I am generally not a fan of "restaurant weeks," which are theoretically a good deal but in my experience tend to offer 1)a prix fixe of the least interesting items on the menu at only a marginal discount (and if, like me, you generally are indifferent about and skip dessert, no discount at all) or 2)reduced portions of the least interesting items on the menu. But our friend Jessica R. was organizing a Restaurant Week outing and there were a couple good options (although I agree having it at a tavern sort of defeats the purpose.) So we decided to try the Brown Derby, which we had wanted to visit for a while but hadn't yet.
The meal was very good, and epitomized what Restaurant Week can be at its best. It was, first of all, a genuine bargain, a three-course meal that certainly didn't skimp on portion sizes for less than the usual price of the entrees alone. Even for those of us who can almost always take or leave the dessert, that's a good deal. But it's only a deal if the food comes through, and it did.
It's a nice space, with well-spaced tables and a several booths (one of which our party of 6 was seated in.) Ms. Garlic and I were seated immediately despite being 15 minutes early, a welcome touch that happens too seldom. They were a little slow to ask about a drink order, and one quibble I would have is that the beer list is uninspired. None of New York's excellent craft breweries -- Ommegang, Souther Tier, Middle Ages, Keegan, Davidson Brothers -- were represented, with Vermont's good-not-great Switcback being the only micorbrew along with the usual Stella-Sam Adams-Guiness-Coors Lite, yawn. So I had a (well-prepared) Maker's Manhattan. Ms. Garlic had a nice Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay. The wine list is better -- pretty good selection by the glass, and more intelligently selected wines below $30 and $40 for the bottle than a restaurant at this price point normally has.
I will admit that on paper the appetizers didn't blow me away, but sometimes limited options work, as every one was a winner. Although I'm normally not wild about the genre, something about the wedge salad struck me, and it turned out to be excellent:
Now I get why this is on the menu of every steakhouse in the world. The lettuce added a crisp texture, going nicely with bacon, surprisingly tasty tomatoes for the season, excellent blue cheese, some watercress providing nutritional value, all it a lightly applied, appealingly balanced vinaigrette. Ms. Garlic, along with two others, had a goat cheese fondue, served with Saratoga chips and very tasty:
For the entree, I had the roast half-chicken. As is often the case the white meat could have been moister, but otherwise it was very fine, very crisp skin with a herb crust and a lemon rosemary veloute setting off a tasty bird, accompanied by terrific mashed potatoes and a nice mix of corn and green beans:
Ms. Garlic had a Delomonico steak, that was properly cooked medium rare,well-marbled and tender, and a full cut notwithstanding the Restaurant Week special. It was crusted with blue cheese and came with the same sides as the chicken:
One of our friends gave a positive review to the diver scallops (pictured below). She loved the pickled shallot, which she said tasted like an onion ring.
The only disappointment was the vegetable risotto, which was
well-prepared in itself but didn't come with the roasted vegetable
assortment that the menu seemed to promise.
For dessert, there wasn't a choice, just a "lobster tail" cream puff from Villa Italia. I'm not the one to ask about sweets but it was fine, especially since it was effectively free.
Overall, it's a very good restaurant, and an outstanding deal at Restaurant Week prices. A pleasant surprise for a RW skeptic.