I have a bit of a groupon problem.  I’ve been seduced by $19 massages and half off meals at high end restaurants.  I do a quick glance at reviews and/or menus before I buy the groupon, but I don’t think I’ve been careful enough.  While a few of them have been delightful, I’ve also had several unhappy surprises.  It started with a shorter-than-advertised massage in a loud, stuffy salon and progressed to a haircut/color that suspiciously resembles “The Rachel” from the early 90s (my stylist was still in diapers then so it’s not a direct rip-off.)

The most recent disappointment came from a restaurant groupon.  I was intrigued by Aria and purchased a groupon for a 3 course tasting menu there.  We had made a reservation, but when we walked into the restaurant, it turned out that we didn’t need one.  Only three of the tables were filled.

I should qualify my review by mentioning that we ate at Fruition with Dan’s little brother the day before we went to Aria.  Every bite at Fruition was perfect, including my first experience with sweetbreads.  Unfortunately, Aria came up short in comparison.
I started the meal with some crabcakes, which were just ok.  Maybe it’s having lived in Maryland, but I expect a higher ratio of crab to filling than what I got.  Worse, the flavor of the crab was completely overwhelmed by roasted red pepper.IMG_20110824_183019

For my entrée, I chose the pork tenderloin with blue cheese, mushrooms, asparagus and mashed potatoes.  The tenderloin was okay, and the blue cheese was phenomenal, but there was some sauce underneath that left a bad taste in my mouth.  The mashed potatoes were good but not amazing, while the asparagus were mostly raw and boring.
Dan ordered the bacon, brie, and bison burger and fries.  He thought the fries were okay, but I thought they were flavorless and a little on the soggy side.  We both agreed that the burger was good, but considering the ingredients, that’s not really a surprise.  IMG_20110824_185005
On to dessert.  I decided to order the peaches and cream, and here it is: a poached peach covered in streusel with some homemade vanilla ice cream.   Again it was okay, but certainly nothing special.

The lone bright spot at Aria was the service.  Our waiter was attentive but not overly so, our food came out quickly and the plates weren’t cleared until we were both finished. 

I purchase groupons because I want to save some money, but I am realizing that a so-so meals aren’t worth a discount.  I would much rather spend a little more on good restaurants and eat out a little less than pay half price for something mediocre.  From now on, I’ll think long and hard before I press the buy button.