Last year, we attempted to see Handel's Messiah at the Kennedy Center but Snowmageddon the First struck and cancelled the performance. Loyal readers may remember that we ended up eating German food and playing Beatles Rock Band. Determined to get our hallelujah on, we joined our buddies M and A for a repeat attempt this year.
In looking for a restaurant for dinner, I noticed that Eric Ripert's Westend Bistro had a $35 three course pre-theater menu. While I don't get weak in the knees over Eric Ripert like some people do, I was looking forward to checking out his restaurant located at the Ritz Carlton hotel on 22nd Street.
The restaurant had a sleek, dark atmosphere that is lousy for taking photos, but makes for a great date spot. The pre-theater menu is available every day from 5:30 to 6:15pm and features 3 selections for each of the 3 courses. Don't be afraid to ask for the pre-theater menu, as it wasn't provided to us when we were seated but was brought out quickly, and without attitude, after we asked.
I really enjoyed my three courses: potato and apple salad, garganelli pasta with house-made sausage, and a warm chocolate cake with caramel ice cream. The portions were very generous for the $35 price tag and the service was efficient yet friendly. If you're looking to save a little cash but still want to check out fine restaurants, keep an eye out for pre-theater menus. If you can handle eating at grandparents' hour, it is a way to get the Restaurant Week deal without the Restaurant Week crowds and service issues.
Second Thoughts from B
We've talked a lot about Restaurant Week on this blog. In short, we love the idea but are often disappointed in the execution. From the diner's point of view, it is a chance to preview a place before committing a king's ransom for the pleasure of dining there. For the restaurant, it is a showcase for new clientele yet is sometimes treated as an annoying obligation rather than an opportunity.
The happy compromise may lie in the pre-theater menu. Once known as the "early-bird special," diners are able to sample a fine restaurant without the chaos of Restaurant Week, and attitude that sometimes comes with it.
And doesn't pre-theater sound so much better than early-bird special? Kudos to the person that re-branded that term. What was once a marketing tool to get grandma to Denny's is now a main feature of high-brow society to the point that a place like Marcel's provides car service to the Kennedy Center as part of their pre-theater package.
At Westend, I enjoyed the House Salad (hearts of romaine covered in a garlic vinaigrette), the Short Rib (truffled potato puree, roasted vegetables, and peppercorn sauce), and the chocolate cake. For $35, I'm happy to report that each item was rather memorable. The salad was extremely simple, but refreshing and flavorful. The short rib dish was richly flavored but was all about texture. The meat was so tender it could pass for some people's mashed potatoes. On the other hand, the actual potatoes were like eating a cloud. Finishing with a bite of warm, chocolate goodness sent us off into the cold night with smiles on our faces.