A recent dinner at Block 7 was excellent in some regards and less so in others. I arrived a few hours before closing on a weekday night and was greeted by the manager and sommelier who allowed me to choose my own table, which I appreciated. He helped me choose a wine to pair with the food I was planning on ordering and even let me sample some before opening a new bottle. I was a bit disappointed upon receiving the bill, however, because despite giving him a reasonable price range, he exceeded it without letting me know. Okay, I can forgive and forget.
After all, the dinner was quite delicious. I started with a big bowl of black truffle popcorn which was obviously freshly prepared, buttery, and salty. I had to stop myself from getting too full on it. Next came a flatbread pizza topped with sautéed mushrooms, taleggio, arugula, and fresh thyme. It was divinely thin and crispy, with the flavorful cheese baked directly onto the crust and tons of perfectly cooked mushrooms sliding off every bite.
The problem came when my dining companion asked for some red pepper to spice it up a bit. She was told there was none. She politely asked our waiter to inquire with the kitchen staff, as it was unlikely that such a place would not have this common ingredient. Though he clearly did not want to ask, he did go to the kitchen, yell something at the door, and return to us happily announcing that he was right. I had to restrain my fellow diner from going into the kitchen to investigate for herself.
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We had leftovers from each of the first two items and asked for a box. Our waiter boxed them up for us, but wanted to put the two very different items in the same small, compartment-less cardboard box. We got a "look" when we asked for separate boxes.
The main course, Miguelito's Pappardelle, which boasted freshly made pappardelle, jumbo gulf shrimp, asparagus, and pancetta tossed in a light herb butter, was excellent. Despite the shrimp obviously not being jumbo, the dish was fresh, not overcooked, and perfect for a summer pasta. My friend got the Smoked Atlantic Salmon, which was beautifully presented in a deconstructed manner. Thick slices of pecan-smoked salmon were plated with a smear of crème fraiche dotted with capers, pickled onions, and picked jalapeño, plus some crostinis on the side. It was outstanding.
As I finished off my meal, I pondered the idea of food versus service. The food was absolutely delightful, and I would return for it in a heartbeat. But the service was underwhelming to say the least. When we asked questions regarding the menu, the responses were often vague or just plain wrong. And the server fluctuated between inattentive and downright snarky at times, which makes me not want to go back.
So what's more important: food or service? Before this meal, I wouldn't have hesitated to say food, but even though no egregious errors were committed, I didn't feel welcome here and I'm not sure that's a feeling I wish to repeat.