Took advantage Thurs. eve of the last night of a $20 off coupon we'd received in the mail. Arrived around 7 PM, perhaps 8-10 other tables occupied, given the size of the place it seemed on the empty side. Nice decor and comfortable seating.
All three of us opted for the soup, corn chowder, after confirming that it had been prepared by Fernando Madrigal, former owner/chef of the late Don Fernando's. My wife went with one of the specials, Chicken Roulade stuffed with spinach and prociutto. Her sister and I both ordered off the menu, she the Seafood Pasta with prawns and scallops on a bed of saffron linguine, I went with the Dover Sole with prawns and scallops over lionize (sic) potatoes.
The Good: Fernando's soup was fantastic, flavors of roasted corn, southwestern spices in a rich creamy broth. The roulade was well prepared and tasty, if not especially memorable (I'm rarely a fan of chicken when other options are available).
The So So: Sis's seafood pasta was just kind of bland, prawns and scallops cooked OK, but it seemed that all other seasoning was foregone for the sake of the saffron, which didn't carry the dish and to my palate just didn't have the pleasant taste that I've experienced previously in things such as paella. Different type/amount of saffron used, additional contributing flavors in paella or other dishes, I don't know? The taste of my Dover Sole (what taste, it's sole ferchristsakes) was fine, the two prawns and two small scallops were cooked OK, but again, the dish was truly uninspired. The sole had little to no texture, falling apart on the touch of a fork (read mush, not flakes), the "lionize" potato base contained no lion parts, as far as I could tell, in fact could not detect anything other than slices of overcooked potato.
The Ugly: Outside the entrance and in the dining room, nice lilting air of classical violin music (Afternoon of a Fawn? or for some reason Eric Satie came to mind), a visit to the men's room provided the same but with a counterpoint of Ouie, Ouie baby, won't you let me take you on a sea cruise? There were maybe six people being blasted by 120+ decibels/ They're heavily advertising the new lounge Rouge (or is it Rogue?). Apparently it varies nightly (there's a grand piano in the dining area) but this evening it was a DJ setup with a couple singing oldies at a level that could be heard in the food service section, not a pleasant experience. Our waiter asked me on exiting the facilities, "doesn't that just make you feel like dancing?" I replied, no, that it evoked a different physical emotion.
Bottom line: I think Sis and I would have been just as happy having another bowl or two of the corn chowder and the tasty bread that accompanied. I don't want to come off as a nit-picky critic, I really do want to like this place.
I questioned our waiter in some detail and discovered that apparently Fernando is in charge of the soups and sauces, given that I think any future visits we will make sure that our entrees have his touch. On the doubtful side, will the owner give him more freedom in the kitchen? If not, I want to be able to find out where he ends up in his next gig.