February 10, 2013

Restaurant Week Rundown

And another Restaurant Week has come to an end.  Twice a year, restaurants offer price-fixed lunches and dinners, and if you do a little research, you can find some awesome deals.

Step 1: Seek out the list of participating restaurants
Step 2: Check out their normal menu.  This year, dinner costs you $35.13 for 3 courses.  If you would normally pay this amount, or less, at a given restaurant, don't bother going for restaurant week.  Look for restaurants whose entrees are normally $25-$30+ to ensure you're getting a good deal.
Step 3: Check out their restaurant week menu.  Most of the time, restaurants will pare down their menu for restaurant week, giving you a handful of choices for each course.  Sometimes they only offer their less pricey options, so it not longer becomes a good deal.  A select few will offer their entire menu.  These are your best options.  But in the end, make sure their restuarant week menu has items that you're actually interested in eating.
Step 4: Make a reservation.  They fill up fast, so it's best to have a few choices.  And if you can't get in for dinner, you can always try lunch.
Step 5: Enjoy your meal! Be sure to tip really, really well, you are basically getting a free appetizer and dessert...your server has to come to your table a lot and restaurant week is really busy, so take care of your servers :)

Now, here's where/what we chose to eat...

Our first stop was Bibiana.  Friends had said good things about it, and initially, they were offering their entire menu.  Upon arrival, we were handed a pared down menu, but there were still great options to choose from.  We started with a couple cocktails while we perused the menu.  We ordered up a Speciale (ginger infused vodka, grapefruit, rosemary, and cherry bitters), and an Aged Negroni (gin, vermouth, and barrel-aged Campari).  Justin commented that his Negroni was one of the better ones he's ever had because of the balance between the sweetness and bitterness.  My Speciale had a nice spiciness from the ginger, while the grapefruit gave it a nice citrusy finish.  For our first courses, I went with the arancini, which were stuffed with mushrooms.  They were perfectly crispy on the outside, and nice and gooey on the inside.  Justin chose the squid, stuffed with white beans and soppresatta.  It was cooked to perfection.  For entrees, I went with the grilled cod, and Justin opted for the black truffle risotto.  He has a weakness for truffles, so this was a no-brainer.  The risotto was so creamy, buttery and not overly truffle-y, while the rice was cooked to a perfect al dente.  My cod had a nice smokiness that permeated into the olive oil mashed potatoes.  The tomatoes, olives, and capers that adorned the plate added a nice saltiness to the dish too.  And to round out the meal, I chose a coconut panna cotta with roasted pineapple, and Justin chose the torta, an almond pastry topped with strawberry jam, toasted almonds, and cream.  Both desserts had the perfect amount of sweetness, and were a perfect way to round out the meal.

Part 2 of restaurant week took us to Mintwood Place.  It's a very quaint and rustic spot in Adams Morgan.  But don't worry...it's removed from the craziness of the bars on 18th St.  While we perused the menu, we had to start with the maple pork cracklin's.  These were an additional item, but we couldn't resist.  They were perfectly crisp and airy, and served with a dipping sauce that complemented them perfectly.  As for drinks, I chose the Woodrow Wilson (gin, hum liquor, elderflower, and cava), which had the perfect amount of sweetness and some bubbles.  Justin opted for the Farewell to the 20s (rum, aperol, lime, spice bitters and orange syrup).  He's a sucker for anything with aperol, and the rum was a nice compliment.  For our first courses, I went with the smoked potato, sunchoke and mussel chowder.  The presentation was superb...the potatoes, sunchokes and mussels were mounded in the center of the bowl, and the rich broth was poured around it, tableside.  The broth was exactly what you'd want in a chowder; thick and creamy, but with some sweetness from the mussels.  Justin went with the wood-grilled confit beef heart.  The beef heart was cooked perfectly, and was atop a bed of greens and a poached egg.  For our main dishes, I chose the dorade, which was grilled and served with fennel, olives and onions.  Justin went with the grilled Amish chicken, served with wax and green beans.  The skin on the chicken was perfectly crispy, while the meat was still moist and juicy.  And for dessert, I opted for the baked Alaska, while Justin chose the pecan pie with a creme fraiche drizzle.  The baked Alaska came with a bit of a show.  Some alcohol was set ablaze, tableside, and poured over the dessert.  Rather than the outside being covered in merengue, it was engulfed in marshmallow, and within the white cake was some strawberry sorbet.  It was refreshing, and a great way to end the meal.  Justin's pecan pie was equally delicious, and the creme fraiche was a nice, fresh component to the dish that cut the cloying sweetness of that ooey gooey delicious pie filling.  The crust was nice and brown and buttery and flaky and um...crusty!?!?!

Overall, both restaurants proved to be great choices, and places we'll likely return to in the future.  Now we have about 6 months until we have to decide where to go for summer restaurant week.

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