a tale of two dinners.

10 03 2010

so restaurant week ends today, and i’m still on the fence about whether or not it’s really a good idea. i do love the concept of a 3 course fixed price menu. and who can argue with a reason to go and check out all sorts of the incredible restaurants that portland has to offer (did i mention that bon appetit called us america’s foodiest small town)? unfortunately, over the last 2 years my experiences have been so mixed that i’ve found myself turned off more restaurants than on. last year’s jaunt to the pepper club delivered a dry crumbling lentil loaf, and i haven’t been back since. this year, the farmer’s table disaster:

1. despite having a 7:30 reservation, arriving 5 minutes early, and seeing at least 2 empty tables in the dining room… we were told to wait at the bar for about 30 minutes before we were seated- at the corner of kitchen & bathroom. nice.

2. while seated at the bar, we were completely ignored for at least 15 minutes before someone came to take our drink orders, which then took another 15 minutes to prepare.

3. once seated at our really great table, our waitress took another 15 minutes to bring us bread and water. my bread had big chewy floury blobs in it. not good.

4. by the time our order was taken, they were already out of one of the appetizers, bummer. we ended  up getting the salad, but ordering the brie fritters off the regular menu as a supplement. theoretically these should have been amazing. too bad they were smothered in stone-cold overly sweet and weirdly bitter blueberry compote. oh, and our waitress neglected to give us plates (and then proceeded to ignore us until our salads arrived), so we both had to eat them out of the bowl in a way that was both awkward and messy (dear farmer’s table, i will not be apologizing for the blueberry stains on your tablecloth. you know what you’ve done.)

5. the salad was inedible. smothered in some sort of hydrochloric vinaigrette, there was so much acid that it burned our tongues and cheeks and we both gave up after about 2 bites.

6. the main courses were ludicrously unbalanced. the boyfriend got half a pig beautifully roasted and sitting on a bed of sexy looking red rice and root vegetables. i got a huge plate with a very small well (5″ in diamter?), half filled with some scraps of the worst hand made pasta i’d ever had (intermittently chewy and mushy). edible, but not good.

7. dessert was again, edible, but not good. my pineapple upside down cake had clearly never actually been upside down… the cake was dry and the pineapple was chewy and still tart. certainly not soft, brown, and deliciously carmelized (as should be required). the boyfriend’s lava cake looked like sad naked deflated cupcake- and neither of us could detect any actual lava inside. lame!

anyway, for our $30.01  each + cocktails + an off-menu appetizer + 20% tip even though the waitress completely didn’t deserve it… we felt more like we’d been mugged than had just come from a fine dining experience.  no me gusta!

this is where the on the fence part comes in. restaurant week should be about providing amazing food and reasonable prices in order to seduce new clientele into your establishment. but in my experience, things have felt hastily thrown together with a distinct sacrifice of quality.  also, the restaurants seem overwhelmed by the volume of people, and the service suffers gravely.  STEP IT UP PEOPLE!

for those of you who have bothered to make it this far (as i did promise you a tale of 2 dinners), we can still end this fairy tale with a happily ever after.  my second restaurant week selection, the corner room,  was phenomenal. i had been there before and enjoyed it, but with my reservations on how restaurant week can ruin things, i was curious to see how it held up.  well, i will spare you the jizz covered exaltations about every morsel, but let me just stay that it held right the fuck up. with gusto. a few small highlights:

1. the corner room stiletto  is hands down my favorite cocktail on the peninsula.

2. my main course was practically the same dish as i had at the farmer’s table in conception (handmade pasta with mushrooms and cream sauce), except that it was appropriately portioned and lick your plate tasty.

3. despite the fact that our food was big and delicious, the corner room was only $20.01 (the lowest restaurant week price point). plus, they only charged me an extra $2 for ordering a non-restaurant week dessert. (their tiramisu is panty dropping good).

4. our table was solid, and the service was perfection. thank you corner room for making us feel like we were worthy of dining in your restaurant.

i suppose that the moral of this lengthy tale is that a good restaurant is a good restaurant. and a really good restaurant can take a challenge like restaurant week, and make it fit seamlessly into their menu. as opposed to making you feel like you’re getting a cheap knock-off of their real food, and that you are not worthy of decent service. whether it’s $20.01 or $100.01, research before you eat. if i had asked some friends and done some online research first- i could have easily saved myself $100 and 2 hours of feeling like a second class citizen.

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5 responses

11 03 2010
uke mochi

Your bf got ‘half a pig’ from the farmers table? I want 1/2 a pig!!!!

Seriously..was that a misprint?

11 03 2010
bessmarvin

even though he considered the experience a big fail, he did think his pig parts were tasty. and ok, it’s not exactly half a pig… (i do tend to exaggerate at times) but it was a big ass chunk of pork for sure.

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11 03 2010
fishstick_kitty

Great review thanks for the frankness…I agree with you on corner room…great place.

11 03 2010
bessmarvin

thanks! i always feel a little bad about writing a bad review about a local restaurant, but in certain cases, it needs to be done (grace!). even though i probably don’t look like it to most restaurant personnel, i’m a girl who doesn’t bat an eyelash at paying $50-$100 for a meal. that is, as long as the meal is good. charge me too much for crappy food (and bad service), feel my wrath!!

20 03 2010
weekend pickthrough- mysteries revealed edition. « broke 207

[…] it’s not gonna be free, but savvychicsavings shows us all how the restaurant.com gift certificate is appropriately used. (there’s even a few decent restaurants in maine, although you’d still be paying too much at the farmer’s table). […]

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