Before I get to the essence of my review, I think a discussion of the rules is in order.
If my total experience at a restaurant is, overall, bad, you won’t read about it here. I don’t use this blog as an internet rant platform. Any respectable food critic, which I am not (critic being the operative word as opposed to respectable) , would revisit to see if the experience was an aberration or the norm. To paraphrase Churchill, there are too many restaurants and too little time for that to happen.
An exception to this rule is if I contact management about my experience and they fail to respond – at that point they are fair game.
Another exception is if they attempt to serve me a martini, the volume of which fails to fill the glass or if their pricing is so egregious ($9.00 for a glass of wine that costs them less than $6.00 a bottle as I mentioned in another recent article).
Like the hearsay rule, where there are exceptions as well as exceptions to the exceptions, my dinner at Fourth and Swift this past weekend left me with a quandary. What do I do when the service conspired to ruin all that the truly talented kitchen has to offer, when, as in our case, toward the end of a very long meal, management appeared with the promise they would “make it right”? To give you a bit of insight into my “complaining style”, many years ago I was up for a good fight if things went awry at the table, possibly the result of high T versus low T as the ads would say.
However, approximately thirty years ago I had an epiphany when I opened the newspaper to read that in an ethnic restaurant where I had dined frequently a patron was shot and killed by a waiter. Realizing there were far worse outcomes to my argumentative nature than saliva in my food, I quickly reformed my ways. As facts came to light, it was the result of a drug deal gone south rather than an entrée delivered late, nevertheless it was a turning point for me.
With that background, let me move on. We arrived for a 7:00 reservation fifteen minutes early, as well as prior to the arrival of the couple we were meeting for dinner, and were given our choice of waiting at the table or the bar. We chose the attractive bar, where Mrs. C (62 years old) was carded by the bartender since management told him to card anyone that appeared to be less than 30. Original? Probably not, but a pleasant and light hearted way to start the evening, except Mrs. C insisted I overtip him.
We had a glass of wine each (no egregious pricing that I noticed) and I for one was happy to see that there was another bartender who seemed to be in charge of the service bar, so that we weren’t in line behind seven craft cocktails that would have taken 15 minutes to prepare as the DT’s set in waiting for our wine. As I have commented in other posts, more restaurants need to do this.
When our companions arrived we took our table and began our dinner. I chose an appetizer of steak tartare, served with a mustard ice cream (yes, you read that correctly) and it was superb. No other appetizers were ordered, except we each split the garden salad with feta cheese and toasted quinoa. The waiter said the salads may be too small to give a nice portion to each of us, but he verified we could order another if we found that to be the case, which we did not. The kitchen split the salad and there was a generous portion for all.
It was at that point that the downhill slide began. Two of us had ordered the bavette steak, described as being cooked sous vide for six hours. I began to fear that they had only begun the process when we ordered. There was, in addition, an order placed for duck breast as well as seared scallops. After an inordinate wait time, the waiter came over and informed us that our order should be out momentarily.
We agreed with him, it should have. At his next appearance, with hat in hand rather than food, he informed us that the chef was not happy with the preparation and they were preparing us new portions of the steak. I inquired that since it was sous vide, were they just now starting the process and he assured me that was not the case. Shortly thereafter, one of the floor managers appeared, acknowledged the error and assured us they would “make it right”. When all four entrees finally arrived one of my ever so polite table mates inquired if the scallops were intended to be served at room temperature, rather than hot, or at the very least warm. Her plate was then whisked away, and a new order was brought to her shortly.
I have to report that when all was said and done, each meal was perfectly prepared, creatively presented, and accompanied by some beautiful vegetable combinations, showcasing what they were able to source both fresh and locally. The general manager next paid us a visit, added his apologies to the growing list, and informed us that in the hope of luring us back rather than having us write them off as a future dining choice, there would not be a bill, so I then asked to see the wine list again. “Nice try” was his quick but appropriate response.
So, to answer my original question since we all make mistakes, it seems the real issue is not that “mistakes were made” as the politicians are fond of saying, but how those mistakes are corrected. It is hard to imagine what else they could have done, short of paying us to eat there. As a lesson to other management, should they stumble upon this, there are instances where a complimentary dessert just doesn’t atone – you really need to dig deeper. Notwithstanding Churchill’s admonition, I will return, and given the quality of the ingredients and creativity of the preparations, I suggest you do as well. To do otherwise would, as they say, be cutting off your nose to spite your face.