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Jul 2, 2001 09:43 PM

La Rue in question / anyone else been there?

  • l

After reading Bauer's Chronicle review this Sunday, I stood in dismay at how each person's dining experince can be so dramatically different at the same place. I can't believe the positive review Bauer gives this place.
We ate at La Rue a few months ago and it was absolutely, hands down the worst dining experince I have had out in years & years.
From the moment we arrived (5 minutes early for our 6:00 reservation)we felt uncomfortable & ackward, especially after the host told us we were early but "I suppose I can seat you but the kitchen is not open". So unprofessional. This same guy ended up being our waiter and we were rushed into a meal that was tolerable, at best.
Everything lacked depth of any sort. The wine list is so tiny for a French Bistro it goes beyond reason. The Artichoke & Grilled Radicchio Salad Bauer mentions is bizarre. Bitter, flavorless and make no sense. I had Grilled Halibut with a sauce that all I can remember is "salt & too much of it". My son-in-law (lived in France, loves food) had Salmon on French Green Lentils that was awful. No sauce, no Jus', nothing. I ended up passing my halibut over & scrapping off most of the halibut sauce in hopes of reviving his dish. My husbands steak came dry medium to well, ordered med-rare. I can't remember what our daughter had but it was also in question.
We drank Kent Rasmussen'98 Pinot that we brought, I tried a few wines-by-the glass for interest level but could not tell you what they were. Nothing stood up for itself that night. A meal at home would have been an awesome repreve. The patio is hot & stuffy, the waiter rushed us through and we were all relieved to get out of there.
Can anyone else out there say different of La Rue? That Bauer mentions a few times that they were half full does not surprise me. I hope things turn around for them. I also know from a friend who works at Hawthorne Lane that the chef's stint at Hawthorne Lane was all of a month or two. Why give him noterity for that? Alas, enough said.

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  1. During a recent feeding frenzy in berkeley I almost went to La Rue-almost. I walked in the door and something smelled bad-rotten fish bad. Being that I was in the mood for fish, I was understandably put off. I looked over the menu anyway and it looked pretty boring. We never spoke to anyone, even as we stood near the front desk for about ten minutes. A hostess-looking person (I have no idea if thats what she was-she could have been the accountant for all the attention she paid to us) bustled by the desk a couple times, smiled, but never said anything. It was a bit early yet, so I wrote all of it off, but due to the fishy-smell we decided to go somewhere else. I'm glad we did, because I've heard nothing good about it since.

    BTW, we ended up eating at Genki-right next door to the Golden Bear on San Pablo where we were staying (looking for a pad and a job-located both since) and had wonderful sushi. nuff said.

    peace and grub

    1 Reply
    1. re: JustinRush
      Jonathan King

      Mileages are varying wildly here -- I've been to La Rue twice in the past eight weeks, and enjoyed myself both times. A friendly, competent place, with some real skill and care in the kitchen, and (at least the second time) top-notch service besides. No fishy smells, no hideous culinary mistakes ... everything the six of us (over two visits) tried was at least correctly prepared, and a couple of things stood above that level. (I thought the duck confit was just exemplary ... as good as I've had in this country.) It's far superior to the mediocre Liaison, for example...

    2. Again, my pet peeve. Is it humanly possible for a cook to prepare a rave notice meal for the food critic, and serve dreck when I go in? With all of her supposed biases, Pat Unterman was still the best critic the SF papers ever had.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Jim H.

        Jim, to answer your question, yes. it all depends on who's behind the line, what sort of shape they're personally in (think kitchen confidential), how busy the kitchen is, what flight your food is on (are they trying to put out a bunch of food at one time because they just seated a large number of tables at the same time), how crowded the house is, what waiter you have(yes this can affect you in more ways than one-if a chef doesn't care for a waiter it's you who pays), what day of the week it is, and on and on and on. and i know from personal experience if you even think to look like you're someone who might be reviewing you do get food that looks better than your neighbors, and let's face it bauer has been around here for ever, how could he ever hope to go someplace quietly?!

        1. re: Rochelle

          I agree with you, Jim. Patricia rules as the best ever critic in this area. I guarantee she could "see through" any hoopla given a food critic verses a common person like us off the streets. I totally disagree with Rochelle, sorry. I don't care if you were James Beard sitting broad-side in the middle of the dining room of this place, the food & atmosphere are incrediblly poor, regardless. I understand the special attention given to VIP's, especially someone like Bauer but I am sorry to say this place does not have the compacity to live up to the genious Bauer gives it credit for. Unterman would have seen through this and been more honest. She was more for what the "core" was looking for verses some elite group. Bauer is in over his head. And yes, I do have a negative oppinion of Bauer as I don't feel he speaks of truth, if-you-will. Dining out has been a concept well understood long before Micheal Bauer came on the picture but you'd wonder if he understood that. Bottom-line, coming from a chowhound, La Rue sucks.

          1. re: Lucy Gore

            Thanks for the tip. We only live five minutes from La Rue, so after reading Bauer's review I was excited to try it! In fact, we tried to get a res yesterday -- but they were completely booked. Sounds like a good thing (we ended up at Downtown instead -- see post at top).

            1. re: rachel hope

              Rachel, I sincerely hope that La Rue turns around down the road & becomes a great neighborhood bistro. Some places do accomplish this, especially when the "heat is on". I just can't believe this has happened in 6 weeks for as bad as the meal was when we were there. Maybe I am way off the mark & someone down the road will have had a great or even good evening there. I would truly like to hear of this.
              Being in the business makes being so critical totally bittersweet. I would never want anyone to have such a bad experience as we had and I am overly understanding of all problems when dining out, front & back. (It drives my husband crazy sometimes.) I know the neighborhood La Rue is located well (I use to live on Hopkins Street) and this place deserves a cool, local Bistro. La Rue misses by a long shot and maybe Bauer can help but I would be surprised. Please post any news! Thank-you!

          2. re: Rochelle

            I don't want to beat a dead horse, Rochelle, but I have been around cooking a long time, and had a restaurant in the family for about 20 years. I realize that there are off nights, and many factors can contribute to a major goof. I consistently read the critic reviews glowing with praise, and my wife and I go to the restaurant (often with another couple)... we all ask ourselves after the meal "was this the same place"??? In the past year this has happended about ten times. As I have suggested in other posts, maybe my friends, family and I are off base. Maybe our tastes are not in the mainstream...that the critic reflects what today's diner wants. If so, then perhaps I'd better save my money and eat at home. I am reassured that my tastes are not so wierd, as a number of that ten are no longer with us, notwithstanding glowing reviews by Bauer and Berger. I would almost have more confidence in their opinions if they were on the take, which I am sure they aren't. They just don't seem to have the same tastes as many of us do.