Some people love restaurant week because it is a great way to check out a restaurant or a few restaurants that would normally be either beyond your budget or saved for an extra special indulgence.
For others, restaurant week is a disappointment because the chefs' menus are adjusted or simplified to parallel the lower prices for the customer.
This year, Arlington chefs seem to be going all out and the advantage of restaurant week "summer edition" is that we have a bounty of fresh and local fruit and vegetables at our fingertips (no extra fuel cost included). Any talented chef should be able to make a fabulous meal inexpensively by choosing the right ingredients and staying true to their style. This year, Arlington has plenty of chefs participating in restaurant week and each menu looks promising.
Restaurant week starts today, Monday August 15, and runs to August 20 and from August 22-27. Arlington restaurants that are participating are Buona Vita, Flora, Tango, Ristorante Olivio and Tryst. All restaurants are serving dinner ($33.10 for a three-course menu) in addition, Buona Vita and Tryst are serving lunch ($15.10 for two courses/ $20.10 for three courses). Traditionally Restaurant Week offered three or more course meals for the price that reflects the year. For example in 1992 (when Restaurant week began) meals were offered for $19.92. Over the years Restaurant Week has been growing with more cities and restaurants participating and more menu and price options giving both diners and chefs flexibility on the plate.
Buona Vita is offering a three course lunch for $20.10 or a two-course lunch for $15.10. With assorted bruschette, steamed PEI mussels, homemade sausage, lasagna della casa, and a trio of homemade ice cream Buona Vita's menu is mouth watering. Their menu stays true to their Italian core while serving seasonal foods with their Buona Vita red sauce (tomatoes are filling the market stalls this week) and Maine lobster over Linguine Fradiavolo.
Another Italian option is Ristorante Olivio. Chef Angelo Bernardo DiGirolamo is also featuring seasonal tomatoes and has mussels as a starter, but you could eat at both these Italian restaurants in the same day or week because the classic menu items are different. Although the ingredients may be similar, their preparation and sides are not. On Ristarante Olivio's menu are an eggplant parmigiana torta, prosciutto and melon, roasted salmon over zucchini risotto, veal piccata, and homemade fusilli with shrimp. For dessert, the regular menu is yours to choose from.
Flora is all about seasonal and being at the farmer's market a couple times a week definitely keeps local and seasonal ingredients right beneath their noses. The sweet corn, leek, and bacon chowder, or heirloom tomato and Great Hill Farm blue cheese salad both highlight some of the newest crops to make it to market. The main dishes are served with family style vegetables from Parker Farm. That's good enough to bring me to restaurant week and they don't even play the starring role on the menu. The sides accompany a choice of pan roasted local bluefish, grilled prime beef, boneless stuffed chicken breast, mushroom spaetzle, or wild Massachusetts striped bass. For dessert there is a choice of chocolate cloud cake, ginger blueberry crisp, or white wine poached peaches with a sour cherry granita.
For an Argentinean Restaurant Week meal you can head to Tango. The website has its winter restaurant menu so to see the full menu for summer visit the Restaurant Week site. Tango's first course has a choice of salad or a black bean soup. On the menu for main courses are filet mignon with Tango fries and vegetables, baby lamb chop with a Porto wine sauce and mashed potatoes, grilled chicken breast or grilled swordfish. Dessert is a choice of rice pudding or flan con dulce de leche. This is a simple menu that reflects Tango's food with a lot of grilled meats and some classic desserts.
Tryst has a brunch menu and a dinner menu for restaurant week. The menus have so many delicious choices you may want a reservation for both. Brunch starts off with house-made granola, honeyed nuts and yogurt, cheese blintzes (a personal brunch favorite) or, for those who a ready for savory bites, a market salad. The brunch menu is perfectly designed to please those who prefer more breakfast foods and those who are looking for lunch with a mushroom tagliatelle, western omelet, or brioche French toast. For dessert there is a flourless chocolate cake and mint chocolate chip ice cream or house made cannoli with St. Germain, the liqueur of the summer, berry compote.
Tryst's dinner has four options per course including a crispy fried oyster starter with grilled corn and tomato relish, a wild striped bass with Ward's Farm tomatoes and creamy white beans or a hand-made sweet corn tortelloni with corn milk, melted leeks and edamame.
Some of the local farms and food "artisans" who work hard to provide fresh food to these restaurants and work closely with the chefs who take time to seek out the best local ingredients are: Fiore di Nonno, Ward's Berry Farm, Parker Farm, Nicewicz Farm and Great HIll Farm.
Most reservations can be made at opentable.com. Enjoy the week and eat well.