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Does restaurant week food suck or just Aquitaine's

I went to Aquitaine for dinner last night and was disappointed. My husband had been there once for lunch and loved it that one time, but after this dinner it just felt like a badly spent $100.

I had:
- boring, under-dressed salad with tiny bit of goat cheese in it
- Duck that was fine, with actually tasty sides of parsnip puree and parsley salad
- decent, but boring chocolate mousse (no choice of dessert).

So before I try to get a reservation for Rialto next week, do restaurants give you what you pay for on the cheapo restaurant week menu or is it always like that at Aquitaine?

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  1. This is a much discussed topic on this board. I have sworn off restaurant week this year because I don't think I ever get the quality of food or service that I would get any other time of the year. I am focusing either on spots that are not participating or those that I can just order off the regular menu.

    1. Did Rialto this week and it was pretty disappointing. I'm convinced, after several RW dinners over the past year, that restaurants fall into two camps: They either skimp on service/food or rush and try to flip tables (Teatro last year) quickly to maximize $$$.

      Rialto was tasty, but disappointing:

      - Busy and hardly attentive service. Although I was impressed when someone came out of the kitchen to confirm that an ingredient was not in a dish (nut allergy). Saw our server maybe twice.

      - Menu was decent and varied slightly from usual menu. A soup for example was similar, except for no lobster.

      - Entrees seemed small overall. Smaller than usual (and we're not big portion eaters). A pork tenderloin dish featured two small pieces sliced deli-thin. And arrived lukewarm.

      Was a nice excuse to go out with friends, but we don't really need an excuse. We'll be skipping RW in the future.

      1. I concur. It's very disappointing. Restaurants should use this week to showcase their talents to what could become regular diners. Instead, they turn tables as quickly as they can and serve overcooked molten chocolate cakes that are more like brownies (what? me bitter?).

        I have also sworn off RW after mediocre and boring meals at Olives, Upstairs on the Square, and some other place I can't remember.

        Aquitaine has always been very good; I used to live nearby and have had dinners and brunch there. So my guess is it's a RW thing that your meal wasn't amazing. And I'm surprised there was no choice in dessert.

        1. I had a disappointing meal last RW at B&G Oysters but went to OM the other night and found its RW menu pretty delicious. I had Okinawa ravioli, which were sweet yam paste in really pretty raviolis (looked sort of shumai-like) and duck with a sort of Moroccan rub and it had this impossibly cute tiny cast iron skillet with a tiny bisteeva in it. The vanilla creme brulee tasted more like vanilla pudding to me, but the tiny cornmeal/hazelnut biscotti with it were quite tasty.

          1. Aquitaine was the first place we tried for RW years ago...can't remember what we had, but we had the same impression and haven't gone near it since :-)

            1. I like to use RW to try new restaurants and was happy with my experience last night at The Blue Room and will return.

              Though I wasn't crazy about all the food, I found the portions reasonable, the service outstanding and the wine pairings excellent.

              They served an amuse bouche of a chilled cauliflower soup with cumin-flavored oil.

              Both first-course choices were excellent -- heirloom tomato salad with corn vinaigrette and a green gazpacho with poached shrimp.

              My entree was bluefish with avocado, corn and bacon. The bluefish was perfectly prepared, but I found the sauce, which resembled the dressing for a warm spinach salad, too vinagery. Also some of the avocado slices were underripe.

              I sampled the other entree, a hangar steak served with kimchee and brown rice and found it very tasty.

              The desserts were only okay. The blueberry cake (buckle) was fine but the chamomile creme anglaise was in such a small drizzle around the edge of the plate that I could barely taste it. The other dessert, a peach fool, was a line of fresh peach slices covered with a peach whipped cream. Like the avocados, some of the peaches weren't perfectly ripe. I think if you are bold enough to serve such a simple dessert the fruit has to be able to stand alone. Combining the two desserts on one plate might have been perfect!

              1. I had a great experience at Upstairs on the Square - in the Zebra Room. They are offering the RW prix fixe menu from the beginning of August to Labor Day weekend. After dinner, my friend and I were full, and we can eat!

                For the first course, the chilled Gazpacho soup was served in a large bowl which was excellent and very tasty; my fiend had the Smoked Salmon and there were tons of layers of salmon. I was so surprised we were given so much food!

                For the Second Course I had the Halibut entree arrived grilled and hot, perched on top of bright seasonal vegetables - cherry red and yellow tomatoes, corn kernels, and wax beans drizzled with a tasty avocado & provencal vinaigrette. My friend had the homemade Gnocchi in a mushroom and pesto sauce served
                with crunchy slices of summer squash and zucchini. The portion sizes of these dishes were satisfying and delicious.

                Sliced fresh french bread with a pesto sauce was served with dinner. For dessert, The Peach Tart was a fresh flaky dessert with candied almonds, served with creme fraiche with a hint of honey. My companion chose the Chocolate Panna Cotta served with berries and vanilla sable cookies, allin a port berry sauce. Both desserts were exceptionally fresh and
                divine. And to top off the evening, our attentive waitress presented us with complimentary glasses of Prosecco

                Upstairs definitely worth to go during RW!!

                1. Seems like it depends on the place. I've only been to a couple of places for RW, but had a good overall experience. Grotto opened their whole menu, so if you like the food there, you won't be disappointed. We never felt rushed, but they do ask you to choose the whole meal up front. We were served bread with very good olive oil and even given seconds without asking.

                  My other experience at Taranta was also very good. The waitstaff seemed to be going 100mph, but still kept a very upbeat, positive attitude and took some time to talk to us about the menu. The options were nice and the portions were fine.

                  I'd go back to any of there places during normal operation (and have) because of the experience. I'm going to Olives next week (I was invited), so we will see how that goes. I never expect lobster and foi gras for a $30 meal, but I do expect to see the potential of the kitchen and the waitstaff. A lousy meal with lousy service puts a bad taste in my mouth and says the place is just trying to turn a quick buck.

                  1. My boyfriend and I did the RW lunch at Aquitaine today, and I agree that the portions looked really dismal. I opted to just order off the regular menu since I was craving onion soup, but the bf did the RW menu. The vichysoisse (sp?) was equal to a tiny cup, though we both found it to be tasty. I did spy the other appetizer option at another table, the goat cheese frisee salad, and the plate looked like it had ten pieces of greenery at most. Obviously lunch servings will be smaller, but that seemed ridiculous. The bf's steak frites, while delicious, was also on the small side.

                    I agree that RW is a bad time to try a restaurant for the first time, though I know all about how it can just leave a bad taste in your mouth. I tried the Beacon Hill Bistro during RW several years back, and still refuse to return! It's unfortunate, because you'd *think* that restaurants would use this opportunity to impress first-time diners.

                    1. See my earlier post today. It's too bad; I really wanted to like Aquitaine. Why would a resto participate if they were not out to lure new customers? I imagine I'll give it another shot, just not during RW.

                      1. There's a thread from Wednesday filled with nothing but raves for Sage's RW offerings, so I assume it's really just a matter of how seriously the restaurant in question takes Restaurant Week. Some apparently are slumming, but Sage was definitely playing its A game.

                        1. i have had very good experiance, at both the beacon hill bistro and icarus for rw week(although icarus's cocktail menu sucks, but that's for another disscusion)

                          1. You might want to try caffe umbra for RW - 7 apps and 5 entrees to choose from - no limitations...

                            1. Went for RW -- not the best experience...

                              Chilled Corn Soup

                              The chilled sweet corn soup was a refreshing summer treat. While not as good as Lumiere's hot corn soup, this one ranks a clear second. Served cold with a roasted poblano pepper and corn relish, the soup had that added spice to it that, with the sweetness of the corn, provided a nice contrast in flavor. It was served in a white ceramic crock and was well-presented.

                              Salt Cod Croquette

                              The salt cod croquette was a creative and interesting starter. The salt cod, melded into an oblong, oval-shaped croquette was battered and fried, producing a well-seasoned croquette. The one criticism -- the croquette could have been less thick, allowing for each bite to incorporate the crunch of the batter on each side of the flaky cod center. As it was, thick and oval, each bite only allowed for one side of the battered cod portion to be tasted at a time, taking away from the crunchy/flaky combination that is so vital to the dish. The croquette was served with a tangy and tasty Sauce Roullie and lettuce with a chardonnay vinaigrette.


                              Pan Roasted Striped Bass

                              All three of us at our table ordered the pan roasted striped bass. Sadly, while one of us was served a properly cooked piece of bass, the other two of us were served undercooked pieces of fish, raw in the center. While it is common for tuna to be seared, the bass should have been cooked through. When we contacted our waiter to inquire about our undercooked fish, he first looked at us puzzled and then admitted that, yes, both pieces were woefully undercooked and robotically mumbled some words of apology. Our two pieces of bass headed back to the kitchen and we were left watching our other dining companion eat her fish. Not only were we unable to enjoy our meal together as we should have, but while we sat for between 25-30 minutes waiting for our properly cooked bass, we watched plate after plate of bass pass us by headed to other tables. To add insult to injury, the manager did not come and apologize to us and our waiter made no effort to expedite our meals so that we could enjoy dining together. When our dining partner was practically through with her dinner, our bass arrived properly cooked. It was served with local green and yellow wax beans and tomatoes and a pistou vinaigrette. While tasty given the tang of the pistou vinaigrette and the fresh vegetables, the dining experience was marred by the poorly executd dish and the even poorer service given how it was handled. Although the menu stated that the fish was served with toasted almonds, I could find none in my dish.


                              Kir Royale

                              The Kir Royale, a champagne gelee, strawberry compote and cassis sorbet was just passable. The dessert, overall, could have been served colder. The gelee had a strange consistency -- somewhere between gelatin and shaved ice. The gelee tasted clearly like champagne and was too strong of a taste unless paired with the strawberry compote in the center. Between the three of us, we could only handle a few tastes before putting our spoons down having had enough. If you had to choose, I would skip this as a dessert option.

                              Honey Roasted Plum & Brown Butter Tart with Lavendar & Honey Ice Cream

                              The honey roasted plum and brown butter tart had the crisp consistency of a shortbread cookie. It was dotted with plum pieces throughout the crisp, cookie-like tart. I expected something more moist, with sliced plums, so the dessert in no way matched my expectations. The lavendar and honey ice cream did not have a strong taste. In fact, if someone had told me it was vanilla ice cream, I would have believed them. The honey and lavendar flavors were indistinguishable. Of the two of us that ordered this dessert, we only had a few bites. It was not delectable enough to keep us going back for more.


                              I usually do not include a section on service, but after our entree debacle, I decided, after we asked for our check, to speak to the manager. I informed Tina, the manger, of how disappointed I was at Aquitaine, having heard such great things about the restaurant from so many people. I explained how our fish had been undercooked to the point of being raw in the center and how, not only did no one apologize to us (the waiter attempted a few mumbled words, but it was so expressionless and mumbled, that it was not at all reassuring), but more importantly, several fish dishes went out to other tables before we ever received our fish. Tina, handled my comments with professionalism and grace, profusely apologizing. She then credited our check for the two meals that had been ruined and gave me her card with her name and number, urging me to return to the restaurant, calling her first so that she could ensure a wonderful dining experience.
                              ~Inspired Chef

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: InspiredChef

                                That sounds like the review of a mediocre restaurant during restaurant week ...anywhere.
                                There are a handful of restaurants in Boston that do restaurant week well and Aquitaine has never been one of them.

                              2. I went to Aquitaine recently not realizing they were doing an extended Restaurant Week (the full menu was also being served). I was tempted to turn on my heel when the host told us this, but I didn't, and regretted it.

                                Really slow, bad service and inconsistent kitchen performance were the big differences. The kitchen turned out a chicken entree that had to be returned because it was half raw. Kitchen errors get made: the unrecoverable blunder was that our server disappeared for more than ten minutes after dropping it off -- no two-minute check-back. That rookie service mistake effectively ruins a meal -- the rest of the party gets its dinner while one person waits 20 minutes to eat (or everyone waits and only one person eats hot food). They took that entree off the check; gosh, thanks. In general, service was harried, spotty, and unprofessional.

                                On its best nights, Aquitaine's food is merely solid, not transporting, but we like the atmosphere and routinely find the service to be excellent. We agreed that this was a historical low point in our experiences there. One more reason to shun Restaurant Week.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  We went to Harvest for dinner during the second week of RW and were very impressed. No disappointment, no sense of cheapness, just wonderful delicious flavors. I posted about this on one of the other posts about RW. My husband also did Harvest during RW last year and reported it was wonderful, then, too.