18 February, 9am: made Open Table reservation for 3 at 8:30 that evening, Kendall's Brasserie.
9:10am res. confirmation received by email.
8:20pm phoned to cancel res. (other party just having phoned w/regrets).
8:30pm phone to renew res. (other party: 'just kidding') told place is empty and reservations will be unnecessary in future. Is the kitchen closing? No, open until 11. I reiterated that I had just cancelled and was reopening an open table res. No reaction.
8:50pm arrive to meet my party, now finishing round one at the bar, where other than an older couple receiving a first course, and a small group of younger people at a stand-alone counter, they are the only patrons. I request a wine list, order a glass, they order more drinks, I ask for another couple menus (we are three and only one is in evidence on the bar). The bartender returns with a single menu.
At this point I should note that our party of three comprises a man and woman from LA, and an old friend of his from DC who is frequently here on business. We try to show DC a good time and contemporary view of downtown LA. Kendalls, and all. When I comment on the fact that the waiter only delivered one menu for the three of us, DC says actually, I thought it was bizarre that when we got here and he asked us if we were going to eat and I said we were waiting for one more, he rolled his eyes at me. Well, replied LA, did you notice the waiter out here asking for a manager and cussing, saying they had closed the register and he wasn't going to take anything else?
The bartender returned and I asked about the duck with fois gras ravioli and celery root which sounded a promising appetizer. How was the celery root prepared? You know, it's in there, like in the ravioli. It's in the ravioli? I asked. I don't know, it's, you know, it's good, you'll like it. But it's in the ravioli? I don't know, do you want me to go to the kitchen to find out? This was asked with real fury. I would like to know how it is prepared. So he leaves and returns and says it's on the plate. Mashed? Gratinee? Remoulade? He's glaring at me at this point. You want it or you don't? Look, he says, let me just get you one and you decide.
This was all so bizarre. I went to the hostess at this point and said, I had a reservation earlier that I cancelled and renewed, then we thought we'd dine at the bar but it has become uncomfortable so might we please have a table?
She takes us to a table and I ask to see a manager. Almost immediately a manager, a waiter and a water pourer converge on the table. I recount part of the story (minus what happened before my arrival), he asks which bartender and seems appropriately concerned.
So we are still looking at the menu, I undecided. My companions both order gratinee a l'oignon and we all ask about various main courses. We are all undecided on the mains and I am still undecided on the starter so we say we know we want these soups and need a minute to figure out the rest. The waiter heads off and returns after the bit with the soup which he presents as he says, anything else, or just the check?
I'll skip the fumes. I order the beet salad and the duck, medium rare. They order the halibut and a frisee salad, and the lamb shank, respectively. Among other sins, there are no lardons in the frisee, despite an explicit exchange between my friend and the waiter who assured him that indeed there were. This is a man who for whom lardons are the reason to eat salad. The beet salad is a cold, freezer burned mold. The duck is not only well done but curling. The halibut is dry and I suppose the lamb shank could be described as falling off the bone but it was orange and the bone white-clean and the whole thing room temperature, and DC remarked that it seemed to have been cooked separately and wrapped around the bone then reheated. The only item we sent back was the duck, which reappeared bloody and was left untouched.
On a less personal level, despite their menu descriptions and font, none of the items was worthy of the eponymous description of 'brasserie'. The salads were assembled a la France-Californie-- a frisee leaf here, a crouton on the opposite side of the plate; duck (you remember the duck) fanned breast (not confit?); beets as described above. (To give them their due, they do evidently have Stella Artois and not Duvel but something I associate with it-- on tap--I am not a beer drinker but if you are you might check it out for this reason).
We were staring at our plates and exchanging apologies and hey at least now we knows when the waiter reappeared with a dessert tray and continued to insiste that we order dessert, even after each of us had said we didn't care for any. How about this? That? No, really, thank you, just the check. Well let me just bring you the other thing-- or maybe armagnac? No, we're tired, we're on a diet, this has not been a success, we want to go home. Please. The check. It emerges that the manager has insisted on this reparation for our initial misery so my companions, whose faculties have no doubt been compromised by hunger if not worse, accept coffees while I depart for take away from Full House and the further indignities of a $65 parking ticket and an email from Open Table (10:30 pm; sent at 8:25) acknowledging that I had cancelled my reservation and would not therefore be receiving the points which would have been the only consolation prize for the evening, which ended up at $170 for the three of us. They comped the duck.
We all agreed this was our worst restaurant experience ever.