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Jul 25, 2006 07:14 AM

Nonna's Kitchen, Pacifica--Downhill Alert

After a hot, all-day drive to get to the Bay Area, we decided to hit Nonna’s Kitchen for some comfort food. Having been there before on numerous occasions (but not recently), we had a pretty good idea what to order. We each ordered the sherry-mushroom soup, and decided to share a crabcake appetizer and heirloom tomato salad--the soup and crabcakes used to be our favorite things on the menu. The special was fresh local halibut—that sounded good, so we each ordered that as our mains.

The soup arrived—it wasn’t as good as usual, but still pretty good. Only problem was when we were about three minutes into the soup, they brought us the crabcakes and tomato salad. At this point, I should have spoken up, but we were so beat I just let it slide. We did ask that they not bring us our entrees till we were finished with what we had on the table (should we even have to ask that?!)

The crabcakes were underseasoned and somewhat burnt, and the tomato salad was drenched in flavorless oil with no detectable vinegar or seasonings. This is where I REALLY should have spoken up, had there been anyone around to speak to.

Then our entrees arrived—a really small piece of quality fish, sitting atop a bed of some sort of mushy rice in another pool of flavorless oil, with a few nicely roasted garlic cloves and a few minced shallots. The rice-bed-thing was completely unseasoned and added nothing to the dish, unless you like plain gluey starch.

The waitress came by and asked how we liked the fish, and I said it didn’t have much flavor—she asked what she could do to make it right. I feel like a fool for not sending it back and getting one of their more reliable regular entrees, like their pot roast or meatloaf. I cannot explain this lack of assertiveness—I’m pretty assertive about other things but tend to take what I’m given in restaurants. I suppose I got what I deserved, which was a bill for $84 for a very mediocre meal for two (no wine).

It’s too bad—they used to turn out reliably good food, but seem to have lost their way. We did mention our general dissatisfaction to the waitress before leaving—she was visibly annoyed and said she couldn’t remove anything from the bill but suggested we come back and talk to the owner/chef when he’s there. We won’t be doing that. If this is what happens when the owner isn’t around, he can figure it out for himself.

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  1. The waitress was annoyed because you voiced general dissatisfaction after a point where she couldn't do anything about it. She asked you how she could make it right earlier! It seems unfair to complain about the place, especially to give it the dreaded "downhill alert," when they asked you how they could make it better.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Atomica

      I see your point; I guess I should have first sent the crabcakes and salad back until we finished our soup. Then we would have had to send back the crabcakes because they were burnt, sent the salad back because it was all oil and no vinegar, and then sent the mediocre entrees back to get them replaced with something that was (hopefully) done properly.

      My main complaint is about general ineptness in the kitchen--their execution was not nearly as good as it used to be. I doubt whether sending things back would have helped all that much in this situation (other than hopefully getting a decent entree).

      We were exhausted after a ten-hour drive--all we wanted was a good meal. It's not our job to show the kitchen how to cook or to instruct them on timing. I should mention that neither of us are especially picky, and tend to cut restaurants a lot of slack. This meal was unacceptable on many levels.

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