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Philly Restaurant Week - a report

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sylviag Jan 25, 2010 09:32 AM

We had an excellent Restaurant Week dinner at Capital Grille.

Lately I've been very careful about where to go during this crazy time.
Steak houses often seem to be the best bet.

The menu at Capital Grille was a good one, and included two kinds of steak: 8 oz. filet and 10 oz. sirloin. Both were top notch, and done as requested. (I'm a filet person; my husband prefers the tastier sirloin.)

The delicious sides, creamed spinach and "Sam's mashed potatoes" were served in generous portions. I usually find mashed potatoes boring, but these were great.

The appetizer choices were also good; I enjoyed a perfect Caesar salad, with anchovies as requested. Dessert choices included their espresso chocolate cake, creme brulee, homamade ice cream and sorbet.

Service couldn't have been better. Although the restaurant was filled to overflowing, the noise level was acceptable.

Chowhounds, please report about your Restaurant Week experiences. This is how we know where to go next time - and where to avoid.

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  1. bluehensfan RE: sylviag Jan 25, 2010 10:03 AM

    I know Estia was pretty good as far as RW goes, albeit much more crowded. But the food was still top-notch. Still, I prefer to get the same deal at lunchtime that you can get at RW when it is less crowded.

    1. sockii RE: sylviag Jan 25, 2010 10:05 AM

      I've done two RW meals so far this time around.

      First was at Meritage, which I've been meaning to check out since the new chef. Used to enjoy the place since it first opened, but it was always "special event" dining so not somewhere we went to regularly.

      What was nice was that they offered both a shortened a la carte/regular menu as well as the RW one. The SO decided to do 4 courses off the regular menu while I did one of the RW combinations. Everything was excellent and well-timed, even with our differing number of courses. Favorite dishes were actually two of mine off the RW menu: the pork belly appetizer and the hangar steak.

      Portions were excellent and I noticed no "size-difference" between his regular menu selections and mine, although I think the sides were simplified off of what was described on their regular menu. Indeed, without my SO's help I would not have been able to finish everything as my dishes were pretty rich! With a bottle of (I think $38) simple Italian white wine our total, with tip, was about $160. So no big "deal", but it was an excellent meal. We ate early, about 5:00, and had no service issues such as feeling rushed or anything.

      I also went to Branzino with a friend of mine during the week. Basically they had their entire regular menu for RW with maybe the 2-most expensive appetizers and entrees removed (ie, steak and osso bucco). Pasta counted as a second course, however, so you couldn't do pasta-meat-dessert, it had to be salad-or-appetizer/pasta-or-meat/dessert.

      I've been there numerous times before, my friend never had. She was blown away by the food and I found it as consistently good as always. We both had leftovers to take home as there were definitely no issues with skimping on portion sizes. However, if you really break down the prices, it's not a huge "deal" to eat there during RW. Normally the salads/apps run $8-11; pastas about $16-20; meats around $18-22 (if you leave out the dishes they took off the menu). Not sure on desserts, but assuming say $8 for dessert, typically you might only spend $40 or so a person, especially if sharing a course like dessert (as I usually do), or ordering a pasta as a second instead of a meat, etc.

      Total was about $95 with tax/tip (and having some extra coffee afterwards). That said, again no service issues, no apparent skimping or changes on the dishes as normally prepared. I just wouldn't call it a "bargain" to eat there during RW over other places, and also you'll have more flexibility on how and what you order.

      4 Replies
      1. re: sockii
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        nittany RE: sockii Jan 25, 2010 12:05 PM

        we wnt to mercato and it was fantastic! pretty much the whole menu (there was an 6 dollar upcharge for the cioppino), we had the grilled artichoke, and the portobello in puff pastry wit harugula salad for apps, striped bass and homeade pumpking fettuine (with roast butternut squash, shallots, garlig, pancetta and spinach and locatelli - it was AMAZING!) for entrees, cheesecake with honey and brittle and pumpkin pencan tart for dessert. Everythin was wonderful, portions were more than ample (we actually had to take ome pasta home and should have taken a dessert home as i felt i was going to explode). really really good.

        going to le bec thursday, pray it is 1/2 as good!

        1. re: nittany
          sockii RE: nittany Jan 25, 2010 01:16 PM

          I love Mercato, especially for that grilled artichoke.

          Have just added Chifa to my RW list and will be going there tomorrow; will report back.

          1. re: sockii
            n
            nittany RE: sockii Jan 26, 2010 04:11 PM

            we had friends that went to chifa and were disappointed, very curious what you think! we were down to chifa and mercato and picked mercato...

            1. re: nittany
              sockii RE: nittany Jan 26, 2010 05:16 PM

              Just got back and really enjoyed it! Left very full and very satisfied with what we ordered.

              I had the Vietnamese spring roll and pork belly buns for the firsts. The spring roll had a very intense (in a good way) shrimp flavor, no skimping on the filling. The pork belly buns lived up to my expectations -- great combination of textures and salty/sweet flavors. I also had a taste of the hirasima ceviche which my companion ordered, which was tasty but, as others have said, not really a true ceviche as I'm used to it, more an amped up sashimi.

              For seconds I had the mussels and also the red curry. Both were really good - nice fat, flavorful musses and the red curry was rich with crab meat. Was definitely feeling full by then so the wonderfully light passionfruit/coconut dessert hit the spot perfectly. Again, a great combination of textures and flavors, not overly sweet, light and airy instead of heavy and dense.

              We shared a pitcher of the Chicha Morada to drink. At first it was a bit sweet, but after a few sips the spicy flavor began to come through better and it was nice with all dishes. Overall I was very satisfied with the meal - both the amount and quality of the food (it came to about $66 a person with the drinks, tax & tip.) Service was fine, although same problem I've had at other Garces' places - the plates all come out at different times, which is fine if you're intending to share with your dining partner(s), but can lead to some awkward delays and staggered service if you're not (both main courses, my companion's dishes came out well before mine.)

      2. b
        Beulah RE: sylviag Jan 26, 2010 07:07 AM

        We went to Butcher & Singer last night for RW. They offered both the regular menu and the RW menu. We had shrimp cocktail for starters -- 4 jumbo sweet, fresh shrimp with cocktail sauce -- I've had fewer smaller shrimp served as an entree. Other choices were caesar salad or barley mushroom soup. We both had the 8 oz. filet mignon for entree, which were properly prepared to our different preferences and served with mashed potatoes. For dessert my spouse had baked Alaska and I chose chocolate cake, which was good but too huge -- the baked Alaska would have been a better, less huge, choice. Altogether an excellent combination well prepared and served. The place was full.

        1. s
          sylviag RE: sylviag Jan 27, 2010 02:31 PM

          Good RW lunch today at McCormick & Schmick.
          Appetizer was Caesar Salad, not bad. The seafood corn chowder appetizer was enjoyed by others.
          I loved my rare tuna entree. One friend had the salmon, the other the crab cake; everyone was pleased.
          The dessert, a warm apple walnut pie with cinnamon ice cream was delicious.
          Portions generous, service excellent.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sylviag
            n
            nittany RE: sylviag Jan 29, 2010 10:38 AM

            we did le bec last night for restaurant week. have never been before so can;t compare and contrast. the food was wonderful, service was attentive but not overbearing, a really nice night.

            3 of us had the escargot (served in a little pot of champagne butter, maybe 6 of them? divine, and the server made sure i had plenty of bread for the sauce :)). the other had the country pate, huge piece served with toast points and somesort of topping (was concentrating on my escargot!)\
            3 short rib/hanger steak (awesome and fairly large!), i had the salmon which was a little small but excellent. 3 choclate desserts and i had the fantastic creme brule
            it was packed and we did have to wait abotu 15 minutes for our table eventhough we had a reservation. went to the downstairs bar afterward and it was wall to wall. some pretty loud obnoxious people too, which was hardly what i expected. still a real treat for 35 bucks a head!

            1. re: nittany
              b
              Beulah RE: nittany Jan 29, 2010 12:07 PM

              WE went to Le Bec Fin on Wednesday night and were very disappointed -- we were seated downstairs in a corner table where my husband was sticking out into the walkway for waiters and customers waiting for their tables. There were a lot of people waiting almost all the time. They took too many reservations for the event. The food was wonderful as always -- I had the celeriac soup, which was served barely lukewarm. My husband had the beet salad. He had the salmon, which he said was the best he ever had. I had the combination of hanagar steak and short ribs over mashed potatoes in a wine sauce, which was excellent. For dessert he had the chocolate cake, which did not look like the Le Bec Fin cake I remember from the dessert cart, and I had the lemon tart. Both desserts were very good, but the atmosphere was not at all satisfactory.

              1. re: Beulah
                j
                JanR RE: Beulah Feb 5, 2010 08:29 AM

                I had a similar experience at Le Bar Lyonnaise during RW a few years ago. We were squeezed in next to two women who glared at us for being there. Service wasn't great. Food was good. I would never go back there for RW. Have had much better experiences elsewhere but still basically don't like RW.

          2. l
            LPhila RE: sylviag Jan 29, 2010 11:47 AM

            I went to Zahav, and we had their 4 course menu, which is usually available for $36 I believe. It was outstanding... great service, great pace, and a lot of food, not an easy feat with small plates sometimes. There were three of us so we got to try almost everything. I know Zahav is always favorably reviewed on this board, and it did not disappoint.

            2 Replies
            1. re: LPhila
              sockii RE: LPhila Jan 29, 2010 01:30 PM

              >we had their 4 course menu, which is usually available for $36 I believe.

              ...so basically they only discount by one dollar for Restaurant Weeks?

              Think I'll wait to try on a regular night for sure...

              1. re: sockii
                l
                LPhila RE: sockii Feb 5, 2010 08:24 AM

                yeah, no reason to brave the restaurant week rush for sure! They were definitely busy but I didn't feel like food or service suffered for it being such a busy tuesday, and as far as I know they didn't dress the menu up at all for RW. It had been on my list of restaurants for a while so I was psyched to get there, deal or not ... :)

            2. b
              Beulah RE: sylviag Jan 30, 2010 09:41 AM

              We went to R2L last night for the first time -- and for the last night of RW. It is a beautiful room, with lots of black and zebra patterned banquettes, great views on all sides. Bread was a small roll and an even smaller roll with anchovy in the middle, served with a large portion of good butter (much too big for the size of the rolls. Upon request, they brought another portion of the 2 rolls and more butter. We ordered the vegetable soup to start (me) and the cheese risotto (husband). The soup was good and light but he did not like the risotto because it was fried balls of risotto and he prefers not to eat fried food. The main course was salmon (me) and tuna (him) -- both were excellent. Dessert was Mom's Sour Cream Apple Pie, which was 3 mini pies (about 1 1/4" diameter) with a small scoop of thyme ice cream. They were very good but very tiny.

              We looked at the regular menu and the prices looked reasonable for the luxe ambiance. There is a special entrance to the building for the restaurant (says R2L on the canopy) and they take your coat downstairs before sending you up to the 37th floor. Service was friendly and excellent.

              1. r
                rocknroll52 RE: sylviag Jan 31, 2010 07:40 AM

                We did the 4 course dinner at Salento. It was our first time at the restaurant. The highlight of the meal was the frendly, prompt service. We did not have to wait for our wine to be opened, to order food, to receive food, check etc. In and out in just about an hour!

                As to the food itself, there were some highs and lows. We started with the arugula/squid salad and the salentine antipasto. Both excellent. Pasta course was the linguini with roasted tomatoes and ricotta salata, and the duck raviloli. Both yummy!

                Things went downhill with the meat course. My husband's red snapper was overcooked and slightly fishy tasting. My veal medallions with porcini were very overcooked and tasteless. Have to give the meat course a C-.

                Desserts were just average, we had the chocolate truffle with raspberry sauce and the tiramisu.

                Not sure if I would return to Salento, but if you go I'd recommend sticking with the appetizers, salads and pastas.

                Also, I noticed that they have a 3 course $27 prix fixe that is offered on Tues-Thurs and Sunday, which seems like ot would be a good deal.

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