My boyfriend and I are suckers for brunch at a hotel restaurant; i guess, after a hard manhattan week, it is nice to feel like we're on vacation when we are so, so not. this week, we went to maialino, our second visit, and if it is up to me, our last.
There are a lot of things that go into making a restaurant one that i like to frequent. Delicious food, an intriguing and well-thought out menu, service that matches the style of the restaurant. For me, maialino fails on the last two and the food just isn't good enough to make up the difference.
However, before i jump into describing the things i absolutely detested, I would like to enthusiastically recommend the honey butter glazed pork biscuit. it was sweet and salty and fragrant and everything a morning pastry should be. my boyfriend, who eats faster than i do but is always considerate enough to leave me the last bite, well, i could see the muscles in his fork hand twitching, like it just might spontaneously reach out and grab the piece he'd politely left for me on the plate.
What I didn't like is a much longer list:
I found the menu difficult. I'm not an egg lover, and though there were lots of other choices, nothing really spoke to me. (To be fair, I should mention on both visits I had a really hard time finding something to order. My boyfriend, on the other hand, dreams of the soft scrambled eggs and would walk across town to have them.) I think it is weird how they mix sandwiches and salads in the same menu section with slightly vague descriptions; on our first visit, we actually had to ask which ones were on bread and which ones were salads.
the food was fine though i thought the portion sizes were just a bit, well, petite. i don't mean to sound like an unsophisticated diner that expects a family sized portion of pasta for $23--i'm not saying i wanted double or triple what i got. it's just when i saw the man next to me at the bar served his steak and egg, i actually heard myself say out loud, "geez, he's going to have to go have lunch after his lunch. there's no way that's going to fill him up." oh yea, and the bread was cold, soggy and tough.
food and menu aside, what really killed me about maialino was the service. as i write this, i'm waffling between nonexistent and horrible and can't decide which describes the experience better.
both times we visited, we sat at the bar, our preferred dining location in any restaurant. maialino doesn't have a huge bar and since most of the seated bar guests were eating, there should have been plenty of time for the two bartenders to take care of guests properly. Except they didn't.
When we arrived, I sat with a dirty place setting in front of me for a while before the bartender removed it and brought a clean one. She didn't change the one next to me, nor did she wipe it off before she plopped down a napkin and silverware for my boyfriend. We were never offered drinks.
At a bar. Never were asked. (I should mention both my boyfriend and I have tended bar at highly regarded chef run restaurants in manhattan, so we tend to be a bit forgiving when it is busy, we tip exceptionally well, and we know what is reasonable to expect from a server or bartender.)
Before we ordered, the lead bartender came over and asked the service bartender to handle a couple of bar patrons which she named by seat number. i can count. oh, she means us. then she proceeded to describe to him another bar guest, a vip, and right in front of us as we were being ignored, implored him to give the visiting chef really good service. we finally ordered and for the next fifteen minutes or so, while the service bartender flirted with the handsome gay guys next to me, i tried to catch his eye so i could order a drink. fifteen minutes. and a bartender standing right in front of me never noticed he'd not asked me what i wanted to drink, that i had no glass in front of me, nor that i was trying to get his attention.
The food came, we ate. And then, for the second time, there was the pesky problem of the dirty plates that sat in front of us forever. Gross. But not as gross as the red headed server who re-pony tailed her hair, smoothing it, twirling it and coaxing it into a rubber band. on the floor. in front of guests. then went back to serving tables without washing her hands.
It's weird. someone took great care with so many of the details in this place. pretty room. great location. so, why stop before you properly train your staff? especially in a hotel restaurant, why wouldn't you hire friendly, service oriented bar tenders who make guests feel at home and welcome?
and teach your waiters about basic hygiene practices.