There is a good deal of people who love restaurant week! It is a great time to try new restaurants and get the feeling of a fine dining meal on a budget. As an ex-cook…I loathed restaurant week. It meant high numbers, and low returns. I am not sure, but I don’t think Chefs or restaurant owners make money on restaurant week. Of course, I was never in charge of the books, so I can’t say for sure. I do know that if restaurants don’t offer a special menu during restaurant week and they are in Seattle, they will probably be dead for two weeks(so maybe it is just Chefs giving in, rather than trying to make money). After all, a good portion of people coming out for restaurant week never go out (like my parents) until restaurant week…which kind of defeats the purpose…
Wherever you sit or stand when you go into restaurant week. Whether you are the one behind the counter dishing out 200 hundred plates, or the one sitting at the table eating 3. I hope you enjoy the stories from restaurant week past.
My First Restaurant Week Meal
I can’t give restaurant week too much of a hard time. When I was in culinary school, it was one of the few times I could afford to go out to all the nice places. For instance, let’s look back at my first Restaurant week meal.
Me and two other culinary students at the time went to Barking Frog. Back in 2010, this was one of the few restaurants on the east site that actually offered the restaurant week special. Maybe Purple Cafe was also, but I am not 100%.
This is actually a very fond memory. I think the only other really fancy restaurant I had gone to at this time was Cafe Juanita. So going out to eat here was still a pretty big deal for me! I still hadn’t been exposed to so many different flavors, vegetables, spices and techniques. So coming to the Barking Frog was a real treat!
I can’t tell you much about the service. Not that it was bad, but because I only remember the food. My first course was a Celery Apply Soup with Fennel Oil. The flavors are a solid trio, pair these same flavors with pork or beef and you got a great dish.
The soup itself was warm, creamy, sweet, fresh and just enough tang. Again, to my immature palette, this was amazing! Not to say that it wouldn’t still be now. The dish was well executed, but the flavors are safe and what you would expect. Celery and apple paired are a classic!(In case you ever need any ideas)
Following the soup was Braised Short Ribs, Polenta, and Spinach (there was also honey…but that made no sense). Again, a solid dish. You can’t go wrong with braised meat and polenta. This menu was served during the October Restaurant Week, so this dish made sense. Super hearty and delicious, a stick to your rib kind of meal. Plus, beef for restaurant week, yes please.
Short rib especially, like oxtail, has an extra beefy flavor that I love. I believe that is why Chefs really started getting into this cut in the 90s. It was both cheap and tasty. However, it s now just as expensive as most other prime cuts. This does seem to be a typical trend in restaurant industry, or a trend of a trend. A meat, fish, or vegetable becomes popular and suddenly it becomes very expensive. No one even really heard of albino salmon until 2010. The term wasn’t even really coined. In fact, most places thought they were effective. A little rebranding, and marketing and boom, suddenly, every chef wants it on their plates.
Finally, the third and final course of my first restaurant week meal was a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and strawberries(out of season by the way). Again, this really isn’t a jaw dropping dish, it tastes amazing! and to a young cook, it is a pretty cool dish. Actually, even a decade later…I still have a soft spot for this dessert when it is done well! Who doesn’t like chocolate?
The Truth About Restaurant Week
As I stated above. I loathed restaurant week. It meant running around, showing up early, and crazy busy services. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t lazy. Busy services were the best. You never looked at the clock waiting for five minutes to pass. Time just blows past.
However, restaurant week isn’t busy. Restaurant week is a mad house. Time seems to disappear altogether during restaurant week. You barely have enough time to breath…and you can forget bathroom breaks, or anything other than pushing dish, after dish out.
Chefs and cooks need the adrenaline. We thrive in an environment where we are stressed, our mind works at its best when it stays busy. In fact, my worst days are my slow days. I was just always off my game. It always felt awkward, like I could never get into a groove. All that said, there were nights that restaurant week often pushed us past the our limits.
One place I worked (and the only place that did restaurant week) was so busy, and had so few creme brûlée ramekins, that we would have to bake custards in the middle of service. Can you imagine!
While running around like a chicken with his head cut off to deal with appetizers, and the other two desserts on the restaurant week menu. The poor soul doing pantry (which was me commonly), would be putting water baths in ovens to bake off pot de cremes, while tossing a salad, plating 5 other desserts and hoping no one orders a cheese plate.
Luckily, during my tenure I only had to work at one restaurant that did restaurant week. Most of the places I worked refused to partake. Alright, maybe refuse is a little strong. Some of the restaurants I worked at, just didn’t have too. They were so busy, they never needed to get involved with restaurant week. Instead, they could just focus on doing good food.
Restaurant week for some people is an excuse to finally go to that restaurant they have always wanted to go to. You are just happy to visit a restaurant and get away with a $35 per person bill. Maybe you will never visit the restaurant again. At least you got the opportunity to go! I don’t think you shouldn’t go out. I am just giving my side of restaurant week. It can be fun, sort of…it did pass the time very quickly…
Do you have any restaurants you are dying to go to? Let us know.
Tags: Restaurant week Seattle; 3 courses for 35; Dinner, Barking Frog; Chef Life; Burned nuts; Chocolate; Short Ribs; Where to go for restaurant week