Arizona Restaurant Week -- the case of shifting menus
Is it just me or have some restaurants completely changed their advertised menus? I made my reservations about a month ago after perusing the selections, and to my bafflement, the items which induced me to make the reservations have vanished! What to do?
But the switches I'm irked by are the ones where I was expecting seared scallop appetizers but the menu now reads: "pea soup" instead; or filet with truffle-something (butter or potatoes?) which was switched to "herb-crusted". I'm just relieved that I checked the menus again in time to cancel reservations at those restaurants (nothing like a bait and switch, eh?)
We experienced that on the first night at Cowboy Ciao. They added a Pistachio-Crusted Salmon entree and the desserts were different. Even during the course of the meal, desserts were switched out. Now, I've heard the desserts are all changed, since they couldn't make gelato fast enough to keep up with demand.
We were at Cowboy Ciao last night and there wasn't even a choice for dessert! Everyone got the same thing - an espresso/chocolate cookie, a snickerdoodle, a teeny lemon tart with berries and creme fraiche, and a chocolate peanut butter cake thing. The appetizers and main entrees were the same as listed (including the aforementioned salmon), and each guest was given the choice of a "complimentary" glass of Cycles Gladiator chardonnay or pinot noir.
I don't think this was a bad menu change, per se (I really liked both wines), but I was stoked to try Elvis at the Diner and none of the desserts really floored me even though I wouldn't complain if someone gave me a lifetime supply of those snickerdoodles.
While I don't believe there's a bait & switch conspiracy behind situations like these, I'm convinced over-ambitiousness can be a culprit. Signing on to participate well in advance of such events, restaurants can be too quick, I think, to submit elaborate menus, and slower to see- in some cases- that the dishes they intended to dazzle the dining public with at a discount simply don't make dollars and proprietary sense.
On the other hand, perception is reality. If you're baiting the promotional hook with saffron-scented paella, don't try to reel me in with salmon and pilaf. That's just penny-wise and PR foolish.
From my experience dining at Talavera of the Four Seasons Hotel and Estate House this week, my conjecture is that hotels have less concerns over budget and also have a deeper bench (i.e. banquet staff) to handle Restaurant Week.
Talavera simply served items that were already on their menu, whereas, none of the mains on Estate House's RW menu were on their regular menu and appeared to be less costly to them. Estate House also gave us a different dessert than what was on the menu, saying they had ran out of the Gianduja Affogato Torte and the Tartufo was the next closest thing. I'd appreciate being told that before and having the opportunity to choose something else from the menu. I hate it when they assume. It's all about managing expectations and that's where the quality of service really differs between the two.
The waiter at Estate House also could not tell describe a wine listed on the wine by the glass menu and had trouble tracking down the sommelier. Even until the end of the night I was not told what kind of grape it was.
I think I'll stick to hotel dining for RW in the future.
i think i see it almost the opposite.
true, this speaks to my bias about scottsdale in general ;)
anyway i tend to think alot of the bigger flashier places like estate house that are always fairly packed have less to gain from rw - why would they? they're packed most of the time. while that's no reason to shortchange diners, the running out of dessert indicates volume. the waitstaff not knowing the grape/finding the sommelier speaks to their overall training and capabilities of staff.
where as a place like talavera, that doesn't get near the traffic someplace in central scottsdale would be interested in getting folks there who wouldn't normally come, would have much more to gain from something like rw and their dining selections would reflect it. and the knowledge of the staff is due to that - training and education, not just because of the volume of staffers.
not that eating at estate house means gruel ;) but i think my general point is in there.
i don't see a bait and switch conspiracy. i do see restaurants finding their place about how this might work, and how completely busy places have been during this week. its a learning curve, to be sure.
problems with service are huge, i agree. but i'm willing to cut quite a few places slack on menu choices and small changes. of every place ive visited, and my friends have visited, i haven't seen anyone say they've felt like the got ripped off.
and for roka akor, my next rw place, i fully expect to have 3 microns of food ;) seriously - have you seen their REGULAR prices? ;) my expectations as to portions are i believe in-line with a 29 dollar 3 course price tag, even if one of those courses is dessert.
but i do expect great service, no matter the price.
i'll report back ;)
I see it much they way you do, windedubar, and that's coming from someone who lives, dines and socializes amidst the Scottsdale scene you don't love. It's almost ironic that restaurant week was started by Sam Fox, who has built an empire of mini-chain restaurants of varying quality. (I had lunch today at Greene House, which was excellent, btw)
To me, the real beneficiaries of Restaurant Week are the smaller, truly independent places that need an injection of activity. In fact, many of the really "hot" places participating in Restaurant Week are totally booked, which forces people to pick something less popular......but someplace that could really benefit from the business and exposure.
Not sure I'm making sense here.
In short, everyone benefits....the restaurants (big and small) and the dining public. But the success of some of the more popular places spills over and trickles to the other participants. And I'm willing to cut the "smaller guys" a lot of slack in service if it means that they're still dealing out great food and benefiting from the up-tick in business.
It will be interesting to look back, when RW is done. There are likely to be pluses and minuses, as should be expected.
Many cities have done RW, or very similar, for years. On many other boards, it is the hot topic for months before, and after.
We're traveling, so we missed the PHX RW, but I'll be reading, just to see who did it right and who missed something along the way.