It’s Winter Restaurant Week 2015 in Washington, D.C. Contrary to what some may think, diners and restaurants can have an enjoyable week and leave the battlefield relatively unscathed — but only if everyone plays nice. Yes, some of the usual suspects are participating, and they will squeeze too many people into too few seats, or offer paltry portions for princely sums. And yes, some guests will arrive late, grumble about the menus, and expect to dine like gluttons for a discount. However, price-savvy patrons will find plenty of restaurants offering fantastic food, service, and therefore value, and not everyone who wants to save money on dining out is a cheapskate.
So, how do you make the most of this week of food and fun? Use our list to guide your choices. We’ve chosen restaurants that offer a range of dining styles, cuisines, and new experiences, and many of them are offering true value by discounting their regular menus.
In case you somehow missed the media hoopla about this year’s restaurant week, here are the details:
· Restaurant Week is hosted by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW)
· It runs from Monday, January 19, to Monday, January 25
· This year, more than 200 restaurants are participating
· Not all restaurants serve both lunch and dinner, and they are not required to offer their regular menus at a discount. Some do, and others create special menus just for the week; this is not always a bad thing, and some chefs use it as a chance to introduce new dishes
· The prix fixe, three-course lunch menus are $20.15 per person, not including drinks, tax, or gratuity
· The prix fixe, three-course dinner menus are $35.15 per person, not including drinks, tax, or gratuity
· New this year, RAMW invites diners to get social and share their dining experiences with RAMW’s 7 Days / 7 Winners social media contest. Diners who snap and post envy-inspiring pictures to their Instagram accounts as they dine in participating restaurants. Diners who follow RAMW on Instagram (@RAMWdc), use the hashtag #DMVRW, and tag participating restaurants are automatically eligible to win fantastic prizes, including roller derby tickets, brunch gift certificates, cookbooks, and the grand prize of two tickets to the 33rd annual Rammy Awards and Gala
· Restaurant Week sponsor True Aussie Lamb is also hosting a photography contest for diners this year. Diners who upload a picture of a participating restaurant’s featured Australian lamb dish to Instagram using the hashtag #AussieLambDC will be eligible to win exciting prizes
PARKING PERK: If you want to drive in from the suburbs, or live in D.C. but just can’t face the cold walk to and from the Metro, there’s a parking perk you might want to consider. Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week has teamed up with Parking Panda to offer 100-percent guaranteed parking at garages, valets, and parking lots near participating restaurants. By paying in advance, you are guaranteed a spot even if the lots and garages are full. Learn more here.
We suggest you laissez les bon temps rouler and dine on Cajun-Creole fare from The Big Easy at Acadiana. The restaurant is warm, welcoming, down-home, and yet still refined, thanks to chef Jeff Tunks and executive chef Brant Tesky, who make sure this Louisiana fish house’s food doesn’t disappoint. They take pride in claiming that Acadiana is the only restaurant in the nation's capital to serve Louisiana cuisine at a heightened level of elegance. They are participating for both lunch and dinner, and some standouts from their menus include classic turtle soup; American red snapper with spicy celery root purée, shiitake mushrooms, rapini, and pickled corn emulsion; and decadent chocolate Doberge cake.
Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine is root in ancient gastronomic traditions and always well worth exploring, but especially so during Restaurant Week. Executive chef Ghassan Jarrouj of Angora has created a menu that’s a culinary journey through the Adriatic and along the coasts of the Eastern Mediterranean. Lunch is a showcase of lighter Turkish fare that tickles the senses, beginning with classic mezze dishes like Imam Bayıldı with baby eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes, pine nuts, and garlic; and entrée options like adana kebap of skewered ground lamb and beef with grilled tomatoes and sumac onions on pita bread. For a sweet finish, guests can choose from kadayıf disks of shredded phyllo dough layered with vanilla milk pudding topped with orange blossom honey and pistachios, or the pistachio baklava. The dinner offering will allow guests to enjoy a five-course meal, beginning with the same sampler featured at lunch, as well as the same options for their second course.
Ardeo + Bardeo
Cleveland Park favorite Ardeo + Bardeo is serving some of the best modern American cuisine for dinner only, but is extending the special menu and pricing an extra week through February 1. With a varied and well-designed menu, Ardeo + Bardeo offers delicious dishes to diners with a variety of taste and diet preferences. Diners may choose one dish from the vegetables, savory snacks, or soup and salads section, one dish from the pastas, seafood or meats section, and one dessert. For a taste of Morocco, try the harissa-roasted cauliflower with chickpeas, hummus, and cilantro tabouleh; pan-roasted branzino with apricot-olive quinoa, mustard greens, and lemon; and finish with a sweet flourish with coffee and doughnuts. Be sure to ask about their wine specials, too.
DBGB Kitchen and Bar
Now that Daniel Boulud has made his foray into the D.C. restaurant scene, it’s time to see what he has in store for district diners at DBGB Kitchen and Bar. While his menu for Restaurant Week includes continental fare from his regular menu, there are a few dishes with a distinctly Gallic flavor. Take the duck pâté starter; it is definitely classic and French, served with frisée, whole grain mustard, and country bread, or The Frenchie: a magnifique version of a burger that’s a seven-ounce beef patty with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and Morbier cheese, served on a potato bun with cornichons, mustard, and fries.
Farmers Fishers Bakers
Farm-to-table restaurant Farmers Fishers Bakers is offering the discounted prix fixe price for both lunch and dinner. At lunch, diners can choose salad, soup, or sushi for a starter, entrée options include any entrée $16 or under, and dessert choices include any dessert off the menu. The spicy sausage Provençal mussel pot sounds just about right for a starter in this cold weather. Dinner is a choice of salad, soup, or sushi for a starter, any entrée $24 or under, and a choice of any dessert off the menu. With $24 to spend on an entrée, you can order free-range beef, and may we suggest the steak frites? You will want to pace yourself to save room for a house made dessert, like peanut butter mousse pie. Reservations can be made online at their website.
Fuego Cocina y Tequileria
Fuego Cocina y Tequileria literally means "fire kitchen and tequila bar," and with a fiery menu and more than 100 tequilas to choose from, why not fiesta the night away at least one night during Restaurant Week? They are only participating for dinner, and guests can choose any entrée and appetizer from the full menu and any dessert from the Restaurant Week menu. Crowd favorites include the starter of Coctél de mariscos with shrimp, octopus, tilapia, spicy tomato, and avocado; a hearty entrée of grilled skirt steak with cebolleta and blistered jalapeños, which is perfect when it’s frigid outside; and irresistible warm churros with canela caramel.
Jardenea at Melrose Georgetown Hotel
Jardenea, and executive chef Nate Lindsay, are passionately dedicated to the locavore movement and exemplify the credo that knowing where our food comes from is not a luxury, but a necessity. Their lunch and dinner menus for Restaurant Week celebrate the bounty of the Chesapeake and include spectacular starters like the cast-iron seared jumbo blue crab cake served with apple cider-braised collard greens, charred heirloom tomatoes, and smoked bacon. Entrées are imaginative and enticing and include standouts like the Dutch Valley veal ossobuco accompanied by herbed soft polenta with Cremini mushrooms and Marsala cream.
The Oval Room
Expensive, upscale restaurants in D.C. are not an endangered species. However, restaurants that offer impeccable service, a fantastic wine list, stellar food, and pricing that doesn’t cost a month’s pay — well, that’s a rare bird indeed. Then we remember The Oval Room. When they launched their special $20 Lunch @ Bar menu in 2014, they broke the glass ceiling on the dining-versus-value equation. Therefore, we weren’t surprised when they offered outstanding menus for both lunch and dinner. Their lineup includes a choice of four mouthwatering starters like chicken liver mousse with red wine apple butter and brioche tuille. There are five excellent entrée selections like the pan-roasted Teres Major steak with crispy potatoes, Cipollini onions, and black truffle emulsion. There are three dessert selections, but a standout is definitely the Bûche de Noël with pomegranate jelly.
Rasika West End
This now-beloved Indian restaurant is a jewel in the crown of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, and executive chef Vikram Sunderam’s eclectic menu of traditional and modern Indian food is worth exploring for lunch during Restaurant Week. Appetizer highlights include smoked lamb galouti prepared with cashew nuts, saffron, and tawa paratha; sea bass dakshini with curry leaves, fennel seeds, black pepper, and upma; and famous palak chaat, crispy baby spinach with sweet yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney. Entrée standouts are Kerala fish curry with grouper, mustard seeds, poppy seeds, and green chilies; tandoori salmon with lime leaves, ginger, garlic, and lemon pickle; and Thali vegetable hot pot with palak paneer and dal makhani. Featured desserts include mango and passion fruit sorbet; gulab jamun with cardamom ice cream; white chocolate kheer; and mocha ice cream.
Smith & Wollensky
Smith & Wollensky doesn’t mess around when it comes to quality, air-dried, and aged beef, so the chance to savor some hearty beef dishes is sure to please meat lovers. They are please to extend Restaurant Week menus and pricing until January 31 and highlight specials that feature a particularly meaty theme. They have added a new item to the winter seasonal menu: beef bacon! The three-course menus include several starter, entrée, and dessert items that feature beef bacon-inspired dishes such as the “S&Wellington” prepared with beef bacon-wrapped tenderloin tournedos with mushroom ragout and puff pastry, and scallops and beef bacon with foraged mushrooms and balsamic glaze. The lunch menu includes the famous Wollensky’s Butcher Burger that comes topped with beef bacon, aged Cheddar, and special Smith & Wollensky steak sauce mayonnaise. For dessert, dark chocolate candied beef bacon satisfies as both a sweet and savory ending.
If you haven’t tried acclaimed Toro Toro chef and owner Richard Sandoval’s signature On the Run Exec Express Lunch Buffet, you are missing out on one of D.C.’s best-kept bang-for-your-buck secrets. Sandoval’s Pan-Latin cuisine is wonderfully interpreted by executive chef Felipe Milanes’ daily rotating menu of salads, ceviche, carved meats, and desserts. Tempting choices from the lunch menu include chipotle barbecue pork shoulder with ancho chile, chipotle, and Mexican chocolate; and leg of lamb with adobo, chimichurri, and mint. The dinner menu is just as tempting with dishes empanada criolla of potato, peas, poblano, chorizo, chicken, Oaxaca cheese, and aji verde; Spanish ham croquettes with Chinese mustard and chipotle aioli; and chocotorta Argentina with cream cheese, Kahlua, and strawberry glaze. Toro Toro will be extending their Restaurant Week offering from January 19 through February 1.