Lucia opened back in October '09 in the Andaluz Hotel in Albuquerque. We heard some mixed things and gave them a couple of months to get their act together. Had reservations for Valentine's Day but then the restaurant went and switched everything to a prix fixe set-up so we bailed (we would have certainly spent more than their price, but didn't want to be constrained to their choices - which were on the heavy side for a romantic night). Back in March we tried again and had a very nice Saturday meal there: the front-end didn't have its act together, but the waitress and bussers were delightful and the food, drinks and room were a delight.
We took another couple to Lucia last night to celebrate the birthday of one of our friends. Made a point to mention that it was a birthday when we booked. Man, what a let-down. We got seated just fine for our 8 o'clock reservation, and the place was pretty much full. Water arrived within ten minutes, and everyone who wanted a drink (which was to say everyone but me, the designated driver) had one right away. That was about the last thing that went especially well.
I asked for an iced tea, and the waitress said, "Of course." And disappeared. Ten minutes later, we're sitting there staring at one another. No bread. No specials read to us. No iced tea. No "Would you like another drink?" (Two of us were ready.) No nothing. Oh, and the menu's changed since March. It's been dumbed-down a little (fewer of the Mediterranean-themed starters) and had a large vegetarian section (only one vegetarian meal offered per day, but they took an entire page to do it) added, along with a one-page preachy statement about how green the restaurant is, and if everyone just ate a vegetarian meal once in a while, the world would be more sustainable.
Ten more minutes (I was clocking it) went by. We were speculating about whether they were brewing my iced tea. It arrived (though it was never refilled once in two-and-a-half hours) when the waitress re-appeared and asked if we'd like to order starters. We said we were ready to order everything (not knowing when we'd see the waitress again). "But first," I said, "Can you tell us about the specials." "We have no additions to the menu," she said, "But the soup today is a tomato-basil bisque."
"How about bread?," asked my wife. "We have bread!," said the waitress brightly. "May we have some?," asked my wife. "Of course!" Birthday boy asked about the "carpaccio of cauliflower" that came with the sea bass and was told that carpaccio was a way of cutting things. The "carpaccio" of cauliflower was seared, however.
We ordered, ordering everything at once and requesting more drinks for those who needed them.
Thirty-five minutes after we were seated, the bread appeared (a nice, sage-tasting foccacia), with three marble-sized balls of butter for a table of four. (I should note that in March we had been presented with an array of breads - foccacia was one of them, but not the only one - and the bread basket was as big for two people in March as the focaccia plate was for four in August). We asked for more butter, and the busser got us some right away. Around that time, _one_ of the drinks arrived. Not the birthday boy's - he was sitting there looking sadly at the melting ice in his scotch glass.
When the starters arrived, we asked about birthday boy's drink. "Oh sure!" Waitress disappeared again. Tomato/basil bisque was fine, but it was served with an almond/roasted red-pepper glop in the middle that was actually quite outstanding (best part of my meal was this glop). The "paella Rockefeller" was paella made with oysters served in oyster shells (I'm not a seafood guy - the other three said it was fine but no one was ecstatic), the dolmades were nice in that they were unusually firm although no one was turning cartwheels at the flavor. The Caesar salads were very good (we were joking about the "carpaccio of lettuce" - "sliced as thin as a leaf!") and birthday boy's second drink showed up about midway through them.
For entrees, we had sea bass (nicely seared on the outside - mushy inside) with fingerling potatoes (actually, a mash of glop) and the carpaccio of cauliflower (good), pork chop (perfectly cooked but overbrined and then doused with some homemade version of K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce, some vegetarian thing (bell pepper stuffed with risotto on top of asparagus - very good) and the ground lamb bolognese (nice taste, thin-sliced fresh mint worked with the sauce) atop a bed of amazingly overcooked (I kept demonstrating how it would fall apart under nothing more than its own weight) rigatoni.
When we were able to find the waitress again, we had to ask for a dessert menu, since it was a birthday celebration. The waitress exclaimed, "You should have said something!" Well, we did, but the front end apparently hasn't gotten any better since March. More drinks were ordered (a decaff espresso for me - not an especially good one, and the lemon twist had been inserted into the drink when it arrived) and a dessert each: a white melba peach parfait, a chocolate panna cotta (meh, cloying) with some homemade Cracker Jack (good) for the birthday boy, some kind of gaufrette with a pomegranate-blueberry mousse for my wife (good - not so sweet) and a strawberry tart for me (the pastry was vile, the cream was fine, the strawberries were good).
So, the total for this repast (with 20% tip) was over $325. I gladly paid it, hoping to get the hell out and never return. The manager came by and birthday boy complained a bit (the manager largely rebuffed the complaints, but offered his card and asked that he be called personally when we return). I didn't say a word - figured I'd just shake the dust off my feet and give you guys the rundown.
Cross that one off my list.
Lucia at Andaluz Hotel
125 Second Street NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
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