Restaurant Week

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Every January many Ann Arbor restaurants participate in “Restaurant Week.” The idea is to showcase a special menu, for a reduced price, and get people excited about dining in the middle of winter. Dinners are generally three course offerings for less than $30, and lunch less than $20. Glutton that I am, I made eight reservations during the week: six dinners and two lunches. I attended six of them.

I started Sunday at my favorite sports bar. This was not the original plan, which was to dine at Café Zola; but the Steelers were playing in the AFC playoffs. They lost, and I ate a basket of French fries and otherwise drowned my sorrows with Long Island Iced Tea.

Monday was Pacific Rim, one of my favorite destination restaurants. Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps, Coconut Curry Soup, and Thai Bouillabaisse for $28. What a deal. Of course that did not include the wine and generous tip. As a former restaurant worker, I will generally not tip less than 20-25 percent unless the server insults me to my face. Only then do I draw the line at 18 percent.

There were two meals on Tuesday. The first, with some co-workers at Aventura, demonstrated the limits of my Spanish. I thought I was getting stuffed peppers and an omelette, but was inexplicably served a kale salad and egg sandwich. In the evening I dined at “eve,” the recently reopened Ann Arbor landmark, now in the Bell Tower hotel. Inspired Nacho, Macadamia Encrusted Salmon, and a cup of dark chocolate. Oh, and wine. Just a tad over $28.

Wednesday was the best deal. Lunch at Marnee Thai with my wife netted us five courses each for $15, and plenty of leftovers. In the evening I met three buddies at Grange before the basketball game, snaring some shrimp dumplings, salad and grilled lake trout. Poor Dan had to send back his soup because it came with bacon dust, which he’d sought to omit. Otherwise quite tasty and Michigan was able to eke out a victory.

Thursday was a rest day. I canceled my reservation at Logan because I had no one to go with. I also knew my wife and I were dining with another couple on Friday at the Earle, a couple which included my friend Mike, one of my companions at Grange on Wednesday, who had insidiously picked up dinner that night. Note I say “insidiously” rather than generously, as I naturally felt compelled to return the favor on Friday. Thus $28 for bean soup, salmon en croute, and homemade ice cream turned into … more. All well worth it for good food and great company.

All in all, Restaurant Week was a great opportunity to try some special occasion restaurants for a weekday dinner, and to appreciate what the chefs are putting together — all for a good price. I can’t wait until next January. In the meantime, it’s beans, rice and winter for a while.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He has a blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com which badly needs updating!
 

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