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Dining with my daughter: Two different experiences


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Dining with my daughter: Two different experiences

judy leibovitch | | Sep 21, 2000 06:04 AM

Paradiso in San Leandro and Thanh Long in the outer Richmond were both on my list of places to check out. In general, I'd say JB and I have pretty strict standards for our 2 year old in restaurants, and she mostly does quite well and has eaten in some fairly nice places. We try to avoid non-kid friendly places, but sometimes it can't be helped. So anyway, after hosing ourselves down from being at the Raider/Bronco game in the broiling sun, no way could I cook dinner and my only criterion for a restaurant in that moment was that it be air-conditioned. Paradiso was - perfect. We arrived in t-shirts and shorts to walk into an airy, hardwood floored space that felt like an art gallery, complete with classical guitarist and waiters in crisp white shirts and long white aprons. Big oops, but we were welcomed nonetheless. A certain little person had bamboozled her baby sitter and had not taken a nap. She was overtired, overhungry, and wired. The waiter took our request for plain pasta with butter and cheese (not on the menu) with a smile, and she got more smiles from the open kitchen as JB walked her around to see the guitarist. When it turned out she liked the cherry tomatoes in my salad, he brought her a little bowl of them. By the time he was showing her his Pooh tie I could have kissed him. All that and the food was great, too.

Now at Thanh Long, very different story. We live in Oakland but I work in SF, so trying out this place seemed most practical in linking it to a day I work and Madeleine's at preschool. So JB picks her up, picks me up, and I stupidly overruled her request for pizza, (Mommy's turn.) Thanh Long was also way more formal than I expected for a neighborhood place, and once again my darling daughter was close to baby meltdown. The rice I asked be brought right away was brought, but she refused to eat it. We had to have several little "talks" outside, all watched with carefully blank looks from the hostess. I was frazzled, making it hard to enjoy the delicious, but labor intensive crab. Finally, while wrapping up thankfully to leave, we asked her sippy cup be refilled with half oj, half water. Our server looked a little put out and pointed out our tab had already been done, that it could be added to the bill but that the bar was backed up and it would be a few minutes. All in the face of a little girl who looked like she was going to lose it. Now we have made this same request all over the place. It is usually expedited and a small charge is added (or not) with no fuss. I am probably being oversensitive, but JB response to me was, "Not a very smart move to make before we added the tip." We left without juice, cranky baby, and annoyed.
I'd say we screwed up in both instances by taking Madeleine with us, but then again, how else are you supposed to figure out which places are kid-friendly?

Conclusion 1. Strong recommendation for Paradiso if you're in San Leandro.
2. Mixed feelings about Thanh Long; great food, but I'll have to wait before my parental juices calm down before I can go again, without my kid.