Young and Hungry

Haven’t Made Restaurant Week Plans Yet? Y&H Has Last-Minute Suggestions.

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Tonight officially kicks off winter D.C. Restaurant Week, which means that if you haven't already secured your reservations to the city's finest, priciest dining rooms, you're pretty much screwed.  Because, let's be honest, if you're not hitting the most expensive restaurants, you're not getting much bang for your buck during RW.

Once you start figuring in drinks, upcharges, gratuities, and that dessert course that you'd never order under normal circumstances, you don't always walk away from Restaurant Week, thinking, "My God! What a deal!" You think: "My God, what just hit me? Didn't I come in here looking to spend $35?"

With the idea that many of the best reservations have been snagged already, Y&H offers you the Ten Best Deals still out there for Restaurant Week. (Incidentally, I have focused on dinners only, since lunch tends to be a better deal all around; each of these ten recommendations had seats available by Monday afternoon.)

This list is after the jump.

  • 701: This year's RW menu is a little more streamlined than last winter's version, but chef Adam Longworth has put together a quality list of appetizers and entrees, including plates of pork loin and salmon. Only Thursday evening is booked, a hostess tells me.
  • Dino: Dean Gold does one of the best Restaurant Week programs in town. His whole menu is available, including the terrific duck beggar's purse, with only two upcharges on the entire thing. Even better: Wines over $50 a bottle are 33 percent off the entire month of January, which is how long Gold's RW runs as well. Reservations are still available, but you may have to accept a late seating on Thursday. Friday, or Saturday.
  • Ristorante Tosca: You may have to elbow your way through a roomful of lobbyists (and who wouldn't like to elbow a lobbyist?), but chef Massimo Fabbri is putting his best food forward for RW, with only two upcharges. Reservations are available, though only late and early seatings on Friday and Saturday. Tosca is closed on Sunday.
  • Johnny's Half Shell: Beard Award-winning chef Ann Cashion has fashioned a solid RW menu that features a few of the Shell's classic dishes, including the Maryland crabcake (only one per order) and New Orleans file gumbo.  Reservations are available all week.
  • PS 7's: Some of Peter Smith's best plates are specials that seemingly appear out of nowhere — I'm thinking of his recent merguez sausage with buttery sourdough croutons — but this RW menu offers a chance to taste the chef's winter experiments with gastriques. Most of the prime seatings, between 7 and 8 p.m., are taken, but early and late tables are available.
  • Kaz Sushi Bistro: It's unusual for a sushi house to stand out during RW, but I think chef Kaz Okochi has put together a winning four-course menu comprised of appetizers, sushi (upcharges for the pricey fish, of course), hand rolls, and desserts. Lots of good seats are still available.
  • Firefly: Even though the braised delights of the "mini" pot roast come with a $6 upcharge, many of chef Danny Bortnick's other RW offerings carry no supplemental fees. Don't miss his salt-roasted baby beets, which put a new twist on the traditional winter dish. You may have to accept late or early seatings on Friday or Saturday, but the rest of the week is wide open.
  • New Heights: You could argue that this isn't much of a deal, given that you can already get three courses for $38 any ol' day, but chef Logan Cox has expanded the options for RW, with only one upcharge. I think it's time I gave Cox another chance, don't you?  Seating is wide open here, even for the weekend.
  • Farmers & Fishers (aka Agraria): Last year's face-lift at this Washington Harbor restaurant ushered in a more casual concept. So it only makes sense that for RW, Farmers & Fishers would expand the promotion to four courses for $35, which actually makes it a deal. Saturday looks like a tough get, but the rest of the dates are open.
  • Vidalia: Jeffrey Buben's place generated some controversy last year during RW, but this year, the downtown institution is coming out strong, with one of the most well-composed menus for the week. There's a reason this place is almost booked. Only late seatings left on most days. Get 'em while you can!

Here's hoping your Restaurant Week experience is better than you (and definitely I) expect it to be. Please send me your RW experiences via e-mail when you're finished. I'll collect the best of them and put them on the Young & Hungry blog.

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