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Flummoxed at Minnow (long)

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Flummoxed at Minnow (long)

Tom Philpott | Aug 22, 2002 11:40 AM

I made my first and final visit to Minnow last night.

My date and I arrived at about 9:20. It was a beautiful evening, cool and breezy, and we eyed seats in the patio out back, as well as the small seating area in front. Inside, the room was about ¾ full with the kind of people who like to scream when they eat, so the noise level was high.

The hostess greeted us, asked us how many in the party. We said "two," and she turned on her heel, walking directly to a two-top at the back of the room. Slowly, methodically, she set the table: first she laid out plates, then walked away for napkins and laid them down, then wine glasses, then silver ware. We stood at the front awkwardly. We should have stopped her, I suppose, to tell her we wanted to sit outside. But she hadn't asked, nor asked us to follow her to the table.

When she finally back to the front to greet us with menus, we told her we wanted to sit outside.

"I wish you had told me that!" she exclaimed, and again turned on her heel, and then slowly, methodically, repeated her table-setting ritual, moving the gear from the table she set up, and moving it outside.

Odd practice, we muttered, following her to the table in the patio.

There were several empty tables out there; puzzlingly, she sat us at one directly beside what turned out to the bathroom. The bathroom's venting window loomed over our table, occasionally resounding with the activities of its users. Charming place for a table--and brilliant place to put a party when other tables are available.

Before too long a waiter arrived. He immediately began to pressure us to order--literally after handing over the menu and wine list. I finally had to ask him, "Are you guys in the process of closing?"

"The kitchen closes at 11," he replied, and gave no explanation for his rush.

Just to stick it to us, I think, he disappeared for about 10 minutes after that exchange.

We finally ordered an appetizer of chilled cucumber soup with calamari, the whole-fish special, the scallop entre, and a bottle of wine.

Within a minute or two the soup arrived. It came in a small, flat bowl, and the soup was about a quarter inch deep. Enough calamari to fit into a teaspoon sat in the middle, like a rock in a drought-stricken pond.

The soup itself, if it had had flavor, might have qualified as "rustic"; instead, I would have to call the texture lumpy. The price? 8 bucks. It would have been a disappointment at a quarter of the price.

We each had finished our two-or-three-spoonful allotments of this concoction when we realized the wine hadn't arrived.

We waited. And waited. We were unable to catch anyone's eye. Ten minutes passed. Our hope of a relaxing dinner had faded as badly as the flavor of the soup.

I walked into the dining room to find the waiter fiddling around with coffee service for another table. Since he was busy, I approached the hostess to make my complaint. "We got our appetizer 15 minutes ago, and we still haven't gotten our wine. What's going on?" I felt compelled to ask her if we had somehow offended her when we came in.

"No at all," she said.

The waiter came over, coffee service in hand, and said, "If you want your wine, I'll bring it now."

Now I was truly flummoxed. If I didn't want the wine, why would I have ordered it?

When he repeated that line, his voice dripping with attitude, I said, "Tell ya what. Cancel the wine." Now it was my turn to turn on my heel, and return to the table.

No one came to try to set things right. We decided we had had enough of Minnow's special brand of hospitality. I gestured for the waiter to come over, and asked for the check. We left $9 on the table, and cleared out, into to the culinary abyss of 7th Ave, at 10:15 on a Wednesday night.

Nothing will convince me to return to Minnow. I relate this story as a warning to other diners.

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