It's that time again...the Winter Restaurant Week in DC is set for the week of January 17th until January 23, 2011. Check out the list of participating restaurants.
But, to be honest, is really worth going? I don't think I have had a single dinner at Restaurant Week that was on-par with meals I had from the regular menu. It is almost like these restaurants are content to mail it in during the one week in which they are supposed to ATTRACT new customers with exemplary service and well executed food. Perhaps they think they can get away with lackadaisical efforts because they assume that the majority of the diners during Restaurant Week only come for the discounted prix fixe and will not return. So, they sling some slop for the unwashed masses invading their hallowed epicurean altars, feel smugly satisfied, and then call it a week. It is truly unfortunate, regardless, especially when you are eating a scallop that manages to be perfectly charred black on the outside and milky-white raw in the inside (I suppose it's a play on an Oreo or a Mallomar).
In fairness, some of these restaurants are probably experimenting with new dishes. They are still doing their final tweaks and you can, despite the conceptual flaws, taste some forethought and technique being applied. But, should Restaurant Week diners be unsuspecting guinea pigs?
There are exceptions, of course, to this rule (though it is unfortunate that these exceptions are as incapable of swallowing this rule as I was unable to swallow that hellacious Restaurant Week scallop). I do find some of the lunch deals to be quite fair and the food well done. Bistro Bis has an excellent prix fixe lunch menu populated with entrees and appetizers from the regular menu. The beef tartar was particularly memorable. Oyamel also had a solid lunch menu consisting of tapas from the regular menu (though I wouldn't do the Restaurant Week dinner...$15 more for one more tapa? I might as well go any other time). The Oval Room and Adour were also quite good. Not amazing, but for $20, well worth the price.
These lunch menus do what Restaurant Week is supposed to do...give you an inexpensive preview of what the restaurant is capable of at full price. And I have returned to these restaurants because of the care they have shown during lunch. Maybe some of the other restaurants who participate in Restaurant Week should take the same cue for dinner as well.