Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fit for a King in The Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel New York

By: Wela Quan

I’ll admit it. I LOVE nice hotels. I love the romantic atmosphere, I love the opulence and above all I love the over-done Hollywood fairytales evoked by the hotel setting. With this in mind, you can imagine how excited I was to find out that the Oak Room was actually a restaurant in one of these decadent modern day palaces. Located inside the Plaza Hotel at the southeast corner of Central Park, I was brimming with excitement when Ethan and I arrived not only because was I excited about the meal but also because I discovered that the Plaza is a Fairmont hotel. Fairmont Hotels is a Canadian luxury hotel chain which owns arguably the most fairytale style hotels in the world including the Banff Hot Springs Hotel and the famous Château Frontenac in Québec City. My Canadian pride over-took me.

Ethan and I had been meaning to come to the Oak Room after we sampled an amazing Spicy Lobster Dumpling done by the Oak Room’s Executive Chef Eric Hara at the 2009 Cook. Eat. Drink. Live. festival. While we did not have the lobster dumpling, we did pick out several gems on the menu which were featured as part of New York City’s Restaurant Week Winter 2010. For the $35.00 Prix Fixe dinner we were able to choose an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert which represented a $40 discount off of their regular 3 course prix fixe menu.

For my appetizer I had the Lobster and Sweet Corn Bisque while Ethan had the Buttermilk Bibb Salad. Both were impeccable. The bisque was one of the best I’ve ever had and I’ve had a lot of lobster bisque. It was just the right consistency and flavour without being too runny and over spiced while the salad was fresh with real bacon bits. Not that I expected fake bacon bits at a Fairmont hotel but I always appreciate when I get real bacon bits. Ethan was especially impressed by the pickled red onion – again something original. While he is not as picky of an eater, I am definitely one of those annoying girls who asks for no onions, and things on the side. He convinced me to try the red onion – and it was divine! I had never tasted such good onions before, but that was probably because after the pickling they hardly tasted like onions.
For the entrée – which I must say is an English bastardization of the French word for appetizer to represent the main course (something I still don’t understand) – I ordered the Crisp Organic “Brick” Chicken and Ethan had the Garganelli. My brick chicken came with wild mushrooms, collard greens, sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi and chicken-sherry jus, while Ethan’s Garganelli came with lobster sausage and broccoli rabe. Both mains were nothing short of excellent. Ethan was very impressed by the lobster sausage which he said was not oily or greasy. Again this dish deserves kudos for originality since we both have never had lobster sausage before. My brick chicken was cooked so well that I was curious enough to ask the waitress how it was done. Good chicken is hard to do because I am usually unhappy with either how dry it is or how flavourless it is. This chicken was neither; the meat itself was extremely flavourful and juicy while the skin was perfectly crispy. Ethan who appreciates texture loved the contrast of the juicy chicken and crispy skin while I was left to wonder how it was possible to make such a juicy chicken without having an over-cooked piece of skin. The waitress explained to me that the chicken was first brined with various flavours and then broiled. I was very impressed. Wikipedia tells me that the process of brining something is now not as popular as it was historically, but I say let’s bring back the brining!!
Finally for dessert I ordered the Trio of Ice Creams and Ethan ordered the Raspberry Cheesecake. While I generally do not like dessert, I was very happy with my ice creams because they were in three small cones with three different flavours, just enough to not make me feel bloated. The ice cream came in coffee, vanilla and chocolate flavours and were each very distinct. I could taste the cocoa bean in the chocolate ice cream which was very light and creamy. This was unlike any other chocolate ice cream I’ve had because it was so light and I really enjoyed it because it was not like the over sugary chocolate ice creams at other places.

Overall I thought the Oak Room was excellent and especially so with the Restaurant Week prix fixe menu discount. The service staff were friendly and knowledgeable, the restaurant had an old world ambiance and grandeur and the food was original and thoughtful. After dinner Ethan and I took the subway home and went back to our normal lives as normal people. Even though being taken away on a pumpkin carriage might have been a more befitting mode of transportation, I knew that I was still luckier. Even real life princesses of the old couldn’t have possibly eaten as spectacularly as I did at the Oak Room.

The Oak Room @ The Plaza Hotel
10 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019

Oak Room (at the Plaza Hotel) on Urbanspoon


Fun and Fearless in Boston said...

It sounds like a wonderful meal. Don't you love how Restaurant Week can introduce us to new restaurants?

Anonymous said...

Sounds magical like Eloise

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