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Feb 24, 2009 01:51 PM

Good (and bad) Restaurant Week experiences

I always have mixed feelings about Restaurant Week (coming up in mid to late March), because I've found the quality across restaurants to be pretty uneven. Some restaurants do a great job and view RW as a showcase to attract repeat customers for the future. Many others serve an inferior product at a more rapid pace. I'm going to make some Restaurant Week reservations, and there're some restaurants that I've wanted to try (or go back to) that are participating, so I was curious where people have had particularly good or bad Restaurant Week experiences that they would want to share

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  1. Olives was a real standout. I hadn't been there in years and went with moderate expectations. The food and service were excellent......a most enjoyable experience with several good choices on the menu. L'Andana in Burlington has also been excellent on both occasions we went for RW. Davio's had always been very good, both menu selection and food quality, complemented by excellent service. On the other hand, The Fireplace, which I used to enjoy, was not good. The selections were boring and the service not good. I have not been back since. L'Espalier was also a bit of a disappointment but I'm sure they will have no trouble selling out for RW.

    11 Replies
    1. re: edgewater

      I haven't been during RW, but I was saddened recently by how far Olives Charlestown has fallen since its heyday. Bored bartenders slinging indifferent, lukewarm cocktails, partitions falling off the men's room wall, the single worst Bolognese I've been served in memory (way too much of a really misconceived ragu in which the only discernible flavor was cinnamon, glopped over butter-drowned tagliatelli), overdone chops, dishes like a gigantic bowl of onion strings that looked straight out of The Ninety-Nine (at the next table, not ours), sweet but amateurish service (the kind that disappears in the last half hour). It's still bringing in customers, but I remember its glory days vividly -- it was one of my very favorite Boston restaurants for a long time -- so I find its current state depressing.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        MC, I get the feeling you won't be going back any too soon. Neither will I. One of the worst restaurants in the area. Also, very dirty.

        1. re: CocoDan

          Actually, I will almost certainly go back to Olives soon. As I described in my Stuff piece a couple of weeks back, I get dragged there at least a couple of times a year by business guests from out of town who simply must try it, a testament to the effectiveness of the Todd English marketing machine.

          I didn't notice any dirtiness, but the physical plant does look a little beat. That onion string thing was kind of surprising from a kitchen that once won two James Beard awards.

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          I was never impressed with the place. Went once and never returned. I think that because it is a Todd English place that that means extraordinary - not.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            MC, I have the highest respect for your opinion.

            In fairness to Olives, I just had a very different, dare I say excellent, experience for RW.

            As recommended by a CH poster, started off with the grilled eggplant (w/ goat cheese, lamb, and green olive chutney) - it was trying to be innovative but didn't hit the mark in my opinion because the eggplant was undercooked.

            Entree of Scallops w/ couscous, bacon, smoked paprika, spinach pesto was outstanding.

            Desert of banana and blueberry beignets (with dipping sauces) was an upper 90 percentile desert. Bravisimo.

            The facility looked very nice. I always leave wanting to come back.

            Went to Capital Grille for their RW menu last week. I was tired, so cannot give an honest review...but it seemed like a great value for standard steakhouse fare.

            1. re: CambridgeFoodie

              I sometimes wonder how my take on Olives can be so different from, say, first-timer-poster enthusiasts like mgross333 below.

              One theory I have is that I've changed: stuff that wowed me back in Olives' early days doesn't impress anymore. But I don't think I've gotten that much more sophisticated or jaded or otherwise different in my perceptions.

              Another theory discussed by my friends and I -- people who once adored Olives and are disgusted with it now -- is whether we're just reacting to a sense of betrayal. We loyal fans helped put English on the map, and now he never shows up anymore. We're like the first wife who slaved to put her husband through med school, and then got dumped for a younger hottie with big fake boobs the minute he finished his residency.

              But I don't really believe that either. It's just that I remember the old days vividly, and can't shake the feeling that it's now a shadow of its former self. And as long as it still packs in the customers, what savvy businessman would change anything about it?


          2. re: edgewater

            I went to The Fireplace during RW last year and was similarly underwhelmed ... so I agree with you there.

            We may part company on L'Andana. I have not been there for RW but went for the special Sunday/Monday prix fixe they are having now. Let's just say that of the four of us, only one chose the prix fixe option -- the offerings just weren't that appealing compared to the regular menu.

            1. re: edgewater

              I dined at Rialto during the last restaurant week and had a mixed experience. The food was a little underwhelming and the waitress made it a point to mention that it was "a little different than what they normally prepare." On the other hand, the service was some of the best that I have ever received which is something to say on Rest. Week. It definitely made me want to come back on a normal night.

              1. re: joth68

                My Restaurant Week dinner at Rialto was underwhelming. The food was average and the service, while not bad per se, was extremely rushed, to the point that it made me feel like they were trying to clear us out - the waitress trying to take plates away before we were finished with them, etc. Rather a shame because I like Rialto quite a lot, but I prefer the bar area, and this experience has not motivated me to venture back into the dining room since.

                Conversely, I had a fantastic RW experience at Olives. I had to reschedule my birthday dinner at the very last minute and it was one of the few places that had a slot available. The food was very good and the service could not have been better. I can't say I've ever made an effort to return but that's more a reflection on the fact that it's a pain in the behind to get there than on the restaurant...

              2. re: edgewater

                I ate TWICE at Olives during Restaurant week and thought it was outstanding. Although the bar is crowded and frantic, the dining room is good and THE CROWD (which I consider part of the atmosphere) was OUTSTANDING both times. Not the boring (my opinion) group you see at Expensive Restaurants at all. However the lower prices FOR SURE have something to do with that. (The waiter said it was a younger crowd than normal)

                The food was also excellent to great. The pork chop and beef tenderloin were good sized portions (unlike some places like Chez Henri, Cambridge during Restaurant week ) and were outstanding dishes in every way. The flourless chocolate dessert was also outstanding and the beignets (tiny doughnuts) with 3 sauces was good to excellent.

                Appetisers: The soupe possoin with lobster briouche was outstanding and pea agnoletti were excellent but the portion was a bit small.

                The two breads are good (expecially the Focaccia) but the real star here is the dark black olive tapanade which is just phenomenal. When my mains arrived I sneakily asked for more of each and then TOOK THEM ALL HOME LATER

                The service was excellent (though not great like at Mistral).

                Regarding the reviews below that are negative, I have no idea what you are talking about EXCEPT there **ARE** some comments below that the place is not as attractive outside of restaurant week.


                1. re: LindaWhit

                  I went to Olives last Sunday. The food was very good, the service was atrocious. I don't think my waiter could have been more pretentious and snobby than this gentleman. I will not be back because of him.

              3. I have to agree with edgewater, i had a great experience with Olives. I have been to Olives in NYC and absolutely love it, and decided to try it in Boston during restaurant week. The menu is great since there are so many options. I have heard mixed reviews about Olives during the regular time though.

                1 Reply
                1. re: marn209

                  I third the Rest. Week experience at Olive's. It was a zoo but the food was great and awesome choices. I see a few places this year with a lot more than the same ole hanger steak and salmon choices which make them more enticing.

                2. I've found Mistral, Harvest, and Pigalle* to be consistently good and "worth it" during restaurant week.

                  *I'm not sure if Pigalle is participating this year and, in any case, they offer a three course meal for $40 on their regular menu.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bostonbelle

                    Is there a link or site that outlines the participating restaurants? I've never heard about RW, thanks!

                    1. re: Fishegg

                      There are a couple:


                      I have always had great luck with L'Andana in Burlington, Catch in Winchester (I live in the burbs) and Olivio in Arlington.

                      1. re: Fishegg

                        Here's the link I've been using. I found it on the board a few days ago, and it links directly to pdf files of all the menus.


                    2. We went to the Wine Cellar - food was pretty good, much smaller and louder restaurant than we expected.

                      1. Great experiences at Oceanaire, Beacon Hill Bistro, and Oishii. Oceanaire, best out of the bunch.