Based on an overall positive first visit, we reserved a table for twelve friends and ourselves the following month for an 8 p.m. dinner.
7:50 p.m. Arrival & Check-In
Party arrives ten minutes prior to reservation time. We checked in. Informed that our table is not ready and we will be notified as soon as it becomes available. Observe a large vacant table with 14 place settings sits in the middle of the dining room.
8:15 p.m. Check-In Deux
Still not seated. Inquired about large vacant table. It's ours. Finally seated. Some menus provided.
8:25 p.m. (Almost) Everyone Has a Menu
Everyone now has a menu or has given up waiting and is sharing. Likewise with the wine list.
8:35 p.m. Drink Orders Taken
Several couples order bottles of wine. We wait and sip our waters to combat the heat.
8:50 p.m. Wine Arrives
Our bottles of wines appear. Server goes off to find a corkscrew.
9:00 p.m. Corkscrew Found
Corkscrew found! By now most of us really need a drink. One couple notices there glasses of house red are not the same wine. Emptying whatever old bottles are around. All bottles finally opened. Success!
The room is just as sweltering as on our last visit (well-over 80 degrees) and now almost unbearable. The wines are all hot as well, being stored along the walls in the same room.
Waiter explains air conditioning has not been working for a while and agrees it is really hot.
9:10 pm. Specials Described & Food Orders Taken
Now we’re talking!
9:35 p.m. Appetizers Arrive
Half an hour passes slowly in the sweltering heat. I catch myself daydreaming about being a Foreign Legionnaire traversing the hot sands of the Sahara, occasionally stopping to drink hot wine from a goatskin bota.
Hoorah! Our appetizers arrive only 1.5 hours into our reservation. Why did my plate of cured cold meats and olives and my neighbors’ salads take so long to arrive?
Salads (a featured special) were composed of a burrata surrounded by greens and slices of pears, mangos and avocado. The pear and mango slices are hard, unripe and inedible.
10:00 p.m. Owner/Chef Saunters About While Studiously Avoiding Us
At this point only a couple of small tables of diners remain, lingering in conversation.
The owner in his white chef's jacket, glasses hanging about his neck, saunters through the restaurant, occasionally stopping to chat with diners or to sit at the small bar in the corner of the dining room spending time with an older female employee who we had observed on our previous visit - the regular hostess and possible girlfriend?
The chef/proprietor never sets foot in the kitchen. The sous-chef is on his own in the open kitchen, sweating profusely.
10:20 p.m. Main Courses Arrive & Owner Leaves for the Night
Mains begin arriving. The proprietor/chef leaves his seat at the bar arm in arm with the hostess leaving the building together, never having spoken a word to our table.
Main courses were good but not great. My wife’s sea bass (featured special $30) was flaky and not over-cooked but swims in a puddle of olive oil.
My lamb chops ($35), while not rare as requested are not overcooked. They sit atop a blob of dry, hard polenta. Slices of overcooked zucchini drizzled with balsamic vinegar round out my plate.
Other guests’ food is good but not great. Considering the high prices charged the food should have been uniformly excellent. We now are regretting not having chosen a higher-end restaurant that for the price would have delivered.
10:50 p.m. Request to See Chef
We ask to see the chef for a friendly chat. Alas, it was not to be. As we finished our main courses the chef removed his apron, looks our way and leaves the kitchen never to return. Servers and other workers began cleaning the kitchen.
10:55 p.m. Dessert Orders Taken
We are now the only guests remaining in the restaurant.
11:15 p.m. Desserts & Coffees Begin Arriving
Our desserts and coffees begin to arrive. We’ve observed the youthful servers making the coffees and putting together our table’s dessert order (remember the owner and chef are all long gone.)
11:30 p.m. Valet Leaves
Valet parking is mandatory. Valet approaches during dessert and states (he is leaving and we need to get our cars. We collect our respective keys and tip him. The cars are all parked directly outside the front door of the restaurant anyway.
11:45 p.m. Final Bill Arrives & Sweet Liberty
Everyone finishes dessert and coffee. Time to pay (average amount $150/couple X 7=$1,050). It feels like we’ve all participated in a death march through a Southeast Asian jungle. It was a relief to finally walk out into the cooler night air. We all knew none us would ever be returning.
In large part none of this was the wait staff’s fault. The servers all worked as hard as they could to provided courteous and prompt service throughout the evening. We tipped 20%.