Betel
51 Grove Street, West Village

I have eaten dinner at 4pm with the blue-haired crowd in Florida and I can’t really recommend it. A much more exciting early bird special is at Betel, a Malaysian restaurant in the West Village that offers an 8 course menu between 5:30 and 7:30 for only $35! Yeah, it is a pretty ridiculous deal. Of course we had a couple of drinks at the bar, catching up with our friend Joanna, which added another $14 each to our bill, but the stormy mule and ginger mojito were well worth it.

The food was very good as well. We toured flavors of Asia, starting with a West Coast oyster in cilantro and fried shallots and ending with tender wagyu beef, the unanimous choice for tastiest course. The dessert was fried banana, which had a thick batter. My only complaint about the menu was that almost all the courses had similar flavor profiles of mint and cilantro. I am no authority on Malaysian cuisine, but they might want to mix it up more, considering it is 8 courses, plus mint in the mojitos.

But, overall, it is a fun experience that works well for a date in a trendy setting, with open windows out to Grove Street. While the 25 Zagat food rating might be slightly high, you won’t find a more exciting 8 course deal for that price anywhere else. Plus, there was not a blue hair in sight.

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