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Church & State: Great Food, Horrific Service, Hope It Was An Abberation

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Church & State: Great Food, Horrific Service, Hope It Was An Abberation

estone888 | Mar 28, 2009 12:32 PM

Four of us went last night. The bottom line was that the food was great, probably the best French meal of its sort that I've had in the U.S. and it would have even pleased me in Paris. That's good, because I'm willing to give it another chance. If we had had the same experience and the food hadn't been that great, none of us would ever go back.

Here's what happened. We arrived about 15 minutes early for a 9pm reservation. There were three tables for four already open and the maitre d' asked if we wanted to be seated early. So we were. The waiter was friendly and seemed efficient enough. He took our drink orders and left us to the menus. The drinks took about 10 minutes, as did water, but that's no big deal - two of them were fancy cocktails that the bartender makes up on the spot and so we didn't expect them to show up right away. Water would have been nice, though. We had asked for it.

Then we ordered. We split three appetizers: rillettes, onion tarte and a frisee salade. The rillettes, which had to have been ready made, took 50 minutes to get to our table after we ordered them. Once they did, they were good, though all four of us felt they were the weakest food of the evening - we prefer a slightly coarser texture and would have preferred the prune compote on the side rather than on top - and some mustard would have been nice. (We'd spent the 40 minutes waiting for them without bread or anything else. We never did get any bread.)

The onion tarte showed up about 10 minutes after the rillettes and it was wonderful, incredibly flavorful, flaky crust, delicious.

The salade showed up another five or so minutes later and it was exactly what you'd want from a frisee salade.

Then we waited a while longer for our main courses. It was another half hour or so before they came out. The bouillabaisse was fantastic, some of the best, if not the best any of us have ever tasted in the U.S. The steak frites were perfect, just what you'd want. The loup de mer was excellent, perfectly cooked, flavorful, the fish very fresh. The moules mariniere showed up about 15 minutes after everything else, but they were also truly superb when they did, fresh, briny, great broth, perfect french fries to go with them.

None of us mind a 2-1/2 hour dinner, but for it to be relaxing and a good experience, it needs good pacing - and it is generally in a different sort of restaurant than a simple, very loud (we all ended up hoarse from trying to talk) French bistro. Our waiter continued to be friendly, although not quite attentive enough to our needs and never once apologetic or explanatory as to why it was all taking so long. (Until the mussels came, that is, when he dropped them off at the table and said, "They dropped your first order, so they had to remake them."

At one point, after the appetizers showed up, the maitre d' was walking by so I politely told him of our wait and asked if perhaps he could find out what was going on, or if the waiter could. He was friendly about it and I did see him go and talk to our waiter, but it didn't seem to accomplish much of anything.

In the end, we asked for the bill before finishing our main courses. We didn't want to wait around for however long it might take to get dessert and we had sort of wanted to go see a band at The Echo - although by then it was hit or miss whether we could make it in time. (It ended up being miss.)

The bill was the only thing that came quickly, like within 30 seconds of our asking for it. And it was all messed up. They charged us for an extra order of fries and a side vegetable, both of which we had ordered but never got; and they failed to charge us for the two bottles of - not expensive but good - wine that we'd had (about $90.)

One of our party grabbed the bill and just paid it (treating us) before giving us any chance to look it over. We found out later, as we walked to the car, about the missing charges and the charges for what we hadn't got. We speculated as to whether or not they had comped us the wine to make up for the service - they should have comped us something - but two bottles of wine does seem a lot more generous than I'd expect. Still, if they had comped us, no one said anything to us about it - which would seem to defeat the purpose.

So, I'll go back, either for lunch or on a quieter night midweek, because the food was so good - better by far than what I've had at either Comme Ca or Anisette, and less expensive. But I'm hoping that last night's service was just an abberation.

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