Ever since we twice ate at Charles at Smugglers Cove in the course of a week I have been perplexed and fascinated by it. The restaurant seems somewhat inscrutibale and the hostess and wife of the chef/owner a paradox and enigma. There are no Chowhound reviews of the restaurant that I can find!
Our experience over the two meals: Raw oysters were good, though there were some shell bits. The bouillabaisse was good, if not slightly overcooked. Tournedos of beef were good, the rack of lamb was ordinary and my salmon overcooked and the portion small. I sent the salmon back and received another small piece. The standard sides were pedestrian and didn't vary. Virtually the same regardless of main entree. The spinach was thick and heavy on nutmeg the first time and delicate and decent the next night. Same for the clichéd potatoes au gratin, carrots and cauliflower. I saw the same tired dessert tray just like the reviewer in 2002 did, though the apple tart was great both nights. The chocolate and berry torte dessert was also good.The tablecloths all have dark spots from grease-stains. I'm not saying they're dirty, they are all just stained.
The owner was a little too friendly and we felt her odd at times. I read that she liked to speak French and that her husband is French. I found that when we conversed briefly in French, there were glaring errors in her speech and I don't think she understood one comment I made!
Service was slow at times and not always at a top-notch professional level you would expect. With the owner serving us a bottle of red, I implied that I wanted it decanted and she did not immediately "get it" and offer to do it. Then, she seemed inexperienced at decanting. Her husband, the chef, does not always cook. It seemed he was taking the night off on our second experience.
I think what has caused this curiosity, investigation and long post is that we were overcharged on a $200 meal by exactly 10 percent. I looked at the itemized total and then that document was missing when I received the bill to sign.
I went digging since there were no Chowhound reviews. A paid, professional writer said the food was "so-so". Others said similar things and talked about it being overpriced.
From a 2002 Seattle Times restaurant review: "We had reservations on the deck, or thought we did, one balmy August night, but Madame Faure whisked us upstairs to one of two equally well-appointed dining rooms. A wedding was occupying the whole first floor.
When I complained that we weren't told about the wedding when we booked the table two days ago, no apology was forthcoming. "You should have been told," she snapped, in a way that suggested we had somehow screwed up." " The reviewer, after a second meal, said he would not go back.
A majority of people who bothered to post an internet review say it is good French food. A few complained of the food, the cost for small portions and the "nutty woman". She was called rude more than once.
Quotes from the internet:
"The owner, Janet, is the most insane person I have ever encountered."
" the older gal is very rude! Treated us poorly, not sure if I will come back to experience her." (That older gal was the owner and hostess!)
In 2010, a couple had reservations and were turned away because "the chef is very tired".
On top of that, I read that two wedding events in 2009 were handled poorly and one accused the woman of being crooked and estimated that she overcharged her by $2000 on liquor for her event.
What do you have to add? Obviously, we thought enough of our first meal, which the chef seemed to be involved in, to go back for a second meal. A one-time meal experience there might seem well worth it.
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