RW - When will I learn?
OK, most of you are going to say "I told you so", but ever the optimist, I continue to think RW is a great opportunity to try out a new restaurant when you are not dining on an expense account!
Went to Market last night here's the good and the bad:
THE GOOD - service was terrific from waitstaff to busboys. They are on it. They refill bread often, water often and you aren't looking around for them all the time as they appear just when they think you might need something. We never felt rushed (which was not the case last year when I dined at Sorrelina and they were clearly turning the tables every 45 mintues).
THE BAD - the table next to us whispered that typically RW portions are smaller than regular portions and they were right for the most part. I ordered two dishes that were very meager on the portions - the truffle pizza was the size of an english muffin, and the short ribs was one, smallish short rib. My DC has the tuna appetizer which was a bit more substantial and the bass which was also small but reasonable portion size. The food was acceptable but nothing that made me swoon. I almost wish we had gone off the regular menu as the thing about RW is that you THINK it is going to be cheaper but in reality once you have a glass of wine, coffee, it ends up being comparable to a regular meal (ours was $112 with tip). The dining room vibe doesn't knock my socks off either and feels like you are dining in a hotel.
You'd think these restaurants would wise up and make the RW experience the best they could possibly make it and a real value (ie regular portion sizes and don't rush people). For the two weeks they participate in this event you'd think they could suck it up so they would turn customers into repeat diners. Oh well...the experience didn't wow me enough to come back. Lesson learned.
Not a RW fan at all for the reasons noted here (generally a believer that the best you can ever do is "get what you pay for"), but I did end up enjoying the Aquitaine South End straightforward offering by choice instead of by plan (just went there for dinner without regard to RW): perfectly-dressed simple green salad, classic coq au vin, and lemon brulee tart dessert - I am not sure it would cost much more outside RW, but it was tasty and satisfying on a rainy night. The service was the same professional, efficient approach as always - no rush, no issues.
I had a much better experience with the RW lunch at Market, which I reported on the winter RW thread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/694608
Perhaps the dinner portions are smaller, but for my lunch, I was so full that I couldn't even finish the chocolate cake dessert (and I love chocolate)!
Anyway, if you order those apps and entrees from the menu during non-RW times, it'll cost you $40 for 2 courses. I can't see how you can get out of the restaurant for $56pp during non-RW, with wine, coffee, dessert, tax & tip added to the $40.
I agree it is a real letdown when you go to a nice place and it seems like you're getting less than their best.
As far as Market goes, the RW options are from the regular menu, and I can't say I noticed a difference in the portion size of the bass or chicken between RW and other visits. Nobody at my table got the short rib this time around.
While I don't disagree that RW experiences are often mediocre, I usually find a few gems in my experiences that compel me to continue trying. It's just a shame that restaurants don't take the opportunity to get more creative and to offer more innovative fare (note: I didn't say expensive...I understand the price point limitations).
I've had much better luck when I can see the menu beforehand. If I can confirm that the menu choices aren't your typical hanger steak/salmon/chicken or pasta options (or derivatives thereof), I tend to have a much better experience.
My winners this time are Erbaluce and TW Foods (no complaints - what a great dinner!). I know RW bashing is popular on this board and to each his/her own, but I still maintain that it's not RW that's the problem - it's when restaurants offer the uninspired choices. I think if you're not into it, just don't participate - it's ok! Why put out a boring menu and give clients the bad experience?
I also don't buy the other common (ahem, elitist) stream of thought that the ones who go out to RW are the low-end unsophisticated customers who will never be regulars, and so it's ok to serve them average food. With each RW I try less and less, but also find that I become better at finding the places who do it well.
69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116
I had a great meal on Monday night at Mare. Despite the waiter being a bit snooty about our asking for the RW menu and despite him implying that the portions were smaller, I had a grilled trout that was perfectly done, ful of flavor and probably at least 10 ounces of fish.
Looking forward to Sorellino tomorrow night and I double dog date them to rush me.
My RW hit rate is about 50%, not great odds in my book. It looks like I will get through this one without havng done an RW meal, though I've been to places offering RW and ordered off the regular menu anyway. The most surprising revelation from Devra First's RW sampler review in yesterday's Globe (very interesting and useful, I thought) was that the luxury steakhouse in her sample didn't cheap out on RW. As I read it, Capital Grille offered the best or second-best RW experience of the six places she hit.
re: MC Slim JB
Gave up on it years ago. We just figure these are weeks to eat at home or at the few places not taking part. Of course, as more people who love good food start to do that, it's harder to find a table or a couple of bar stools at those places.
We also avoid holidays and other events. Too many compromises to enjoy the experiences.