I tried New York City's restaurant week for the first time -- and our $100 meal wasn't a great deal

FullSizeRender (15)Kathleen ElkinsPart one of our three-course meal.

It’s restaurant week in New York City, which means over 300 restaurants are offering three-course dining deals — $US25 for lunch and $US38 for dinner — through August 14.

While an exciting prospect on the surface, I wondered how great of a deal it actually was, or if it was even a deal at all, once you crunched the numbers.

I decided to try it out myself.

My first stop was Barraca, a Zagat-rated Spanish restaurant in the West Village known for having on-point sangria, a good variety of tapas, and an enjoyable lineup up of paella.

Of course, my experience is limited to a single restaurant so far, and therefore isn’t representative of every restaurant week offer.

I took a friend along, meaning we had $US76, between the two of us, to enjoy. Here’s how it went:

We booked our restaurant only a day in advance.

Kathleen Elkins
Barraca, in the West Village.

I booked a table for Wednesday night at 7 p.m. through nycgo.com, which makes it very easy to make reservations at participating restaurant week spots.

The ambiance was just as charming as its location on Greenwich Avenue -- it has a lovely outdoor patio and a spacious, open interior with a rustic feel to it.

The menu was simplified, but still offered a solid variety.

Kathleen Elkins
The restaurant week menu.

We had the option of ordering off the more extensive, regular menu, but settled on the three-course, $US38 restaurant week package, which included one tapa, one paella, and one postre (dessert). You also have the option of pairing wine for an additional $US16 -- three small glasses, one for each course -- which we opted out of.

By choosing the restaurant week menu, we were missing out on meat and cheese platters, a few seasonal tapas, a couple paellas, and a few desserts (most notably, the churros).

The simplified menu did include mostly items off the regular menu. Some restaurant week menus have dishes that are not normally on the regular menu, making it difficult to compare costs.

The only item that I couldn't find on the regular menu was the 'flan de café,' and I confirmed with the restaurant afterwards that it was special for restaurant week.

Tapa 1: 'Tortilla de Patatas'

Kathleen Elkins
Tortilla de patatas.

We started with an order of the 'tortilla de patatas' -- a Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions -- which is normally priced at $US12.

Tapa 2: 'Croquetas de Jamón'

Kathleen Elkins
Croquetas de jamón.

For our second tapa, we settled on the 'croquetas de jamón' -- crispy Serrano ham croquettes -- which are normally priced at $US10.

Had we tried to squeeze out the best possible value, we could have ordered the $US13 'gambas al ajillo,' the priciest choice on the tapas menu.

So far, we had selected dishes that would regularly be priced at a total of $US22, meaning we had to order at least $US54 of paella and dessert for this meal to reach $US76 and be any sort of deal.

'Paella Valenciana' and 'Paella Mariscos'

Kathleen Elkins

For our main course, we chose the paella valenciana -- with chicken, rabbit, garrofón, pork ribs, string beans, and snails -- and the paella mariscos, with shrimp, calamari, cuttlefish, monkfish, string beans, clams, and mussels.

If you're ordering paella off the regular menu, you have to order for two people. We did a good job of maxing out our value with the paella, as they were the two priciest options (valenciana is $US26 per person and mariscos is $US25 per person).

I assume the portion size we got is equivalent to what you would get from the regular menu, but it's difficult to know for sure.

Now, our meal was valued at $US73, meaning we only had to spend $US3 on dessert to break even.

Postre 1: 'Chocolate con Pasión'

Kathleen Elkins
Chocolate con pasión.

There were two options on the dessert menu, so we went with one of each. The 'chocolate con pasión' -- a chocolate mousse with passion fruit and chocolate crumble -- is normally $US9, putting the total sum of our meal at $US82.

Postre 2: 'Carajillo'

Kathleen Elkins
Flan de café.

Dessert number two, a flan de café with chocolate crumble and cream, is not on the regular menu, but we'll value it at $US9 like the mousse.

The flan would then have put us at $US91 worth of food, meaning we only saved $US15 total -- or $US7.50 each.

Until next time, Barraca.

Kathleen Elkins

At the end of the day, the meal and service were both great, but we didn't save as much money as I hoped.

Rather than dropping $US50 and saving a couple of bucks on a three-course meal, I'd rather just go for a few of my favourites tapas and spend about half as much.

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