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Good (and bad) Restaurant Week experiences

Josh M Feb 24, 2009 01:51 PM

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. e
    edgewater Feb 25, 2009 04:09 AM

    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
      MC Slim JB Mar 10, 2009 07:05 AM

      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
        CocoDan Mar 11, 2009 07:27 AM

        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
          MC Slim JB Mar 11, 2009 01:32 PM

          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
          taxi Mar 11, 2009 03:15 PM

          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
            CambridgeFoodie Mar 22, 2009 05:59 PM

            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
              MC Slim JB Mar 27, 2009 08:35 AM

              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
            tunamelt Mar 10, 2009 08:06 AM

            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
              joth68 Mar 11, 2009 09:56 AM

              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
                renéemarie Mar 11, 2009 10:23 AM

                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
                mgross333 Mar 27, 2009 05:51 AM

                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
                  SaraASR Mar 27, 2009 08:14 AM

                  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. m
                marn209 Feb 25, 2009 04:45 AM

                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
                  Joanie Feb 25, 2009 06:22 AM

                  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. b
                  bostonbelle Feb 25, 2009 07:28 AM

                  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
                    Fishegg Feb 25, 2009 08:14 AM

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

                    1. re: Fishegg
                      phonelady Feb 25, 2009 09:07 AM

                      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
                        bostonbelle Feb 25, 2009 10:06 AM

                        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. f
                      FeastNut2008 Feb 25, 2009 04:38 PM

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

                      1. SaraASR Feb 25, 2009 06:33 PM

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

                        1. Catherine Murphy Feb 26, 2009 10:33 AM

                          Chez Henri was great! Avoid Sibling Rivalry.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Catherine Murphy
                            samosk318 Mar 9, 2009 12:55 PM

                            Why avoid Sibling Rivalry? Their offerings for RW looked pretty good (http://bostonusa.com/images/restauran...).

                            I've wanted to try there for a while -- I think the concept is interesting (in an Iron Chef sort of way). Is it someplace avoid only during RW, or did you mean generally as well?

                            1. re: samosk318
                              BackBayGirl Mar 9, 2009 03:09 PM

                              I've got to agree w/ avoiding Sibling Rivalry...restaurant week and non-restaurant week. The food is mediocre, highly priced and not worth it.

                              1. re: BackBayGirl
                                cockscomb Mar 10, 2009 06:50 AM

                                agreed... concept sounds interesting but fails miserably.

                                1. re: cockscomb
                                  twentyoystahs Mar 17, 2009 05:33 AM

                                  I respectfully disagree. I have friends who love it there and we've been dragged there on more than one occasion. Almost always have had exceptionally delicious food. I agree that it is expensive; we've almost always been lucky enough to have a gift certificate or have the friends pay, but I think the food is excellent. On a side note, I love their bread basket, which has really good Irish soda bread.

                                  1. re: twentyoystahs
                                    Joanie Mar 17, 2009 08:41 AM

                                    I'm always kind of surprised at how hated this restaurant is. Went for RW two years ago, there were tons of creative choices and our two meals were quite good. Have eaten there a couple other times and it's been quite decent, maybe I've been lucky. While the prices are probably too high, nothing to be avoided at all costs IMO.

                                    1. re: Joanie
                                      kimfair1 Mar 18, 2009 08:53 AM

                                      I wouldn't "avoid it at all costs", but I've eaten there three times, and while my food was "good", it certainly wasn't good enough to warrant the price, and one time, my entree was pretty horrid. It is a great concept, I just don't think they pull it off all too often. Obviously I'm not alone, but neither are you, as a foodie friend of mine loves the place. We respectfully have agreed to disagree.

                                      1. re: kimfair1
                                        Joanie Mar 18, 2009 12:01 PM

                                        Maybe that's why to go during RW when it's the price it should be. They at least offer a large menu at that time. We'll see if anyone decides to go.

                                      2. re: Joanie
                                        twentyoystahs Mar 21, 2009 10:46 AM

                                        Totally agree, Joanie. Though it's pricey, my meals have always been really good.

                                        1. re: Joanie
                                          pamalamb Mar 22, 2009 10:59 AM

                                          I agree! I quite enjoyed my RW meal there last year, and the number of interesting-sounding options made it hard for me to pick.

                                    2. re: BackBayGirl
                                      MC Slim JB Mar 21, 2009 11:22 AM

                                      Haven't been to Sibling during RW, but I am not a fan either.


                                2. c
                                  cdoobiest Feb 26, 2009 07:30 PM

                                  Any recommendations for steak in boston. I have someone in party who is a steak and potato person only. sad, i know. i am thinking ruth chris's. been to smith and wollensky in past, very good.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: cdoobiest
                                    Joanie Feb 27, 2009 05:00 AM

                                    If you look at the menus, a ton of them offer steak as one of the entrees.

                                    1. re: Joanie
                                      galleygirl Feb 27, 2009 05:16 AM

                                      Yes, I believe it was Joanie who reported on how good the skirt steak was at Olive's last summer, so I took TC and he LOVED it....

                                      1. re: galleygirl
                                        Frank Enbean Mar 9, 2009 03:00 PM

                                        Had a horrible meal at Harvest in Cambridge a couple years ago for Restaurant Week. It was as if they thought less of us because we requested the RW menu.

                                        The portions and service were so bad it was comical.

                                        1. re: Frank Enbean
                                          BOS_steve Mar 16, 2009 08:31 PM

                                          Totally agree on this one. Went to Harvest last year for dinner and was pretty disappointed. Good thing there's a plethora of coffee and ice cream shops in the area.

                                    2. re: cdoobiest
                                      erinire Mar 21, 2009 08:48 AM

                                      Persephone has a steak on their menu, some grass-fed $12 upcharge organic thing. Sounded good, but DC and I went on Friday.... and it's Lent. :)

                                    3. fmcoxe6188 Mar 10, 2009 08:01 AM

                                      Ive had wonderful experiences at Dante as well as Beacon Hill Bistro.

                                      1. Boston_Otter Mar 11, 2009 07:58 AM

                                        Tangerino was a rather lousy experience for me and my DC's, and I've heard that from other people too. Tiny portions, crappy service, and bait-and-switch menus.

                                        Gargoyle's does a good RW menu. I had better experiences there during RW than during normal dining hours.

                                        Casablanca, in Cambridge (under the Brattle) was a surprisingly excellent experience.

                                        1. m
                                          marilees Mar 17, 2009 05:45 PM

                                          The salmon at Sorellina was overly syrupy sweet, drenched in sauce. The overpowering sauce did not compliment the medium rare texture well, and the dish was very oily, with overdressed vegetables. The duck with polenta was a better choice.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: marilees
                                            teezeetoo Mar 21, 2009 05:43 PM

                                            not generally taken with Brasserie Jo but went for RW dinner because it's close to Huntington Theater, our ultimate destination. They did, in general a very nice job and the service was very good. Menu was limited: apps were grilled shrimp or frisee aux lardons, both were good. Mains were grilled trout or lamb chop, both were good. Wine list was large and reasonable, easy to find a good choice. Desert was a single choice: crepes with coconut ice cream. Portions were, if anything, overly generous. One of our group needed gluten-free food and they were attentive to her and made sure she had a comparable RW meal to ours (did fall down on the desert, brought the crepes, gulped, took them away, returned with a double portion of the ice cream!). A pleasant experience if not earthshattering.

                                          2. mcel215 Mar 22, 2009 03:57 AM

                                            My sis and I went in to the North End yesterday, totally forgetting RW.

                                            Got into Antico Forno at 12:30ish while still uncrowded without a reservation was great. We did take a look at the RW menu, and while it looked really good, it was way too much food so early in the day. So we passed. We eat got a cup (bowl), of Ribolitta for $4.00 and shared a grilled veggie pizza ($11.00). Both were great and we left with still enough room for a canolli at Modern.

                                            When we were near the end of our meal, AF was packed and it looked as if everyone was getting the $20.00 dollar luncheon. The food that passed our table as we were eating, looked really good too.

                                            Walking around, it apapeared that either RW in the North End was a big hit with the crowds. Or, I just don't remember it being this crowded this early in the year before. Either way it looked good for business.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: mcel215
                                              alwayscooking Mar 22, 2009 11:21 AM

                                              Our lunch was bleh at AF - I wrote about it on another thread.

                                            2. pamalamb Mar 22, 2009 11:13 AM

                                              I ate at Locke-Ober this week for RW and was really looking forward to it. The meal itself was good (the pea ravioli in potato soup was my favorite part - I was savoring every bite), but I was horrified at the end when the waiter came over with a calculator to tell us that he didn't think we had left him enough tip. He was quite demeaning and even left the calculator on the table for us so we could go over our math again. Granted, we were younger than the typical clientele and were clearly there for RW, but it was still not acceptable behavior.

                                              14 Replies
                                              1. re: pamalamb
                                                alwayscooking Mar 22, 2009 11:20 AM

                                                Goodness, I've never heard such a thing! And of course this begs the question - how much did you tip?

                                                1. re: pamalamb
                                                  skylark938 Mar 22, 2009 11:40 AM

                                                  I don't get the reference to your age? There are obviously big chunks of the full story missing here.

                                                  1. re: pamalamb
                                                    LindaWhit Mar 22, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                    pamalamb, provided the tip you left was sufficient for the price of the RW meal, I *do* hope you mentioned it to the manager on your way out. That is completely unacceptable, and for a place known for their impeccable service, I cannot believe it would be condoned by Lydia Shire and her co-owner nor accepting of that type of treatment.

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit
                                                      pamalamb Mar 22, 2009 12:28 PM

                                                      We tipped about 15%, although he was claiming it was 10%. Regardless of the amount (so long as we didn't stiff on the actual price), a calculator is unacceptable. We didn't talk to the manager on the way out because we were flabbergasted that it had even happened.

                                                      My statement about age was because it seemed that he decided we were only there because of RW and that we didn't know much about "dining out." He was talking down to us when he came over with the calculator like we were children. A very surprising end to the meal.

                                                      As I've been telling people about this, I've had someone else mention that the exact same thing happened to them this week when the went for RW.

                                                      1. re: pamalamb
                                                        alwayscooking Mar 22, 2009 12:34 PM

                                                        Amazing on so many levels - he ARGUED with you about a tip? And brought a CALCULATOR? How did he start this remarkable conversation?

                                                        I would absolutely call or email the manager - and just state facts (eg food was good, service was good UNTIL . . . etc)

                                                        1. re: alwayscooking
                                                          pamalamb Mar 22, 2009 12:38 PM

                                                          I have emailed... we'll see what they say.

                                                          1. re: pamalamb
                                                            LindaWhit Mar 27, 2009 06:19 AM

                                                            Any update on this, pamalamb?

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit
                                                              pamalamb Mar 27, 2009 08:03 AM

                                                              Nope, haven't heard a word.

                                                          2. re: alwayscooking
                                                            Spike Mar 22, 2009 02:46 PM

                                                            I'd agree w/ complaining to the manager or writing a nasty letter to them.
                                                            That kind of behavior is just unacceptable. If he had a problem w/ RW, he should have just taken the week off.

                                                          3. re: pamalamb
                                                            phipsi102 Mar 22, 2009 01:29 PM

                                                            He should have never brought a calculator to the table. However, if the tip was in fact 10%, I am sure he was probably thinking that perhaps he did something wrong, you were unhappy with either the food or the service or you maybe did not realize you left that amount. 10% is almost never a normal or excepted amount to tip. 18% for an average tip and 20% and above for good service.

                                                            1. re: phipsi102
                                                              twentyoystahs Mar 22, 2009 02:09 PM

                                                              10% may be a pretty lame tip, but as a waitress in a previous life, (and not all that long ago) I never had the gall to approach any of my customers if/when they left me a less than acceptable tip. Yes, I'd say about 80% left the requisite 20%, but there were a fair amount of folks who tipped 15% and I never felt slighted by that amount. Nor would I ever approach them, certainly not with a calculator. Even if a party completely stiffed me, I'd never walk up to their table with a calculator, and i can't imagine that's something Lydia Shire or the manager of Locke-Ober would condone.

                                                            2. re: pamalamb
                                                              LindaWhit Mar 22, 2009 02:04 PM

                                                              I agree with you - arguing about the tip was unacceptable, and the calculator was beyond acceptable. I do hope you get a response to your Email.

                                                          4. re: pamalamb
                                                            9lives Mar 27, 2009 06:43 AM

                                                            I usually have a holiday lunch in December at LOand though the group has gotten smaller, we always enjoy it..til this year when everyone was travelling..and we missed it.

                                                            I love LO and miss lunch there, and didn't care for the RW menu..passed.

                                                            That said(provided you left a reasonable tip..I'm in the 20%+ range but 15% is fine), if a waiter brought a calculator to my table to demean my tip, I'd take my fork or knife and run it through the calc and try to pin it to the table, with bill and no tip attached.

                                                            Let him explain to his mgr how he came back with a few hole in his calc...:)

                                                            Inexcusably rude on your waiter's part; whether you're 20 or 80 yo.

                                                            In a weak defense of LO, some of their waiters have a Peter Luger's or original NY Palm bullying attitude...that quickly tones down, when they're called.

                                                            Sorry this happened to you...inexcusably rude on the part of your waiter.

                                                            1. re: Lucymax
                                                              9lives Mar 27, 2009 08:13 PM

                                                              Lucy, Every restaurat worker has simlar stories of getting stiffed on their tips. Happens in industries beyond restaurants too.Everyone wants to be paid more.

                                                              This is LO. They chose to participate in RW. Their waiters and host routinely pocket $100 cash tips for a decent table. This really belongs on Gen Topics; but if these guys (who I know) don't like the tips they get from young first timers let them take a hike..or complain to Lydia; who'd also tell them to take a hike.

                                                              If a restaurant chooses to participate in RW, they should put their best foot out front.

                                                              I've been fortunate and Asana, #9 Park, and Persephone all did well by me and Ms 9....and we'll return. Some posters didn't like their food..and they're certainly entitled to their opinion; but the servers I had were top notch. I usuaully tip on what I put the value of the meal but certaily no lower than the stated price, and RW delivered more value than the check...so my tips ran more like 30-40% of the check.

                                                              If a waiter at LO or anywhere else "offered" me a calculator, he'd have some splaining to do, Lucy..:)

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