Wednesday, November 6, 2013

W(h)ine and Restaurants

There are so many things that affect my experience at a restaurant. Of course, the food is paramount but also important are the wait staff, the wine list and the ambiance. We've had a couple of experiences lately that though the food was good in one case, excellent in the other, the attitude and wine list knocked both places down a notch in my husband's and mine estimation.

The first was a dinner we had in Philly to celebrate our anniversary. We hadn't planned far enough in advance since we thought we were going to Pittsburgh for the weekend so we had a limited selection. I got us reservations at Bistrot La Minette, which is off of South Street in Philadelphia. It had a typical French bistro menu that looked good and I had a friend who enjoyed their experience there, so why not? I made the reservation via OpenTable and in the comment section, let them know it was our 25th anniversary.

For some reason I thought the restaurant was BYOB, so since we were celebrating 25 years, we brought along a really special Bordeaux to drink. When we arrived, I scooted to the ladies room while my husband got settled. When I returned he looked annoyed.  Apparently they weren't BYOB and the waitress, while acknowledging that they could open our bottle for a corkage fee, was really snotty about it. Then to make matters worse, the manager came over and again, acknowledged that yes, they could open the bottle and charge a fee, but also made it seem as though it was a major inconvenience and faux pas, even when my husband explained that it was our 25th anniversary and we wanted something really special and had obviously made a mistake about the BYOB thing.

Now I can understand that they wouldn't want everyone doing this, but it was obviously a mistake on our part and they did have the capability to still open the wine for us. But what they did was start the whole experience off on a discordant note and insure that we would never return. If they had been somewhat gracious about the whole thing, we might have felt differently. The food was pretty good, though the foie gras was just plucked from a can and it did feel like a bit of Paris but we won't be going back.

The second experience was at Stateside, a bar on East Passyunk that I love. We had been there for drinks and a cheese board in the summer and went with friends for dinner last weekend. The menu is small plates and everything was delicious, though you need to pick wisely as some are really small. The waitress was wonderful, very helpful and attentive. The cocktails were fabulous...that is their specialty. But three of our party ordered a bottle of wine rather than cocktails and that's where they feel short. The wine list prices were grossly inflated. It's reasonable for restaurants to charge double or a little more the state-store (we are in PA) price, but these prices were nearly four times as much. It's hard not to resent being gouged. So though we would go back for the bar experience (and snacks at the bar), it's unlikely we'd return for dinner. A shame because there is a lot to like about this place.

It makes me really appreciate a restaurant that can pull it all together and get every facet right.

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