New Haven Restaurant Week - lemonade from lemons!
We have generally tried to book one night for restaurant week each go round and generally, we try to pick a restaurant that we don't generally frequent. Based on past comments and a very nice menu, we decided on Carmen Anthony's, where all three courses seemed to be appealing and the Restaurant Week price for the 3 courses (and a reasonably priced wine flight) was less than the entree alone would normally be.
We had 7:30 reservations for Thursday night, and upon arriving at 7:25, found more than 50 people waiting for tables - including a number of 7:00 reservations that had not yet been seated. Additionally, the hostess could not even give us an educated guess as to how long it would be before we could be seated. As our 15 yr old son was with us and had a night of homework to deal with, we got on the phone and tried a couple of other participating venues, and the second call was to Heirloom, where we could be accommodated immediately. Having read quite a bit about it here, it seemed like a logical choice. Although we were plagued with a bit of uneven service, we had absolutely no complaints about the food - everything was delicious. I had the crabcake app - almost all lump crabmeat (albeit one very small cake) and my wife and son had the wedge salad. My wife had asked for the dressing on the side and my son had asked for no onions, and yet, both received the regular salad. Both were replaced after a short wait and were very good. We accompanied our dinner with a bottle of Glen Carlou South African chardonnay, one of my favorite reasonably priced whites (which at $36 - 2 1/2 times retail - was one of the least expensive offerings).
I had the snapper (as did my wife) and it was absolutely delicious, albeit again an almost laughably small portion. Our son had the pork chop and it was moist and delicious.
Deserts were good but not memorable ("bulldog brownie" w/ice cream and sorbets). It was more than a bit surprising that our waitperson did not ask if we wanted coffee or after dinner drinks. All in all, however, a very nice experience.
A couple of thoughts regarding the night: I cannot begin to fathom the thought process at Carmen Anthony's. It would be my guess that restaurants utilize Restaurant Week as a marketing tool to entice new patrons. Given the experience at Carmen Anthony's, i would not go back without some very compelling reason, and from the tenor of the conversations that I overheard while we were there, neither would a number of other diners. To overbook to that extent is absolutely ridiculous. As far as Heirloom is concerned, when they first opened, I questioned whether downtown New Haven could sustain another high end restaurant, especially in this economy. As much as we enjoyed it - both the food and the restaurant itself - I would be hard pressed to go there for anything less than a very special occasion. Glancing at the regular menu, it is hard to digest that the least expensive main dishes are $25 plates of pasta. I think that what was telling was that on a Thursday night during Restaurant Week, not only could they seat us at a prime hour (8:00), but a fairly significant number of tables were unoccupied.