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Alison Eighteen: the story behind the worst dinner I've had in ages


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Alison Eighteen: the story behind the worst dinner I've had in ages

tanno | Mar 1, 2013 11:38 AM

My wife and I are both good eaters but bad cooks, so we go out a lot. Last week, we had dinner at Alison Eighteen -- I'd never eaten at any of the well-known "Alison" restaurants before, but now that she was in our neighborhood, it was convenient to try.

Putting aside the room and the service, it was one of the worst meals I can remember eating. The language for bad food is much less rich than for good food, so I'm at a loss to explain why it was bad, without lapsing into tautologies. One example: I ordered a salad of spinach and beets, and was delivered a plate of cold-as-though-right-from-the-fridge, flavorless beets, and and a salad that tasted of nothing but the shallots.

My wife, who is a champion plate-cleaner, declared her steak to be fatty and tasteless (a weird combination) and quickly gave up on it, as I did my bland pork entree, which tasted like something even I could've cooked at home in a skillet in about 10 minutes.

There was nothing about the meal we enjoyed, not even their selection of wines by the glass. None of the servers took notice of the fact that we were leaving our courses largely uneaten, and at a certain point, I just wanted to pay the $200 tab, go home, and have a snack.

When we got our coats, the hostess asked, "How was your dinner?" "Awful," I said. She smiled -- I'm pretty sure she thought I was joking. "No, seriously, it was awful." She asked what was wrong, and after we began to tell her, she brought over the manager, who wanted to hear about it. Then the manager brought over Alison.

Everyone else in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying themselves, Alison pointed out to us. She could have brought out a three-star plaque from Michelin and I wouldn't have really cared -- I knew what I'd just eaten. I hadn't expected or anticipated that our critique would escalate to the restaurant's namesake, and pretty soon, my wife and I both began to feel uncomfortable. Alison was as apologetic as she was defensive, and made it clear that she wanted to make things right by having us back another night as her guest.

Given how bad the meal was -- or rather, given how little we enjoyed the meal, since taste is (literally) subjective -- I'm not sure we'd want to go back, even for free. There are plenty of good eaters who go to "good" restaurants and don't like it; not every restaurant is for every palate. So if you've eaten at Alison Eighteen, or any of Alison's other restaurants, I'm curious to know whether you enjoyed the meal. Maybe it was a bad night; maybe we ordered the wrong dishes; maybe we have the wrong tongues for their menu and it's just not a shidduch, as my grandmother used to say.

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