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Manhattan Dinner

Free Dinner at Rock Center Cafe

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Free Dinner at Rock Center Cafe

Dan Sonenberg | Jul 28, 2001 11:26 AM

It seemed too good to be true - fill out a simple survey on-line and get a $100 gift certificate good for lunch or dinner, any day of the week, at Rock Center Cafe at Rockefellar Center. Of course I glanced on the boards here to see what kind of write-ups they had gotten, and basically, foodwise they came out about as well as Tavern on the Green. That is to say, not well.

But still - $100. I'm thinking it'll be nice to sit in the open air and order apps and drinks and just have to come up with $20 or so in tip.

But the place was just so so lousy that it really put a damper on our night. Friendly but overtaxed waitstaff plunked stuff at as when they could. We ordered two margaritas - one frozen, one on the rocks with salt. We got two on the rocks without salt, and they were really quite dreadful. Tasted like they had been made with seltzer (or some other thing, so fermented as to have gone bubbly). A $12 shrimp cocktail sported four sad and tired jumbos passed out amidst a sea of white (the menu proudly proclaims, right next to the executive chef, the use of Rosenthal China - probably they should have switched the order) and two dipping sauces - a too-acidic cocktail, and a strange goopy curry thing. Main courses were not the worst I've ever had. A seared tuna with sauteed fennel and a fruit salsa was properly rare, but amazingly bland. Sugarcane scallops were similarly uninteresting (with seemingly the same fruit salsa, only bigger chunks) - and even the sugar cane yielded very little sweetness when I gave it a chew after the meal in the hopes of finding some flavor somewhere. Had we been paying for these entrees, they would have been $26 and $28 respectively.

To be fair, our main waiter was sweet - when he saw that one of the margaritas went entirely untouched, he offered us another drink. He had the good sense not to ask how we enjoyed our meal - I'm sure food is not something on the mind of most diners here.

Cappucinos afterward were fine, and the bread basket was decent and refilled regularly, unlike the water glasses.

When it was all over, and I shelled out $18 for a tip, I thought of all the great dinners for two that were haveable in my own lovely Queens for this much or a few pennies more (or many pennies fewer, see “arepa lady”), and I scolded myself for such thoroughly unchowhoundlike behavior.

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