Restaurant Week (Boston)

Now, I'm not going to start writing restaurant reviews, as I have no real authority to do so, but I do want to make a few comments about restaurant week. If you haven't heard of it, here's how it works: Here in Boston, we have restaurant week twice a year (once in the summer and once in the winter). Given that it's 2008, restaurants serve 3-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus for $20.08 and $30.08, respectively. (Next year will be $20.09 and $30.09 and so on.)For someone like me who absolutely loves food but doesn't have the budget to go to all the restaurants she wants to try all the time, restaurant week seems like a great opportunity. Of course restaurants like L'Espalier and Top of the Hub only offer prix-fixe lunches, so I will never be able to get to those (restaurant week always excludes Saturdays, and most places exclude Sunday lunch). I understand it's probably not economical for these places, given what they usually charge, but it would be nice of them to offer a dinner.

I see restaurant week as an opportunity to determine whether I enjoy the food enough at a well-known and revered restaurant to go back and eat off the regular menu and pay the regular prices. Given my experiences the past two restaurant weeks and now last night, I'm not so sure restaurants feel the same way I do. I can't imagine that people would pay full price for some of the food I've eaten during restaurant week. Two of my experiences have left me leaning toward never needing to go to those restaurants again. One of these was a much-talked about restaurant by the waterfront; the other a restaurant in the South End, a location known for its amazing restaurants. My only good experience was in the North End. But I still have another reservation next week, so we'll see how that goes.

I've talked with other people who have gone to some restaurants that I have not, and they all seem to have had the same experiences I have. Friends I've dined with have questioned whether restaurants downsize their portions since the price tag is smaller. I question whether the food is thrown together haphazardly and thoughtlessly. I don't care so much about how much food I'm getting but rather how delicious that food tastes. I expect creative things, mingling flavors, well-executed dishes. If I read a mouth-watering description on a menu, I want what's on my plate to match. I don't want a fascinating-sounding salad to be a pile of lettuce on a dish. And at the very least, if I order a filet medium rare, it should not come out medium well. It's sort of insulting, like these restaurants think that people who eat out during restaurant week know nothing about food.

I feel like many restaurants might see and treat restaurant week as something they HAVE to do rather than something they should do to attract new customers. Yes, there are some people who will eat out during restaurant week and never go to such nice restaurants again, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve a good experience. But then, there are also people like me who are looking for new places to dine and would return again and again if a restaurant could show me it was worth it.

I've been impressed by the atmosphere, I've been impressed by the service, but I've been let down by the food. I feel like returning to these restaurants would be a waste of time and money.

Have you gone out for restaurant week? Is there anywhere you have had an amazing experience? Have you been somewhere both during restaurant week and outside of restaurant week and had drastically different experiences?