We were two for dinner at One on Friday night. It was not my first choice, but I thought I'd try it out. Amy Pataki reviewed it about five months ago, and panned it pretty good. But, she's only one person. And, she quoted McEwan as saying that the service kinks would be ironed out within four months. They're not even close.
I was seated promptly and courteously. I reviewed the cocktail list which included the "Toblerone", a rich and sweet concoction that I have previously enjoyed at North 44. I ordered it. My server gave me a confused look, as if he had never heard of it. I then pointed it out to him on the menu, and he then knew what I wanted. It arrived without the namesake garnish, and without any acknowledgment or explanation of the small missing ingredient. Ok, not a big deal.
The server went missing for about 40 minutes. When he came back, he asked if we wanted cocktails. I just had one about forty minutes ago, thanks. I've been sitting here for almost an hour. I'd like to order dinner. I remained polite. That's my policy.
To start, we had foie gras (seared with pears), and also a ravioli of oxtail and foie gras. We also ordered the "signature dish" (slow cooked pork), bison steak, roasted organic beets, frites, and tempura onion rings.
Some dishes were downright bad. Others were good. Nothing was excellent. The foie was good enough. The ravioli with oxtail may have had oxtail. The meat was so mushed and paltry, it was impossible to discern any oxtail per se. Rather, the ravioli were miserly filled with a dime-sized disc of non-descript pureed meat. The signature dish tasted like leftover Chinese food. Seriously, better pork can be had at Hong Fatt for cheap. This stuff had a weird smell, and was sitting in a glutenous whitish sauce. Totally unappetizing. The bison was, frankly, very good and tasty. Really nice, extra tender slices of beautiful meat, in a very nice brown sauce (pan reduction of some sort). Delicious. Better than a great steak. The "tempura" onion rings were not tempura at all. They did not have any trace of light coating. Rather, they were doughy and greasy. They were the same kind you get at Johnny's Charbroiled or A&W. A&W are actually much better. (Why the hell am I ordering fast food at a fine dining restaurant? Well, their menu is pretty much rife with the stuff. Even the cocktails are cutesy-cheeky, like the one that contains Pop Shoppe cream soda and is garnished with a sour key. This is what fine dining has become). The fries were fries. McDonald's are better; they are the benchmark for me. A restaurant such as One should at least better the golden arches if the former must intrude on the latter's culinary territory. Oh yes, the beets: fabulous! I love beets, and these were roasted to perfection. Again, not really fine dining, but very tasty.
The service was appalling. Not at first. It started with minor blunders, and a complete lack of familiarity with the menu. We ordered a bottle of sparkling water. It came, but there was only one glass at our table. So, I asked for a glass, as my friend laughed and poured himself some water. My glass did not come. So, twenty minutes later, I asked nicely again for it to which my server blurted defensively (and with a somewhat unfriendly pat to my back) that they had a shortage and they were awaiting the end of the dishwashing cycle. Hmmm... interesting. Slowly and surely, it became progressively worse. Our server's inattention and indifference became eventually very insulting. He did not have the time of day for us. He would walk right by without a word or a look. He just didn't give a damn. We ordered things that never came. We could not catch his averted eye. He didn't want to see us. And, he wasn't hustling for his other tables, either. He was not moving much.
Our server, while not hostile, was very unprofessional. Right from the start, he was not pleasant. He was not our host. He was not happy to be there, and did not worry about our enjoyment of the evening. At North 44, for example, I have often had the most engaging and pleasant servers, who seem proud and pleased to guide you through your meal and ensure your comfort. They are often talkative but not unduly so and always knowledgable of the fare. They are professionals who take pride in their job. Our guy seemed very inexperienced and uncaring. He was a dud.
We had a very nice Duckhorn Pinot Noir, which we poured for ourselves the whole night. Now, that is one service omission that I really don't mind. It lets the people calibrate their alcohol intake to their specifications (I drink more than my friend).
Dessert was a syrupy, sickly sweet macadamia tart with cinnamon creme fraiche. The quenelle of creme fraiche, though, smelled of dirty diapers! I can't explain it and I know it sounds strange. But it did! No cinnamon flavour, for sure. The macadamia nuts were too finely mashed, such that they lose that wonderful velvety smooth texture, and became almost indistinguishable from peanuts under the cloying pie's sugar filling. My judgment of the dessert is probably too harsh; by then, we were reeling from the terrible service at this fine dining establishment owned by one of the city's best restaurateurs. By this point in the evening, it may have been that nothing could taste good given our shabby treatment.
The bill was $475 for two, before tip. I hate to do it, but I felt that I had no choice but to give a reduced tip. I still left feeling very ripped off.
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