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Restaurant Week-Why?

It seems like many people say Restaurant Week meals at restaurants are not very good. Why do people continue to go then? I understand there's a price difference of course, but if the food is bad, why do it? Are there any restaurants that do Restaurant Week the way it was meant to be?

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  1. I wonder the same thing....lol. I have never been to a restaurant during RW because some of the comments left about it make me unsure if I want to waste my time on a bad experience.

    1. Have you read the reviews? I'd say at least 3/4 of them have been positive or decent. That's why people go.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Joanie

        Yes, I have read the reviews, however, most of them I've seen have stated that the meals were either ok or not worth it. I haven't seen the majority being good reviews. I like the concept of Restaurant Week, but unfortunately, it doesn't seem like many places use it for what it should be. How many times have I heard things to the effect of restaurants picking lame meals to feature & nothing being spectacular. I don't think I'd go out of my way to take part in it based on what I've heard a majority of people say on this board and off this board.

        1. re: BackBayGirl

          I don't know, I just re-read the Winter 2009 RW thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6040...) and I count (yes, I actually counted) about 21 yays, 3 or 4 yays and okay with some issues, 5 fair to okay and 3 totally unhappy. Pretty good ratio IMO.

          1. re: Joanie

            I think what skews the perception is that there are usually a number of general inquiries like this on RW, and without reviews, a number of anti-RW crowd will usually chime in with "why bother" or "ugh...why would you want to do that?" type of responses. If you look at actual meal reviews, you are probably correct that RW reviews themselves aren't nearly as negative.

      2. I agree that many are not great deals and many restaurants will offer very limited menus or dishes with lesser ingredients than what they offer on their regular menu. That being said, if you view the RW menus on the RW website some offer very good menus and some offer the same items as their regular menu. For instance, to name a few, Oceanaire, Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris, the BC Club (which normally is not open to the public) and others offer for RW week, items off of their regular menu. I had a wonderful RW week dinner at Oceanaire last Saturday night a nd this Friday night I am going to the BC Club. My suggestion is check out the menus on the RW website and see what you think of the menu. Oceanaire did not have their menu on the RW website so I called and they told me the menu over the phone.

        1. I go to try places I wouldn't ordinarily go to. Based on my RW experience, I'll decide if I want to go back. (I know a lot of places do subpar RW -- to me, that's an indication that they don't care enough to make sure that every meal is good and people leave happy, so I'll avoid those during regular times too. Cheaper menu items and smaller portions for RW are totally fine with me, but not-so-good meals mean I won't be back.) I have had mostly good experiences with Restaurant Week.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Pia

            I agree - if a restaurant can't be bothered to put out a good meal, I know I won't go back. Serve me chicken, or pasta, or whatever's on sale that day, but make sure you cook it well and in a style that corresponds to your regular menu.

            I've had a number of RW meals that were excellent - this year at Radius (what a steal for $33!), Clink (I could eat that peanut ice cream all day), and lunch at the Melting Pot (an incredible amount for food for $20 - I know, it's a chain, but they actually do what they do well). In the past, I've had amazing meals at Excelsior and Davio's, as well as a really strong showing from Grotto. All of these places (except Excelsior now, obviously) are places I would return to because they took a stressful time (for them) like RW and made themselves shine.

            1. re: pamalamb

              We were at Radius earlier this week for RW. The generous hot serving of mini-potato gnocchi($3 supp) w/smoked bacon, brussel sprouts & pecorino was loaded w/flavor, light as a feather and truly comforting. I had a bite of the foie gras($12-$15 supp) & found it very buttery in consistency - DC was reminded of childhood liverwurst sandwiches she had everyday, lol. 2 of us had the pork & found it moist, pink & tender. The 2 who had the salmon were satisfied w/their choice, one ordering it especially for the mushroom fanatic in her. Had a bite of the grilled scallops &, altho they were perfectly cooked, we agreed they were way to salty. My chocolate/caramel dessert w/quenelle of spiced ice cream was just what I was hoping for and the goat cheese & huckleberry cheesecake was very rich. 2 were not blown away by the pineapple foster, served like a sunday in a stemmed glass - non-plussed by the crackerjacks. On the service: we were warmly greeted by the front of the house, who ferried our drinks from the bar to our table, when we were ready. Our waiter was one of the best I've ever had and was truly helpful, knowledgeable and honest with his suggestions. He had a great dry sense of humor, which had us cracking up. Timing was excellent throughout the meal with tablewear & flatwear cleared & replaced, water glasses refilled whenever needed and tablecloth frequently brushed of debris. I, for one, will be back.

              1. re: Taralli

                That gnocchi dish sounds heavenly, Taralli! Something that could be made at home (with store-bought gnocchi; don't think I could make them myself). Was there any "sauce" of any kind on the gnocchi dish?

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  It had a light, white, cheezy sauce that you could really taste the bacon in - like an elegant mac & cheese.

                  1. re: Taralli

                    OK, I just got major rumblies in my tumbly reading that. :-)

                    Now my next thing is to find some good fresh gnocchi that's light and fluffy - I'm thinking road trip to Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville is in order this weekend. (Does Capone's have gnocchi as well?)

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I'm pretty sure Capone's has Gnocchi, but I haven't been there for a few months.

                      1. re: jjbourgeois

                        I quickly checked their websites yesterday after I posted the question; Capone's does; Dave's doesn't.

                  2. re: LindaWhit

                    This month's Saveur has a recipe for Barbara Lynch''s truffled gnocchi, and a gnocchi how-to...Surely you could tweak it to make this!


                    1. re: galleygirl

                      GG, you are a very good enabler, you know. ;-)

                      As for making fresh pasta, that's something I haven't tried...perhaps for lack of room in my kitchen (and two cats who are counter-jumpers that I cannot break them of). Plus, I don't have the roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid. So I do think store-bought is the way to go...but oh MY that recipe looks great! Thank you!

                      ETA: MasterCook has that calorie count as close to 800 calories per serving. Not that I *mind* eating my share of calories, but this is definitely one recipe to make for special occasions. :-)

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        I think you could probably do it with a stock, then some cream to finish it....

                      2. re: galleygirl

                        Great recipe to have. I would love to be able to make gnocchi like Lynch's (or in the same solar system at least) at home. This will also extend the usefulness of my potato ricer, a good thing when making those tough decisions about what to keep in a kitchen with limited storage. I use it more to make hash browns than mashed potatoes (for squeezing excess moisture out of grated raw potatoes, a crucial step in making crisp hash browns at home).

                        LindaWhit: your cats aren't even deterred by a squirt gun? That's pretty bold!


                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Folks, we've moved a subthread about making hash browns at home to the Home Cooking board. You can find that thread here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/608692 Please keep posts here about finding great chow in Boston. Thanks!

              2. It's not just the food, it can be the service too. I was treated like dirt at one place, and it wasn't even busy. Too bad, because the back of the house did a good job in this instance.

                1 Reply
                1. re: junior coyote

                  the menu's online are not accurate. ive been burned twice now. never again a;lways call the restaurant directly if you want to know the menu

                2. To anyone who's avoided RW on account of what they've read here I'd say: Give it a try. Form your own opinion and don't just settle for "it must be true; I read it on the internet." Just like any other web site, you have to take what you read here with a grain of salt.

                  1. It should surprise no one, but things are different this year. Almost nobody's healthy. My general impression dining out recently is that more places are serving a menu that's closer to what they usually serve. I've seen a couple that were just "pick three courses from our regular menu for $33".

                    I dropped by for dinner at Estragon recently, assuming they wouldn't do RW (how do you make that work with tapas?), but they actually did it beautifully, hardly subtracting from their regular menu at all. Patrons got to order a small "pre-app" (with typical dishes like their awesome fried spicy chickpeas snack), a couple of pinchos (little tapas on bread), two generously-sized tapas from a not-dumbed-down selection, with stuff like tripe/trotter stew and beef cheeks, and a small dessert, including a nice little two-cheese plate.

                    That was a great meal for $33, and a fine introduction for newbies to what they're about. Impressive. (They've also gotten their cordial license, so they're now doing such cocktails as they can. My friend really liked her St. Germain/cava number.)

                    The "God, I hate these pikers" attitude I've occasionally seen from waitstaff in past RWs -- not that I could particularly blame them -- has been much less evident. Sort of seems like the diners are grateful for the bargains and not being overly demanding, and the restaurants are grateful to have the business. Unhappy economy win/win, such as can be found, I guess?


                    1. I've had mixed experiences at RW, but never a truly horrid one - just uninspired that made me not inclined to return to the restaurant's regular menu. And that's what it's all about, right? The chance to promote and prove your restaurant to an audience who might otherwise not know to give a restaurant a try, or who isn't sure, and make them regulars. I think RW gets trashed because a lot of restaurants don't bother to put their best food forward (wasted opportunity IMO) or others just assume only cheapskates who would never eat out otherwise go out during RW.

                      I for one had a lovely meal at Taranta last night and was definitely wow'ed. It's a restaurant I would return to (and meant to hit RW or not) but my dining partners were someone who has spent her 10+ years working for non-profits and doesn't have much disposable income, and one person who just relocated to Boston and is paying off expensive grad school debt. While their circumstances don't make Taranta a viable option often, they do know and appreciate good food and service.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: kobuta

                        I had the RW menu at Taranta and thought it was below average I got the PEI mussels which were undercooked. It's RARE to have mussels undercooked. Usually if you are going to mess them up they are rubber balls. I got the pasta dish with fresh mozzarella that was good. The cannolli was nothing special. The waiter rushed the hell out of us to try and turn tables. I felt as though the waiter gave us less service because we weren't buying a full price meal.

                        At the end of it all I figured out my plate cost to be around $4-$5 with all of the ingredients (lots of pasta, 1/4 lb mussels). I felt like I was being ripped off for $33.

                        1. re: typhoonfish

                          Quite different from my experience. We went last Wednesday at 6pm, so it was only about 3 tables at the time, including ours. Never felt rushed, and the waitress in fact took time to give us her recommendations and take some photos, etc.

                          Two of the 4 had the mussels, and they loved them - none undercooked. They also had the lamb shanks which were tender and falling off the bone. They were both new to quinoa and were pleasantly surprised by the quinoa risotto, which was flavorful and soft (though not creamy like a traditional risotto).

                          I opted for salmon, only because I don't eat lamb, and I never order chicken when I go out. For just "plain ol' salmon", it was very well cooked and the pistachio crust (pre-FDA warning) added a nice crunch for extra texture. It also came on top of greens with a really nice sauce, and rice that was seared on top. The crunchiness of part of the rice was a nice balance to the softer white rice inside and countered the savory sauce well. We also had the crab appetizer (can't remember the name). Yummy! Crab, avocado on yellow potato cake like thing - you can't go wrong with crab and avocado.

                          We all loved our cannolis, but I'm also a huge guava fan. In fact, I don't care cannolis at all, but this had enough of the right, fruity guava taste to make it feel lighter rather than the bland, overly sweet ricotta stuffing. Nice touch, and better when paired with coffee.

                          I was most impressed by portion size, as I find if there are quality ingredients, they save by skimping on size of the dish. We were laughing at my friends' lamb shanks that were like dino-bone-sized. So perhaps the non-busy time really made a difference in the prep and atmosphere, because we all loved it and found it well worth our $33.

                          1. re: typhoonfish

                            Relative to your comment about the service - I didn't go to Taranta for RW this year, but I did go last year and though the food was excellent (I don't remember specifically what I got but I'd been for their regular menu before and thought it comparable), the service was ABOMINABLE. Our waitress had to be flagged down any time we needed her, coffee was never offered, the bill was unceremoniously slipped beneath a dessert plate - and this was early in the evening, with only a few other tables in the restaurant occupied. My DC was so put out that he actually wrote a note detailing each and every one of the service issues. I haven't been back since - I felt totally affronted as someone who dines in restaurants regularly and is used to occasional subpar service, and I can only imagine how someone taking advantage of Restaurant Week as their Big Night Out would have felt when faced with the same situation.

                            Also, as I recall, the violinist serenaded us with Hey There Delilah, which was just odd.

                            1. re: renéemarie

                              A violinist? At Taranta? I've never seen that, including at a very recent dinner. Is that a Restaurant Week thing?

                              Or are you maybe thinking of La Dolce Vita? I've seen violinists there. (LDV is one of my least favorite places in the North End, the definition of an awful tourist trap in my book.)


                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                I take that back - it was a guitarist. But we were serenaded at Taranta nonetheless. This was at Restaurant Week last winter.