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Posted at 4:39 PM ET, 08/26/2009

Restaurant Week Reports: I'll Tell You Mine...

By Julia Beizer

Is it just me, or is it kind of deserted out there?

Sei wasn't quite this empty during Restaurant Week, but the restaurant wasn't packing 'em in either. (Scott Suchman)

Two days in and I've had two Restaurant Week dinners in half-full restaurants. To be fair, diners trickled into PS 7's at around 8 last night, but at 7:15, empty tables dotted the landscape. Sei never came close to reaching full capacity for the entire time we were there on Monday.

Not that I was at Sei for all that long. The servers had us in and out in 53 minutes. I know Restaurant Week is supposed to be all about turning tables quickly, but under an hour felt too quick. I tucked into my bowl of watermelon-wasabi gazpacho only to have a server re-appear within minutes to ask if I wanted her to "get that out of the way" for me. I didn't.

But hey, on to the food. The restaurant's got a pretty extensive Restaurant Week menu: six appetizer options, five entrees. The watermelon gazpacho was a bit too waterlogged for my taste -- I know you're in there, flavor! -- but the wasabi guac was as good as I remembered it from a previous visit. I opted for the short ribs entree and I'm glad I did. Miso provided a subtle complement to the tender meat. My date ordered the California roll and nigiri entree and I think that's a good bet for hungrier diners. With six pieces of nigiri and the roll, it felt like a more full plate. The orange miso bread pudding should not be missed. (The restaurant will continue to offer Restaurant Week pricing through Sept. 30).

My PS 7's expectations weren't that high to begin with after a not-so-great meal there long ago, but last night's dinner was a good one. Like Sei, PS 7's had a lot of options. Saffron and tomato blended beautifully in the broth for mussels. The warm spinach salad was small, but the tumble of wintry flavors piqued our interest in the next course. For me, the pork loin was the winner: stuffed with leeks and bacon, topped with strips of parmesan and surrounded by a sauce with only slight hints of thyme. Both the pork and the beef tenderloin came in normal-size portions -- a bonus during RW. Dessert's strongest temptation was the rich chocolate-peanut butter concoction, essentially a candy bar for grown ups. (PS 7's will offer Restaurant Week pricing through Sept. 5.)

So, I've told you mine, let me hear from you. What are your Restaurant Week hits and misses? Let your fellow diners know in the comments below.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | August 26, 2009; 4:39 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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I typically enjoy all of the Jeff Tunks restaurants during RW, but I was not impressed with Acadiana. The mahi mahi was dry and tasteless and the biscuits were hard. That said, the bread pudding was incredible.

Posted by: CapHillRes1 | August 26, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

We went to TenPenh for lunch yesterday. They were full, even for a late lunch, and didn't rush us at all. The food was delicious overall. The star at our table, I think, was the whole fried catfish. A stunning sight and a nice, light taste.

Posted by: willowj | August 26, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Went to Westend Bistro for lunch with three friends. It is fair to say that we found the experience highly underwhelming. A choice of two appetizers (soup or salad), a choice of two entrees (pasta or, I kid you not, _fishburger_), and a choice of two deserts (rice pudding or "beignets," which were actually quite good, but were definitely not beignets).

Look: if you are going to participate in restaurant week, give the diners a real choice. It doesn't have to be a lot, but it really does need to be more than two items per course... especially if one of the items is a fishburger (think crabcake, but with breaded mixed fish, on a bun). The food itself was fine, albeit largely uninspiring. The soup was a cold tomato consomme, and was fairly tasty... except they brought out the soup in two cups that were clearly each a serving... and then split that amongst the three of us that ordered soup. All in all, it was a surprisingly low rent and chintzy seeming operation.

Why participate in restaurant week if you are going to put forth such an uninspired and mildly insulting effort? I went to Westend Bistro to try a taste of someplace relatively new that was supposed to be good. Given their underwhelming approach to RW, I doubt I will be back any time soon. They'd have been much better off not participating at all than treating their RW crowd with such obvious disdain.

Posted by: Ootek | August 26, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

My frist restaurant week stop was at Adour and, as expected, it was phenomenal. Even though we were eating off of the RW menu, we still got all of the regular menu accoutrements (bread, mini biscuits, an amuse AND macarons in addition to dessert). Definitely a good choice and value with excellent service and atmosphere.

Unfortunately, can't really say the same for my second stop at Co Co Sala. In addition to being MORE expensive than their regular menu, there was only ONE choice for the amuse and appetizer. In fact, if you don't like them then you're out of luck because Co Co is ONLY serving the RW menu, not their normal one as well. Definitely not worth it.

Posted by: Cancemini4 | August 27, 2009 6:44 AM | Report abuse

Went to Spezie's for RW lunch yesterday. Had tons of choices and all very good. My ravioli with pistachio cream sauce (yum) was a little on the small side but between the appetizer salad and the dessert, left me quite content overall. It's my second time there for RW lunch and I've also been a couple of times outside of RW and the food has yet to disappoint me.

Posted by: cvonspie | August 27, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

$35.09 isn't a good deal for most restaurants. You basically get a free dessert. They lost me when they went that high.

Posted by: JayRano | August 27, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a RW hater, but I've deliberately picked a non-RW restaurant for a nice meal tonight (Cork). I just don't want to deal with the hassle of having to decide what menu I want to order from and the possibility of rushed, annoyed service.

Posted by: Kev29 | August 27, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I went to Oyamel last night and had the best restuarant week meal in my 3 years of participation. The seared scallops are seasoned to perfection and cooked just right. Not to be missed!

Posted by: EllieClarke | August 27, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the previous poster on the dinner price. Once they went to $35 I stopped going. I also find the RW menus too restrictive. I rarely order appetizers or dessert, preferring cocktails and wine with an entree. For me RW was never a great deal but the price increase has kept me away completely.

Posted by: megan11 | August 27, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

A group of us went to Bobby Van's for RW lunch today. It wouldn't have been my choice, but I was happy to try some place new. I thought they did a pretty good job. Only two choices for appetizer and dessert, but they were all very tasty. There were four or five choices for the entree. My pasta with shrimp had a bit more sauce that I usually like, but it was good. My companions were all very pleased with their steaks.

Steakhouses are generally lost on me, but I agree that they often prove to be one of the better values during RW. Bobby Vann's didn't wow me enough to make me return on my own, but I'd be content to go along if a friend wanted to try it outside of RW.

Posted by: mspatterson | August 27, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I went to Art and Soul last night. Check out my review (and those of other DC restaurants) here

Posted by: WhatMickyEats | August 28, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Sorry - here is the link

Posted by: WhatMickyEats | August 28, 2009 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Went to Filomena's in Georgetown for RW Thursday dinner. It was a major disappointment. Rushed, yes. And the food looked and tasted like it had made earlier in the week for just this purpose. My high hopes for this famous establishment were seriously dashed. If the purpose of RW is to get people into new restaurants and give them a financial boost Filomena's may have gotten my money but did not gain a return customer. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

Posted by: LoriB1 | August 28, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

RW dinner is a waste, I only do lunch.

Oya was great, then bad, then great. The sea bass spring roll and tempura tuna roll apps were actually amazing. The main courses were a disaster. I played it safe by going with shrimp scampi - very bland. The beef tenderloin was salty and dry, and the scallops were mediocre in a bland sauce. But then the banana bread pudding dessert was awesome.

Acadania was excellent! Turtle soup and jumbalaya. Beet salad was great too.

Posted by: jrubin7 | August 28, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Oya was great for RW lunch. Best $20 spent. It looked like their entire menu is available for the prix fixe, including the sushi rolls. Had the spicy crunchy salmon and fellow diner had orange beef for first course. Both were delectable. For second course, I opted for the meat & potatoes roll, which I almost regretted after ordering, but it turned out to be amazing. I want to try to recreate it at home. Partner had tempura chicken sandwich, which was so huge, he had to take half of it home. It also came with a generous side of french fries. He enjoyed his coconut sorbet and the banana bread pudding was a wonderful ending to a last minute RW lunch.

Posted by: mediajunky | August 28, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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