I must be missing something. All the fuss made of this place online and the trouble getting a reservation point to something pretty special. But having discovered they hold a few tables you can book on the same day, and scoring one of those, the experience was one disappointment on top of another.
The storefront is along a suburban street with a couple of dozen restaurants, this one from the outside no different from any other. Walking in the door there are a few people checking in at the front desk, and we announce our name and reservation to a young Asian man who without making eye contact shows us to a table at the side near the door. It’s an indifferently set-up room full of very loud thumping rock music, with a view through to the kitchen at the back and several simple wooden tables and chairs.
The menu is strangely abbreviated: half a dozen starters, two mains, and then the “luxury” menu at $75 US per person. Drinks menu is like what you’d see in a simple café anywhere. Server arrives and is an embarrassingly anxious woman loudly streaming well-rehearsed talk. We didn’t want to risk interrupting her with questions like whether you can share the luxury menu, and whether there were tables upstairs where Robin had gone to the bathroom and reported things were quite a bit quieter (no, we later discovered, the luxury menu is per person and also for the whole table).
Very hot biscuits with clotted cream and a sweet marmalade arrived, and these were delicious although in fairness we were starving. We got a second set of them because server thought we looked like we “needed something more”. Cocktails were original and pleasant enough. We ordered a Washington State bordeaux blend at $US70 which turned out to be quite nice.
The lychee salad was not to be missed, we were told, so we shared it, and it was raw red onions, a vinaigrette, little discernible lychee, other ingredients, overall fine but nothing special. Robin went for a strawberry-and-tomato pasta, and I ordered the South Carolina beef brisket.
Our server responded gratefully when after a bit of alcohol we started kidding around, and she sent us a couple of freebies including a small glass of dead-in-the-mouth riesling. I couldn’t understand this behaviour, I guess we had expressed nonverbally some disappointment at the management of the “luxury” dinner, and maybe had cheered up enough for her to feel somehow better about things. Don’t know.
Anyway, the mains arrived and Robin’s pasta was perfectly okay, there was discernible strawberry flavour, but quite honestly nothing special, and it was served just warm as if it had been waiting for the server for 6-8 minutes. The brisket has to have been some sort of a joke, presented on a metal kitchen tray, alongside cold sliced cucumber and onion with a very acidic vinegar dressing, a sauce for the meat also vinegar-predominant, too sour even for me, and then five slices of frank commercial sandwich bread stacked up diagonally (see photo). The brisket was succulent and tasty, but lukewarm. $US36.
We paid US$240, but I made sure with a 25% tip not too-churlishly to punish the poor server. Would the luxury menu have been worth it? No clue. Was this a bad day for the server? In the kitchen? For the restaurant in general? Somehow it didn’t seem like any of the above. Maybe the feel of zero atmosphere and minimum-wage frontend staff was supposed to be down-home and help you relax (if pounding music is ever relaxing except at a university drunk scene). But the strange menu presentation including rookie execution errors can’t have been intended to please people used to eating well.
Anyway if you trust me stay away, unless you want to try the luxury menu. Good luck. Food 7.4, service (I have to say she really tried hard but I wasn’t in the mood for doing an unpaid psychotherapy hour while grasping for my own positive experience) 6.2, ambience 5.8, value 6.5, peace and quiet 6.0.