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Restaurant Week Top Ten Picks

Restaurant Week occurs twice a year during the slow restaurant season in the winter (usually January) and the late summer (usually August). Restaurants are typically slow around the holiday season and in the summertime when people take vacation away from the DC area. Many restaurants welcome Restaurant Week as a way to drum up new business. This year’s summer restaurant week in DC starts on Monoday, August 24 – 30; however many DC restaurants extend their promotions an extra week or sometimes an entire month (see list below).

Restaurant week is an excellent opportunity to try a new place, or one that you simply could not afford otherwise. To get the most “bang” for your buck, choose really expensive restaurants with superior reputations, for example, I choose restaurants that have been on the Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurant list consistently that I haven’t tried. Or perhaps your dollar would be best trying a place that serves a cuisine that you’ve always wanted to try, but were too timid to risk shelling out good money for.

Dinner prices have increased this year; three courses now cost $35.09. Lunch remains, the same terrific deal it’s always been: $20.09 for a starter, main course and dessert. Some restaurants will offer their full menu while others will have a special Restaurant Week menu. One of the absolute best ways to take advantage of restaurant week is to go to lunch at a fine dining establishment that you would not normally be able to afford.

Restaurants that offer their full menu are considered the best deal. The restaurants that offer prix fixe menus or pre-theatre menus all year long you can take advantage of anytime. In addition, restaurants that offers any small-plates/tapas/mezze, such as Zaytinya, Jaleo, Oyamel, all great, but already generally offer good deals year-round. Some restaurants offer only limited selections, or include various upcharges (sometimes called supplemental fees) for some of their better dishes – these should be avoided.

Here are my top ten picks based on their reputation, quality of food, restaurant week menu offerings, or based on my own restaurant week experience.

  1. RW 2-09 001Vidalia- Open since spring 1993, the James Beard Award winning chefs Jeffrey Buben and R.J. Cooper, have driven this restaurant to be one of DC’s most highly regarded restaurants. In 2009, Vidalia was listed as #7 on Washingtonian’s Very Best list earning three and a half stars out of four. Their summer restaurant week menu offers many choices for appetizers and entrees. I went to lunch at Vidalia in February for restaurant week and had to date, the best restaurant week experience ever. Their brisket was, moist, tender, flavorful, and delicious. I also tried the shrimp and grits which is one of Vidalia’s “signature” dishes.
  2. ToscaExecutive Chef Massimo Fabbri is highly regarded and loved even by other top DC area chefs. With their superior reputation for beautiful pasta, which is house-made fresh daily, Tosca ranked within the top 25 of Washingtonian’s Very Best list two years in a row earning three stars out of four. Their restaurant week menu is one of the best – by offering diners their full dinner menu, including some of Chef Fabbri’s signature dishes black sea bass tartar, Veal Ravioli, Risotto with saffron, and carrot pappardelle with a rabbit ragu.
  3. compressed cookingArt and Soul – Under the direction of two-time James Beard Award winning Chef, Art Smith, Art and Soul made the Washingtonian’s Very Best list within the first year of its opening. Executive Chef Travis Timberlake (see photo on right) has crafted an excellent summer restaurant week menu by offering many of his Southern inspired dishes that are available on the regular lunch and dinner menu. This is a great opportunity to sample some of his extraordinary cuisine, prepared with love – at an exceptional value. On the restaurant week dinner menu enjoy Fried chicken with country potato salad; ravioli with herbs and spring vegetables; salmon with pea risotto, golden-beet relish, and preserved-lemon vinaigrette; pork chop with charred-stone-fruit relish and sweet-onion broth; crispy whole trout with spring-bean salad and rhubarb vinaigrette. They are extending their restaurant week promotion through September 6.
  4. Rasika – At one of Washington’s best Indian restaurants, Chef Vikram Sunderam’s offers deliciously authentic Indian cuisine. Rasika is ranked within the top 25 of Washingtonian’s Very Best list earning three stars out of four. Chef Sunderam’s restaurant week lunch menu is the most promising at such an excellent value and includes its much-praised palak chaat, lamb roganjosh and for dessert, carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon. For dinner, enjoy some his best dishes, the palak chaat, black cod lightly sauced with star anise, dill, and honey and for dessert enjoy the carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon. Bread or rice comes with each main course. Rasika is offering their special restaurant week menus until September 5.
  5. PassionFish – As the newest restaurant of Passion Food Hospitality restaurant group, whose owners, Chef Jeff Tunks, Gus Dimillo, and David Wizenberg, have a longstanding tradition of offering any entrée on their regular menus while offering selected appetizers and desserts for the restaurant week prix fixe menu. This year is no different. I went to PassionFish in February for restaurant week and was very impressed.  On the restaurant week menu for selected appetizers are some of their best dishes including their Crab and Corn chowder, Classic Peruvian Style Ceviche and Yucatan Shrimp + Ceviche “Cocktail”. I recommend the Monkfish “Osso Bucco” Amatriciana, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and Crème Brulee for dessert.
  6. Café Atlantico – celebrity Chef José Andrés is offering the full regular menu in addition to their special prix fixe menus. Make sure to order dishes that are not included on their pre-theatre menu which they all year round for $35. On the restaurant week dinner entrées include Duck confit with Brussels sprouts, apples, raisins, and pinenuts; portobello mushroom with huitlacoche, chihuahua cheese, roasted beets, and beet oil; braised beef short ribs with grilled eggplant and squash; Veracruz-style salmon with tomatoes, olives, onions, avocado, and capers; grilled skirt steak with mushrooms, green beans, and truffled potato espuma. Café Atlantico is extending their restaurant week promotion until September 6.
  7. HookFresh sustainably sourced seafood and fish combined with the best local and organic produce is Chef Jonathan Seningen’s focus at this Georgetown dining room. Hook has a solid reputation for delicious quality food, especially during restaurant week. This summer Chef Seningen is offering extensive lunch and dinner menus with choices such as salmon with chickpeas, tomato, spinach, and cayenne; including some of his best and signature dishes like the Arctic char with sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and celeriac purée; mahi mahi with prosciutto, black-eyed peas, and spinach; yellowfin tuna with white-bean purée, bok choy, and boquerone mustard.
  8. Dino – No one means business like Dean Gold – as he takes great pride in his warm and inviting Italian wine bar and dining room located in the Cleveland Park neighborhood. Dino serves excellent authentic Italian fare at an exceptional value all year round but has gone the extra mile by offering one of the most generous restaurant week dinner deals: any three courses from the regular menu, plus a free glass of house-infused grappa or moscato. I recommend the Saltimbocca, described on the menu as veal and pork Meatballs with onions, garlic, herbs, egg & bread crumb, with spicy tomato oregano sauce and the Linguine alla Pescatore, which is fresh mussels & mahogany Clams with house made pasta, garlic, tomatoes, wine & parsley. The promotion will be extended through September 13.
  9. Kaz Sushi Bistro Rammy winning Chef, “Kaz” (Kazuhiro) Okochi offers deliciously fresh and innovative sushi. At lunch, diners are offered a choice of two preset menus. On the lunch menu enjoy a choice of Miso soup; bento box (seaweed salad, Asian short ribs, spicy California roll, or miso-marinated salmon, and spicy green mussels). For dessert, choose between green-tea ice cream or mango sorbet. For dinner appetizers: try the deliciously fresh and innovative (See photo above) Scallop ceviche piña colada; or seared Sockeye salmon with wasabi/tuna sauce; spicy shrimp fritter; crispy calamari salad; teriyaki pork ribs; grilled miso-marinated salmon. For main course, choose either three nigiri or two maki. I recommend the lychee panna cotta with mango sorbet for dessert. (see photo).
  10. Ici Urban Bistro – (photo) Ici Urban Bistro offers a fresh and contemporary twist on traditional French cuisine. The Executive Chef, Olivier Perret who is a native of Burgundy, France has been on board just a few months and is already captivating DC diners with his innovative and contemporary approach to traditional French cooking. His restaurant week menu includes some of his specialties such as Pan Seared Halibut with Mango and wilted arugula, veal jus or  Duck Confit with garlic mashed potatoes, balsamic and star anis reduction.

 Restaurant Week Promotion Extensions

  • 2941 – August 3 through August 28 
  •  701 Restaurant – August 24 through Sept 6th 
  • Art and Soul – August 24- September 6
  • Café Atlantico – August 24- September 6
  • Cedar Restaurant – August 1 through August 23
  • Co-co Sala – August 24- September 2
  • Darlington House – August 24th through September 6th
  • Dino – August 1 through September 13
  • Grillfish DC – August 24th through September 13th
  • Ici Urban Bistro – August 21 through September 1
  • Il Mulino – August 1 through August 31
  • Mio – August 1 through August 31
  • Nage Bistro – August 17th to September 6th
  • Occidental – August 24- September 6
  • Rasika – August 24- September 5
  • The Heights – August 24th through September 6th
  •  Zaytinya – August 24- September 6

2 Responses

  1. Hi,
    I would like to include (if at no charge) that D’ACQUA restaurant is extending the restaurant week until SEPTEMBER 6, 2009. What is the next step?


  2. […] or based on my own restaurant week experience. If interested, check out my Summer’s Top Ten picks. Remember: Restaurants that offer their full menu are considered the best deal. The restaurants […]

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