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Report on Alex - great food, service problems


Restaurants & Bars Los Angeles Area

Report on Alex - great food, service problems

Megan | | Apr 8, 2002 08:33 PM

I just went to the 3-month-old Alex, on Melrose in Hollywood, and thought I should share my experience.

The restaurant was pricier than I expected, but the food was definitely commensurate with the prices. The menu is arranged in an unusual fashion -- first, middle and main courses, and you are expected to order all three (or so it seemed to us - the waiter pushed it pretty hard). All the choices are the same price, though a few have an extra charge. First courses were $15, middle $12, and entrees $29, though the norm is to order via the "prix fixe" option, which is $58 for 4 courses. The prices listed are for a la carte purposes.

Among the entrees were three fish offerings, and a fantastic sounding vegetarian dish (but for $29?!), but I thought I'd order first, middle and then a first course, though my companion did the prix fixe. We shared everything, and it was plenty of food (though the portions for the 1st and middle courses are on the small side). I'd say the prix fixe would be a whole lot of food, so go hungry if you are choosing that option.

I started with the sea scallops, and my companion had the goat cheese souffle. I preferred the scallops, but both were outstanding. For the middle course, I had a delicious, crabmeat-intensive crab cake with a mango sauce, and he had the asparagus w/ an uncommon preparation (quail egg, I believe) -- a gamble worth taking.

I should mention that despite the fact that the dining room is absolutely gorgeous (used to be Citrus) and the food was magnificent, the service left quite a lot to be desired, especially at those prices. We had a trainee of some kind -- this trainee, Alec, was actually quite good -- but our main waiter, John, paid virtually no attention to us, except to be pompous and briefly come over to brag about his four-star restaurant experience (he called Alec "his minion"). NOT a good waiter. We actually went to get our wine out of the bucket at one point b/c our glasses were empty for so long and no one was around (our reservation was at 9 - surely this would not occur earlier).

On to the main course... I had ordered the poached lobster, which I'd read was a treat. My companion had a large cut of halibut, cooked just right and seasoned to perfection. I, however, received the wrong dish, which I did not realize until after the food runner had left (grilled langoustines, a middle course, instead). After a few minutes, we saw Alec and explained the error. The correct dish did not come out until we had completely finished the halibut, and I had already told Alec to forget about it. But John came over and pretty much told me that I'd said I wanted it, and it took a long time to make, so I should eat it. Not a smooth guy, to say the least. Not a word about it being on the house...

Luckily, Clover, their manager, was much, much better. Alec had the lobster taken off the check, and I spoke to Clover regarding John (the table behind us had an issue with him too - he quoted the wrong corkage fee and then told them to pay it anyway b/c "they would have had the wine either way"). Clover was very gracious, gave us a free dessert (lemongrass creme brulee - worth having, though there were many other tempting options), and promised to be sure we were taken care of next time.

All in all, I was extremely impressed by the food, though disappointed by our bad luck with the service. Because of Clover's response, we will return -- though maybe not as readily than if the service had been smooth. I should also mention that the wine list is both reasonable and varied, and is thus another asset for Alex.

I'd be interested to hear others' experiences.

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