And the Winner of Our Restaurant Week Review Contest Is…
If the reviews submitted for our Restaurant Week writing contest are any indication of the places you frequented during the come-hither promotion, then Hook was very, very busy. No less than three readers entered reviews of the Georgetown seafood emporium. Perhaps this explains why the gifted chef Jonathan Seningen left the restaurant shortly after RW was over. Then again, maybe it doesn't explain anything at all.
Whatever your reviews say about Hook, they did confirm one thing about the cheap-eats week: Restaurants were all over the place in terms of quality and attentiveness. On one hand, readers like Anna Tuman practically had an out-of-body experience during her meal:
I have never been a very religious person. Sure there was the occasional Sunday mass I was forced to go to before a big meal at Nana's, but church, and religion itself, was never really my thing. So, it wasn't out of character for me to always question if there was every truly a heaven. Then, I went to lunch at Taberna del Alabardero and I realized Heaven does exist, on 18th street NW between H and I.
On the other hand, readers like Emily Stark could barely muster enough snark to describe her meal at 1789:
I ordered the shortrib. It was so bland it could have been served in a nursing home. Really quit [sic] perplexing because the meat was very tender, and had obviously cooked a long time, but had zero flavor (not even salt). I can't convey how little flavor this meat had. I ate maybe two or three bites of said shortrib — leaving the great majority of the dish uneaten and pushed the plate away. The server never knew this because he did not once ask how our food was.
To add insult to injured palate, "The bathroom was out of toilet paper" at 1789, Stark noted.
Yes, you turned lousy experiences into good, old-fashioned vitriol, sometimes with a dash of righteous outrage. Take this anecdote from Hilary Nelson, who dined at Bibiana during RW:
Although I found the service to be extremely underwhelming and the pasta extremely over salted, these glitches paled in comparison, once again, to the jewel of a family next to which we were seated. I'll spare you the more hideous details involving loud discussion of the between-the-sheets antics of a college-aged woman as she recounted them to her parents, and just sum it up by saying that this same teenaged woman closed their dinner by putting her hands in the air and singing, at full volume, her rendition of "Party In The USA" by one Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana).
But of all the submissions we received at Y&H Central, the best one came from Daniel Korn, a regular reader (and commenter) on the Y&H blog. His review of the new Kellari Taverna was strong of narrative and rich in detail. Korn also displayed a knowledge of both ingredients and restaurant operations.
I'll publish his full review later today on the blog, but here's a taste of the winner:
The RW menu had 6 choices each for the first two courses, far less than half the number of dishes that appear on the regular menu, but they weren't the cheaper choices, so their decision not to offer the full menu seems odd. Nonetheless, this was the same menu that appeared on the website, so we knew in advance there were things we wanted to order. My wife started with the Calamari, which was grilled with olive oil and lemon. Every bite was tender, definitely some of the better calamari we've had. This paled, however, next to the picture-perfect grilled octopus that I ordered, so tender it was nearly creamy in the center. These were two very generous servings, as well; no skimping on the portion size.
For his efforts, Korn wins a copy of the Best Food Writing 2009 collection — and my congratulations for a job well done. Actually, I enjoyed reading all the submissions, even when passages like this made me cringe: "I will admit, I took my time with this dish, so much so, that my fellow diners asked if I liked it. My response 'I'm really crushing on this tuna, right now, we are in a relationship...'"
While it's too late to send in your submission for the contest, I'm still interested in your Restaurant Week experiences. Please e-mail them to me, and I'll post the best comments online.