Had a long-awaited meal at the much-hyped AZ last week. Here's the story, top to bottom.
My friend John suggested that my wife and me join him and his wife at AZ. He called in October for reservations, couldn't get any in the immediate future, found they accepted reservations up to 30 days in advance. So he called on November 1st in the morning for reservations for Friday, December 1st. Got a 6:30 seating time, told that other times were already gone.
We got to AZ at around 6:30 on Friday, the 1st, where we were greeted nicely, checked our coats and other items. From there we were led onto the snazzy new blue elevator and whisked up to the second floor, where we were seated in a booth, which seemed OK right then. The room is very nicely done, very attractive, and the tables are nicely spaced.
As soon as we were seated and given menus and the wine list, a captain came over and asked if we needed help with the wine list, which is at least twice as voluminous as "War and Peace". Replied that we'd take some water and wanted to spend a few minutes to check out the wine list.
Then the waiter came over and mentioned the specials. He also told us that if we wanted the tasting menu, everyone at the table would have to order it. Seemed reasonable enough, so we went for the tasting menu and ordered a bottle of 1997 Ferrari Carano Chard at around $70, which we felt was a little high, but not bad, since retail for this wine is around $30, maybe a little more.
Meal began right away. Here is how we spent the next two hours:
Me: "So, John, how was your week?" John: "Well...", only to be interrupted by a waiter (we seemed to have a minimum of two for each course).
Waiter: "I'm sorry, I have to lean over you to serve..." (The waiters who served the meal had to lean over John and me as we were sitting on the outer edge of the booth to take away the debris of the just-finished course, set up for the next course and then serve it. They apologized each time, even after I suggested they skip the apologies.)
Me: "Well, let me tell you about my week..." Waiter: "I'm sorry, I have to lean over you..."
At this point, John and I bob heads to try to keep eye contact and continue our conversation through the waiter's outstretched arms. Waiter leaves.
Me, to my companions: "...so, as I was saying..." Captain, walking over to us and interrupting: "How is everything? Can I get you anything?" Us: "Everything is good, don't need anything."
Captains walks away, waiter approaches: "Excuse me, I'm sorry, but I have to lean over..." Scenario with waiters leaning over table ensues again.
Waiters finish, begin walking away, wine guy comes over, interrupts: "So, how is the wine? Can I help you with anything?"
Us: "Wine is fine, don't need anything..."
Sommelier walks away, busboys descend on the table: "Sorry, we have to lean over you..." Scenario ensues where they lean over the table several times to remove used dishes, etc.
They leave, someone else approaches...
It was unbelievable, but I didn't want to cause a scene by screaming at them all to leave us alone for just a few minutes so we could actually have a conversation. After all, they were PLYING us with service...
The food was good enough, but it really didn't knock us out the way I had expected. Maybe it was the number of little things that intruded throughout the meal or maybe Patricia Yeo just wasn't on her game that night, but I kept looking for those fusion taste sensations that I've found in places like Tabla, but I didn't get them.
The pace of the meal was precise, in a military-like way. I had the feeling that if I dawdled over a particular dish, I would be getting a visit from the commandant to explain myself. (Actually, I am probably being somewhat unfair here, in that I don't think my companions felt quite that way, but that IS how I felt.) We sat down at about 6:30 or 6:40, and we were on our way out right around 9:00, surely a testament to their devotion to precision.
We ultimately ordered two more bottles of wine (around $60 each), both red, and several bottles of sparkling water throughout the meal. The bill, including tax and tip, came to around $750. While I don't feel ripped off, I certainly think it was a very expensive couple of hours that ultimately wasn't worth it.
Admittedly, it was only one visit and I could be completely wrong in my impressions, but I see no reason to go back, so these are my thoughts. The main impression that remains with me about AZ is their determination to turn your table over.
I also think they should warn those who are seated in booths that if they risk the tasting menu that most of the meal will be spent in watching the table attendants (servers, captains, sommelier, buspersons) work in the most intrusive way.