In the winter, if you can convince yourself to go outside for any reason, it's to eat. The creators of Madison's restaurant week* know this, and that's why week one of this semi-annual event is scheduled for the last week of January.
And it is quite the event. First you hear an ad and remember, "Oh yeah, it's going to be restaurant week." Then you peruse all the menus for all the different restaurants to decide where you want to go. Have you been there before? Is the menu different from last time? Is it substantially different from what is normally served (this can be a plus or a minus in my experience)? Are you getting a good deal price-wise?
This year we picked The Melting Pot (didn't do a review of this because it's not a "Madison" place), Inka Heritage (with work) and Liliana's.
First up is Liliana's, where Daniel and I went Friday night:
Liliana's is a New Orleans style restaurant and is pretty fancy despite being kind of in the middle of nowhere. I give them big points for the interior, which is lovely- but honestly the food didn't live up to the ambiance. I'd heard great things about Liliana's and had wanted to try it for awhile. Maybe it was the restaurant week choices, but neither one of us was wowed. Everything looked good and sounded good, but it was just nothing exciting. Daniel had the red beans and rice as his entree, which he said was good but kind of bland, and I had the Cornish game hen, which I liked but- I dunno. Would I go back? If someone was paying, sure, I'd try a different dish, but probably not. I wouldn't try to dissuade anyone from going, but it was not my favorite.
Which brings us to what probably is my favorite restaurant** in Madison, Inka Heritage.
I think I've gone here for lunch with coworkers every single restaurant week (plus one dinner with Daniel) and I have never ever failed to be impressed. Plus my dining companions- some of whom have very different tastes than me- have always been impressed. Inka serves Pervuian food- think seafood, stews, rice, and potatoes- with mildly spiced, very flavorful sauces. I have had both seafood and stew-type dishes and they are always perfectly prepared and taste like nothing I've ever eaten before (unless I've eaten it at Inka!). This also the home of my all-time favorite (only served during one restaurant week- so sad!) desert ever. It was this maple walnut flavored (it was actually some kind of Peruvian fruit) ice cream with a churro and chocolate sauce. Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but it was out of this world good. So good I went home and looked up the fruit (which I have since forgotten) to see if there was any way to get my hands on one. Alas, there was not. I would recommend Inka Heritage to anyone who wants to go out for a nice dinner and likes food- any kind- at all. Would I go back? I'm 95% confident I will be there for lunch during restaurant week in August.
And now to work off some of this delicious food at the gym...
*In brief: Restaurant week is where several local restaurants put together a 3-course meal for $25. You get one of three choices for each course.
**Quivey's grove comes in at a close second.