I just wanted to throw out a few comments on our experience at Luke last night. For those that don't know, Luke is the new Besh restaurant, located in a hotel so it's serving breakfast lunch and dinner. Admittadly, this is the first week of it's opening, so I'm willing to cut them a touch of slack, but not too much.
Last night's dinner might be the perfect example of what happens when there's a complete disconnect between the front of house staff and the kitchen. There are almost two reviews to be had here- one of the food coming out of the kitchen when it came out promptly, and one of the service.
When we first arrived for a 9:30 reservation we were told to have a drink at the bar as the table they originally wanted to seat us at just had a light bulb burn out above it and it would be terribly dark. No problem, we were told it would be 15 minutes. We end up seated in the far rear of the restaurant in an equally dark table, not far across from the table where we were supposed to be seated.
We sat down, ordered more drinks and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the drinks came and we ordered- a table of 6 ordered a couple of dozen oysters (P&J's and Blue Pointes), beet salads for 2 of us, a pork rillete, and some matzoh ball soup for 2 (why this is on the menu in a French brasserie I'll never understand, but that's besides the point). For meals we ordered the entrecote frites, 2 of the veal cheeks, a veal pannee (I believe), pate for one (she wasn't so hungry), and I honestly can't remember the 6th dish.
Here's where the service goes from sloppy to bad. I ordered a glass of blanc de blanc to go with my oysters (I like champagne with my oysters, my girlfriend prefers sancerre). The first glass that came out was sauvinion blanc and it had to be sent back.
Side note that they serve their wine in these little drink glasses. Pony up and buy wine glasses, even if they are cheap. Straight edged highballs don't suit wine at all.
Then the appetizers came. Yes, the appetizers came before the oysters. I didn't get it, but after a 35 minute wait for them, it was nice to see them. Appetizers of soup were served warm, but not hot, the rilletes were fantastic, the beats were good as well. I couldn't figure out at this point if the kitchen wasn't serving hot soup or if it was sitting on the station waiting to be picked up. Also, note that soups weren't served with spoons and it took about 3-4 minutes to flag down a waiter to get them. This might be part of the reason for them not being served hot, but no steam was coming off of the soup when it was served.
Appetizers were cleared and we weren't even sure if we were getting our oysters. Another 10 or so minutes later came the oysters. The oysters were admittadly very good, though we were perplexed as to why these came between appetizers and a main.
At this point several glasses are empty and the server isn't asking if people want more drinks. Also, empty oyster trays are sitting on the table with used shells.
From nowhere our entrees appear and they start to serve the mains. Without taking the trays away. They are having to move the trays around to get plates down. We ask people to take the trays and they walk away emptyhanded. We are astounded at this point. My entrecote is served luke warm (i touched it to feel it) and without a steak knife. By the time I can cut it, the steak is then medium well to well done. Had to be sent back and I asked not to send another.
You'd think that at this point either Besh, who had been lounging at the bar all night or one of the 3 managers would come by and ask us how the meal was, but not at all.
Finally when all was said and done, another half hour later or so Besh's partner came by to apologize again for the steak and asked how the meal had gone. We told him of all the gaffs- the inattentive wait staff, the I could care less attidude and whatnot. He was appauled and did the right thing- comped the entire meal for everyone. An extrodinary gesture of kindness that we attempted to turn down as it really wasn't the kitchen's fault, it seemed all the fault of service.
All in all this experience leads me to think a few things: One, this is exactly the experience I expect out of hotel food, but not the experience I expect out of a Besh restaurant. Two, if you're sitting front of house, who's cooking my food? Three, if you are FOH, why aren't you spending any time running your restaurant? Four, you can solve these issues easily by checking in with your customers regularly- not obtrusively, but between courses with a "hey, how are things going" and then you need not bother with comping a meal. Five, if Luke can get its act together it can be a very good place to eat, but until then they have a lot to work on.
I apologize for the disjointed nature of these comments, but it reflects a very disjointed meal.