January 24, 2010

Restaurant Week: Nice Matin

Sole Almondine from Nice Matin

Crème Brulée from Nice Matin

I've walked past Nice Matin over a hundred times and have always wondered, "why is it so busy?" B and I decided to investigate as to why this neighborhood French bistro was so hot when the world around it was cold. 

The large dining room was focused around two iconic ivory columns that glowed with dimly-lit carnival carousel lights. Chic fashion sketches adorned the walls and the booths were trimmed with thick burgundy leather. This buzz-inducing, casual-elegant atmosphere reminded me of the bistros that I had once dined at in Nice.

It was the beginning of Restaurant Week and Nice Matin offered a special $35 prix fixe menu for a three-course meal on top of their normal $35 prix fixe dinner menu. To conduct a (competitive) comparison, I ordered from the Restaurant Week menu while B ordered from the regular prix fixe. Here's how the battle went down:

Round One: The Appetizer
Restaurant Week (3 choices): Sauteed Bay Scallops served in a light tomato broth with provencal vegetables, arugula & basil - the mini scallops were virtually hidden behind the arugula and the taste fully disappeared underneath the flavorful broth.

Regular Prix Fixe (5 choices): Crispy Calamari with jicama, gala apples, radish sprouts & lime - the thin-cut calamari and acidic crunch made this otherwise heavy appetizer feel light.

Winner: Crispy Calamari

Round Two: The Entree
Restaurant Week (3 choices): Sole "Almondine" baked with an almond crust, julienne vegetables & champagne beurre blanc - the Sole was a bit dryer than what I usually prefer and the flavors were very subtle, perhaps less baking and more butter would have made it better.

Regular Prix Fixe (6 choices): Hangar Steak au Poivre with braised spinach & fried onion rings - the meat was absolutely amazing: tender and bursting with flavor.

Winner: Hangar Steak au Poivre

Round Three: The Dessert
Restaurant Week (11 choices, anything from regular dessert menu): Vanilla Creme Brulee with mixed berries - creamy, softly sweet, and perfectly caramelized (blow torched) surface.

Regular Prix Fixe (5 choices): Trio of fruit-flavored sorbets - Champagne grapefruit was a bit too sour and bitter, but the pear and blood orange was delightful.

Winner: Vanilla Creme Brulee

So in conclusion, Nice Matin is a wonderful place to dine with a date or with a few friends. However, their regular prix fixe menu outshines their Restaurant Week selects, so book your RW adventures elsewhere and save this one for a rainy day.


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