I recently spent several days in Boston, staying in the South End. My wife joined me for a night. We had tickets to the ballet, and I made reservations for a pre-performance dinner at Aquitaine. I generally enjoy bistro food, and was looking forward to the experience. Regrettably, I should have taken more to heart the numerous posts here about poor service. After placing our order we enjoyed drinks and conversation. When we saw that the couple next to us, who had been seated 15 minutes after we came in, was being served their appetizers, we became alarmed. Our server told us our order was coming up next, but next never came. To make a long story short, after another 25 minutes the manager came over and said our order had been "misplaced." He comped us our drinks and apologized. When the my steak finally arrived, it was rare (raw) rather than the medium rare I had ordered. It was too late to start over, given our time pressure, so I ate it. All in all, a disaster at any price. The lesson: when a number of chowhounds complain about a problem, don't ignore them.
We used to go to the AQ in Chestnut Hill all the time, but last time we went we had the same experience as Mike. We were the last people served in the restaurant even though we had reservations for 7:30. When we finally got something to eat it was badly cooked and as a grand finale the waitress dumped a drink on my husband's lap and didn't bother to offer to pay for the cleaning. Obviously, we're not going back. Too bad, because restaurant choices in that area are limited and we love bistro fare, too.
Went for RW -- not the best experience...
Chilled Corn Soup
The chilled sweet corn soup was a refreshing summer treat. While not as good as Lumiere's hot corn soup, this one ranks a clear second. Served cold with a roasted poblano pepper and corn relish, the soup had that added spice to it that, with the sweetness of the corn, provided a nice contrast in flavor. It was served in a white ceramic crock and was well-presented.
Salt Cod Croquette
The salt cod croquette was a creative and interesting starter. The salt cod, melded into an oblong, oval-shaped croquette was battered and fried, producing a well-seasoned croquette. The one criticism -- the croquette could have been less thick, allowing for each bite to incorporate the crunch of the batter on each side of the flaky cod center. As it was, thick and oval, each bite only allowed for one side of the battered cod portion to be tasted at a time, taking away from the crunchy/flaky combination that is so vital to the dish. The croquette was served with a tangy and tasty Sauce Roullie and lettuce with a chardonnay vinaigrette.
Pan Roasted Striped Bass
All three of us at our table ordered the pan roasted striped bass. Sadly, while one of us was served a properly cooked piece of bass, the other two of us were served undercooked pieces of fish, raw in the center. While it is common for tuna to be seared, the bass should have been cooked through. When we contacted our waiter to inquire about our undercooked fish, he first looked at us puzzled and then admitted that, yes, both pieces were woefully undercooked and robotically mumbled some words of apology. Our two pieces of bass headed back to the kitchen and we were left watching our other dining companion eat her fish. Not only were we unable to enjoy our meal together as we should have, but while we sat for between 25-30 minutes waiting for our properly cooked bass, we watched plate after plate of bass pass us by headed to other tables. To add insult to injury, the manager did not come and apologize to us and our waiter made no effort to expedite our meals so that we could enjoy dining together. When our dining partner was practically through with her dinner, our bass arrived properly cooked. It was served with local green and yellow wax beans and tomatoes and a pistou vinaigrette. While tasty given the tang of the pistou vinaigrette and the fresh vegetables, the dining experience was marred by the poorly executd dish and the even poorer service given how it was handled. Although the menu stated that the fish was served with toasted almonds, I could find none in my dish.
The Kir Royale, a champagne gelee, strawberry compote and cassis sorbet was just passable. The dessert, overall, could have been served colder. The gelee had a strange consistency -- somewhere between gelatin and shaved ice. The gelee tasted clearly like champagne and was too strong of a taste unless paired with the strawberry compote in the center. Between the three of us, we could only handle a few tastes before putting our spoons down having had enough. If you had to choose, I would skip this as a dessert option.
Honey Roasted Plum & Brown Butter Tart with Lavendar & Honey Ice Cream
The honey roasted plum and brown butter tart had the crisp consistency of a shortbread cookie. It was dotted with plum pieces throughout the crisp, cookie-like tart. I expected something more moist, with sliced plums, so the dessert in no way matched my expectations. The lavendar and honey ice cream did not have a strong taste. In fact, if someone had told me it was vanilla ice cream, I would have believed them. The honey and lavendar flavors were indistinguishable. Of the two of us that ordered this dessert, we only had a few bites. It was not delectable enough to keep us going back for more.
I usually do not include a section on service, but after our entree debacle, I decided, after we asked for our check, to speak to the manager. I informed Tina, the manger, of how disappointed I was at Aquitaine, having heard such great things about the restaurant from so many people. I explained how our fish had been undercooked to the point of being raw in the center and how, not only did no one apologize to us (the waiter attempted a few mumbled words, but it was so expressionless and mumbled, that it was not at all reassuring), but more importantly, several fish dishes went out to other tables before we ever received our fish. Tina, handled my comments with professionalism and grace, profusely apologizing. She then credited our check for the two meals that had been ruined and gave me her card with her name and number, urging me to return to the restaurant, calling her first so that she could ensure a wonderful dining experience.
Doesn't sound like the service was poor, more like the kitchen dropped the ball. The management did the right thing by your account, but the food's preparation was flawed, as was the execution apparently. Curious what was the disater that occurred, maybe your excitement was just underwhelmed. I have had nothing but fabulous service at Aquitaine, and have been so accomodating to call ahead to a club to get past the line on a Saturday. All in all, a surprising zing of an otherwise great Boston restaurant.
My wife and I ate at Aquitaine Bis in Chestnut Hill for the first time earlier this week. We arrived early and the restaurant was nearly empty. Nevertheless, the maitre'd acted like our showing up without a reservation was an imposition. Beyond this, however, we found the service to be very good. The food, on the other hand, was just ok. The atmosphere was nice though; I suspect we will return on those occasions when we're looking for a slightly upscale yet relaxing restaurant in the area, as there's not much competition. It's not a place we'll go out of our way for though.
We used to eat brunch at Aquitaine in the South End all the time, but we never had a reservation. Sometimes it did seem like they were doing us a favor by accommodating us (even though we usually get there at 10:00 when they first open).
However, that problem is now solved...you can make online reservations at OpenTable.com!