in our charming town, we have a january and july restaurant week, when local fancy restaurants put together a prix-fixe menu ($26, and one of those dollars goes to a good cause), and lures customers in with promises of delicious food at lower prices than normally offered. last night marked the beginning of the july week, so my housemates and i decided to have one last fabulously grown-up housemate date night, and went to Tempo, a restaurant just off the downtown mall of charlottesville. i’d heard nothing about this, beyond “good drinks” and “funky decor”. those two things turned out to be accurate – excellent house red, apparently delicious ginger beer, and this ranch-meets-victorian-era vibe. also, i don’t know who picks the music they play, but they ought to pick one genre and stick to it (i’m pretty sure monks were chanting at one point, shortly before ‘cotton-eyed joe’ played).

unfortunately, when it came to the trifecta of the dining experience (good food, good portions, good service), Tempo only hit the first one. the food was delicious – i would have licked my plate at one point. shrimp and grits? divine. rib-eye with pepper sauce? heaven. pecan bourbon bar with salted caramel ice cream? my mouth is watering just thinking about it. but the serving sizes were miniscule, and would have made more sense if we were at an 18-course tasting and not a 3-course dinner. my appetizer consisted of a tablespoon-and-a-half of grits and two (petite) shrimp. the rib-eye portion was more generous, but not by much (and there was a precise and small portion of gratin alongside). i nearly laughed at the dessert. it was maybe a third of a standard bar (inch-and-a-half cube? that is my guess) with a melon baller scoop of ice cream (already half melted). we overheard the waitress explaining to another table that the servings were small for price reasons. i understand that, but the point of this week is to pull in new customers, and feeding me so little that i go home and eat Cheez-its means something went awry.

i won’t dwell on the service much, because customer service jobs, especially in the food industry, are the worst, and i don’t blame the waitresses at all. i suspect the slow service was due to some management or kitchen issue. however, we spent most of our time there waiting, and not eating. a coffee ordered with dessert for one roommate didn’t arrive with dessert, and she ended up canceling it five minutes after we finished our desserts.

so. while the food was delicious, i left the restaurant still hungry, and wishing that the experience had been different. i’m not sure if this was Tempo’s first restaurant week foray, but next time, i’d love to see bigger servings. i’m certain that restaurants lose money with this week – less money for the same serving sizes is a recipe for loss. but you will, i promise, earn that money back (and then some) when restaurant week customers come back for the regular menu – and bring friends. i’ve been to enough restaurants during these weeks, and every one of them goes above and beyond to make sure i get a serving (and service) like i would expect if i were paying full price.

i’ll be calling a different restaurant today to see about another reservation for later this week, because i like food. unfortunately, i’m not sure i’ll return to Tempo. if they try another restaurant week, and i hear that the servings are bigger, i may come back.

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