I try to do my restaurant reviewing in an organic way. I mean, I experience the restaurant and food and experience as a regular customer (which I am) and don't go in with a hyper-analytical, hair-splitting eye. I let the experience come to me. I have eaten enough good food around the world and have developed my palate enough to be able to have a good gauge of quality. I don't have to ruin my meal by only examining the quality of every better by everyone at the table. I take the feedback that naturally arises in conversation, couple it with my opinion and if there is enough information gathered, review!
Such was the case last Thursday when I met up with my friend M & S for dinner. Whenever I get the opportunity or make the opportunity to go out to dinner, I try to go someplace I have never been. I snag a lot of items off the 7X7 list of 100 places you need to eat before you die or off our own list of places we want to go or have heard buzz about. For dinner with M&S I suggested a few spots, but could get reservations for none of them, so I suggested Anchor & Hope. Their "Angels on Horseback" were on the 7x7 list and since I haven't eaten a lot of oysters in my life, I figured it would be a fun try!
I made the reservations more than a week in advance and so I felt I had a reasonable expectation of a decent table. Assumption wrong. We were in the worst possible location. A four top at the corner where the walkway from the front door turns to go to the restroom. The same path goes along the bar, so we had bar traffic. And the same path goes to the kitchen, to which we were the most closely seated. There was no safe seat at the table except mine which I procured only because I was the first to arrive. My seat was securely tucked back amongst the other tables. M's seat was on the main walkway, S's seat on the restroom side walkway. The other chair was not safe to inhabit. Both of them got bumped into numerous times. About halfway through the dinner, the hostess came and asked us if she could take the fourth chair from our table to be used elsewhere. M was not impressed by this since there were several empty tables around. Those tables would be occupied by the time we left, but initially, it seemed like an odd move. The restaurant space is beautiful, old warehouse, rustic styling.
But we didn't come to admire architecture (and it was not that admirable anyways), we came to drink wine and eat. The wine list is very extensive and written in the smallest most painful to read type ever. I finally understood how my mom feels when she reads things. It was downright impossible. So I made M decide. He got a crisp, clean, light white. Of a variety I cannot really recall. It was good, but our waiter was never present enough to keep our glasses full. M ended up having to do the majority of the pouring. Which inherently is not bad, but it just furthered the sense of us being in the worst seat in the house. We got paid attention to like second class citizens (until the bill that is).
I insisted we get the "Angels on Horseback", even though none of us was particularly an oyster person. When they came, none of us were impressed. I thought maybe because I can't eat the remoulade sauce that I somehow missed an element, but M insisted the sauce added nothing, having tasted a bit with and without. The bacon was only luke warm, but crisp, and not exactly flavorful. The oysters were fine but not profound either. They were so average that it made me really skeptical about how it ended up on the 7x7 list in the first place.
M ordered the Asparagus salad which were arranged like Lincoln Logs with a Soft-Boiled Egg pearched on the top. Since I am allergic to eggs, we played a game of pick up sticks to see if I could get an asparagus out without breaking the egg. Success. It was a good asparagus. The full salad combination went over with the others and was dubbed successful.
Our main dishes were as varied as we are. M go the spice seared ahi tuna, S got the fish and chips and I got the local sole with nettle puree, parsnips and spring garlic (I think, I can't actually remember anything but the nettle puree and sole). M said his meal was good. S liked her fish and very thick cut chips, which I tasted and agreed were quite delicious. My sole was excellent. It reminded me why I like sole so much. The nettle puree was complex, spicy, a rollercoaster of good flavor. Not nearly enough for for me though. It was a very small portion, which of course I expect at fine-dining restaurants. But usually I don't have to go home after I eat at a restaurant and eat again. And it wasn't even a hard training day and so my appetite was considerably light.
For dessert M&S each got a glass of wine and we tried to enjoy the evening but it just continued to feel like a place we didn't want to linger. Our table, the ambiance, our service did not lend itself to feeling welcome or relaxed. We asked the server for the bill and M and I tried to do math to work out the bill. He put his card on the table and the server swooped in to get it, but we weren't ready as we were still calculating how much cash I was putting down. The only time our server was attentive was with the bill. The bill was not a welcome sight either, $198 for 3 people for what we got seemed a bit steep for what we got. It definitely was not worth that price.
The food was average in general and well below average for that price point. The service was uninspired and the whole experience ended up feeling like, "why did we even bother?" I didn't hate it, no the food was fine. But it was appallingly average.