RW - trying to make the best of it
I understand that most CHers are wary of Restaurant Week dinner picks, except at the select locations that I can't get a reservation at anymore. I booked Friday dinner at Firebird, but a recent posting has me anxious that it won't live up to expectations, service or food-wise. Now I am trying to salvage it by making a Sushisamba reservation. Is there a difference in quality between the Park and 7th locations?
Please help a fellow CH out - I am trying to make up for missing my friend's birthday and would like to treat her to a nice dinner at a place we normally can't afford (we're grad students.)
Thanks so much,
RW gets a bad rep because:
1. Many of the best restaurants don't participate
2. The ones that do often (but not always) lower their standards in repsonse to the lower prices
3. Service can be spotty because of the increased volume
4. It's often not even that great of a bargain
I'm not trying to convince you to cancel your reservation, but another option would be to pick a place that's outside your comfort zone--if that's possible--that a fellow Chowhounder has recommended. There's plenty of bargain dining experiences in NYC, RW or not.
Had a great RW dinner at Thalassa (in Tribecca) that was very good in every aspect. Went with a group of three, and with the exception of maybe a tomato/goat cheese salad, everything else was great. Other apps included crab cake, octupus, mains included lamb chop, and 2 different types of fish. Everything was excellent.
That is the third option. My friend doesn't really care as much as I do about food, but admittedly part of this is to assuage guilt at missing the birthday. We had a very pleasant meal at Tigerland based upon a fellow CHer's recommendation. I am looking for something with slightly more panache, but that won't break the budget.
So much of RW has to do with timing - I remembered it was happening before Christmas but they didn't have the updated list of participants then.
Checking the listing on OpenTable of restaurants offering a RW dinner menu, I see a few places that I would be happy to go to if I were doing RW, which I do not.
Compass and Pampano would be my top choices. Both serves delicious food and have very nice atmospherics.
Giorgio's of Gramercy, which is not on OpenTable, is doing RW dinner. A lovely restaurant with very good food.
Not sure if there is any availability, but we had a fantastic RW dinner at Jovia last Thursday. Really good food in a nice atmosphere. 4 choices for each course, all on the regualar menu, good sized portions (ended up with a doggie bag). We all left saying it was such a good value. Regular prices significantly more, but we said that we would definitely go back.
RW is a joke. Here's the deal:
virtually all of the good restaurants only offer lunch. of course, they already offer the same (or even cheaper!) lunch year round.
the few decent places that offer dinner (Compass for example) already offer the same $35 dinner year round.
it has become a cynical way of making money off of people who think they're getting a bargain.
Even though I don't participate in RW, I'm not sure I completely agree with your view that it's a cynical ploy. Yes, many upscale restaurants offer a similarly-priced 3-course prix-fixe year round. But in some instances, the RW cost is quite a bit lower. For example, EMP's normal 3-course lunch is $36, and Cafe Boulud's is $38.
Furthermore, this is an opportunity for restaurants on other levels to raise their profiles and increase patronage. I recall a recent post by someone who had lunch last week at Barbounia mentioning being told by the staff that RW had increased business substantially with many diners trying it for the first time. If they like the food, it's a good bet they'll go back.
Note: Last summer, we had lunch at Cafe Boulud. At that time, they were extending the $24.07 RW menu until Labor Day. Though we have no problem affording their regular prices at lunch and dinner, the RW menu was so enticing that we ordered from it. In a word: sensational!
Who proved what point?
There are good RW deals and there are bad RW deals.
Yes, there are some places that offer prix fixe meals at the same prices year round, but there are also places you would never be able to get three courses that cheaply otherwise.
Yes there are places who put together boring RW menus and offer lousy service, but there are also places that go all out for RW week in hopes of winning over new business.
I can't help but feel that all these people who are so down on restaurant week are the people who can afford to eat at top-notch restaurants regularly. For people like me, fresh out of college, RW provides an opportunity to eat at places I wouldn't be able to otherwise.
There are RW ripoffs, but if you do your homework, there are real winners too...
the service at sushisamba 7th is absolutely awful. the waiters are more concerned with who's walking in the door next than telling you about specials or listening to your order. And my waiter last time, just a few weeks ago, had the nerve to laugh at the dish i ordered. The way they talk and respond is rediculous and after 3 strikes of the same experience, i have no interest in going there ever again.
Sushi Samba is more for the scene and the cocktails than the food. There are nice places out there that will cost you more or less the same amount as a RW dinner (you'll be paying approximately around 50 bucks per head inclusive of a glass of wine and tip). But, if you would like to avail of the Resto Week deal try getting a table in the ff. places that serve fairly okay stuffs during the promo for dinner - Park Ave. Cafe, Alfama, August and En Japanese Brassiere. Try looking for a table via opentable.com. For nice meals that will not break the bank. I can recommend the Argentinian Azul Bistro on Stanton cor Suffolk St at the LES...only problem there is that it can be crazy busy on a Friday night. But, they have this great deal for a mixed grill for two for less than 40 bucks which is a lot of food and comes with salad greens and fries...you can order a decent bottle of malbec and share a dessert if you still have space and come-out of the place for more or less the same price of a RW meal if not less....there's also this cute Cuban joint called Cafecito on Ave. C and 11th St. that will even cost you less...but, the food is good - cash only though.
i'm going to disregard the whole RW thing and suggest AMA in soho, very comfortable and lovely service, we live in the area and it has become a regular spot for us. i think sushi samba (both locations) is overly trendy and overpriced, vastly prefer the food at japonica, even though it is not glitzy.
Ergh, what this says is that I have to remember to book RW a month beforehand. Also, thanks for naming a bunch of new restaurants to try - I am looking forward to eating my way through the list!
Last time we did restaurant week, we ate at Oueste, which was not necessarily a bargain (they frequently do a dinner prix fixe) but it was a great find nonetheless. One of my favorite RW experiences was at Payard last year, and they didn't skimp on service or quality. I don't know if I would have gone to Payard if it wasn't for Rw, and all I can say is thank god I found it! The food was excellent, as were the desserts (naturally.)
I like RW because it forces me out of my familiar haunts/neighborhoods and into new places. I have yet to come across a clunker for RW, but I tend to limit myself to 1 restaurant per cycle. The highlight of my RW experience was actually in DC at 1789 in Georgetown - perfection. Perhaps this will be the cursed exception, but my friend is psyched about SushiSamba, so I am committed (plus this is for their birthday, not mine.) Will report back if I have widely differing impressions.
Also, I would have gone to Park Ave Cafe, which has been frequently mentioned, except that I am saving that for the Eat Your Age special which will be cheaper than RW dinner prices for us.
I've enjoyed all my RW experiences-Gramercy Tavern, 11 Madison, River Cafe, and a few others. Just had lunch at Mesa Grill on Monday. I was apprehensive because of some reviews about service with an attitude and mediocre food. Apprehension turned quickly to delight when presented with the menu (plus a basket of fabulous blue/yellow cornmeal muffins). There were 3 choices of appetizers - ordered Sophie's Chopped Salad and a creamy cauliflower soup. Three choices for entrees- 16 spice chicken with buttermilk mashed potatoes, cornmeal crusted chile relleno, and a trout dish. Ordered the chicken and the relleno. Really tasty with wonderful, vibrant flavors. Two choices of dessert- chocolate flourless cake with pineapple &choc. sorbet also a caramel flan with pecans.Again Delicious. Service was warm and inviting. The choices were from the regular menu so you had a true Mesa Grill experience. Was impressed when a nearby diner ordered the salad and chicken from the main menu- the waitress informed her about the RW menu-saving the diner a few dollars. Check out my photos of entree and dessert plates...
Just back from SushiSamba Park. They had three options for each course. Some not terribly precise food descriptions follow. Appetizer options included seaweed salad (assortment of seaweed, including red, and some seaweed that tasted like tea - both my friend and I judged this to be tasty.) I had the king crab tempura, which had two pieces of juicy, sweet king crab, one taro slice, and one mushroom cap. Tasty, but I wish there was more king crab! The last option which I didn't have was quail.
Entree options were a selection of sushi, chicken with garlic (large portions), or hangar steak (smaller portions) in teriyaki sauce with mushrooms (we both had this - the steak outside was deliciously crusted, and the inside tender and juicy.) We both wanted more steak.
My friend's dessert was tres leches with a panna cotta topped with caramel with a side of foam over some gelatin bits. Not bad, but I vastly preferred my quesillo (flan) with preserved gelatinous pineapple bits and black pepper ice cream (I'm a sucker for pepper ice creams.)
The third option was valhrona chocolate fondue with fruit, a marshmellow, green tea ice cream and a japanese rice krispie.
All in all, a tasty meal, but I'm not sure that it was worth $50/person including tax and tip. (I wasn't aware that the edamame wasn't free until it showed up on the bill.) And we are both still hungry, and thinking of heading over to Minca! Would I visit again? Quite possibly. It wasn't as terrible as people made it out to be and the service was really good. Our water never dipped to an inch and a half under the starting point. My friend is convinced that the outside of the steak was dipped in some MSG, though...