Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prix-Fixe Steals? Trata, 8/17/05 & Bamboo, 8/20/05

JB and I are supposed to be on a budget. We're newlyweds with a mortgage, a golf obsession (JB) and a Marc Jacobs problem (KLB). But we still have to eat. So we decided to give the whole prix-fixe deal a whirl.

Last Wednesday was a beautiful city summer night, not too hot with a breeze. The perfect night to eat outdoors. We were celebrating my new job, but had to keep the costs in mind. JB picked me up at work at 6 and we headed up 2nd Avenue looking for the perfect spot. I was thinking about something in the high 70s but we stopped at Trata just north of 70th.

I had always passed by Trata thinking it was too expensive, maybe a parents place. I'd heard nightmares of fish by the pound gone awry, so I had avoided it. But I remembered they had a prix-fixe. Actually, Trata's prix-fixe is from 5 to 7 so arriving just before 6:30 gave us plenty of time to linger over the menu.

We each had a glass of Greek wine, which is all they carry, and pondered the prix fixe, soup or salad; salmon, halibut, chicken or mahi-mahi; coffee and dessert. Not a bad deal for $19.95.
When we ordered our waiter said that it was too late for the prix-fixe. We reminded him that it was only 6:40 and ordered away. This happened again when we asked about dessert and he said that it was not included in the prix-fixe. We asked him to check and he came back to tell us that he was mistaken. He was nice about both errors, we just found it humorous, it was as if he really did not want us to get the prix-fixe. He was partially right.

The salad which we both had, was a plate of greens. We had at least thought it would be a Greek salad, but, nope, just lettuce. We asked for a little feta on the side which they brought out, and at no extra cost, to our great surprise.

The main course was fine. JB has the salmon and I had the mahi. The fish was OK and the grilled vegetables were tasty enough, but nothing wowed us. I've never liked salmon and after this meal, I may not like mahi-mahi either. It actually tasted like salmon. Maybe they cooked them together.

Our dessert was a walnut cake that did not look pretty but was actually delicious. And all in all we decided that for $19.95 a person, three courses and a sidewalk table on 2nd Avenue in the height of the summer, it was worth it.

Following our theme, we wound up in East Hampton on Saturday night at 6:30 looking for a similar deal. We had meant to go to Pacific East in Amagansett but their prix-fixe had already ended so we decided to try Bamboo instead. I had promised JB sushi after all.

Typically taking JB out for sushi is an expensive evening. He orders sushi for his appetizer, entree and dessert. You know how at a restaurant your server will ask you if want to hold on to the menu, well he always holds on to it and keeps on ordering. Meanwhile I am usually doing math in my head for each additional piece of toro.

The prix-fixe at Bamboo is more than Trata's at $25, but I think its even more worth it. There are plenty of appetizers and entrees to choose from. JB, staying the course, had a spicy tuna roll to start and a sashimi platter. I had the shrimp tempura as my first course and the chicken as my second. The chicken butterflied with the bone in a soy-heavy sauce with fried rice. I rarely order chicken with the bone, but this was pretty good. The shrimp tempura was the standout dish of the evening and huge, too. We ended the evening with coconut sorbet which was a great end to a great meal. Hamptons prix-fixe's really are no joke.

Bamboo was empty when we got there. We had our choice of seats in the bamboo garden so could enjoy the last hour of sunlight and our Sapporo. When we left, it was packed. JB did not want to leave when he saw the "talent" (as he calls it) lining up at the bar. I'm sure he'll want to go back next weekend.

So back to the title, Prix-fixe steals...I don't think they are a steal. Sure, if we added up the money for ordering all 3 items it equals a lot more than we paid for it, (JB's sashimi at Bamboo would have been $27 an hour later) but we may not have ordered so much food. I was pretty full after both meals. It is also is not so fun to head home when a restaurant is just starting to buzz. Nevertheless, I think we'll keep trying to find the perfect prix-fixe meal, its almost as much fun as not paying retail.

Until we eat again, KLB

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