Let me start this by saying, I have a friend who is well connected in the restaurant world - her father is friendly with Mario Batali and she's the publisher of one of the most upscale travel magazines today (names are left off to protect the innocent). She's also a graduate of the CIA (the one in Hyde Park, not langley). So she made us the reservation through her contacts.
The reservation was for Saturday night, 8pm, 12 people.
We arrived and were greeted promptly. We sat at the bar and had wonderful drinks as we waited for our whole party to arrive. I had a vodka tonic - made from a rare icelandic vodka using fresh quinine and lime juice. It was fabulous. On the bar were cinnamon coated hazelnuts. I am not a hazelnut fan, but these were good.
Once our whole party arrived, we were lead upstairs to a large round table overlooking the dining room. It was, we thought, a great beginning for a special night - we were there to celebrate about 4 40th birthdays, an engagement, the upcoming birth of a baby and a 50th birthday. So we were not in a rush to go anywhere or be anywhere other than where we were.
When we made the reservation, we were offered a 6 or 10 course tasting menu, we chose the 6 course. It was $110 per person (with out Tip, tax or beverages). My husband met with the sommelier prior to our dinner to chose a champagne, a white and a red wine for the dinner.
We were presented with customized menus - only one problem - our menu was a set, 4 course (unless you can count the petifours at the end of the meal as a course) menu with a choice at each course. The server seemed to have no understanding when we spoke to him and said we would like the first course presented family style and we would each like a 1/2 portion of both pastas as a second course.
Ah, that's where the fun started.
45 minutes after being seated, we finally received bread. another 30 minutes later the servers (all 12 of them) brought over 4 plates of antipasta, 4 plates of swordfish carpaccio and 4 plates of artichokes. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
The food was excellent. The first course really whet our appetites, as it was just a small taste of each one (as a tasting menu should be!). the plates were removed, and then we waited. and waited. an HOUR went by.
My extremely pregnant friend started to get dizzy and nauseous, since it was now after 10pm. We had to ask 3 times to receive a coke for her. We asked for the captain and was assured that our pasta was coming promptly (I should mention that the only request we made was for my husband to receive a double portion of the lobster risotto instead of the linguini bolognese as he does not eat meat). Finally, we get the plate of bolognese. My husband receives nothing. In response to our questioning, the server informs him that "our policy is to only serve this particular dish at this time". "Can I have a plate of plain linguini?" He asked. "No. We cannot accomodate special requests. It's our policy." With that, my husband (with too little food and too much wine) is off to see the manager. On the way there, his friend the sommelier sees him and asks if he can help. Within 2 minutes, my husband receives a plate of linguini with butter and fresh parmesan cheese. 20 minutes after the bolognese is cleared we receive our risotto (all excellent, I must add).
My pregnant friend is now officially dizzy and sick. She and her husband decide to leave (it is now after 11pm). We inform the staff who simply shrug and say "as you wish".
After 3 complaints, a visit from the restaurant manager and 2 requests for the check and 45minutes, we FINALLY receive our main courses. And of course, they bring the main courses for the couple who has left almost an hour ago. Not one apology or visit from Lidia accompanies this. We had a choice of striped bass, pork chop and quail - I had the pork chop and there wasn't much sharing, as we were all pretty aggravated and hungry by this point.
We ask to have dessert brought immediately and they tell us the only way they can do it is to bring 6 of each of our choices (why, I have no idea). So they do, and they were fabulous (definitely the highlight of the meal) - a chocolate panna cotta and an apricot baked alaska (for lack of a better description).
they also brought 2 plates of sweets (carmelized ginger, meringues, chocolates) for the table.
Then we were presented with the check - $460 PER COUPLE. it is now 12:40 at night. And while we had one couple who only stayed for 2 of the courses, we were, of course charged the full price for each of them.
I cannot explain enough to you how much we were looking forward to this night - we are all working parents - all live in Manhattan and had planned this long ago, and how disappointed we were in the service here. I am trying to make the point that each and every one of us at that table were "foodies" - some of us have flown to paris together just to eat (well, maybe not just to eat, but that's what we plan the trip around). I don't think our expectations were unreasonable, but that is absolutely how we were made to feel.
Mostly at the lack of caring by anyone on the staff. Regardless of what "the policy" is, when you see a guest in obvious physical distress, shouldn't you respond? When your guests ask you why the service is taking so long, shouldn't you at least answer?
In sum, beware - while the food is top notch, the service and management still has a long way to go. My friend went so far as to actually write a letter to Mario yesterday.
I can only hope that there are reviewers looking here. Believe me, if I had any way to tell Frank Bruni or Adam Platt about my experience, I would. I am that mad.
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