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Posted at 1:09 PM ET, 02/18/2009

Weigh In on Restaurant Week

By Julia Beizer

This Restaurant Week, my meals have had many of the trappings typical of the semi-annual promotion -- smaller portions, servers who artfully attempt to point you to the Restaurant Week side of the menu (because it's obvious you're not a regular), etc. But one thing has been conspicuously absent: other diners. Maybe it's the long weekend, the fact that this year's Winter Restaurant Week falls so soon after Valentine's Day or the oft-mentioned global recession, but I've seen more empty tables this week than I have in recent months. I suppose the restaurants' losses were my gain; at two meals this week, I was treated to some of the best Restaurant Week service I've ever had.

I got my fill at Adour this Restaurant Week. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

I'll dish about my meals after the jump. Share your stories in the comments below.

Vidalia has been the elusive holy grail of my Restaurant Week experiences for years now. Every six months, I yearn to visit; every six months, I can't get a reservation. But this year, I snagged an 8:45 on Monday. Since the dining room was half full, our waiter had plenty of time to give us solid descriptions of the entrees. His advice led us to the braised wagyu brisket -- a tender, flavorful dish with an artful presentation as the server poured bouillon over the brick of meat and cubes of root vegetables. The meal did feel small, though. I've never had the pleasure or the pocketbook to dine at Vidalia before, but I'd be shocked if the two curls of cured snapper on a tiny plate dotted with watermelon slices and orange sauce passed as an appetizer on a regular night. The small size didn't mean bad food, however. The aforementioned app had the citrusy bite of key lime and the crunch of caviar over the melon. For dessert, we indulged with a chocolate-banana napoleon and the nutty Georgia pecan bar. The winter flounder entree wasn't quite as exciting as the brisket, so late-week Vidalia-goers, take note. We were surrounded by a table of very early 20-somethings who were clearly delighted to dine at the restaurant, and a couple that was so impressed with their dessert that they snapped pictures with their cellphones.

I might have been longing after Vidalia for years, but the relatively new Adour restaurant in the St. Regis was a temptress from the moment I spied her on the Winter Restaurant Week list. Since it's usually too pricey for this journalist's salary, I couldn't resist a chance to score the $20.09 lunch deal. I did not leave disappointed. Adour was also half empty when I arrived for my 1:30 reservation, but once again, the slow dining room meant better service. There must have been five different waiters who stopped at our table to explain dishes on the very limited Restaurant Week menu, serve our wine and check in on us. On top of that, we were treated to a filling sunchoke soup with bacon foam (not really a foam fan, but seriously, who could turn down bacon foam?), a green salad atop olive tapenade, a tasty fennel side that eclipsed the salmon on the plate and a hanger steak served on the rare side. Dessert was better still. My date opted for the rich combination of chocolate and coffee flavors; mine was a lighter mix of pineapple, kiwi and tapioca.

All in all, the meals have been worth the extra time I'm going to be putting in on the elliptical. How about the rest of you?

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | February 18, 2009; 1:09 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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I think the $35.09 dinner price has made RW less of a bargain than it used to be. Went to Ceiba last night. It was delicious and the service was very good. The dining room was mostly full. The cost of the food outside of RW would have been $42. Essentially, I got a free dessert from one of the more expensive restaurants. But a free dessert is a free dessert...

Posted by: lgdc | February 18, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Lunch is a better deal. However, I went to Zaytinya on Monday and chose not to do the RW menu b/c it was sort of boring. Falafel, hummus, that sort of thing. However, the restaurant was pretty full.

Posted by: chiquita2 | February 18, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Hubby and I didn't go out for Valentine's Day and actually took advantage of Restaurant Week at Bobby Van's last night. For a Tuesday night, the place was packed. Great menu, and I love the portion sizes since we don't like to eat heavy meals at night.

Some of my co-workers and I have been trying to plan a lunch outing for some time with one of our former co-workers. We'll be popping over to D.C. Coast for lunch Friday afternoon.

Posted by: jrobinson3 | February 18, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Passionfish in Reston for lunch was absolutely delightful, and they offered the full entree menu with just two items having extra charges. The service was impeccable, and the meal was lovely from start to finish, including the amuse bouche.

Posted by: Restonmom | February 18, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Last night had a great meal - though a bit rushed with food then allowed to linger over coffee. Three courses plus amuse bouche and little sweets at the end. My dining partner can't wait to go back which is what RW is all about. We are middle aged and it gave us great pleasure to see so many young people dining out - if only they would dress a little nicer....(yes,I know, but.)

Posted by: sfadland | February 18, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Experienced my first Restaurant Week last night. I went to PS7 with coworkers. Everyone enjoyed their first course. I loved my butternut squash soup. We all had the beef tenderloin. Everyone raved about it. We each got a different dessert. My orange cake was okay. The marmalade (or what ever it was) in between the layers had a really intense flavor. I would recommend the cheese cake or the banana krisp. I was a little disappointed by the dessert choices. I think they were trying out new items. Service was good but we had an early reservation right after work. The dining room was not full. PS7 is continuing Restaurant Week into next week according to our server.

Posted by: lam91897 | February 18, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Farrah Olivia Monday night for dinner was fantastic. We had a party of 4 reserved at 630....from start to finish the food was delicious, service great (she explained each and every dish to all of us) and the vibe was great. Would go back RW or not to enjoy the unique flavors all over again.

Posted by: FFXgirl | February 19, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I went to dinner on Tuesday night at Ten Penh - they had all of their entrees on the RW menu! My friend and I both had great meals, great service, did not feel rushed and found our server to be helpful! The chef was also distributing little "shots" of a soup and then blondie treats at the end of the meal - in addition to the regular 3 course meal. I would definitely go back.

It was on the empty side when we walked in (7 pm) but was full when we left. Not overcrowded, but full.

Posted by: maureenbenitz | February 19, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to agree with lgdc here and say that the $35 price tag makes it less and less of a deal. For $35 I will glady skip having the menu limited and just eat the one entree I REALLY want on any normal night. I'm skipping it completely this year. I love many of the restaurants that are participating, but when I go I generally don't spend $35 on just food. Soo, unless they are offering outstanding selections for apps and desserts and all their entrees, why would I go?

Posted by: ROEL8021 | February 19, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Ended up at Olives for Restaurant Week, by coincidence. We were using a gift card we received for Christmas and made the reservation for lunch before we knew it would be restaurant week. We were able to have afford more courses than if we had gone with the regular menu. It was like having a nice dinner. And the restaurant was nice and quiet because it was President's Day, so we got great service. The choices were limited, but very good. My husband, usually a carnivore, tried the chestnut raviolli and loved it. He was also very impressed with the minestrone soup appetizer filled with fresh veggies.

Posted by: ehardwick | February 19, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I had dinner at Domaso last night and was quite disappointed in the overall experience. Nothing was awful, but nothing really good. There are too many good choices at the same price point with good atmosphere in DC to choose this destination. Mussels were good, not great. The braised shortribs had chunks of fat on them, the pork osso bucco was tender, but flavorless. The desserts were eh. The best thing about dinner? The bottle of Layer Cake primitivo that I ordered...great wine for a great price. May go back for the wine, but may pass on the food and go elsewhere.

Posted by: foowiho | February 20, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

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