The SO (let's call him Z) and I went out to celebrate my birthday early by dining at Rialto for Restaurant Week.
I went in with a slightly-soured outlook on the whole thing after continually reading on chowhound.com people berating RW, saying that its not good for the restaurants, not good for the servers, and not good for the customers (they lose money from food costs; they have lower check averages and lose money; the food isn't as good as a normal week because the restaurants skimp - it's a vicious cycle). Dish Gal felt a little down in the dumps because of it.
But I got all dressed up and pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. The hostesses greeted us at the entrance and were very friendly and not in the least bit pretentious- a nice start. We were a bit early so we grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered some wine. Very pricey ($8-12 range) but our selections were very nice. The bartender was a little chilly in demeanor but was helpful in narrowing the choices.
Our table was ready shortly after we ordered, so we followed the hostess through the dining room and ended up at a great table overlooking Harvard Square right next to the windows at a small, intimate table. Did they find out I was Dish Gal ? (ha...)The restaurant was very elegant and refined, yet cozy-similar to Harvest but on a grander scale.
Our waitress was similarly chilly like the bartender, but did help us select our choices when I was overwhelmed by all the options. I chose the carrot and fennel soup with mint to start, and Z got the potato gnocchi with meat sauce.
The bread arrived in a bread basket that looked oddly like the ones from Not Your Average Joe's (you know those big spiral holders?) and was accompanied with fresh olive oil with a sprig of rosemary, and a little teaspoon of sea salt. Very tasty.
The carrot soup was delightful; the flavors were subtle yet so fragrant and well balanced. It was light yet sumptious. Definitely turned out to be my favorite portion of the meal. Z's gnocchi was tiny but packed a punch, and I was glad they didn't splurge on the serving size-that was just enough. The meat sauce was delicate and not overwhelming and the gnocchi were creamy and melted in your mouth.
Z's entrée was pork loin accompanied by cheesy polenta, green beans, and mustard sauce. Like at Harvest, the polenta i.e. the starch was a miniscule amount, more like a garnish. But a very tasty garnish! I don't even really like pork but it was very nicely prepared. I chose the seared char with a citrus salad. The pieces of orange danced around in my mouth and complemented the char.
We finished with a cinammon panna cotta and chocolate torta. We joked that the waiter put the plates in front of the wrong people when he gave me the panna cotta and Z the chocolate. We each took one bite, looked at each other, and passed the dishes across the table. Other than that gaffe, a bit - above- average dessert. Very rich.
All in all I enjoyed Rialto, but I couldn't get those voices criticizing restaurant week out of my head. I couldn't help but imagine the chef choosing the cheapest ingredients, the easiest dishes. I don't feel like I really got the "Rialto" experience. It was yummy, but not anything over the top as it laudes itself.