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Restaurant Week 2012: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Duo
Duo
Photo: Adam Larkey

Ah, Yelp. It's Denver Restaurant Week (Half Month), so naturally all the yelpers are yelping away, judging everything from server enthusiasm to bathroom sinks — all for the standard prix fixe price of $52.80/couple. Guest expectations are high, places are packed and service professionals work longer hours than usual. There are over 300 participating restaurants this year, and they're all catering to our city's most expert and amateur diners. It's definitely a rush, in every sense of the word. Here now, some yelpers share what they've experienced during the first week of madness.

Duo: We went for the 5280 meal, first time for us at Duo. I was super excited because I've heard such great things. The atmosphere is fabulous, very warm and inviting. I fell in love with the toffee pudding, it is to die for! The rest of the meal didn't leave such a lasting impression. The NY steak was chewy and salty, as another reviewer had mentioned before. And the starter plates--arugula salad and seasonal vegetable soup were just mediocre. Maybe we should try to go back for a meal after 5280, but I think they should have sold us, regardless of 5280 or not. I'm giving them 3 stars for ambience and that amazing dessert.

Phat Thai: Let me just mention that the bartenders here are out of this world. Super attentive and excellent dinner and drink recommendations. Also, the Restaurant Menu here is their entire menu minus one or two items - total steal! By the way specialty drinks are at the reduced price of 5.28 for Restaurant week as well. BONUS!

Beatrice & Woodsley: I've heard so many good things about this place so I was super excited to try it. Unfortunately, I'm sorely disappointed. Maybe let me start with my expectation for restaurants during restaurant week. I really only expect two things, and it's the same expectations as most restaurants I visit: 1. Service. Most people make reservations during this week, and so it shouldn't be a surprised for how busy the restaurant is. 2. Food. This is the time for new patrons to try the restaurants, to become repeat customers. Overall, I didn't feel like the menu was very well thought out. Combined with the slow kitchen service (almost 2 hours for these 4 things), it just doesn't intrigue me to come back. Oh btw, I like the decor, but the bathroom... over-complicated. I must be a little dumb cuz it took me a good like 15 seconds to figure out the sink situation. And I sat right next to the fake wood burner and when I got up, my big butt was in the way obviously cuz I cut my back on the sharp edge of the thing. Didn't want to keep sticking my butt out at the couple at the next table but it surprisingly hurt like a bitch.

The 9th Door: Not to jump on this 5-star bandwagon, but The 9th Door is truly an experience. Ok. I'm jumping on... My lovely date and I had the Restaurant Week experience, so I sampled a multitude of their dishes, in prix-fixe form. The dish that packed the biggest punch was the Filete con Cabrales. I could drink that blue cheese sauce all night long. Every dish was amazing and decadent and the service was top notch. Here's to drinking that sauce, 9th Door!

Fogo De Chao: I was invited along for a 5280 dinner here (and paid for, so how could I refuse?) at Fogo De Chao. I probably should have not eaten for the previous 2 days. With that said.. unlimited salad bar + meat = whoa. The wait staff was okay.. but it was first night of restaurant week + fully packed dining room = what else can you expect? My favorite = the bananas. OMG. I think our table of 6 had 10 of those banana plates. DEEREECIOUS.

Panzano: Came here for restaurant week to try their menu. The first highlight was the fried brussels sprouts. I am normally not a big fan of brussels sprouts - but when they're cooked right, ohhh myyy. The restaurant itself reminded me of Restoration Hardware - the fixtures, the tables, even the paint scheme made me think of one of their stores. I like that style, so I didn't mind. The layout of the restaurant is a bit cramped though, especially right by the entrance and along the bread bar (for lack of a better term). The waiter was helpful and enthusiastic (though almost too much so).

TAG: If you are a fan of Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Nightmares or food porn in general you have to experience the Chefs bar. Really it was like being in the ultimate reality TV show. In the couple hours we were there I felt like I got to know the personalities of the Chef and his assistants. It also helped the reality TV illusion that the Chef was quite a good looking man! It hammered home that I have no desire to ever work in a kitchen. I thought my job was stressful! The service was ABOVE AND BEYOND! I love getting treated like that in a restaurant.

Café Brazil: I have lived within a mile of Cafe Brazil for years and Restaurant week 2012 finally brought me here. I sure am glad, the special $52.80 meal for 2 was amazing. Each of the 3 courses of my date and I were exquisite, not to mention the Chocolate hazelnut semifreddo (One of the best desserts I have ever had). I recommend having a caipirinha, they also make the best I have had in Denver.

Root Down: Went during restaurant week and every single thing we had was absolutely delicious. Best dinner I have had in Denver.

Trillium: Wowsa! Typically, you have to take Restaurant Week service with a grain of salt. The service industry employees abhor it, your service could be sketchy and restaurants are doubly busy so the food could be less than what it typically is. But dinner at Trillium last night was knocked out of the park...during Restaurant Week, which in my book is really saying something.

Barolo Grill: Perhaps I shouldn't expect 5280 fare to be representative of a restaurant's quality, but isn't that the point of Denver Restaurant Week? To attract new regular customers by impressing them with your elegantly prepared dishes? Overall, I see potential in Barolo, but I can't pretend that I enjoyed my meal. On a positive note, the service was excellent- well timed, friendly, and not overbearing. I found it interesting that a restaurant with very reasonably priced menu items (~$30 entrees) would carry itself like a Mizuna, but it did.

Vesta Dipping Grill: I went for Restaurant Week, so it was understandably busy. That is no excuse for the incredibly slow, impersonal service and undercooked, lukewarm food. Don't get me wrong, many items were very good, but not extraordinary. I will be back for a happy hour, but I will not fork over full-menu prices for the food that I received last night. Overall, not as impressed as I had hoped.

Fogo de Chão

1513 Wynkoop Street, Denver, CO 80202 303 623 9600

Root Down

1600 West 33rd Avenue, , CO 80211 (303) 993-4200 Visit Website

Trillium

2134 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205 303 379 9759

Panzano

909 17th Street, , CO 80202 (303) 296-3525 Visit Website

Vesta

21-02 30th Avenue, Queens, NY 11102 (718) 545-5550 Visit Website

Cafe Brazil

4408 Lowell Boulevard, Denver, CO 80211 303 480 1877 Visit Website

Duo Restaurant

2413 W 32nd Avenue, Denver, CO 80211 303 477 4141

Tag Restaurant

1441 Larimer Street, , CO 80202 (303) 996-9985 Visit Website

Phat Thai

343 Main Street, , CO 81623 (970) 963-7001 Visit Website