In this solo dining adventure, Gary takes advantage of New York City’s Winter Restaurant Week to visit SD26, a restaurant he otherwise might not have thought to try.

Top left – bar room. Top right – wines. Bottom left – our table. Bottom right – chef’s station.

Twice a year for two weeks (though usually extended beyond those two weeks), NYC & Company sponsors Restaurant Week where restaurants serve prix fixe lunches and/or dinners. Some places on the list are lame for a number of reasons – poor quality, prix fixe menu that’s normally available – but there are usually a number of gems that make the event worthwhile. I’d previously seen SD26’s “Uovo in Raviolo” in a Serious Eats feature but had completely forgotten about it until SD26 was mentioned among RW newcomers. Suddenly, a “eureka!” moment occurred where I recalled the raviolo and I convinced my friend Susan that we had to do this for a Restaurant Week lunch.

Uovo in Raviolo with Truffled Butter.

Let’s get down to business – the aforementioned Uovo in Raviolo. It’s a raviolo filled with creamy ricotta cheese and a soft egg yolk and, as though that didn’t seem rich enough, it’s drenched in browned truffle butter. Cutting into it with my fork sent the egg yolk flowing out like a flow of lava, mixing with the truffled butter to add yet another layer of flavor to this dish. This is everything it’s been said to be. It’s a tasty, decadent, sexy dish that nothing in the remainder of this meal could match.

Top left – bread. Top right – tuna lightly seared in guaciale, puntarelle salad. Bottom left – moka bar. Bottom right – panna cotta, balsamic vinegar reduction, strawberries.

My dining companion had the tuna appetizer which consisted of three fairly thick slices of lightly seared tuna and a salad. A nice, well-executed dish but hardly anything worth praising. What is worthy of praise is their breads, especially the one that comes in rectangular slices. It’s baked until it’s crunchy, and then brushed with olive oil before being sprinkled with a healthy amount of salt (even you would think it was salty, Kate).

Chitarra SD26, Tomato and Basil Sauce.

For the entree, I went with the Chitarra SD26 because it was a pasta dish and it seemed to make sense to get pasta seeing as this was an Italian restaurant. The fresh pasta tasted good but it was very al dente, more so than I like it and I like my pasta al dente. The salty tomato sauce definitely got a boost from the fresh basil leaves sitting atop the dish. My friend got the Guinea hen which I took a bite of and was immediately jealous. The meat was moist and the skin was crispy perfection. I liked the leeks on the side but the chestnut just tasted awful, almost like it was drenched in wine and it hadn’t been cooked off nearly enough.

Pan Roasted Guinea Hen, Chestnuts and Leeks

Finally, for dessert we went with the panna cotta and the moka bar. The panna cotta was great in that it, in the immortal words of Top Chef Masters judge Jay Raynor, wobbled “like a woman’s breasts.” It didn’t hurt that it tasted great too, what with the cream and its hints of vanilla. The moka bar, a crunchy thin chocolate cake topped by a chocolate ganache, was merely good.

Final Thoughts

All in all, it was a good meal with nothing really to detract from it but with nothing (uovo raviolo aside) to tip it to great. For a Restaurant Week meal, it’s a definite bargain for what you get – the Uovo in Raviolo dish alone normally goes for $23. Would I go out of my way to come here again? Definitely not.

A note on the service: waiters were generally attentive and never rushed us through our meal. At times, though, they tended to be too slow, especially when it came time for the check. It took a while to get the check, then to take our credit cards, and then to hand the cards and check back to us for us to sign. Not a problem for me since I had nowhere to be but my friend was rushing to get back to the office, something I would imagine isn’t an uncommon occurrence for a lunchtime spot in this part of Manhattan.

SD26. 19 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010. [Show/Hide Map] (212) 265-5959.

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