Post by guest writer: Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair Contributor, Will Friedwald
Restaurant week began for me at the Ribbon on West 44th Street. One of two venues with the same name (the other is off Central Park on West 72nd Street), the Ribbon is a roomy, comfy spot ensconced in the middle of the theater district. Reservations are highly recommended for the pre-theater hours, although it’s easier to get in more casually after the curtain goes up. It’s a very large and homey room, decorated like a library, with vintage books, photos of old Times Square (lots of WW2 era sailors and soldiers), ceramic animals, hummel figures (an old time mailman dealing with a pesky pooch) and various and assorted tchtotchkes.
We started with three appetizers so good that I ate them so quickly that I didn’t even have time to take pictures of them! There was a “Pumpkin Soup,” rich and creamy (it could have been called “cream of pumpkin” soup), sort of like a chowder, which incorporated carmelized apples and “balsamic reduction.” Next came an treviso and endive salad; I had to look up what a treviso is - I’m still not sure, but I can tell you it was yummy. Then, there was a plate of roast vegetables - normally that’s the most boring thing in the world, but these were delightfully spiced up with yogurt and an Indian spice that our server Alex identified as zatar.
Our entrees were something special indeed, starting with the “Half Amish Chicken.” Of course, normally roast chicken tends to be on the dry side, unless you spruce it up with gravy or sauce of some kind (especially barbecue sauce). This chicken, contrastingly, was juicy, succulent, and tender - we devoured the entire half a bird in no time flat.
Chef Martin (from Munich) recommended the other entree, the “Lobster and Shrimp Curry,” and we were glad he did. Lobster is the opposite of chicken - it tastes so good as it is, that to do anything to it would be to diminish its taste rather than enhance it. Yet Chef Martin actually found a way to achieve the near-impossible, to make lobster somehow taste better than it already does all by itself. Served in a bowl along with lots of yummy vegetables, not to mention generous amounts of shrimp, it was easy to understand why this is the most popular entree in the Restaurant week menu, especially when complimented by a muscatel picked out for us by Chef Martin.
Alexa also brought us two desserts, the “Mini Monkey Bread,” which was actually a tasty bread pudding with a sweet scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, and the “Chocolate Rocky Road,” a combination of chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and delightful little chunks of marshmallows and pecans. We ate way more dessert than we should have. (Quelle surprise!)
It was a lovely evening overall, with excellent service and ambience, and we can’t wait to go back again, before restaurant week is over, to get around to some other dishes we haven’t tried yet, though it will be hard to resist an encore of that Lobster and Shrimp curry.
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Playboy magazine and other publications (and reviews current shows for Citiview. He also is the author of nine books including the award-winning A Biographical Guide To The Great Jazz And Pop Singers, Sinatra: The Song Is You, Stardust Melodies, Tony Bennett: The Good Life, Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies, and Jazz Singing. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music. current books : The Great Jazz And Pop Vocal Albums (Pantheon Books / Random House, November 2017), Sinatra: The Song Is You! - New Revised Edition (Chicago Review Press, May 2018) and Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole (Oxford University Press, May 2020).