- joel tractenberg Aug 14, 1998 12:17 PM
On our birthdays my wife and I always take each other
out to a top restaurant. Last night it was Lutece. And
it was shockingly lousy. The room was depressingly
shabby...and empty, too. With no soft music or
anything, just the hum of the air conditioner. The
service was rushed and inattentive -- when I'm shelling
out $300 for dinner and wine, I'd like to have my wine
and water glasses kept full thank you very much. And
I'd also like not to have to raise my hand and ask for
fresh pepper. None of which would have mattered so
much if the food was great. But it wasn't even good.
The amuse bouche was what looked and tasted for all the
world like corner deli lox and cream cheese spread on a
piece of toast. My wife's foie gras appetizer was the
highlight of the evening, nicely caramelized and served
with some kind of fruit compote. The rack of lamb for
two was ordered medium rare and arrived raw. Since they
had already carved the entire thing and presented it to
us, we felt too awkward about sending it back. I mean
they would have had to cook an entirely new rack for
us, right? Or maybe pan fry the individual chops. 4 of
the 8 pieces we were served were inedible. Seems to me
the waiter should have taken us off the hook by
realizing the problem and taking care of it himself.
Dessert was downright lousy. Chocolate souffle that
tasted like scrambled eggs with a little nestle's quik
sprinkled in as an afterthought. Had us looking back
misty-eyed to the intense chocolate mousse we had at
Bouley a couple of years back. My wife had called ahead
to ask them to put together a birthday treat for me,
but had to get up from the table to go remind them
about it, since they had served us dessert without any
sign of her request being fulfilled. Overall, an
extremely disappointing meal. Although we certainly had
fun ripping it apart in the cab ride home. Our rankings
of the birthday restaurants so far go in this order: 1.
Bouley 2. Jean Georges 3. Daniel 4. Lespinasse 5. Le
Bernardin 6. Chanterelle (also very disappointing) 999.
That just about breaks my heart. Lutece has always
been my dream of a fancy occasion New York restaurant.
I have dropped broad hints off and on to be taken there
by my kids. I, too, have a birthday coming up which I
will celebrate in New York. I think I'm going to
suggest we just follow the crowds to Babbo!
Did you communicate your disappointment and
displeasure? Why not send a copy of your post to them?
Send mine too! pat
re: pat hammond
Pat -- Sorry to upset you -- I had always though of
Lutece as the height of luxury too, but was sadly
disappointed. I suppose there's a chance it was just a
very very off night for them, although I kind of doubt
it because I did see the head chef, Eberhard Muller
(sp?), in the house. And no, I didn't express my
displeasure out of a combination of being intimidated
and not wanting to cause a scene. But I think I will
take your advice and send my post to them -- maybe it
will help them address their problems.
re: joel t
If it makes you feel any better, and it probably won't, both of my experiences at Lutece, during the Soltner days, were disappointing -- nowhere near as disastrous as yours, just mediocre.
The service, though, was always attentive, and it sounds like yours was unconscionable. Although I wasn't wowed by the food at Lutece, there was an obvious pride among the whole staff back then.
Like you, it's kind of fun dumping on a bad experience at an extravagant meal. I've always enjoyed dumping on Chanterelle, too .
re: Dave Feldman
Having been dragged to Lutece a number of times for
business lunches, I have to agree that the current
state of the restaurant is decidedly mediocre. I've
never had a disastrous experience there either, but
I've also never had a particularly memorable one.
Service has been adequate, but whatever esprit de
corps existed in the Soltner years is certainly gone.
As for the food, ho hum.
Chanterelle, too, has been a frequent source of
disappointment for me. I find that all the more
disturbing, since Chanterelle is one of only four
restaurants that carries a four-star ranking from the
New York Times.
re: Steven Shaw
I've got to jump in to bash Chanterelle too!
I loved Chanterelle when they opened (had a wonderful,
extravagant Saturday lunch). When I returned for dinner
2 yrs ago, it was definitely mediocre. The staff didn't
have that pride that Dave mentioned.
thanks for sharing your review with us and saving us
from a likely similar disappointment. Such bad meals
are esp crushing to a chowhound.
Seems there are fewer and fewer fancy restaurants we
can look forward to.
Give me Gramercy Tavern any day or night. Tom Colicchio
has forgotten more about flavor than many four-star
chefs ever seem to learn. Short ribs with deeper
flavor than any you've dreamed of. Everything--but
everything--is layered with deliciousness. And his
pastry chef, Claudia Fleming, is the best in town.
Awesome tapioca pudding with passion fruit sorbet; the
best cookies I've ever had; etc. etc. And you get Danny
Meyer on top of it all! Can't wait for Tabla and 11
Madison Park to open--how could this group possibly
surpass Union Square Cafe & Gramercy Tavern??
As for Lutece, I only got there once, during the
Soltner years, and I had a grand time--must've been an
"on'' night. He was there, of course, and sat with us
to respond to my puff-pastry questions. One of the last
great chefs--check out his book! I don't know Eberhard
Mueller's cooking, but no one expected him to come up
to Soltner's level.
And--sorry, gang--I adore Chanterelle. Karen & David
Waltuck are among the most talented restaurateurs
going, always attentive, patient, and kind. I've never
had a bad dish there, and the wine list is pretty
awesome as well.
But for the money, give me Gramercy Tavern.
Bon appetit, everybody!