When the Conrad New York opened, I didn’t rush to try out its restaurant, Atrio—which my phone autocorrects to Atrioventricular, Strip, and Attic, depending on its mood—because I didn’t think non-guests were likely to go there (excluding expense-account diners from Goldman Sachs and the World Financial Center). The prices are high in the way that they often are at hotel restaurants—especially when the restaurant is part of the hotel—and the menu sounded like unremarkable upscale food, as if for people who were afraid that Floyd Cardoz’s cooking at North End Grill was too edgy.
And I’m not a fan of Restaurant Week, because I’ve been burned too many times by restaurants grudgingly pushing smaller quantities of dumbed-down food. But when I saw Atrio among the downtown restaurants offering a $24.07 lunch/dinner offer (except, in Atrio’s case, for Saturdays and for Sunday lunch), I figured it was time to wander over for lunch. Atrio’s Restaurant Week menu (PDF) looked pretty good; some of the dishes are even on the regular menu. And trying new restaurants is the point of Restaurant Week, right?
The room is unmemorable—curtains of glass beads along the windows offer the only sense of place. When I sat down, I realized that it’s uncomfortable, too. Most chairs are so low as to make a tall person feel like he’s sitting on a toilet (pardon the visual if you know me), and my two-top was a trapezoid, with the slanted edges facing the diner(s)—if you want your food to be close enough to eat, part of the table then has to be too close, as does one of the table’s legs. I should’ve moved to the bar.
To my server’s credit, he offered me both the regular menu and the Restaurant Week menu when I sat down. To his discredit, he was absent for long periods—is Bloomberg limiting the amount of water I can drink, too? Was he annoyed that I ordered the cheap option? Was he put off by my relatively casual dress? (In 95-degree weather, West Street as hot as a river of fire, I’m wearing shorts and that’s all there is to it.)
But the food was delicious, and at $24.07, I can’t really justify complaining about any of that. You get good bread with a tasty olive tapenade drenched in olive oil that’s infused with red pepper flakes. I ordered the “Maplebrook Farms burrata with charred scallion pesto, confit tomatoes, basil seedlings,” and if the burrata wasn’t as creamy as I’d like, it was still more than acceptable; also, it came with nicely grilled bread. For an entrée, I had the “Mediterranean Bronzino [sic] with roasted Brussel [sic] sprouts, parsnip puree, and pine nut brown butter.” The restaurant’s website says the food is seasonal, but that’s winter food, for sure; still, it was absolutely fine. The chocolate panna cotta with Marcona almonds and Amarena cherries was served in a little glass, making it taste even more like milk-chocolate pudding, but there is nothing at all wrong with that.
Were the portions small? Not in the case of the burrata or the panna cotta, and yes in the case of the branzino, a thin filet with a smear of parsnip puree and what might have been a lone Brussels sprout torn into individual leaves. But I left stuffed. And my meal cost less than half what it would have if I had ordered à la carte (around $55—the burrata dish is $18 for lunch; the branzino is $29; the panna cotta isn’t priced but I think we can assume it’s at least $8). As anyone who has ever shopped at Century 21 knows, however, the original price isn’t really relevant—what matters is how much the object in question is worth to you. Would I pay $10 for the fish? $8 for the burrata? $6 for the dessert? Hell, yeah!
Restaurant Week runs through August 10.
Atrio is inside the Conrad New York, 102 North End Ave., 212-945-0100; conradnewyork.com/about-the-hotel/dining-bars.