After reading the monster Bouley Bakery - "Worst Meal of my Life" thread, I approached my dinner at Danube last night with trepidation (and a bit of curiosity).
The night began on a rather odd note - when I called 411 to get the address for Danube, I was told that it was 120 W. Broadway. When I opened the door at the restaurant at that address, I found myself in a jam-packed, postage stamp sized waiting room amid a sea of angry people demanding to know when they would be seated. Suddenly I realized that this was in fact Bouley Bakery. It was the most undignified dining scene that I have seen in quite some time.
I was told by the harried maitre d' that Danube was around the corner on Hudson Street. As I left Bouley Bakery, there were two other couples standing outside, dazed and confused, trying to figure out why Danube was not where it was supposed to be.
Now to Danube - the place is absolutely gorgeous. You walk into an ornate, refined and serene sitting room. It was the polar opposite of Bouley Bakery - the room was quite, everyone was seated comfortably and seemed happy and relaxed.
When we first entered the restaurant, I surveyed the dining room, and noticed one really, really horrible table that was set off from the rest of the room, right next to the serving station (this table was even farther removed from the dining room than the serving station). It was in directly in the line of traffic of both customers and servers. I think the table was an afterthought (or maybe some kind of perverse joke). I don't think that anybody would not find the table objectionable. Although the rest of the dining room was full, this table was empty when we walked in. I asked my wife if perhaps I should let it be known ahead of time that we did not want this table - just to be safe. She said it probably wasn't necessary.
So we order a few drinks and wait in the stunning bar/sitting room. It was really wonderful - for the first 30 minutes! Our reservation was for 9:30. By 10, I started getting a bit restless, but was still enjoying myself and the taking in the beautiful surroundings. I saw the maitre d' and the hostess confer, and look at me and my wife (by far the youngest people in the house). It looked as if they were hatching some kind of diabolical plan. They came over and told us our table was ready, and somehow I just knew which table they were talking about. Sure enough, they brought us to the suckers table. We very politely told them that we would wait for the next available table (We decided that they probably try to offer the table four or five times a night and likely nobody ever accepts the offer).
The more we thought about it, the more aggravated we became. We went back to the sitting room where we remained for another 30 minutes! We had enough and decided that we would call it a night and grab some martinis and steak frites at Odeon. As we were preparing to leave, they came over, apologized profusely and talked us into staying (I know, we should have left. But we had been looking forward to this meal for quite some time and had invested a good part of our evening already. But it was a close call, believe me).
We proceeded to have a pretty good, but nowhere near great meal. The service was uneven, the portions incredibly small. The food, while interesting, was not the type you crave more than once every few years. Some of the flavor combinations were just plain weird, and some of the "authentic Austrian" touches were just stupid, like the fresh pretzels that were part of the bread selection (in a blind taste test, I challenge any of you to tell the difference between NYC street vendor pretzels and the ones served at Danube).
Irregardless of the food, we were so pissed at having to wait one hour (and trying to get lured into sitting at the suckers table), that the meal was kind of ruined from the outset.
Well after all that, they comped us two glasses of champagne and one dessert - oh, joy! I guess Chrismas came a little early for us this year.
Suffice it to say, I will not be back (well, maybe for a drink). And I'm glad I accidentally walked into Bouley Bakery, because I sure as hell won't be dining there anytime soon either.
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