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RW: Smith & Wollensky


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Restaurants & Bars

RW: Smith & Wollensky

J Bert | Aug 25, 2005 03:23 AM

Haven't been there before, so 3 courses at less than the price of a steak was a good way to ease into Smith & Wollensky and see what it's all about. On a price basis, this may be one of restaurant week's most ridiculously generous deals, but if they're earning new customers through the effort, maybe nobody's losing out.

The "library" room where we sat was full, and maybe 33% understaffed with one waiter in charge, another helping, and no junior-type anyones around to take care of the easy stuff. These guys were polite and not only managed to more or less keep up, but were pretty level headed about it. Still, it was clear that they were running at capacity, and mistakes were made. These weren't necessarily execution errors, but IMO bad decisions made at a higher level practically forcing execution difficulties.

At the S+W price point, as others have said, diners should expect precision in service and food. Basically if I can see things aren't quite right, something's really wrong because *I* am supposed to be the embarrasing thing in the corner, what with using the wrong fork and tucking in the napkin and all that madness.

Dismal, embarrassing failure: the caesar salad was boring, flavorless, not touched by anything recognizable as a dressing. Miserable croutons ("toast" is not a crouton in my world). I am a caesar salad snob. My own is better than yours, yours, and yours. But a top end steak house should have a handle on the simple caesar salad. Next time i'll bring my own with lots of garlic. They can plate it.

big success: Calimari appetizer with 2 sauces, a generous portion nicely presented. This gold plated festival of fried sea creature totally made my plate of cheese and lettuce look even more embarrassingly Dennys-like.

big success: The steaks. We went for the bacon-wrapped filets (I've been well behaved for TOO long). perfectly medium rare, decent presentation, with big quartered tomatoes and some cheese, parsely, oil and onions to the side.

disappointing: The tomato prep alongside the steaks really needed roasted tomatoes, not big old raw tomatoes. Too cold and i dunno, the whole mix just lacked coherence. It was just a pile of ingredients acting like they had been set up on a blind date and didn't click but had to hang together anyway.

The server really over-sold this entree and it was feelin' like the kitchen wanted to push them hard. However I do feel that on the balance, he did us a favor. Otherwise we would have had plain piece of meat on a plate. I can make a plain steak on a plate in around 10 minutes at home for $10 with mushrooms on the side.

good enough, and a bit more: the desserts were big and rich and ridiculous and not the best desserts in the world but pretty good, maybe a bit too plain in presentation. We split the key lime tart, and the chocolate cake-torte-thing. all good with a $3.50 decaf... but not just a decaf, but a whole personal pot of decaf. nice touch.

Yay for the bread, particularly the unexpected soft pretzel things. We both thoughtthe salty flatbread is too salty, in a surprisingly-salty oooh that's like a salt-lick kind of way.

dad gummit and i'm fit to be tied: The rest of my steak - that being 1 of the three separately skewered portions - was lost between my table, the bus cart, and the wrapping station. Gone. 1/3 of dinner. Tomorrow's lunch. the high point of the entire meal. Bragging rights at lunchtime. dammit.

in summary

This place should have the bugs worked out. It doesn't.
I just can't recommend it. The price is high. The service is doing everything it can to keep up. And yet the total experience does not meet the price point or the expectations that have been set (and advertised).

The servers are very obviously trying to deliver on the marketing and advance reputation. They're accomplishing that calmly and professionally. To a point, they are able to cover for the rest of the failings. But chef/menu department, kitchen, and management are not keeping up their end of the bargain. Nobody's better off for it, not staff, customers or store.

The steaks are really good. They've got that down. But man does not live (nor buy rather expensive meals) on steak alone. I mean, he could, but ... no. don't.

I'm mad that I didn't over-tip nearly enough. My friend shut me down and i didn't override. It was just too confusing between the restaurant week "concession" and not wanting to really be a PITA during a basically tasting opportunity, knowing they were running their tails off and actually surviving, an embarrassingly nice make-good over the dessert by the aforementioned staff, and various communication oddities all night. I apologize now lacking other options. Should have taken them both out for a drink after, so they didn't have to split the extra with the house.

Oh, the oblong plates they use for sides are totally weird for single sides... like creamed spinach (really good). A little shallow bowl would be more considerate.

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