Since it is restaurant week in New York City, thousands of restaurants, both up-and-coming and critically acclaimed, are being recommended by the press.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea (17 Barrow St, New York, NY 10014)

One if by Land, Two if by Sea was listed as one of the most romantic restaurants in the world by many critics in magazines such as Architectural Digest, Zagat, Thrillist, and The Culture Trip. My boyfriend and I decided to see for ourselves if One if by Land, Two if by Sea lives up to its label as one of the most romantic restaurants in New York City. It gets its name from Henry Wadsworth poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” in which he asks the American soldiers to light up lanterns to signal the directions in which the British Army will arrive, one if by land, and two if by sea.

As we walked in, I immediately saw why it was given said title. A live pianist played beautiful music on a grand piano in the beautiful dining room decorated with candle light and fresh flowers. At each table was another candle and more flowers.

We were seated by a window where we got to look out at the courtyard. Since it was still light outside, the sun lit up our table as we ate, and throughout our meal, it gradually became darker and cozier as the sun set. The candle at the center of the table and the dim lighting helps create a more personal space, as it almost made me forget that I am surrounded by four other tables and numerous waiters walking around within thirty feet of me.

There is a prix-fixe menu for $100 in which dessert and drinks are not included, but can be added on at an additional price. There is also a seven-course tasting menu available with a much more expanded menu to select from for $150 and an additional $75 for a wine pairing. An a la carte menu is also available. We opted for the $100 prix fixe menu, which includes three courses from a limited menu. For my appetizer, I ordered the scallops.

Pan Roasted Scallop with herb risotto, pickled ramps, and rose cider sabayon -- it is really easy to overcook scallops, giving it a rubbery, chewy texture. However, this was done just right, and the herb risotto really brought out its freshness.

My boyfriend and I were a bit disappointed that lobster was not an option for either the appetizers or the entrée, but our waiter explained to us that every dish is seasonal so that it tastes perfect and that lobster is not available for the summer menu.

He recommended the Beef Wellington, which is a favorite amongst customers, or the thirty-day aged strip steak, which is another menu item available only for the summer. I ended up choosing the Beef Wellington (medium rare) since I have read about how they manage to somehow prepare the pastry on top to be light and crisp, yet still buttery.

Beef Wellington with mushroom duxelles, seasonal vegetables, and beurre rouge -- a little bit disappointed that the pastry did not cover the steak fully. It was not as buttery or flaky as I expected. However, the steak underneath was perfectly medium rare.

For dessert, I ordered the chocolate soufflé.

A beautiful light and airy soufflé with a rich chocolate taste. The ice cream was nothing special. The crème anglaise was beautifully done, it had a great custard-ey but still pourable texture and it was not too sweet or too decadent.

Perhaps it was because of the increased business due to restaurant week or maybe I have been a bit spoiled by service from other restaurants recently, but the service at One if by Land was extremely lackluster for the price tag. Although we were seated immediately, our waiter took almost 10 minutes to service us and ask us what we wanted to order. After our appetizers arrived and we finished, we waited another 10 minutes before our plates were cleared.

This restaurant has a very romantic atmosphere and very well-made food and dessert, but given the price tag and the accolades that it has received in the past, I expected more attentive waiters and quicker service.

River Café (1 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201)

Aptly fitting its name, River Café is located right next to the Hudson River, offering a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline and the bridge. Opened in 1977, by the docks, this restaurant has accumulated many accolades, including a Michelin Star, a spot in the Restaurant Hall of Fame, The “Ivy Award of Distinction” from Restaurant and Institutions Magazine, a Distinguished Restaurants of North America Award (DiRoNA) award, and is selected by the French culinary guide, “Gault Millau,” as one of the five best restaurants in New York.

Since recently moving within walking distance from River Café, I have always wanted to try its renowned food, so when my boyfriend asked me if I had any brunch suggestions, I quickly made reservations here. The River Café offers brunch only on Sundays and its jacket-required dress code is a bit more casual. The brunch prix-fixe menu for $55 includes an appetizer and an entrée. We arrived about 10 minutes early, but was seated and had our orders taken immediately.

The views from our table were stunning. We sat next to the window which faced the river and the skyline. The interior was bright and summery, with many families and couples also having their Sunday brunch. I felt like I was on a cruise and on vacation, not having Sunday brunch with the dread of waking up for work on Monday morning.

For appetizers, I ordered the foie gras and my boyfriend ordered the duck egg, and for our entrees, I ordered the duck breast and he had the branzino. A few minutes later, we were given complimentary flutes of champagne and amuse-bouche from the chef. Not long after we finished the champagne and the amuse-bouche, our food arrived.
We ordered the famous chocolate Brooklyn Bridge with raspberry sorbet dessert and shared it, but we were given a complimentary dessert tasting plate – yes, more free stuff! (Our server was extremely polite and quick to give us napkins when he saw what a messy eater I was.)

Amuse-bouche – quail egg

Foie Gras Duet: classic pressed terrine of La Belle Farms, parfait with Hudson Valley Farm, cider, walnut and warm brioche. A classic melt in your mouth texture with great sauces to compliment the taste.

Crisp Duck Egg creamy spinach, duck foie gras sauce, and Sauternes pickled baby onion. My boyfriend loved that the yolk inside was still a little bit runny and not overdone. He thought the creamed spinach was a bit off-putting in texture though.

Duck Breast with crispy lavender and spice crusted skin,
tender braised red cabbage, and sweet potato spaetzle. Tender and juicy meat with the right amount of fat. The crisp skin really helped give the whole dish the right amount of texture.

Branzino crusted with shrimp and chorizo, grilled baby zucchini, romesco sauce, Spanish olive oil, and lemon. My boyfriend was surprised at the flakiness of the branzino and how the chef managed to incorporate the zucchini into the plate without making it soggy.

Dessert. No words needed, you can never go wrong with chocolate and raspberries!

All in all, brunch at River Café was spectacular. The restaurant deserved all the praise and accolades for its impeccable food and attentive service. I would definitely return to River Café at night for a cozier atmosphere, to try out its dinner menu, and to see the skyline at night.