Saturday, June 14, 2008

We Should Have Read The Sign

I hate when a restaurant stinks. No panacea exists for a bad meal; it lingers and stains the rest of your evening and sometimes week(end). Every time you drive by the restaurant or someone mentions it, you react in terror. The meal haunts you.

Unfortunately, Lady and I had that experience last night. People have raved to us about The Delachaise for months now. Well, everything missed the mark last night, from service to food it was a study in blah. However, I think the bar area is nice and I would go there for a drink again, just not to eat.

The Delachaise operates on St. Charles, down the side street from the old Hyde Park (the one where Come on Be My Baby Tonight bartended during Real World: New Orleans). Its quaint, European, and reminds one of being in a rail car. All very good things.

We walked in and wandered. The place was packed, seemed to be a good vibe but where was a hostess, maitre'd, waiter, to steer us in the right direction. We ambled toward the bar and stood around wondering if we were hip enough for this spot. The answer no.

Finally I spotted someone who looked like they may work here or at least someone who looked like they might know a person who worked there. "So how do we grab a table?" I asked.

"Didn't you read the sign? Order at the bar," he said scurrying off.

So after waiting at the bar for about 5 minutes finally I got two orders of Spanish white and a menu that came on a board. Ok, frites, bruschetta, and the pasta of the day (lasagna). More ambling, dang we just missed a table. Finally one opened up. We grabbed it and I dutifully went back to the bartender to tell him where we were sitting. I was instructed to do so in a tone reminscent of Mom.

Out comes the Bruschetta. Charred bread topped with skirt steak, arugula, and two colored Bobby Flay-esque sauces. First bite wonderful. Beef had a good flavor, the sauces seemed to work together and the arugula added pepper. Next bite, something began developing that reminded me of Little League. No, not that I was sitting on an uncomfortable bench. It was the unmistakable salinity laced flavor of sunflower seeds. Chef must be a smoker, this dish had some salt to it.

Here come the frites. Fried in duck fat these are supposed to be the best fries in the city. They were not. Greasy and flaccid these frites did not deserve the French name attributed to them by the menu. I hope this restaurant is not so hard on money that they could only dole out a teaspoon of sauce per dipping container. I wish I could remember what the sauces were, but there was so little of them it does not seem worth mentioning.

Tried to go get another two glasses of wine, this time a Sangiovesse. You can't order anything from your table, remember the Sign. Took 10 minutes all the while the lasagna at the table sat patiently. Lasagna complete failure. Again the salt overwhelmed the entire dish. Our mouths began to tingle; a sensation we are both still dealing with 12 hours later.

Someone came out from the kitchen to bring us the creme brulee (Honey apricot and viognier with ginger sugar), and asked how we liked the lasagna. When I told him it was over salty, he informed me we must have gotten a super salty bit of ricotta in ours. I wish he would have left the creme brulee back in the kitchen. The brulee suffered from being over thought out. Honey is good, and so is ginger, and apricots, so together they must be awesome. What resulted was almost perfumey, but mostly disgusting.

All the dishes suffered to me from the same fault. They were not as thought out in whole as they were in their component parts. If you know the ricotta is salty, then use less salt throughout the dish. If the beef is not tender enough to break off when you bite into the bruschetta, then change the way you present it so I do not have a chunk of meat hanging from my lip. Those fries I can kind of forgive as it was busy. But that creme brulee lacks precision and flavor.

Service requires one to be hip. Although to be fair, they did take five dollars off the price of the lasagna. I think I understand what they are trying to do at Delachaise. Pair wine, good beers, and liquors with good food. Upscale bar food, gastropub fare, and whatever other trendy name aside, it missed the mark.

When I go out to eat, I liked to be welcomed in, shown a place to sit, given a good drink, a menu, talk to a waiter about what is good, eat at a nice pace, and enjoy my meal. When I leave, I want to be asked to come back soon. At Delachaise, none of that occurred.

When we left, Lady and I both said to each other, "I had a feeling when we walked in it was going to be bad." We should have read the Sign.



rdubs said...

I am sooo glad to know that I am not the only one who feels this way...A great place for wine/drinks and perhaps a cheese plate but definitely not for a meal.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the over salinity of each dish was just a redo of the oldest trick in the book. Bars traditionally have very salty offerings (oysters, sardines, nuts) in order to entice the toungue to tell the mind to order more booze. If so, good thinking. Just trying to be positive.

Anonymous said...

As flattering as it is to hear and read labels like "wine bar" and "restaurant," The Delachaise has never referred to itself as anything more than a neighborhood bar. The bar is fun and when compared to restaurant bars or hotel bars, unpretentious. It serves rarer beer, finer wine, more top shelf spirits, and better food than the next bar.

The Delachaise does not always hit it out of the park, but its batting average isn't bad. It seems whenever it does hit a homerun, its lovely overzealous patrons run to their blogs and write such nice things about it. Of course, the readers of such blogs then rush out over bridges and through tunnels to get to this great new "restaurant" (or 5 year old neighborhood bar) only to be disappointed by a bar full of cool people that they cannot relate to. I suppose the lesson here is do not beleive everything you read on the internet.

Anonymous said...

"better food than the next bar" I for one do not think this claim is accurate. See also Fat Harry's.