Cassis on Stone

I love New

York Restaurant Week: just last week I had an absolutely stunning lunch

at Aureole, with fantastic wines and great service, for a fraction of what such

an experience would normally cost me. Unfortunately, NYRW has spoiled me somewhat:

if a restaurant is offering a special deal, I now expect something special.

And when things go wrong, I get angry.

Take, for instance, the latest attempt to bring some of NYRW’s buzz to the

Financial District. The Downtown Alliance, along with various downtown corporate

and quasi-statal sponsors, has come up with something called the River

to River Festival: lots of fun for all the family this summer, with everything

happening south of Chambers. You should check out the website, especially if

you live nearby: there’s an enormous number of free events, some of them extremely


Downtown restaurants, of course, want in on the action as well, so they’ve

copied NYRW’s pricing and implemented something called Meals to Music (PDF here), running

from July 9-23. There are 28 restaurants involved, and they will each serve

you a $20 prix-fixe lunch or $30 prix-fixe dinner if you pay with your American

Express card.

It seems quite impressive, until you realise that at some of the participating

restaurants, like Seaport tourist traps Sequoia and Red, you’d be hard-pressed

to spend $30 on the food at dinner at the best of times. Still, there are some

pretty high-end restaurants on the list, like Battery Gardens (great views of

the Statue of Liberty) and 14 Wall Street (great views of, well, pretty much


I’d heard some good things about Cassis on Stone, another restaurant on the

list, and decided to check it out. Better yet, its listing

on the River to River website said that if I went on a Saturday, I’d get an

even better deal:

Saturdays prix-fixe dinner for $22.50. Three courses, menus change weekly.

Saturdays, from June 5 through August 30, 5–10pm.

We had guests in town, and the guests had friends, and in the end six of us

ended up schlepping down to Stone Street to take advantage of this offer. But

when we got there, not only was there no $22.50 prix-fixe in sight: there wasn’t

even the standard Meals to Music $30 prix-fixe, either. It was a la carte or

nothing, we were informed in a none-too-friendly manner by our waiter. Oh, and

this was the first Saturday that the restaurant had even been open this summer:

if you’d turned up any time in June, say, for this special offer, you’d have

found Cassis on Stone shuttered.

Eventually, after an extremely long absence, our waiter returned with good

news – there was a $22.50 prix fixe, after all! Just order one of the

two cheapest starters on the menu (normally $6.50), and one of the two cheapest

mains (normally $16), and they’d charge us only $22.50 in total. Hell, they’d

even throw in a sorbet for dessert.

Needless to say, the prospect of getting $22.50-worth of food for the special

bargain price of just $22.50 excited me enormously, so I ordered a green salad

and a chicken ravioli. The former was small and tasteless; the latter was stolid

and gelatinous. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that service was

painfully slow: despite the fact that only a handful tables – all outdoors

– were occupied, our waiter was usually nowhere to be seen. It’s conceivable that the

ravioli was wonderful when it left the kitchen, and simply congealed on its

long journey to my table. I doubt it, though: I think that the very idea of

chicken ravioli is just fundamentally misconceived.

After the main courses were cleared away, there was a very long wait, and eventually

our waiter appeared just long enough for us to ask him where the sorbets were.

Another long wait, and they did eventually appear; some of them were even eaten.

By this point, we basically just wanted to pay and leave; the total, between

six of us, came to $330 including tax and an absurdly generous 16% tip. Not

a hugely expensive dinner, to be sure, but none of us felt we’d got anywhere

near our money’s worth. The night before, I’d had a wonderful meal for two at

Danube which cost more or less the same amount, and was one of the greatest

dining experiences of my life. There’s simply no way that three meals at Cassis

on Stone could ever approach the fabulousness of just one at Danube.

Maybe that’s an invidious comparison. But the broader point still stands: in

an attempt to bring some kind of life to Wall Street at weekends and after dark,

the restaurants there – Cassis on Stone, at least – are essentially

engaging in false advertising and bait-and-switch promotional tactics. After

all, if you turn up there at 8:00 on a Saturday night, there’s not much in the

way of local alternatives for you to go to once you’re told that the special

offers you went for don’t exist.

More generally, I think it’s worth taking all restaurant "special offers"

with a large pinch of the salt which Cassis on Stone never even saw fit to provide

on our table. If you know the restaurant and are taking part in NYRW specifically,

you can get a genuine bargain. Otherwise, you’re just as likely to get a rip-off

masquerading as a promotion.

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3 Responses to Cassis on Stone

  1. Gherimiah says:

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience. Most Stone Street restaurants are best put on company card as the price for a pleasant place to dine outside isn’t in line with the menu. Regardless, it’s at least better than the Seaport offerings.

    I’ve got mixed feelings regarding Restaurant Week in general. The menu is limited and I often feel like a second class patron. My girlfriend drew the same conclusion recently at Le Cirque after a less than warm reception from the hostess. Plus the prix fixe doubled with some drink and dessert additions.

    Then again it’s still better than tuna on rye at my desk. If you have a chance, try Delmonicos. It’s expensive, but Oysters Rockefeller don’t just invent themselves you know.

  2. Michelle says:

    There IS something fundamentally wrong with chicken ravioli.

  3. Keely Lammy says:

    Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.

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