Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How about you don't make this expensive mistake.

On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of going out to a fancy dinner. Since restaurant week this year was bypassed for five days in Quebec, DK and I decided to treat ourselves to the new nice restaurant in the neighborhood.

Every time I'd walk by, I'd press my nose against the glass to see the candles flickering, customers laughing, and the wine flowing. Seemed like my kind of place, if I could dig my elbow far enough into DK's side to get him off the couch, away from the soft glow of my flat screen TV.

DK and I couldn't wait to try it out. It was out of our normal price range, so we made it a special occasion. A maybe 3-year anniversary (who can know? We don't!). A date. A thing. That we'd drop some coin on.

Frankly, it was unremarkable.

Our server came over immediately after we sat down and pushed a cocktail on us. No menus had been opened, no wine list inspected, not even a breath between “hihowareyou” and “howaboutacocktail”. We said we were still deciding and off she went to be chatty with other patrons and let us sit for 10 minutes too long. That wait multiplied between courses while she laughed with the preferred table of five to our right. They ordered the cocktails. And maybe they didn’t look shocked at her attire. Which consisted of a short black skirt. And a black hoodie. A HOODIE. In a restaurant where 12 gnocchi were $17, and 3 scoops of pistachio gelato were $10, I feel like that waives both the customer and the server the right to wear a hoodie.

The busboy was my favorite hilarious wayward detail of the night. Water glasses? SLAM! There you go! He ran suicides back and forth from the tables to the kitchen, huffing and puffing the whole way. Bread and dipping oil was tossed onto the table, the basket skidding to a stop before he angrily re-arranged our glasses to accommodate the gliding hockey puck of an oil dish. He was so over-worked slamming glasses around; he only managed to refill water once—after we had finished eating.

In fact, the only likable person I encountered was a server who set down my cheese plate. Smiling, she explained which cheeses were which, and said to enjoy.

The food was lovely, but for the money you paid the loveliness of it didn’t warrant that teeny of a portion. DK had the pork belly, which was cooked to perfection, I must concede. My cheese plate was also delish, but compared to the past five days in Quebec without a war on bacteria, the cheese we ate there from the grocery store was decidedly better.

Yet the place was crowded. Packed. People desperate for a nice place to eat without leaving the Hill. Perhaps this is why we Hill people are so persnickety about leaving the neighborhood- we have to all the time just to get some decent food, we could be at least left alone to stare into our $5 beers stumbling distance from our apartments.

I love living on the Hill, don’t get me wrong, dive-y bars and all. I like watching dogs, having Eastern Market a few blocks away, and a knitting store just a few further. But since the government office and the throngs of their workers descend upon the neighborhood for lunch and post-work snacks, it’s not like any place sits idle— no matter how mediocre.

But seriously, the further DK and I get from our date, our special anniversary dinner, the less I liked my experience. This place doesn't know if it wants to be a Hook's Mediterranean little sister or a funky neighborhood bistro. If it wants to be the former, ban hoodies and amp up the sevice. If it wants to be the latter, lower the prices and amp up the portions.
Considering there was less handholding and nuzzling on this date, and more “whoa— what is up with this busboy?” the more I think I’ll never try it again.

In fact, maybe you shouldn’t either. It was much better off remaining Meyhane.

Locanda is decidedly disappointing.

1 comment:

dan said...

Grasshopper restaurants rarely seem to have good waitstaff until about six of seven months after they open.
For your next nice dinner I suggest a trek down to The Park Cafe on 12th and Mass overlooking Lincoln Park. Assured you'll drop some coin but you'll get the K Street NW meal you are looking for without having to jump on the train.