Summer 2011 DC Restaurant Week: Top Ten Picks

There are a lot of “foodies” in town and even more food bloggers, including yours truly, who all have their opinion about DC Restaurant Week. Proponents support the concept of restaurant week, generally because they agree that the promotion is helpful to bolster business in an otherwise slow time of the year for the restaurant industry. Those who oppose restaurant week, argue that it’s just a gimmick and that some restaurants don’t put their best foot forward and offer second-rate dishes or don’t offer good service during the week-long promotion.

If you ask me, opinions are like butts. Everyone has one. So who should you listen to? Whose advice should you follow? I can’t tell you that; however, I am glad to offer some Restaurant Week Tips from your resident Native Washingtonian Restaurant week pro! For example, Restaurants that offer their full menu, such as Chef Geoff’s or Dino, are considered the best deal. The restaurants that already 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, are all great, but already generally offer good deals year-round. Some restaurants offer only limited selections, or include various surcharges (sometimes called supplemental fees) for some of their better dishes – these should be avoided.

While this is not my dedicated page to the 18th Annual DC Restaurant Week, check out my 2011 Summer DC Restaurant Week Top ten picks based on their reputation, quality of food, restaurant week menu offerings, or based on my own past restaurant week experience.

  1. The Gianduia Nico. Photo by L. Shapiro

    Dino – Every year, Restaurateur Dean Gold always gets into the spirit of restaurant week by offering a complimentary glass of house-infused grappa or moscato or some special house-made dessert, or both. I’m sure this year will be no different. Dino serves excellent authentic Italian fare using the best seasonal ingredients at an exceptional value all year round with the Menu della Sera offering 3 courses for just $27!, but always goes the extra mile during restaurant week. Guests choose any three courses from the regular menu and are deliciously rewarded with bonus treats! Be sure to try the Gianduia Nico, inspired by Gelateria Nico in Venezia, for dessert. The bittersweet chocolate gelato with chopped chocolate atop hazelnut gelato and toasted hazelnuts was to die for! If you haven’t been to Dino, you need to go!

  2. Chef Geoff’sWell-known for offering their entire regular menu to diners at all three of the Chef Geoff’s locations. They prides themselves on offering their guests a great experience during restaurant week, just like every other week. Guests may choose any soup salad or starter followed by any entree followed by any dessert with no upcharges. In addition, Chef Geoff’s keeps it lively by running a social media campaign to see how many will ‘vote’ to have the restaurant extend the promotion for up to a month! Congrats to Chef Geoff and the Tysons Corner team, who just took home the Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene RAMMY Award!
  3. Adour's Rainbow Beet Salad.

    Adour's Rainbow Beet Salad. Photo by L. Shapiro

    Adour – Situated inside the elegant and luxurious St. Regis, Washington, D.C., Adour offers locals and visitors alike a glimpse into legendary Chef Alain Ducasse’s culinary mastery in an opulent setting. A 4-course tasting menu at Adour runs $65, so the 3-course dinner for restaurant week at just $35.11 with no surcharges, is an extremely high value. The restaurant is closed Sundays and Mondays, but they are already leaning towards extending the promotion from August 23rd to the 27th. I went to Adour for dinner during Winter 2011 Restaurant week (and my birthday) and had one of the best meals of my life. The rainbow beet salad with goat cheese fondue and and candied walnuts blew me away. While it was my first visit to Adour, it will certainly not be my last.

  4. Art and Soul - Under the direction of two-time James Beard Award winning Chef, Art Smith, the newly appointed Executive Chef Wes Morton, has crafted an excellent summer restaurant week menu by offering many of their award-winning Southern inspired dishes that are available on the regular lunch, such as Art’s famous fried chicken and dinner menu. This is a great opportunity to sample some of his extraordinary cuisine, prepared with love – at an exceptional value. It’s no secret that Art and Soul is one of my favorite restaurants in DC. In fact, I practically tell everyone. If it’s nice weather, be sure to sit on their patio. In fact, you can even bring your four-legged friend. Their special Pooch Patio menu is available every day that the patio is open and offers an exclusive dog menu created especially for your furry friend complete with doggie drinks, treats, and desserts. *Woof*!
  5. Tomato Salad. Photo by L. Shapiro

    Willow - Offering modern continental cuisine, Chef Tracy O’Grady, one of the most talented chefs in the DC area, prides herself on using the freshest ingredients featuring local produce, meat, and grains while incorporating classic French and Italian influences. I went to Willow with my husband last summer (2010) for restaurant week, and I fell in love with the place. In fact, I was able to talk my husband’s company into doing a complete buyout for their holiday party last year. I love that Willow clearly marks their menu for vegetarians (even though I am not) with a little (v) to let guests know that the dish is made without meat products. If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll make out like a bandit at Willow. Chef O’Grady treats you right! Last summer for restaurant week, all of the dishes were excellent seasonal dishes that showcased the bounty of the summer season and included many locally sourced ingredients. I highly recommend the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Mascarpone Basil Mousse, Herb Vinaigrette, Balsamic Gastrique and Garlic Croutons (see photo on the right). Willow will most likely extend their promotion until the end of August!

  6. Co Co. Sala's Bacon Mac & Cheese

    Co Co. Sala – Renowned as the chic fine dining place to gorge oneself on artisan coffee, gourmet chocolate, decadent desserts, Co Co. Sala lures locals and visitors alike into their opulent den with an incredible deal. While Co Co. Sala only offers a dinner option for DC Restaurant Week, they are extending their promotion from Monday, August 15th through Wednesday, Aug 31st, giving diners a chance to get their cocoa fix. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. For $35.11, you’re actually getting five courses. While it’s not usually mentioned on a menu, you’re given an amuse bouche of their signature frozen hot cocoa, choice of salad, two of their “co co. bites”, including their famous bacon mac & cheese, and then a decadent dessert. I get hungry just reading the menu. Although, cocktails are not included in the deal, I would be remiss not to mention that Co Co. Sala’s cocktails, are to die for and are the best that I have ever had. Co Co. Sala is a must-do any day of the week, but don’t miss the chance to taste the hand crafted from luxurious Valrhona chocolate.

  7. J&G SteakhouseRated as a top 100 Restaurant in Washington, DC, J&G Steakhouse is a showcase for a compilation of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s favorite dishes from his New York restaurants and an inspired menu of worldly steakhouse classics. Located in the mod W Hotel, known for its spectacular rooftop views, I have been fortunate enough to dine at the J&G Steakhouse for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and I have never had a meal that I didn’t love. In fact, one of the dishes that I had last fall was included in my recent post about my Top Ten Most Memorable Bites. While it is generally against my own advice to visit a place during restaurant week that offers a pre-theatre menu, I will make an exception here because the 3-course pre-theatre menu is only offered from 5-6:30 pm.
  8. Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, or PassionFish -The Passion Food Hospitality restaurant group’s owners, Chef Jeff Tunks, Gus Dimillo, and David Wizenberg have a longstanding tradition of offering any entree on their regular menus while offering selected appetizers and desserts for the restaurant week prix-fixe menu. This year is will be no different with one exception. TenPenh is now closed, as of June 3o, 2011. I have been to every single one of their restaurants, and I have never had but an exceptional meal. Between all of the sister restaurants, there is a variety of of cuisine types from down home Southern cookin’ at Acadiana to delicious seafood from the Mid-Atlantic region at DC Coast.
  9. Oval Room – Not only is it one of DC’s power spots, it is one of Washington’s best restaurants. It’s not surprising considering that at the helm is Executive Chef Tony Conte, a protege of Jean-George Vongerichten. The Oval Room never ceases to amaze even DC’s top elite, and I don’t mean me, even though I have had some of the best dishes of my life, such as the Parmesan custard and the butter-poached lobster with curry. It was even included in my recent post about my Top Ten Most Memorable Bites. I have made a reservation to return for Summer 2011 Restaurant Week and I’m really looking forward to going back and seeing what new memories I can make.
  10. Palak Chaat. Photo by Epicuryan.

    Rasika – The stars have aligned and finally I get to go and try some of Chef Vikram Sunderam’s deliciously authentic Indian cuisine. For the first time, I will visit Rasika, which has been ranked within the top 25 of Washingtonian’s Very Best list for years. Chef Sunderam’s restaurant week menus are always very promising and at such an excellent value, which includes its much-praised palak chaat, lamb roganjosh and for dessert, carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon. For dinner, diners will 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. My expectations are really high! I am really looking forward to this meal! Stay tuned for my full review!

I hope this listing is helpful! Please comment below about your DC Restaurant Week experiences or if you think one of your favorite restaurants should be listed in my top ten.

6 Responses to “Summer 2011 DC Restaurant Week: Top Ten Picks”

  1. Lori Gardner

    Jul 16. 2011

    I’ve been taking advantage of Restaurant Week for many years and have had some mediocre meals and some great ones. I went to Adour and The Oval Room during the last Restaurant Week and they were both wonderful. This year I have reservations at Rasika, Tosca, and Watershed for RW and I am hoping for similarly great experiences.

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