garden salad and the 14oz steak, he ordered the calimari and the soft shell crabs and J had to ask K what he wanted again. I really felt like we were eating in a Chinatown restaurant and not at a place that seemed to have good ratings and rave reviews. J was just about to walk away when I said, "Uh I'd like my steak medium rare?!" and he quietly notes that on his paper. I don't understand why he didn't ask me how I wanted it? Isn't that the first question you ask when someone orders steak?

But I digress.

The Restaurant Week menu was quite lame, to say the least. Appetizers were either soups, salads or a calimari. The entrees were steak, beef hash, soft shell crab and I think a poultry of some sort. Desserts consisted of cakes and pies.

John Goodman NEVER talked to us again, until I asked him about my steak and its doneness.

When our entrees came out, J set them on our table and then said, "Sides are not included, do you want sides?" .... weren't you supposed to ask us that BEFORE when you originally took our order?!

TASTE: The steak was only passable. I think I've had better steak at APPLEBEE'S; that's how passable it was. Don't even get me started on the soft shell crabs. They were 4 very small, very illegal size looking crabs that were so fishy and disgusting that they just tasted unfresh.

We were offered no steak sauces, no condiments, nothing.

Towards the end, our table was finally cleared and our desserts presented to us. Our bill was flung onto the table by John Goodman as he walked past to goto another customer. I'm not sure what was worse -- John Goodman's outright rudeness/lack of professionalism or J's incompetence as a waiter.

As a last note, I think that S&W has some serious sanitary issues. If you have a big party, or if there is a lot of food coming out at once, they roll carts out with the food on them. These are narrow little carts that can probably hold 10 dishes on the top. So what happens if there are more than 10? Well, they are laid ON TOP of the original 10. How disgusting is that?! Why would you want someone else's food sitting on top of yours?

Seriously, this place really disgusted me. You can bet I will NEVER come back here again and will forewarn everyone I know.


So, what happened, you ask?

I wrote to management. I got an answer and satisfactory action was taken on their part. However, I come onto Yelp, and what do I see, but a personal attack from a "Linda W" who has never posted and suspiciously just joined Yelp this month!?

Here is what "her" review said:
I'm a frequent customer at Smith and Wollensky. I am a huge fan of their steaks and wine. I normally order a simply grilled 10 oz. Filet Mignon or New York Cut Sirloin medium rare with a nice bottle of 05 S&W Napa Valley private reserve red wine. Their wine is a perfect accompaniment to every meal. I always feel a warm tinge on my throat after one sip. Delicious! The crab cakes are to die for-huge chunks of Alaskan King Crab meat over a delectable sauce! Huge praises for their desserts- cheesecakes and mousse cakes are my absolute favorites! This is definitely a place to go for die hard steak fans who has a deep appreciation for real savory steaks. In response to Annie's comments to Smith & Wollensky's food and waitstaff is a real misrepresentation of their quality and service. Her review is completely biased which only centers her personal reflection of feeling discriminated as an Asian person catered by an Asian waiter. In all of my visits to S&W, I have observed that a majority of the waitstaff are Asians. The waitstaff has always been outstanding in delivering a well-informed menu and service to my table. I have never encountered any personal issues with the quality of food, presentation or waitstaff of S&W. This is certainly not a restaurant for people who are looking for cheap eats hence Restaurant Week to appreciate its full value and experience of S&W. I highly recommend this restaurant for serious diners who are well-informed and knowledgeable of steaks. It is definitely not for steak amateurs who compares S&W to Applebee's which is degrading and insulting to an upscale restaurant as Smith and Wollensky. Annie's review is unprofessional and should not be taken seriously at all. It is an ill-representation of the waitstaff and restaurant.

This is a joke, right? Are we in like a Communist country where freedom of speech (or of opinion, for that matter) is not allowed? Who the fuck are you, "Linda W" to personally attack me and my integrity? And you must be fucking joking that the "majority of the waitstaff at S&W is Asian". Maybe you don't know what "Asian" means then... because all I saw were Caucasian faces EXCEPT for that one Chinese waiter. Unless... you think Caucasian must mean that because it ends in "asian" that means Asian... I see... how interesting.

Smith & Wollensky, you have lost ALL credibility with me and negated all the good you have done with your quick response and action to my situation. I am horrified by how you have acted to an honest review and disgusted that you have the gall to personally attack someone who didn't like what you did to them. I will make it a personal mission to make sure that anyone I know will never step foot into your restaurant ever again.
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So last week I wasn't able to participate in SMS because I do not own an ice cream maker. A travesty, I know... there are just so many attachments to my KitchenAid mixer that I want to acquire yet I just can't seem to justify the money nor the added clutter. But anyways, looking at everyone's pictures of ice cream really got to me so I went out and bought a pint of Haagen Dazs Vanilla Honey Bee (which, I might add, is definitely my new favorite!) to satisfy my ice cream cravings.



Head on over to Karen's site for the recipe and some pretty pictures.

Last weekend was also July 4th weekend, and K and I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. It was quite a quiet weekend; I mean, I also had to work on Friday (from home) so I really didn't have an extended weekend or anything. It was also a mini break before my second session of summer classes started so I actually got to breathe a little bit. On Sunday, we decided to head out and do a little shopping for our upcoming trip to St. Croix. We've been having the weirdest weather in New York this summer; it's almost like we haven't had a summer yet and we're just going straight into fall?! And to illustrate this point, I was not able to find swimsuits except for the occasional small rack of mismatched sale items. What the heck?! I was sorely disappointed.

Which leads me to our visit to Ippudo. Since we were in the SoHo area anyways, we decided to take our chances... and guess what! Apparently when it's a long weekend, nobody goes to Ippudo so we had no wait whatsoever. In fact, there were quite a number of empty seats.


We ordered the Harata Buns... which is seriously indescribable. You just have to eat it and you will know what I mean. SO GOOD. I am salivating as I recall the memories of it, haha. They are little steams buns (in Taiwanese, we call them "gua bao") filled with fatty pork bellies and a little bit of lettuce, drenched in a spicy & sweet sauce. It's very similar to Peking duck, but even better because it's not as oily as Peking duck. They are quite expensive though - 2 for $8... but I think it is definitely worth a try (or two or three...) We will definitely have these in the future, despite the high price tag.

So K ordered the Classic Ramen, while I ordered the Tori Ramen. The only thing that seemed to be different from the menu description was our broth, which is really what makes or breaks a bowl of ramen. His was just the regular tonkatsu, while mine was chicken soup with tonkatsu. (Classic on the left, Tori on the right)



Now as you can see, the ingredients are fairly similar; we both had Berkshire pork BUT they both had different flavors. His was more of a broth cooked, natural flavor, while mine was sort of a roasted pork kind of flavor (I liked his version better, but my soup more).

This Ippudo trip was definitely enjoyable and opened our eyes to how good Ramen can be outside of Japan. We used to travel all the way to Mitsuwa in Jersey to get good Ramen at Santouku, but now we can just goto Ippudo... if only we had the patience to wait on the horrendous lines...

Ippudo
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY

***

Now, this week's SMS recipe is the Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with Cornmeal Crumble Crust chosen by Eliana. Personally, I am not a big fan of lemon nor blueberry, and I debated whether or not I should skip this week (yet again, ugh). But I decided to change it up a bit and personalize it to something that I would actually enjoy. Coincidentally, I was also meeting up with some friends for potluck this weekend and had been asked to make my green tea cupcakes. So then I thought... green tea cheesecake! Kill two birds with one stone!!

I made a few changes to the recipe:
• I made the crust exactly as described, but with vanilla wafers instead of cornmeal; I thought of using graham crackers, but I wasn't sure how that would taste with green tea, so stuck to vanilla wafers.
• I halved the recipe for the filling since I felt like there would be TOO much cream cheese.
• Instead of the lemon zest and lemon juice it called for, I used green tea powder dissolved in warm water.

As you can see, I had a little trouble getting the cake out of the springform pan. I'm not sure what it is, but when I tried to slide a knife between the cake and the pan, it would pull up the cream cheese filling? Why does it do that?! It made my cheesecake look really ugly, that's for sure. Even K was like, "Uhhh what did you do to it?"

So after nearly destroying it with a knife, I put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I also had a LOT of trouble trying to get the cake OFF the bottom of the pan. What a nightmare. I actually had to cut out each individual piece in order to get them off, so I'm not sure how I would fare if I had to serve this as a whole.


HOWEVER, all this hard work really paid off, because the cake came out really good (taste-wise, of course). It was creamy, yet not too cream cheesey, which I think a lot of cheesecakes tend to do. It wasn't heavy due to the mascarpone used and the green tea flavor was subtle, not overwhelming and just really added to the taste.

Now, if only I could perfect the aesthetics.....

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