Monday, July 14, 2008

Par for the course

Reservations were for 8:30. Later than we would have liked to eat, but take what you can get. Lady and I arrived at Upperline at precisely 8:30; and we waited around. and we waited some more in the dining room/bar area/kitchen entrance. I would not normally mind that except we were made to feel like we were in the way.

Repeatedly we were told, "Robert will be right with you." But no one would seat us. Very frustrating beginning. Finally, Robert came over to seat us, but before that a party of four walked in, asked if they could have a table, and Robert shifted his attention to them.

"Would you please seat us first, we have been waiting over 10 minutes," I asked. With a jackass smile, we were seated.

Let me interrupt myself for a moment. Lady and I have talked much about our recent dinner at Upperline. The main consensus we came to is this. Upperline is an institution, however it does not yet have the years to become a classic spot (i.e. Galatoire's). While the menu may seem stuck in the eighties, thats can be excused in a classic spot. However, Upperline is not quite there. A restaurant that invents things like shrimp remoulade and fried green tomatoes, can't be expected to change those items. But would it be too much to ask them to refine them, or at the least be exciting about them?

Perhaps the fault with Upperline lies with us; not the grand dame of Uptown dining. Maybe we expect carefully composed plates and distinct flavors due to our increased exposure to food via the internet, dining experiences, books, or tv in the days since Upperline opened. When you eat at a classic spot like Antoine's; sure the food is not spectaculiar (and has not changed since Taft's presidency) but the experience is. At Upperline, neither the food nor the experience fit the billing.

Drinks arrived. Lady's Grey Goose and Tonic had morphed into a Beefeater on the rocks. The mistake was fixed. Lady chose the Garlic Festival 3 course dinner. She began with Oysters St. Claude (which the menu was quick to point out was USA Today's Top dish of 2007). Lemon zest, garlic (raw and a tad too much), and parsley are placed atop fried oysters. The oysters were fried perfectly, but something about the toppping did not work.

I had the Fried Green Tomatoes. I will not accuse the Upperline of using non-Louisiana Shrimp in this dish, but I would not be surprised. The two disks of tomato were topped with a watery remoulade and five shrimp (each the size of a quarter). Ok, you invented the dish, it is your calling card; but come on you can do better than this.

A half bottle of Sancerre arrived. Very refreshing, right temperature, and very good match.

Lady got the Cane River Shrimp and Grits. What arrived was beautiful and hearty. Big plump shrimp, delicious grits, and a wonderful sauce. Great dish.

I got the roasted half-duck with the Garlic Port Sauce, pecans, and mashed sweet potatoes. Duck was a tad overcooked for my taste. But again is this because in a more modern version of this dish, the duck breast would only be served? And that breast would be medium rare and fanned out with pretty garnish? Perhaps, but I would have loved to seen the elements not just plopped on the plate. But it tasted great, and that is what counts.

Service was uncomfortably fast and I will leave that be. We each finished with a plate of Stilton. Again, sloppy presentation, but the cheese was ripe. The bread that arrived with it, however, was stale. I had a glass of Vintage Port and Lady had a mixture of coffee and about 15 liquors. Her response to her drink "its overly sweet."

My response to that, "duh."

In my opinion it appeared all the food was merely delivered, not presented. Maybe everyone needed a vacation, maybe its time for the fun to come back, I am not sure. I have eaten at Upperline many times in the past, and it does not appear this place is living up to its potential.

As we were leaving (not really unhappy, more disappointed like a parent with a 17 year old) Lady summed it up thusly, "If I never came back here, I would not be upset. If I did come back, I would not be mad."

Sounds like the definition of a par in my book.

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