after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Lacroix Made Me a Loser

with 2 comments

t says: Center City restaurant week is here! Apparently there’s also some kind of South-of-South restaurant week going on as well. But, because we were only going to be in town for half of restaurant week (leaving for SF tomorrow – we’ll report!), we could only pick out a single restaurant to visit. What was our choice? Lacroix. We considered Le Bec, but they have their $40 deal going on, so we went for the “other” classic Philly great. Who could say no to a four-bell restaurant, right? Well, we were hesitant at first, as we know that chefs despise restaurant week, but we wouldn’t be able to afford to Lacroix otherwise, and that’s quite the point of restaurant week, isn’t it? To visit places you can’t afford! Duh! We asked a what he thought of Lacroix; he said it was worth it, as they have tremendous service and great food. Done deal. We booked a table for four for a Friday night and now we just needed to figure out who to go with … but we forgot about it for a while …

Then just last week, our friend w and her boyfriend asked us to join them at Zahav for restaurant week. I suggested that they abandon their plans and come to Lacroix instead, as it would be more of a “deal” over Zahav, as Zahav’s non-restaurant-week tasting menu is $36. I was so confident in the superiority of Lacroix that I wagered that if their food was not up-to-snuff, then I’d buy everyone their choice of frozen dessert (Yogorino or Capogiro). w’s boyfriend responded via email:

“hi [t and g],
we will begrudgingly accept your hostile takeover of our restaurant week plans and dine with you guys at lacroix. however, we would like to point out that the lacroix menu is also available daily from sunday to friday.
either way, we look forward to our classy engagement.”

I had not known of the cheap-o menu at Lacroix that was available during the week, and this almost changed my mind … But, given our last experience at Zahav, I took advantage of w’s and w’s boyfriend’s kindness (i.e. their ability to tolerate my … insistence), and planned for our first Lacroix outing.

Friday, 8:30pm, Party of 4. g and I met up with our dinner-mates at Lacroix. We didn’t quite know what to expect. Was it going to be fancy-shmancy? Big open air dining room with massive chandelier? Professionally-dressed waitstaff with super-straight postures and frequent usage of words like “monsieur” and “mademoiselle”? Not exactly …

The hostess was very nice. She greeted us and seemed friendly. She told us that we would be shown to our table in a moment, which we were. We did cause some nuisance when we first got there as we tried to coordinate seats, but that’s just because we’re anal about that kind of stuff. What became apparent as we sorted out who was sitting where was that the place was much smaller than I had envisioned. There was one main walkway separating two rows of tables. The walkway can only accommodate one person walking down it at a time. One row of tables was against windows that have fantastic views of the square, and the other row separated the main seating area from the bar. Also bizarre were the cobblestones. Well – not “cobblestones”, but there was an area that led to a fountain when you first walk in where the ground was covered in small, uneven rocks. It was like they tried to bring the outside inside. Maybe if the fountain was more impressive, I would have been impressed (yes, the repetition is intentional), but it’s not like it was a 40-foot wall of water or anything.

We were then greeted by our server. Little did we know that our server was going to be the source of much conversation throughout the evening … in a bad way. We were not ready to order drinks so we asked for more time, so he left. We discussed getting a bottle of white wine and decided that that would be appropriate. We also looked over the menu and debated what we wanted to eat. While I was mid-sentence, our waiter came over with paper and pen in hand and said, “ok, what would you like?”. He was looking at g. g was looking at him. g was confused. She asked if he wanted our drink order or our dinner order. He apparently wanted our dinner order. What – he didn’t want to ask us for our drinks anymore? Did he just assume we weren’t going to get any? So we went around the table and ordered. w’s boyfriend ordered up the wine for our table. Now what was weird is that he took our orders without affect. No obligatory “thank you” or “splendid” or anything. He didn’t have to be over-the-top, but he had to at least put in some filler words to make it seem like his top priority was great service. But no – he didn’t try to shmooze us at all. He didn’t care what we were ordering. We might as well have been ordering into a microphone at a fast-food drive-thru … well … no … the person who takes your order at the drive-thru has more enthusiasm than this guy – and I bet you they’re getting paid a LOT less! The funny thing was that it felt to me that his attitude could have stemmed from a “you’re just here for restaurant week” thought. Yea! That’s right! We were just there for restaurant week. If you can’t handle it, then don’t participate in restaurant week.

And you know what. Not only could he not master the art of “talking to people” – he also couldn’t master the art of “taking our order”. At first, I thought it was weird that he was actually writing down our order instead of memorizing it. Aren’t servers at high-class places like this supposed to memorize stuff like that? It’s not even like there’s a huge array of possibilities – there are three apps, three mains, and two desserts! But I looked on the bright side: if he writes down what we ordered then he has a 100% likelihood of getting the order right. But no. He screwed up. w’s boyfriend was not given the appropriate entree. So the three of us got our food, his had to go back, and we waited. We actually waited for a while – I’d say somewhere between 7-10 minutes. That was less than desirable, as it’s not like fish takes 7 minutes to cook (or at least, it shouldn’t) and I would bet that our order would have been bumped in priority. But you know what was worse? The waiter didn’t apologize. I could not believe it. He didn’t say a word! The expediter did apologize profusely when he came back with the food, but our waiter did not say a single word when the problem first arose – and he was standing at the table when it happened. That was shocking. He should have said something. Even if he believed that he was right and that we didn’t order correctly (which we did – he was the one to blame), he should have still apologized. The customer is not always right, but this time, we were.

Last weird thing about our server. After we gave him our credit cards, he gave us our receipts to sign as well as another table’s receipts. What was wrong with this guy? He couldn’t show emotion in any interaction that he had with us, he couldn’t master the very difficult science of writing down what we wanted to eat, and he missed the boat on trying to ensure that we would be able to pay him the correct amount. So, there’s only one thing left to do … I have no choice but to re-use my dad’s new favorite sports chant which he learned when he went to j’s college’s football game … “Hey Waiter … You SUCK!” (Yes, my dad does have a big bright red t-shirt that says “Hey” on the front and “You Suck” on the back … He’s a big guy. When “You Suck” is written in letters that big, you just might believe him …)

On to the food …

I had the heirloom tomato appetizer. The tomatoes were pretty good. They weren’t Talula’s good, as the tomatoes just didn’t have as much flavor as I was expecting (maybe under-seasoned? or maybe mediocre tomatoes?), but there were some successful unexpected components involved: toasted coconut and corn ice cream! The sweetness of the coconut and “corniness” of the ice cream were fantastic. Seriously, that corn ice cream is something I’d actually want to make at home and have it as an appetizer by itself. And all the flavors did something interesting in my mouth with the tomatoes – but I couldn’t quite describe it. If you give the tomatoes a little more tomato oomph, this would have really knocked my socks off. As it stands, it only untied my shoelaces, but it definitely could have gone all the way. Given the novelty, I was fully expecting a Talula’s-esque meal. I was excited.

For the entree I had the short rib pastrami. It was interesting. I had never had short rib pastrami-fied before. But the problem is that it really didn’t offer me a product better than other methods of preparing short rib. It was only “good”. The overall texture was a little tougher than a braised short rib and the fat was more like pork belly fat rather than braised short rib fat, which I’m not sure is an improvement – just different. On the positive side, there was a bit more flavor than just “beef”, so that was nice. The greens were a little tough to deal with, as the stems were still quite resilient and resisted cutting (but had nice flavor). And the mash was successful. But nothing on the plate, either separately or together, screamed “I am delicious”. I ate it all and was satisfied, but I wasn’t beaming.

The dessert was also “interesting” … but not necessarily in a good way. I had the “creamsicle”. There was a foam that tasted rather bitter in lieu of citrus-y. There appeared to be pieces of peach that were actually something else – kind of like a small square of a peach flavored flan with one face colored red, so it looked like a square of peach. I don’t know. I ate it, but nothing really struck me as being “fantastic”. Even g’s dessert failed to make an impression on me as I really can’t remember anything about it except “chocolate” and “raspberry”. And this was sad. Because I love dessert. w loves dessert. We were made a bit happier, however, when they presented us with chocolate truffle and “classy sour patch kids” to end the meal.

Overall impression … the food was “good”. It started better than good, ended less than good, with just “good” in the middle. Portions were a little on the small side, as w’s boyfriend reported still feeling “peckish” at the end of the meal while we walked home. As I searched for a restaurant that I would prefer to Lacroix at a restaurant week price-point, one came to mind. Meritage. Meritage could offer similar sized portions for a buck or so cheaper, involve a seemingly comparable amount of novelty, and edge out Lacroix when it comes to taste (and that’s on a normal night – not on KFC or Korean Taco night – as that’d be unfair). So, maybe my expectations were too high going in. Had I been expecting something more Meritage-esque, I might have come close to being satisfied. But you know what … that’s bullcrap. In my opinion, it was Lacroix’s mission during restaurant week to give us something so enticing that should we ever have a special event where we could spend substantially more money, we would go! Thus, I feel that this was the ultimate failure on Lacroix’s part, as I assure you that a place like Vetri could destroy Lacroix in every aspect of the dining experience – even if you fixed our soul-less waiter. I don’t know if it’s the recent chef change or maybe the flavors/cookery were so advanced that my feeble mind could not comprehend the greatness I was encountering … but Lacroix will have to do more if they want to hear g sneeze in its dining room ever again …

… and now I owe some friends some ice cream!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 September 2010 at 7:58pm

2 Responses

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  1. lc says: Aw, t… you were a loser long before Lacroix, I assure you.


    20 September 2010 at 10:17pm

  2. a says: I’m not surprised your food was only good, not great. I thought the meal v and I had was worth the RW price but not their normal pricing. I am surprised the service was bad as that was the best part of our meal. I do feel that these better restaurants can’t get their act together for RW or just don’t care. They can either assume: 1. You are here to have a meal you could never afford and will never be back. or 2. You are here to sample an expensive restaurant to see if it’s worth coming back. I think 1 is too dangerous, for any restaurant, but Lacroix seems to disagree.


    22 September 2010 at 11:34am

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