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Why does restaurant week food suck?

Isn't it a shame that even at great restaurants, restaurant week food always sucks? I've been to many a restaurant week lunch and dinner and somehow was never quite blown away, and I am not picky or negative...I'm looking to enjoy it. But I found out something upsetting a while back when I worked at the Royalton hotel. I asked that same question to the executive chef, and he told me that it's because restaurants will use lesser quality ingredients since they are banging dishes out in larger quantities. Disgrace! Why use shitty ingredients when you should be putting your best food forward and hopefully hooking future restaurant devotees. I'll never look at Restaurant week the same again.

Anyone have a place that doesn't have sucky restaurant week food?

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  1. I certainly have been underwhelmed during RW. However, I did have a memorable experience at Mesa Grill and Gramercy Tavern.

    2 Replies
      1. re: bastet212

        First visit to Perry Street was during restaurant week and have been going back ever since. That said, and this is a rareity, I had a bad meal (the only one) at Babbo during restaurant week. My fault; got talked into some seafood flight, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    1. Danny Meyer's restaurants don't dumb it down too much for RW. You don't get the same variety as the regular menu but it's all good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Miss Needle

        Agreed. I think it's a reflection of his attitude toward hospitality (even at the expense of the bottom line). Employees of his agree.

      2. I was thinking of putting in a rez at EMP, are you suggesting this is a bad idea ?

        5 Replies
        1. re: cmballa

          I went there the past summer with 4 friends and the food underwhelmed me (the service was still very good though). I ate there before RW and had their Gourmand lunch, which was spectacular. Eating RW's food left a bad taste in my memory that haven't eaten there ever since.

          But I had a good experience at the Modern Bar Room for dinner, despite the fact service was a bit inattentive since it was a Friday night and it's RW.


          1. re: chocokitty

            I think that the restaurant week dinner i had at the modern was actually one of the worst restaurant week experiences i've ever had. every course i had i didn't like. i still have the memory of the cherry claufouti that i had there -- awful. it tasted like scrambled eggs. usually i give a place the benfit of the doubt during restaurant week if its at least decent, but this was just bad. and the stuff i didn't order that i saw at other tables didn't look too impressive either.

            1. re: Renguin

              I agree with chocokitty actually. I had a really delicious meal at the modern..... It just goes to show that everyone is different!

              1. re: bastet212

                I had heard generally positive things about it. did you go the dining room or the bar. the people i know that liked it more ate in the formal dining room i think.

                1. re: Renguin

                  The RW offer is only applicable to the Modern bar room and not the main dining room. I was there once during RW and found the selection and the food just barely ok. The service was utterly poor. The lunch at Eleven Madison Park was much better, though comparing to their normal menu or dinner, it was still noticeably inferior. I still remembered that ice-cold butter that was impossible to cut through, something that I didn't expect from EMP (note that I love EMP for regular dinner and have often reommended it to other people in this board)

                  My dinner at Maze at the Londen Hotel during the RW week was far superior than that of Modern Bar. The food was perfectly prepared and the service was SIGNIFICANTLY better. This year they only participate in RW lunch.

        2. I'd assume you've hit the nail on the head. It sucks for the same reason that festival food sucks, no matter what reputable restaurant has a booth, and the same reason that Monday fish specials (or any 'special') sucks. They're liquidating old product.

          My Blog: http://www.epicureforum.com

          1. RW could be a hit or miss. Since it is really a promotional week for restaurant industry and all the participating restuarant have to offer a prix fix menu at reasonable price; many restaurants keep it simple. Options are limitted and ingriedents are not lower in quality there are just less expensive one's. Often time the food serve during RW doesn't reflect the menu and the food that is normally served. However, some restaurants do a better job at it than others. The objective of RW is to get a sneak pre-view of what a restuarant has to offer. People have to undestand that your not going to get the same experience when your paying something like 30-50 dollars for 3 course prix fix (say Jean Georges) when typically the check avg. per person is 400 dollar with wine that is. So as for RW it really about getting a pre-view of a restaurant you might want to have serious dinning experience in the future then getting a cheap meal. In the end RW is a hit and miss as some restaurants do better then others.

            1. I've had both great & mediocre Restaurant Week lunches over the past 15 or so years, but I haven't gone out for one in years. I don't believe for a second that restaurants are getting rid of "old product." It's a week, sometimes more. How much "old product" could they possibly have? But for my money, I'd skip three nice lunches and have one really nice dinner.

              The standouts were San Domenico, Vong (it was a long time ago), RM (ditto) and Gotham Bar & Grill. The ones that seemed to be phoning it in were Nobu and Park Bistro (see? it's been a while).

              1. I don't do RW, but in my view, restaurants that serve a bargain 3-course prix-fixe lunch all year long -- Fleur de Sel, Gotham Bar & Grill, and Tocqueville immediately come to mind -- are less likely to "dumb down" what they serve during RW. But then, it hardly pays to bother going to those during RW.

                1. I had a really mediocre one at Bolo a couple of years ago.

                  1. The only place I had a bad experience at Restaurant Week is now out of business.

                    I don't know any chefs who use "lesser" ingredients in Restaurant week. They don't offer a lot (if any) variety, and they don't have to, as long as the food is good and the service is still exemplary. Not all restaurants participate in Restaurant Week, and the chefs I know don't feel it's mandatory, but they would never "short" the public. Their places are riding on their EVERY meal.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ChefJune

                      The one I did last spring at A Voce was excellent. We also ordered a few dishes off the prix fixe plus what we had and some wine, but still. However, I have been to others that were what is described above. It does vary.

                    2. I agree RW is about promoting the restaurant. However there have been times when I feel like the places in question treat RW diners like the great unwashed hoi polloi. The trouble is, I eat out a lot. And if my RW meal sucks at a particular place, I'm absolutely not going to go back there for the full price menu. I've had some really good RW experiences, and some really bad ones. It's self-defeating for a restaurant not to try to impress on the RW menu. When the RW menu is basically "wedding food," I'm not going back with my own cash. It's not about me being a cheapskate.

                      The Best: Cello -- now closed
                      The Worst: Judson Grill (or whatever it was called) -- also closed.

                      1. My only positive RW experience was at Eleven Madison Park. As another reviewer said, they don't dumb it down -- we got top-notch service and great food. So kudos to Danny Meyer, again.

                        However, after trying RW at Peryali, I Trulli, Artisanal, Centrico and Asia de Cuba, I will no longer bother with it. The waiters mostly acted like they were being punished, and the food was generally uninspired. Minor exceptions: Asia de Cuba's food was pretty good but the portions were insanely huge and service was frosty and brusque. I left feeling stuffed, sick and ignored. Centrico's food was also quite good but the service was atrocious since they got slammed with customers. In short, RW is a good idea in theory, but it usually disappoints since the restaurants get overwhelmed, the food is often dull and seems mass-produced, and one's fellow diners can sometimes be clueless pikers who make things worse for the more dining-savvy. I end up not wanting to return, so RW has the opposite of the intended effect -- instead of attracting me, the restaurants end up repelling me. I agree with egit -- the whole process can be self-defeating.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: citycook

                          There are a lot of places that only do RW for lunch unforunately (for me!). EMP is one of them. I'd love to go, but 2+ hour lunches aren't really an option for me.

                          1. re: citycook

                            >The waiters mostly acted like they were being punished, and the food was >generally uninspired

                            That may be it in a nut nutshell, especially the first part. No worries, last year during RW I had my fill of bahn mi, pizza, and korean.

                          2. Generally agree with OP - my admonitions would be to limit RW to lunch only and eat at only those places that prove themselves reliable time and time again. I have always had great and consistent experiences at EMP (or any Danny Meyer place for that matter) and at Fleur de Sel. This year I'm going to see how Lupa performs.