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Aug 18, 2007 09:11 PM

I am done with restaurant week!!!

After my dining experience at Nana tonight, I think that I will not be doing restaurant week in the future. Nana is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, restaurant in Dallas. For that reason, I shouldn't have tried it during restaurant week. The food was still fairly good but the service left much to be desired. I think the service suffered b/c this was one of the first times I have ever seen the expansive dining room full. We were sat off in the corner and felt like second class citizens for most of the night.

I think I know a few things about wine and often ask for the help off the sommelier to help with my wine choices. Tonight, the sommelier (or at least the one person that knew anything about wine) was a server at another set of table, so he wasn't available to offer assistance to any other tables. Upon receiving the wine list, I asked to speak to the somm. as my wife has better things to do than watch me peruse through the countless bottles on the list. There was a great deal of hesitation from our server who instead offered to try and help us. As is usually the case, our server had little familiarity with the wine list. The restaurant manager finally came over as we were polishing off our first course to tell us that the sommelier was serving tables tonight and was too busy to help us. He offered to help, but he, too, knew little about the list. I asked him about two choices that I was interested in. He said he would ask the sommelier about the bottles and get back to us. Several minutes passed, and instead of providing us the somm's recommendations, brought out a bottle (of course, the more expensive of the 2 choices) that he said the sommelier thought was the better choice. By this time, our second course was being served and I figured I had better take whatever bottle I could get at this point.

Throughout our meal, no server ever came by to ask about our meal or refilled our wine, much less our water. While I still enjoyed the food, I left unsatisfied with the whole experience and about $200 all said and done. To top the whole experience off, we were charged an automatic 20% gratuity for 2 people. Based on our service, there is no way I would have tipped 20%

From now on, if I ever do restaurant week again, it will be to try a restaurant that I have no interest in trying otherwise.

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    1. I have had my hesitations with restaurant week since first participating a couple of years back. To this day, I really have no interest in dining back at Abacus b/c of our less than stellar dining experience previously during restaurant week. I continue to oblige my wife who continues to argue that it is a good thing overall. Plus, as you mentioned queenie, a decent portion of the proceeds are going to a deserving charity.

      Not everyone who dines out during restaurant week is a neophite when it comes to high end restaurants. I think many of the participating restaurants are doing themselves a disservice by writing off their diners during restaurant week(s). This is their chance to make an impression on someone who maybe inclined to come back and possibly spend more the next time. Plus, many of the menues during RW have supplemental dishes with considerable surcharges which allow the restaurant to make more money.

      BTW, has anyone else seen the automatic 20% gratuity added to their bills during RW for parties less than 6?

      1. re: Bhutani

        I also had a 20% gratuity added (also a party of 2) - but it was also at Nana. I wonder if other restaurants are doing this, or if it's Nana-specific.

        I agree with your position on this issue - in theory, restaurants could benefit from RW by enhanced exposure to people who might not otherwise eat there. This is exactly why I chose Nana - it typically doesn't make my list of high-end restaurants because the cost is a bit higher than average (relative to Lola or York St or even Bijoux for instance). I thought that if they impressed me for RW then I'd consider going back next time I'm in the mood for fine dining. But they failed. They lost the opportunity for a new customer who makes a lot of recommendations to friends...

        The question is, which (if any) restaurants are doing RW the right way? I've heard good reviews on another thread about RW experiences at Craft, Tucker and Adelmo's (maybe a couple of others) but they were single reviews. It would be good to get more data. On the other hand, I think that I've read 4-5 reviews of Nana's RW experience and they are resoundingly mediocre to poor. At least that's settled.

    2. We also were at Nana for restaurant week, although it was our first visit. The service was friendly but slow, although I just let our server pick a wine.

      Our disappointment was really with the food. The mango "lassi" appetizer was seriously oversalted, which really detracted from a beautifully arranged and creative idea. The shrimp cocktail, which was also indian-influenced, was quite good. Neither main course we tried was that great. The seared scallops were good in both the scallop and rib entree and the "surf and turf" with chicken, but the lentil ragout was rather bland and didn't enhance the scallops at all and the chicken was fairly ordinary. The mashed potatoes were quite good, and the ribs were tender and tasty. The worst dish of the night, though, was the passion fruit dessert, which had a supposed run meringue which turned out to be more of a froth/foam, and totally overwhelmed the passionfruit sorbet. OK, I am not always a huge rum fan, but this was not a good idea. The strawberry dessert was simple but good, and the peppercorns gave it a little more depth that was interesting. Overall, though, it didn't seem like a high enough success rate for us to want to come back. The view is quite nice, though.

      We've had better restaurant week experiences elsewhere, but I think it is something you need to approach with some caution, some patience, and an understanding of the potential drawbacks. You can't get something for nothing, so you pay for the discounted food in several other ways.

      5 Replies
      1. re: babar

        I see your point, but $35pp isn't exactly nothing.

        Most restaurants live or die by their wine/liquor sales, and those aren't discounted at all. Add in the extra turnover that most places get during RW, and I'm hesitant to agree than the restaurant's bottom line is suffering that much. And, if it is such a hardship to the restaurant that they are unable to give people a good meal or decent service, then the restaurant should not participate. We can all accept that we should have slightly lower expectations. But I shouldn't have to go in with my only expectation being the hope that I'll like my meal enough not to want a snack when I get home.

        The most successful meals I have had during RW are ones where the selections are very close to the normal menu, but slightly smaller portions or restaurants that go all out on the appetizers but keep the entrees simpler. I've also had better experiences dining very early before everyone else crams into a restaurant.

        I'm another person who will never return to Abacus because of the overwhelmingly lousy meal and bizarrely inept service I received during RW. It was so bad, that my husband hisses at the screen every time Tre comes on Top Chef.

        1. re: dalaimama

          We went to Jasper's last night (the same owner as Abacus) and it was an overall good experience. The server had told us they had been extremely busy all week and to be patient with them. He was VERY knowledgeable about the dishes, restaurant and the owner. My favorites were the sink salad ( a greek salad with sun dried tomatoes) and the desserts. I had a cherry limeade pie - it was basically a key lime pie with a macadamia/graham cracker crust and a cherry curd layer on top with a swirl of swiss meringue. My husband's was a home made butterfinger creme brulee. They were both very tasty. For our entrees I had a flat iron steak with portabello whipped potatoes - nothing special, it was good but my husband's was VERY good. He had the BBQ ribs with a hot potato salad. The hot potato salad sounded very unappealing to me but after I tried it, it was one of the stars of the meal. It was crisp roasted potatoes cooked to perfection, with a light mayonaise sauce over them. The ribs were fork tender with a sweet and tangy sauce.

          We also had the CM 4th course and we chose the maytag blue cheese potato chips. They were good, however they tasted like they sat for a few minutes before they came out. The chips were slightly soggy from the blue cheese.

          Overall it was a very pleasant dining experience with a delightful server. He also clued us in on a tidbit about the owner Kent and I believe his brother, will be on Iron Chef sometime next month. So be on the lookout. Our next RW dining experience will be at Steve Fields in 2 weeks so I hope it will be as successful as this one!

          1. re: Chicago Native

            The ribs and potato salad, IMO, is the best entree there...Always have a great dinner at Jaspars...

          2. re: dalaimama

            We weren't impressed with Abacus during RW either. Went 2 years ago, never been back. (Why is everyone so impressed by those lobster shooters?)

          3. re: babar

            Sounds like you, babar, had almost the exact same dishes as my wife and I for our dinner last night. I too was disappointed by the Tuna tartar. I have to admit that the "regular" tuna tartar with wasabi/passionfruit sorbet may be one of my favorite starters in Dallas. While I did appreciate the knife work as the tuna was all cut very uniformly, the mango lassi flavor did not work as well with the raw tuna.

            I had the tuna escabeche which was good but a little heavy handed with the salt. It came with a lentil ragout very similar to the ragout that accompanied the scallopp and rib entree which I did like.

            I thought both desserts that we tried were a fiasco. The passionfruit caparinha with rum foam was flat out terrible, no ifs ands or buts. The stawberries with coconut sorbet or ice cream that my wife had was good but seemed way too simple for a restaurant the caliber of Nana.

          4. I ate at Go Fish last week for RW. Although my boyfriend thought that they stuck us way in the back with the other RW diners, I don't think they did it on purpose. Our waiter was attentive and seemed to be knowledgeable about the wines. Of course, the wine list was not very extensive at all. The best part of my meal was the 4th course - lobster bisque. This was absolutely delicious. The ceviche was just so-so and our dinners of mahi and salmon were also fine. The other star was the bread pudding. This was made from croissants and the sauce absolutely made this dish sing!

            I'm going to Dragonfly tonight. Any recommendations on what's good there for RW?

            1. We went to Nana on Friday night. I guess we lucked out in service - a friend of ours knew a waiter at Nana and told us to make sure to ask for him. When we told the waiter about our mutual friend, he gave us free salads, all three desserts, and didn't charge us for the upcharge on two of the dishes. We may have been charged the 20% gratuity, but my husband didn't notice it if we were. Even with a friendly waiter, he was quite overwhelmed with tables that night and wasn't around much.

              The food was good at Nana, but not special enough to make me go back anytime soon. For appetizers we had the calamari and the lobster dish. Both were good, but the flavors just didn't seem very complex. I had the pork belly, which I really enjoyed. My husband ordered the steak which was good, but standard. I never saw the regular menu, so I'd never even know if there was something to come back for.

              Like other RW patrons, we were tucked away in a corner without a view. While we were there, we saw another RW couple sit down, look around, peer at the menu, and leave. Not sure if they didn't like the seating arrangement or the menu...

              While I hate to whine about RW, it seems that if you're going to participate, you should treat every patron the same whether they are there for RW or not. The great thing about eating a Craft was that I honestly couldn't tell who was there for RW and who wasn't.

              We have learned to avoid wine issues by only ordering martinis. Those are hard to mess up. We are so spoiled by the good wines we drink at home that it would be impossible for us to afford the same quality when eating out. Now, when we feel like wine with a meal now at a restaurant, we'll head for a BYOB place. I realize this doesn't work for everyone, but it's made us able to focus more on the food.

              Overall, we like the variety you get with restaurant week, and the chance to try new places while at the same time donating to a charity. We'll go next year, but maybe just pick one place, during the week.

              1. The original comment has been removed