Have you ever had a dining experience where you were waiting for a hidden camera crew to pop out and let you know that it was all a prank?
Before I get started with this post, I want to mention that I eat out often and this restaurant experience is by far the strangest one I have had to date. Also, this post is co-written by my lunch companion and I.
We walked in to the restaurant at about 11:30AM and were promptly greeted by one very tall maitre’d and a shorter but no less overdressed and sloppily put together waitress. Both seemed a little surprised and entirely too eager to be receiving two customers that early if at all that day. I casually asked the maitre’d if they had a dress code since we were dressed more for working out than for brunch at a 28 / 30 point Zagat rated restaurant. He informed me that they didn’t have a dress code and took us off to a dining room in the rear of the building to select a table. We picked a table towards the back of the restaurant near some decorative pieces and a plant on a ledge by the window. The first thing I noticed was the plants off to the side which had long, broad leaves coated in dust only a couple of feet above the surface of the table at which we were sitting. The state of the chairs, table, silverware and plates could easily be excused since one could say they contributed to the theme of the restaurant which was most easily described as rural French in the countryside.
The young woman who waited our table and provided us with our menus was dressed in a wrinkled shirt with dirty sleeves. She went through the two unlisted menu options which were specials that day – without mentioning the price for either – and whether that was by design or not is unclear to me. I can’t put my finger on what was off with this particular woman who was serving us, but something about her mannerisms was awkward. And again, I almost feel silly for mentioning this because I can’t even tell you what it was which made her interactions with us seem odd. It was as though she was just reading off a script sans emotion and going through the motions mechanically.
We ordered the salmon hash, a cup of potato garlic soup, and a crab meat crepe with a side of scrambled eggs. We were brought some bread and butter to munch on while we waited for our entrees. The bread was cold and did not taste fresh, but at least the butter was okay. We did not order any drinks but our waters were being tended to appropriately and refilled before they ran out. It was only later that we realized upon closer inspection of the glasses out of which we had been drinking that the water was not clean. Maybe this was just a part of the charm that makes up a French restaurant but we were not impressed.
Before our food arrived another third waiter brought us some crackers with eggplant to sample. He mumbled a description of the item, and I had to ask him to clarify what exactly it was that he was attempting to serve us. The sample was nothing special – just some cold eggplant on some hard crackers. Once our entrees arrived we were bracing for the worst but hoping for the best. If only because we felt like something was amiss with our dining experience that day. How could all those reviews on Yelp be wrong? Since the reviews online were so amazing, I was expecting to be blown away by the entire dining experience.
My plate was the salmon hash and it was a collection of garden vegetables (they seemed frozen) with a couple of cooked potato cubes and two poached eggs on top served with hollandaise sauce. The vegetables were barely warm, there weren’t enough potatoes and if it weren’t for the poached eggs I wouldn’t have eaten anything at all. I was able to keep the poached eggs down with help from the stale slices of bread that had been brought to the table earlier. The other dish brought to our table was the crab meat crepe which to be perfectly honest didn’t look like it had ever seen a crepe. The ‘crepe’ looked more like a burnt tortilla bread with a crab meat sauce poured over it. The waiter also mentioned that they had placed my plate in the oven and that it would be burning hot. I was shocked that they would serve me my food on a burning plate. This was no hot plate mind you – it was a serving plate that was cooked in an oven. Knowing that you can’t always judge food based on looks alone we both had a taste, and while the crab meat crept wasn’t horrible – it certainly wasn’t worth almost 20 bucks. And that is just putting it mildly. The food had almost no taste to it. I was not even sure if I was eating crab meat at all. The server kept coming around with fresh cracked pepper for each dish but even that did not help.
One service related item to note is that our side order of scrambled eggs didn’t arrive for at least another 10-15 minutes after we were served our entrees – nor were we informed of when that dish would arrive until the waitress remembered the order. Also, the scrambled eggs looked/tasted nothing like actual eggs. I almost thought that they brought us some mac & cheese. The maitre’d came by a few minutes into our meal to remind us that we should take our time and enjoy the meal – something which we had apparently looked like we had no intention of doing. Also, perhaps because it would give some of the uncooked vegetables time to thaw I wondered. In any case, after only finishing less than a third of each of our plates we decided to give up – and we certainly weren’t interested in dessert at that point. And you know I never skip out on dessert.
Our waitress came back and asked us if we wanted anything boxed but we declined which should have been her first clue that we weren’t satisfied. She asked us what we thought of our food and I responded that I thought the food was okay (putting it mildly) – and I think that it was then that it really hit her. We – a couple of peasants (obviously not from the French countryside) – didn’t like their food. She became almost totally unresponsive at that point and continued to clear our table of bread crumbs without making any more eye contact or conversation. We were brought our bill which we paid as quickly as humanly possible followed by an exit just as quick.
Reading this review you might think that nothing was wrong with this particular dining experience, and I almost feel crazy for writing it. But the food was simply horrible- I would not even compare it to late night diner food. I am not sure how other people deal with disappointing food, but I wanted to complain but felt like I had no options of doing so. The whole experience was nightmarish.
Was this a prank? We will never know.