Rest. Week overall
i was just looking at one of the many comments ragging on Rest. Week and wondered how people felt about their experiences this summer. I went to four places and had two great, one very good and one good meal. From top to bottom, I'd say it was probably Marco, Sibling Rivalry, Olive's and Davio's. Davio's was good but nothing overly special and Olive's was yummy but the place itself was enough to drive you a little insane. So maybe I'm just lucky or have the least discerning taste, but Rest. Week is just fine in my book.
In terms of food quality, my RW experience this month was pretty good. I still hate RW though because usually the regular menus aren't available as well, so the options are much more limited and food tends to have that mass-produced feel, even at restaurants where it usually doesn't. It's very frustrating to go to restaurants where we eat fairly often and to have a hard time getting a table or to be constantly reminded of how unhappy the staff is because it's RW. Since so many of our regular spots participate, RW is a significant disruption of our normal routine. It always seems to stretch on forever and I'm delighted when it's over.
This month during RW, we ate at Henrietta's Table (ordering off the non-RW menu), Meritage, Sorellina (ordered some RW food, some regular and Sage. (Also Eastern Standard several times, but either they weren't participating or we just saw the regular menu.)
The service at Henrietta's Table was a comedy of errors from start to finish, but the food was tasty, especially the superlative salad, which had loads going on, flavor-wise and was also well-balanced. The freshness of the produce there makes me want to try it for brunch/lunch. Our bartender at Sage was frazzled but she mixed excellent drinks and did her best to make up for her service slip-ups. The food choices were limited, but tasty. Meritage was my favorite RW experience. We walked right in without a reservation and had dinner at the bar. Usually I think Meritage is a bit of a production (and fairly pricey) for food that is good but not mind-blowing (my DC loves the place) but at RW prices, it felt like a bargain. The food at Sorellina was amazing, as always, but with the exception of the entrees, the choices on the regular menu were much more interesting than the RW ones. (Oh, that grilled octopus! Those zucchini blossoms with ricotta and honey! That semifreddo!) And of course, Eastern Standard was its usual reliable, loveable self, offering warm, attentive service, excellent cocktails and straightforward but delicious food.
I actually tried RW again this year (with some research help from Chowhound - thanks!) after a couple of disappoint experiences at Rialto and Scollay Sq. a few years ago. I went to Pigalle on a Friday night and found it to be quite good. The service was very nice - it felt no different than I would have expected on a normal busy Friday night (a few minutes wait for our reserved table and otherwise attentive, but not rushed service). I liked that they had lots of choices for each course. The appetizers and entrees were as I would have expected from a place in the normal price range of Pigalle - I especially loved the lamb entree with fantastic moussaka. The desserts were not terribly interesting (and would not have been worth $10 as their normal desserts are priced), but I figured if that was their one consession to RW - I was fine with that. I am thinking about going back to try it again for non-RW. We also went to EVOO on a Wed. night. The service was nice, but a bit slower than would have been perfect. There were 4-5 options for each course. The eggplant soup with pesto, tomatoes and rock shrimp I had as an appetizer was awesome. Homemade chicken sausage entree was pretty good - not great. For dessert, I had bread pudding made with banana bread and chocolate with caramel buttermilk sauce. - the pudding was a bit rich, but with slightly tangy sauce it was so tasty - I scraped up every last drop of the sauce with my spoon. Overall, a very nice $33 dollar meal (and I totally would have paid full price for the appetizer and dessert - the entree would have been reasonable as well for the lower price end of EVOO's regular menu without being a disappointment). So - overall - my view of restaurant week is much better after this year's experience. I think the research to find out which places do a nice job with the concept really made a big difference.
Only made it out three times for dinner. Two results have been posted in this group, one trip to Grotto which was utterly sublime, one trip to Marco which wasn't as utterly fabulous as you're describing -- some very strong flavor profiles mixed with some dishes that were decent but not worth the high price tag. Also went to 75 Chestnut to meet an old friend for drinks and a burger, and forgot they were participating in RW also. They were very nice, very gracious and got us a standing table at the bar, and the burger remains very good there, but the RW menu was a compilation of stuff from the usual menu and I opted to pass this time around.
There is something of an assembly line quality to RW dining, and I've talked to restaurant chefs who have groused about the astonishing amount of ungratifying work that has to go into prepping for same, though they think of it as a necessary evil to get people into the restaurants. For me, I appreciate it as a chance to try out places that I wouldn't normally think to try, or places that I normally wouldn't want to spend the money on.
Lunched at Radius, Via Matta, L'Espalier, Avila, Sel de la Terre, and Top of the Hub.
L'Espalier gets a A+ for food, service and ambiance. Radius an A. Via Matta a B+, Avila a B and sadly (as I love the place) Sel de la Terre gets a C. They ran out of many things on the menu (and we ate at 12:30) and made uninteresting substitutions, some of the food was badly concieved and executed (e,g, duck live mousse tart) and was totally blown off by my server when I inquired about a garnish and food allergy (tons of light green stuff that looked like cantelope -- I am very allergic to melon). She never bothered to return to tell me what it was (my companion determined that it was apple, though it was green and not white). I'll still go back but the whole RW thing there this year disappointed.
Top of the Hub. Food sucked big time but it was a great view.
I only did a couple lunches this time around and had a very good overall experience (details at: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/431647). Lunch at Harvest didn't blow my mind by any means but the oysters (ordered off regular menu), service and cocktail were extremely good.
Om hit a grand slam. Great service and wonderful food. I left very eager to return for lunch again soon.
My RW was pretty tasty overall. It started with a fabulous lunch at KO Prime-they really aimed to impress(pic of the thai basil panna cotta). I was very amused when we got the itemized check-$6.69 for a steak! Service and food were both impeccable and I will definitely head back there soon to try that marrow butter!
Aura was next and while I wasn't at all impressed with the meal, the service was very good and we had quite a large(and finicky) group. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it or go back again, but I can't say that it was terrible-others in the group(of 15!) seemed to really enjoy their meals.
Sibling Rivalry rounded out my RW experience. They offered a very extensive menu and a group of six was able to order completely different combinations. I tried a lot of the food and it was all pretty tasty-the Halibut dish was exceptional and I was experiencing entree envy as my duck was overcooked. With so many great South End options, I may not go back anytime soon, but for a RW girls night out, it was perfect.
Had a great experience at Union last week. Menu was limited but very tasty. Great Scallops and a grilled plum salad. Service was really outstanding despite the fact that we were a large party (9), we ordered only from the RW menu items and we lingered for quite a while. Would definitely go back. My only quibble is with their wine list which is extensive but pretty limited in the under $50.00 range. Great looking space too btw.
I was out and about and hit up a few places by chance. I really enjoyed the food at Dante, though the service (at the bar) was absolutely horrendous, particularly for a room that was not even near 1/2 capacity. They only offered the RW menu (though you could order a la carte) and I thought the servings were very generous.
I stopped in to Sorrellina but decided to pass after a poor experience at the bar, so went over to Domani. Saw there that the portions were huge, so opted to just order a pizza a la carte. Great service at the bar, too.
I've had really good experiences in the past at Harvest, La Morra, Via Matta, Bistro 5, Union. Not such great experience at Radius (but that was probably 3 years ago) and a terrible experience at Umbria (2 years ago). I think RW can be a hit, but you need to pick and choose and take it for what it is.
Joanie- I agree: Bistro 5 in Medford had great food (peach risotto!) and the wine pairing was tasty but the service was wicked awful (would have easily upsold an additional bottle of wine if just asked; also on a Friday night it only offered the RW menu, which was a good thing for this restaurant). Hit Gargoyles twice: ok my DCs all had RW meals and raved (ongoing for the rest of the month, the salmon was amazing)...I just ordered off the menu and loved everything (RW is hard for us vege/pescetarians).