Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bad Valentine

Not My Idea Of A Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner

I wasn't going to post a new blog until I got to Mexico but I had such a bad experience at dinner, a dinner that I had looked forward to, that I feel compelled to write about it.

As you may recall, before I went to Marty Markowitz's inauguration I stopped into Thomas Biesel for a beer. I really liked the looks of the place, old world charm and all that, so I made reservations to have my Valentine's Day dinner there. I hate to say it but I have never been so disappointed in a dining experience in my life.

For starters, when I made my reservation I specifically asked if, in addition to any specials they might offer, they would still have their regular menu available. I was told that the specials would be in addition to the menu, not a replacement. I even asked, specifically, if the pig cheeks would be available and I, again, was told "Yes, of course," because it was one of their specialties.

Okay, so we get there a bit before 8:00 P.M., the time we had reserved. We found that they had, shall I say, an uninspired prix fixe menu and then I was told that their normal menu was not available. Now when I say uninspired I mean uninspired. I ordered the steak tartar for an appetizer and it was terrible. The flavor was okay but if you throw enough salt, pepper, and garlic into anything you can make it taste okay. But the meat was ground, it was mushy, it was disgusting. This is not a difficult dish to make but they totally botched it. On top of that it took a long time to get it. Now the Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered a salad and my dish doesn't require cooking and the place was pretty empty. Why the hold-up, I do not know.

The main course took even longer to arrive and it was as bad if not worse. I opted for the meatloaf and if they actually cooked it in their own kitchen the cook should be shot. I would bet my bottom dollar they had it delivered. Again, the meat was mush and it was less flavorful than the steak tartar. The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered a pork chop and I was suspicious right away when they didn't even ask her how she wanted it prepared. It came out grossly overdone and had almost no flavor. The vegetables that accompanied our meals consisted of some limp greens and mashed potatoes that I am sure came out of an envelope.

To make matters worse, a table of people who came in about an hour after us did get to order off the menu. When I asked the waiter about this he said that they had to "move" the specials before the kitchen could prepare the regular meals. What a way to treat a customer.

The only bright spots were the staff and drinks. The waiter almost seemed embarrassed by what was going on and kept coming by to see if everything was "alright." Of course it wasn't but there wasn't a thing he could do about it. The drinks, Bombay martinis for me, were fine though but the complimentary glasses of "champagne" you got were sweet, warm, and the champagne probably went for about $5 a bottle. I did get a complimentary martini and glass of port with an espresso which would have been appreciated it it didn't appear to just be a way to compensate for the rest of the meal. I really do feel badly for the staff because this fiasco must have been a "management" decision.

All and all it was a memorable night but for all the wrong reasons. The cask conditioned ale I had at Brazen Head on the way to the restaurant was, by far, the best part of the evening. And the cheese plate the Mysterious Chinese Woman prepared for lunch (she went to a local cheese shop and had them put together a selection of "stinky" cheeses for me) and bottle of Cava, Sumarroca, was inspirational.

Even though I really wanted to try the pig cheeks at this place, I simply do not think I can bring myself to return here. You would have thought a Viennese restaurant would have gone out of their way to make Valentine's Day a romantic adventure.

Thomas Beisl on Urbanspoon


paula said...

Yucky Poopee, Ive seen Swansons TV dinners that have more eye appeal. Sorry. Wish I could have tried some of Mysterious Chinese Womans Stinky cheese plate though.

martyfreeman said...

I agree. It takes a complete staff effort to make a dining experience remarkable. I run into this all the time, and will NEVER return to an establishment that does not go all out, from wait staff to culinarians, to make my moments memorable. It is unfortunate that the waitstaff takes the brunt of it. The "front of the house staff" loses their tips and unhappy customers are leaving. Diners need to feel that they are getting their monies worth. Prix Fixe dining excursions need 2-1/2 to 3 hour of bliss, and that is what we do at the Left Bank Cafe~. At such an establishment the Chefs should make their way to each table and explain what each dish is and why it was prepared with the ingredients and style used to prepare it. I rarely eat out anymore because it seems to be the trend that "nobody cares". Dining out should be a very sensual event, in every aspect. It is the one indulgance that we return to for comfort, time and time again.

Nick said...

Wow... That dish looks sad. Last year I had a similar experience and no longer do I go out to eat on Valentine's. I recommend going out the day before/after and cooking a romantic dinner day of.


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