Haven't heard many responses from the Chowhounds as to their experiences, thus far, during the first week. Usually there is a big "hub bub>" Everyone is excited and seems to want to share their experiences.
Last year my husband and I dined at Meli's in Fells Point. I won't regurgiate my opinion as I posted on the thread last year. I like the restaurant, and am a big fan of Kali's Court and Mezze, but didn't want to be forced into the pris fixe menu. This was after I inquired, during making the reservation, that the a la carte menu was available.
My birthday now falls on the Restaurant Week offering. I'm not impressed. Many of the dning establishments that I would choose to celebrate my birthday are not gaining my business. I prefer a la carte--no crowded restaurant, sub-par food. I want the usual offerings of their standards menus.
I know that I'll be critizized as to my opinion, but I have not been overly impressed with the 3 course- $30 dinner offering.
I'd prefer to see a discount "coupon"--buy one entree, get one of equal or lower value. That works for me. I dont' have to order courses that I don't usually order. FoiGras
Well, I'm happy to report that I and 4 other companions had a terrific RW dinner at Jack's Bistro on Wednesday night. Despite being busy, service was scrupulously good -- the very knowledgeable and nice waitress (might have been the owner, don't know) was very thoughtful (brought us extra plates and utensils without being asked, when we ordered family style) and never made us feel rushed. And the food...!
We shared all the dishes. Appetizers were steak tartare with sundried tomatoes, "steak and potatoes" braised filet mignon with mashed potatoes, some kind of shoe-string fries with cheese and foie gras gravy, and vichychoisse with fried leeks. I was initially skeptical of the braised filet mignon, but it was surprisingly tender and very flavorful -- kind of reminded me of really good brisket. The vichychoisse was EXCELLENT, and I loved the crunchy bits of fried leeks.
Main courses were sous vide duck breast in a thai fruit curry, sous vide NY strip with shoestring fries with truffle oil, and portugese fish stew (where the fish was actually substituted by shrimp). I've never had sous vide before, so I was quite excited, and it did not disappoint. I have NEVER had such tender, melt in your mouth duck breast and steak before -- it was ridiculous. I could have cut it cleanly with a butter knife instead of the steak knives they gave us. I was also impressed that the duck breast had meticulously crispy skin, and the steak actually had a seared surface, despite being sous vide -- they must have taken it out and seared it after cooking in the water bath. While I was wowed by the results of the sous vide technique, the texture of the meats wasn't my favorite. I want a bit of chew on my duck and beef, so I can appreciate the flavor while juices run out in my mouth. The portugese shrimp stew was redolent of chorizo. I think it would have been far better with the original protein of hamachi collar, but it was definitely tasty.
Desserts were a citrus sabayon, lavender and pink peppercorn ice cream and fresh-baked sugar-cookie, and "fried s'mores". When the lavender and pink peppercorn ice cream first came out, with the cold ice cream, and warm soft sugar cookie together in my mouth, with the scent of lavender ... mmm.... I was very happy. The others were good, but not as memorable.
What impressed me the most was how well the food was executed, despite the hustle and bustle, and how good the service was. The crispy fried leeks in the vichychoisse, the crispy duck skin, the sear on the steak, the fact that the shoestring fries were fresh and hot out of the fryer, the contrast of cold ice-cream and FRESH warm sugar cookie... they have a chef who appreciates textures, temperatures, and flavors, and a seriously good team in the kitchen.who execute well.
That was one of the most impressive meals, from start to finish, that I've had in Baltimore. If the point of RW is to introduce people to new places they haven't gone before, then it worked. I'll definitely be back to Jack's Bistro.
Baltimore Restaurant Week is pretty much a scam. It's disappointing that the local food cheerleaders, err media, are afraid to mention that you don't save more than $3 or so at the vast majority of the restaurants. And at some you OVERPAY. A lot of people are convinced it's a "deal" just because of the name. A marketing success for the restaurants, but little in terms of value for the customers - especially if you don't normally order three courses. I'm certainly not going to deal with the crowds, service / food issues and a menu that is probably chosen based on profit margin rather than quality when I could go to a non-participating restaurant and get equally good food at the same price and without the hassles.
Most of the steakhouses, which traditionally offered the best value during restaurant week, have similar prix fixe menus available all the time. Baltimore just doesn't have enough participating restaurants that offer value for a pared-down menu at $30.
The bright side is that we can find good food at reasonable prices year-round, without the gimmicks.
Honestly this is a little wide angled and while I agree yes some places it's about making profit margin rather than the food, there are definitely some places where you get a great deal. So the message here should be that you have to DO YOUR RESEARCH. Values are definitely out there.
I had a particularly bad experience at Sullivan's on Wednesday night. Living in Federal Hill and working in the county I drive past it on Light St everyday and have been intrigued by the appearance and design of the place. From the outside it seemed a bit modern and flashy, as opposed to a more classic steak house look a la Mortons, Capital Grille, etc.
Our group of 8 arrived at 7:45 for our 8 o'clock reservation, checked in and grabbed a drink in the bar area. One drink became two and at 8:15 we went back to the hostess for an update. She had no real update and said we would be notified when the table was ready. I'm not sure if it's because this is a new restaurant and it's their first RW, but they seemed totally unprepared for the crowd and potentially longer table stays with more people than usual staying for dessert (free with RW deal) and drinks.
The conversation in the bar area was great and it wasn't until 8:45 that we noticed we still hadn't heard anything. No update, no apology, no nothing. When we informed the hostess we'd been there for an hour her exact quote was "It's really only been 45 minutes" as if to say that 45 minutes was an acceptable length of time to wait for a table.
One member of our party was already on the phone with Ruth's Chris, told them where we were and they said they could seat us immediately. We walked over and needless to say our meal was exactly what we'd expect at Ruth's Chris...fabulous.
Fantastic lobster bisque to start, perfect filet, and each came with a family style side of mashed potatoes or creamed spinach. Both were incredible and there was plenty to go around. In addition the service was top notch; I've never eaten at Ruth's Chris and not been made to feel special.
Thankfully we all got to enjoy a great meal at a great restaurant; it was needed after an excruciating experience at Baltimore's new worst steakhouse.