Ordering from (way) off the menu
Craig Hopson, chef at Le Cirque, reluctantly admits that Pasta Primavera, a concoction supposedly invented at the restaurant, is available upon request.
Diners at Trattoria Cinque can order a classic homestyle Lasagna. Chef Marco Canora talks about the excellent cheese that goes in the Cacio e Pepe at Insieme restaurant. But neither of these dishes are on the menu.Many savvy diners are catching on that the menu is only part of what a restaurant can offer, and you don’t have to be a BFF of the chef or restaurant owner to get something different. For those wishing to get in on the secret, here is a guide to some of NYC’s off-the-menu items.
These dishes are available pretty much all the time, even though they are nowhere to be found on the menu. All one needs to do is ask. What you pay may depend on how the ingredient’s availability.
31 W. 17th St.
Chef George Mendes will make a Bacalahau a bras ($19), a rustic scrambled egg dish with salted cod and crispy potatoes folded over olives and coriander, if asked. Aretsky’s Patroon
160 E. 46th St.,
Items like Lobster Club Sandwich ($32), Kobe Hot Dog (price depending on availability), Deviled Eggs ($17) and Scrambled Eggs (Price depending on added ingredients) can be had upon request. Braeburn Restaurant
117 Perry St.,
Chef Brian Bistrong cooks a steak dish with fries ($28) on request. Fatty Crab UWS
Three items are available on request at the Upper West Side location: Crispy Fried Pig Face w/ pickled sambal, sunny side egg, Chinese celery and cured lemon ($16); "Ode to Fatty Cue" - Heritage's pork ribs, smoked palm sugar, herbs, chili and ginger ($16) and Curried New Zealand Mussels w/ Vietnamese mint and brisket floss ($16). Insieme Restaurant
777 7th Ave.,
The restaurant’s access to great cheese makes it an easy feat to satisfy requests for simple pasta dishes like Cacio e Pepe (pasta with cheese and peppers, price available on request) The Red Cat
227 Tenth Ave.
Bacon tempura ($11), while not on the menu, is a cult classic among regulars of this Chelsea restaurant.
175 Avenue B,
Those who crave Pasta Carbonara ($14) can always request it at this East Village restaurant. Table 8
25 Cooper Sq.,
Chef Govind Armstrong offers a salt-roasted Porterhouse (price depends on the weight) for two by request and served tableside.
363 Greenwich St.,
A classic signature lasagna ($18) is available by request at this new TriBeCa eatery. Vai Restaurant
255 West 77th St.,
Diners in the know ask for the Mascarpone Risotto with Shaved Prosciutto ($18).
Sometimes knowing what ingredients are in season can help you get that dish that no one else has. Many chefs get their creative juices flowing when inspired by beautiful seasonal ingredients. Andre (inside Opia Restaurant)
130 East 57th St.,
During the summer season, vegetarians can request a Vegetable Melange of marinated black prince tomatoes, local sugar snap peas, summer squash and sweet pea risotto (price depends on season). Diners are encouraged to check for other off-the-menu items.
264 Elizabeth St.,
Chef Ian Topper-Kapitan offers guests a seasonal off-the-menu grilled watermelon snack ($13) which skewers watermelon cubes with Serrano ham and truffle oil.
At these restaurants, the chefs are happy to create any dish that suits the diner’s fancy within reason. However, diners are advised to give the restaurant kitchen ample warning when asking for items off-the-menu. Those with expensive tastes may want to remember that the price of dinner in this case depends on what and how many courses the palate fancies. Allegretti Restaurant
46 W. 22nd St.,
As long as it’s Provence related and the ingredients are available, Chef Alain Allegretti can accommodate any dining desires. Aureole
135 W. 42nd St.,
Chef Christopher Lee recently created an entirely vegan menu for actor Toby Maguire. Gramercy Tavern
42 E. 20th St.,
“We do this sort of thing on a daily basis based our guest's requests,” said Michael Anthony, chef at Gramercy Tavern. Yerba Buena
23 Ave. A, NYC
“I love cooking on the spot,” says Julian Medina, chef at Yerba Buena. Pretty much any Latin based dishes can be had as long as the ingredients are available. Examples are huitlacoche enchiladas with tomatillo salsa and Mexican ricotta and huitlacoche corn cakes with chorizo and corn.
If you bring it, we’ll cook it
Sometimes diners will bring ingredients and ask the chefs to cook them.
Kerry Hefernan, chef at South Gate once received a request for a classic Coquille St. Jacque, a French creamy scallop dish. He told the customer that if he brings him the freshest scallops, he would make it. The customer ended up bringing scallops caught off the coast of Long Island. The story is not that uncommon. “Customers bring in game and meat all the time and ask us to cook it,” said Christopher Lee of Aureole. Those wishing to try this may want to check with their favorite restaurant, it may be against food safety codes in some instances to cook meats not purchased by the restaurant. Decidedly On the Menu
Just as many restaurants offer Off-the-Menu items, many other restaurants will only offer what is ON the menu. On a recent trip to Babbo in the West Village, a diner was overheard telling his server that his pasta was undercooked. Hearing that, a woman nearby asked if her pasta could be cooked to more tenderness. The answer from the server was an unequivocal “no”. The kitchen has a guideline to how things are cooked, and they do not waver from the guideline. Judging from that exchange, it would be apparent that diners looking for off-the-menu items may have to look somewhere other than Babbo.