Restaurant Week Begins
We are three days into Restaurant Week, that biannual charge of bargain-seeking diners eager to pack restaurants beyond capacity. In past years, I've filled my week with daily lunch and dinner reservations to survey how different restaurants stack up. Though my dining card may not be quite as ambitious this year, I will be reporting back on thoughts.
Last night, I booked a reservation at the restaurant of the Morrison-Clark Inn. Chef Janis McLean returned to the restaurant last year and has been reviving some of the Southern-inspired dishes that brought it acclaim in the late '90s. The elegant space is quite small, so it didn't take many reservations to fill the seats last night. At peak time, only one large table remained empty. That somewhat slowed service initially, but water refills were attentive and the servers were quite friendly.
At Morrison-Clark, the four appetizer choices included bourbon-glazed shrimp over grits, a roasted salsify soup, mixed greens and a salad of hearts of palm. The shrimp were flavorful, though the grits were undercooked and bland. The four entree choices were a duo of lamb -- a chop and a Moroccan-inspired stew -- with polenta, a perfectly cooked petite whole-roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts, black cod over lentils and a roasted butternut squash risotto. All were generous portions. Three desserts were offered: a chocolate ganache gateau, lemon chess pie with chantilly cream and blackberry compote, and a sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. Desserts were a highlight. The chess pie was delicate, while the pudding was warm and gooey with the rich ice cream melting down the sides. It struck me as a good substitute for those craving the sticky fig pudding at the recently closed Inn at Easton.
Restaurants that participate in the promotion take several approaches to their menus. My favorite places are those like DC Coast and Kinkead's, which offer nearly all of their menu with the very occasional extra charge for more expensive items. Others, like Agraria, choose to serve a separate menu with limited offerings. Still others, like Vidalia, charge up to $10 extra on more than half of the entrees. Though I hate to limit myself to a choice of just a few options per course, a meal price can quickly skyrocket with a few extra charges. Morrison-Clark passed out the full menu, but used a star icon to designate Restaurant Week options. The restaurant did not offer the option of upcharges for entrees that were not designated with the icon. When an establishment offers several appealing choices, I am happy to order off of the promotional menu. Otherwise, I've learned that it just isn't worth it.
Two years ago, I visited Poste with several friends, who quickly jettisoned the promotional menu in favor of the regular one. Determined to stick with the true Restaurant Week experience, I ordered from the limited options and asked for bites of everyone's food. Sure, they ended up chipping in more money, but were my savings worth having to settle for a salad while friends shared charcuterie? Which restaurants do you favor during Restaurant Week?
If you can't make it in by Sunday, here is a list of places where you can nab a deal next week or even through the end of the month.
Butterfield 9 and Willow will extend through Saturday, Jan. 26. 1789 will serve through that Sunday along with Cafe Atlantico, Jaleo, Oyamel and Zaytinya. Dino and Farrah Olivia will offer Restaurant Week promotions through the end of January.
Corduroy, which will close its doors on Jan. 31 to prepare for an early-March opening in its new location, will offer Restaurant Week for lunch and dinner through Jan. 26. After that, the restaurant will host what chef Tom Power calls "liquid liquidation." In an e-mail, Power explained that the restaurant will serve "a shrinking menu (both in price and number of items offered) and great deals on drinks. What ever is left after restaurant week will be sold at huge discounts (close to cost)."
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