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Monday, January 7, 2013

Say It Ain't So

IT'S been a long time since I'd written anything so scathing about a restaurant... This time, instead of naming the place, I'll let you see if you can figure out the guilty establishment on your own.

bone marrow appetizer
--with no utensil small enough to fit into the bones

I was the first to arrive in my party of three and was instructed by the hostess-maître d' to let her know when the rest of my party had arrived. I was fine to have an apéritif from the bar while I waited. When my guests arrived a short while later, we decided to take our table straight away. The hostess-maître d' sat us in the rear room--which I'd never been in before--decorated with antique-looking (but surely not antique) plates on the walls.

It was a special night for my friends and I; we'd not seen each other since the end of last summer, so this was our belated Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year get-together. After asking our server a few questions about the menu, we'd placed our orders. I ordered a purée of cauliflower soup, as my starter, followed by one of the evening's specials: bone marrow appetizer. (I also requested one of their tasty buttermilk-chive biscuits.)

I'd noticed the first flaw in service when a soup spoon was placed in front of my friend, who was sitting adjacent to me, but none before myself. My soup arrived sans its spoon, but another arrived quickly enough. I soon realized that my guests did not order a(nother) starter (I placed an order for a seasonal pickle plate along with our drink orders) and began to hurriedly eat my soup so I wouldn't have to endure feasting while my guests had nothing to consume but their cocktails. (A good server would have asked my guests if they'd like to begin with a starter as well or asked me if I'd like both of my dishes to be brought out at the same time.)

Our next course began in synchronization with another flaw in the service--this time, from the runner. To my friend, Jessica, I'd recommended ordering the Tuscan kale salad--the best kale salad I'd ever eaten. With swift and efficient movement, our runner placed Jessica's salad before her along with two buttermilk-chive biscuits--one in front of Jessica and one before myself. A good three to four minutes had passed before anything else had arrived (and there was no mention along the lines of, The other entrées will be right out).

I didn't dare touch my biscuit (although I certainly was tempted to) since Johnathan, sitting across from me, was yet to receive so much as a scrap of fodder. When the remaining dishes finally arrived, mine aroused another protest within myself. Unbeknownst to me at the time of ordering, the bone marrow special comes with toast. Now do you think that our server might have asked if I'd like my biscuit along with my soup or along with the dish that already comes with another form of bread? He did not. And by the time I'd gotten around to eating the biscuit, it was--as I knew it would be--cold. I don't completely fault our server though. Because only a good server would have thought to have done this.

My final disappointment scoff of the evening came when we'd received our bill. For my dessert, I ordered a slice of rum cake. I do enjoy my rum cake heavily "watered"; so when I placed my order I also asked our server if he could bring along a "bit of rum on the side" (like they do at Benoit), so I could add more to the cake if needed. (Historically, I haven't been a fan of this restaurant's desserts, but I decided to give their rum cake a try.) I was somewhat surprised when a full serving of rum was brought to the table, in a rocks glass, but protest I did not. But when I'd noticed on the bill that the "side of rum" cost nearly twice as much as the price of my dessert, I nearly laughed. (Again, I don't hold this against our server... but a good server would simply have gone to the bartender and asked for a scant pourful--on the house.)

this is one way to do it. (at Benoit)
see that little pitcher on the side?

Our server still received his 20% gratuity, but I don't think I'll be patronizing this establishment again. Sad... because it was one of my favorite places in Chelsea.
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