I need some friendly houndish advice here. I had a situation at my absolute favorite restaurant in LA last weekend that has really ruined my entire week. I had a very good friend in town and wanted to take him to a great place. Having dined at the majority of spots in LA, Jiraffe is a great place because it respects Food for FOOD and brings out the best in its dishes and is not all smoke and mirrors. Oddly enough, I hated it the first time I went....before I was one of the foodie "initiated". Anyway, made a ressie two months ago via opentable.com, requested to be seated upstairs as I had had a very bad experience on the first floor with a transient walking by and proceeding to strip and lick the windows and none of the staff did one thing. Anyway, ressie was at 8, called two and a half hours prior and asked to push back to 8:30, hostess told me no problem and I expressly requested again at that time to be seated upstairs. She said that wouldn't be a problem. Arrived exactly at 8:30, and was told to wait in the "bar area". 20 minutes pass, and the manager comes over and says that the table that we were going to be seated at had just ordered another dessert and it should be about another 25 minutes before it was ready. We thought, no problem, we'll grab a drink from the minibar. The bartender was so great and nice. Sat there for a good 30 minutes (We are 50 minutes past res. time). While we were waiting a 10 top comes in and waits for about 5 minutes and then is escorted upstairs to sit. I wait for another 5 minutes, then step over to the hostess to get a status report. She says the table has paid and they are waiting for the table to leave. In their defense, we were offered 3 other tables that were downstairs, which I quickly turn down and finally the manager asks why I'm turning down these tables. I explain what happened last time and she assures me that it is not the resaurants responsibility to police the outside of their location, which I never really alluded that they SHOULD. For those who have never been to Santa Monica, be forewarned its where the transients flock. But having known this, I was trying to hedge my bets by not sitting close to the windows (of which the bottom floor is surrounded by floor to cielieng). Anyway, ten more minutes pass and the manager says to us that we may run the risk of sitting for another 30 minutes. I told her that I myself owning restaurants for 12 years prior on the East Coast completely understand the value of real estate in a restaurant their size and that the 10 top that came in almost 40 minutes after us was much more valuable to the kitchen than my three top. She disputed this and when I asked her why a table could not have been extracted from the 10 top, she said because it just couldn't.
At 10 minutes after 10, we were finally led upstairs, seated, server came over, offered to get us a drink, and then said that he was aware that we had been through "the ringer" waiting and he "has to bring some comped stuff out to us"....please note that I never ever asked for anything, not even a drink and it was never offered while we were waiting. Why did we wait you may ask, because after the first 40 minutes, it was merely "the principle". When the restaurant called to confirm, they actually thanked me for making my reservation so far in advance. So they obviously knew it was not last minute.
The server schlepped the 2 comped appetizers, I ordered wine, it was brought, we placed more appetizer and entree orders and that was the last time we saw the server. As a matter of fact, when I asked the sole bus boy where the server was for the table, he replied, he left 20 minutes ago. So, there was no point in telling the air that my rabbit app. was ice cold almost. Aside from this, everyone else's meals were fantastic and the food remains incredible I still believe.....when you can get it. Even after we sat down, the manager never came over to apologize or anything, which she never apologized anyway while we were waiting.
Three days later I composed a letter detailing the night to Chef Raphael Lunetta, but haven't sent it yet because I really don't know if its even worth it. I want to send it not to be invited for a freebie, I wouldn't go even if offered, but to let him know that one of his biggest fans had to endure hell and back just to be seated for a simple dinner. If I were a chef of his capacity, I'd want to know what was going on outside the kitchen....really. And by the way they weren't having an "off night" any foodie can spot that out in a minute. Yes he has great food, but the dog and pony show out front is driving the ship into the iceberg so to speak. If you have any advice, let me know.....maybe I'm way off base here.