I have the good fortune of having good friends who like to eat well and spend their money to celebrate my birthday month. Here’s the rundown:
Sona – finally got to go there. Tuesday night 8 pm reservation and there was only one other table occupied. The hostess swore they’re usually busier, but I enjoy a quiet restaurant. My menu had “Happy Birthday Ramon” printed on it, and they handed it to me on the way out - very nice touch. Opted for tasting menu with wine pairings. My dining companion is a recent culinary school graduate so we dissected each course and then tried it as a whole. Overall, some really amazing dishes, especially the hand-cut tagliatelle, chanterelle mushrooms, and pea shoots, and the fish courses. Some dishes had great components, but didn’t work as a whole. The amuse bouche was an undercooked squash…we wondered if we were eating at Raw. One dish was over salted and inedible. Our charming waiter ensured that we would be taken care. He brought out an extra course and it’s wine pairing on the house for each of us. Talk about winning us over by knowing how to right a wrong. Dessert courses were very nice, and we each got a box of pastries/desserts handed to us on the way out. Don’t know if it was because of the bad dish or because it was my birthday celebration. Either way, it’s still an amazing culinary experience with the most amazing and precise service. GO!
Yabu – still a pleasant space with decent food for a nice dinner out.
Le Chamberlain Hotel Restaurant – this was a wonderful surprise on my actual birthday because I live right by the hotel, have heard great things about the chef and food, but supposedly you have to be a hotel guest to eat there. Very reasonable prices with the food style on par with menu at the Foundry, but cheaper. Had the lovely patio to ourselves, but it seems that service was an afterthought, like having to ask for setups, water, etc. There was a private party going on the rooftop pool, so maybe the restaurant suffered that night.
The Foundry on Melrose – you probably heard by now that the chef is planning on having a live video feed that will be similar to Hell’s Kitchen environment. The evening was like an episode of Hell’s Kitchen. Granted, a 9:30 pm reservation on a Saturday night 8 weeks after opening is not ideal. The very apologetic hostess explained they were understaffed that night and diners were taking longer than usual. Understandable, but it took half hour before we got seated. Unfortunately our waiter’s personality bugged us. He swung by to ask which kind of water we’d like, then rushed away while telling him our drink orders. He kept pushing the tasting menu while I told him that I was ready to order for the table (trust me I did my research prior to going and reading the mixed reviews on food and service).
The food: The Crispy pork belly not so crispy. Spot prawns deliciously sweet. Another dish I already forgot but was tasty. Then there was 45-minute wait between first and second course. Mind you it’s about 11 pm now, and I could see that tables seated after us still hadn’t gotten their first dishes yet. Second dish finally arrived with a round a drinks on the house (more on this later). The chicken is amazing, the special halibut was slightly over-cooked, and the short ribs were yummy but not the best. Again, certain components stood out in comparison to the whole.
Then the dessert fiasco. “What kind of sorbets/gelatos do you have tonight?” “They’re different each night and made each night to go with a dessert.” “It’s my birthday and I would love something chocolate.” “Oh, we would never do something as basic as chocolate.” “Then what kind of sorbets do you have tonight?” “They’re different each night.” “Fine, we’ll take the sorbet sampler.” However, if the waiter was reading my mind he would have heard “Just tell me you don’t f’n know and you’ll find out for me.” And no, there was no chocolate surprise in the mix.
The saving grace of the entire night is the ever charming and affable Eddy. He graciously introduced himself while we waited to be seated, and he wished us a great experience at the restaurant. We seriously thought he was the manager but later somebody said he was the bar manager. PROMOTE HIM NOW! During the long wait between courses, he came by to check on how our evening was going, and we graciously told him about our experience so far. He offered the round of free drinks. Again, it only takes a small gesture to wipe away a bad memory of an evening, which the waiter sabotaged with his snide “well, somebody here likes you tonight” as he took our order, making us all cringe at his rudeness.
In short, go to the Chamberlain for an almost exact menu but at a fraction of the price.
Warning to all: The wet bathroom floors become slicker than an ice rink as the night progresses. We all almost took a fall in there.
Watergrill – mid-week lunch last week…still an amazing seafood restaurant with overpriced wines. The crab cakes are full of huge, delicious hunks of crab and second courses were perfectly cooked and presented. Service was amazing.
Chichen Itza (6th St) – I’ve been eating at Itza since they opened at Mercado de Paloma. Now you can have a nice dining experience (no a/c though so dress cool) instead of a fast food one. I really want to love the food, and I do, but this time around I felt like it was a different protein combined with the same light red chile sauce. Although delicious, my friend and I split the appetizer sampler and the shark and always amazing cochinito pibil. The sample and shark all tasted the same. Still, go, and support them. I love that they’re one of the few who have succeeded at the Mercado business incubator model.
Metldown – actually a client lunch in the vicinity led us there, and oh my god, talk about cheese heaven. Had the tuna melt special of the day and shared the peanut butter honey & banana (pbh&b) for dessert. At $14 per person for lunch, it’s worth the adventure, not sure I could afford it on a regular basis (both financial and fat grams).
Thanks to all my gracious friends for some incredible celebratory dinners!