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Jul 28, 2006 01:58 PM

RW Timothy Dean = A + food/C- service

I went with my husband and a couple of friends to Timothy Dean Bistro last night. The food was amazing but the service was laughably lacking.

We began with the signature Thai Curry Mussels, which was ample for sharing. We eagerly mopped up the coconut milk/lemongrass/basil broth with the freshly made yeasty house rolls. (These weren't on the RW menu but we added them anyway.)

The Florida corn soup with poached oysters and vegetable mirepoix was pure creamy essence of freshly shucked corn. Delicious. A tablemate found his organic greens and arugula salad to be fine/good, but hey--it's a basic salad.

Two of us had short ribs over polenta with red wine sauce, which was a rich melange of flavors and melting texture. My husband's panko catfish with fava and cranberry beans was well executed while the bbq salmon over melted spinach with garlic confit was tasty albeit a little vinegary.

Dessert was creme brulee all around (as opposed to chilled melon soup). The brulee was just perfect--creamy vanilla custard, crackling sugar top. As a welcome touch, fresh berries were sprinkled on top.

Timothy Dean himself came out of the kitchen at the end of the evening and stopped by our table. We were there until closing, having begun our meal at nine.

And now a few qualms: although there appeared to be ample staff on hand, our server kept blaming obvious blunders on it being busy.

The wine list was seriously depleted and he had to keep checking to see if they had our choices available. Three were not. He told us that this was because "people just cleaned them out this week." Okay, so couldn't they have placed an emergency call to the distributor? Or at the very least stopped by a local wine store to supplement in the meanwhile?

Our mussels were brought to the table by a busser. We had no plates at the time. We finally received them but I had to practically beg for the absent spoon.

And speaking of spoons, our soups were served without them. Ahem. We flagged down the waiter who wasn't paying attention because he returned with one, not three.

Plates were not cleared in a timely manner. The mussel shells and plates sat while he tried to remove entree and dessert plates as we were finishing.

Our waiter had a "you guys" kind of demeanor which I find grating. And why are the servers decked out in Timothy Dean logo t-shirts?
Way too casual.

The service here simply does not complement the exemplary food preparation. I would return in a heartbeat for Chef Dean's menu, but he should visit Charleston, Petit Louis or Pazo to see what good service looks like.

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  1. I have to second Paula's comments. I was one of her dinner companions and I do feel rather strongly that when you have a very limited (and pricey) wine selection you have an obligation to your customers to keep some reasonably priced wine in stock. The Ravenswood (2004) we originally ordered is a decent wine, if somewhat young. But it was out of stock. So was the Viognier. We finally settled on a Trinchero (2004) that was quite good. That was literally our last choice as everything else started at $50/bottle. It simply isn't acceptable for a restaurant with high-class pretensions not to have the sommelier run out and buy a couple of cases of decent wine.

    Other than that, I would say that my salmon wasn't bad but I found the marmalade remoulade very challenging. The taste was quite good but the vinegary smell made me feel like I was putting old, sweaty socks up to my mouth. Not a really pleasant experience and one I would be very unlikely to repeat.

    Oh.. and as folks have mentioned before about Timothy Dean, the air conditioning was very poor and we left rather quickly because we were so uncomfortable.

    1. My wife loved the salmon when we went a few months ago. I'm sorry to hear that the service is still poor despite their recent efforts. In the sommelier's defense, it is illegal for an establishment with a liquor license to run out and buy retail. They must buy from the distributors and therefore must wait on their delivery. Apparently, they need to carry more in stock, however.

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        1. The other reviews are right on abouth the inequity of the food to service here. While we didn't love everything, the chef is so talented that I'd return again. The proportions of the ingredients were usually just right - amount of sauce with the right acidity, texture, e.g. to complement the food. He also uses tiny sweet touches - not the over fruitiness of many chefs. The food came straight to the table piping hot.
          We started with the salad frisee - the greens, beets and dressing were perfect, but the roquefort was scarce. The crispy, sugared walnuts were a perfect accent - didn't overwhelm. Hudson Valley foie gras - go for it! Cooked absolutely perfectly-almost crisp on the outside and oozing inside. It sat atop a not-too-sweet rhubarb puree with huckleberries. Great pairing. Scallops over mushrooms - excellent. Scallops just seared leaving room for them to cook a bit more in the sauce. Main courses: the home-smoked ribeye was a disappointment- the smoke flavor and the reduced red wine sauce were just too much. The meat was good and cooked rare, as requested. Unable to finish the mushrooms from the starter, we took them and the uneaten steak home to recombine for another meal. (The portions are big). The bouillebaisse is reasonably sized. It has mussels, one clam, a few shrimp, sea bass and salmon in a delicious thai curry broth w/o the curry. However, the fish and shrimp did overcook in the broth making them too dry, and a big chunk of Atlantic salmon dominated the bowl. But the fennel bulb was yummy.
          For dessert I ordered a fondant - the waiter, who was totally sweet, but completely unskilled!, promised that the chocolate insides would ooze out when liberated. Instead, it was a donut shape, and had the consistency of an undercooked brownie. I was very disappointed. When the waiter inquired, I was nicely honest. He didn't get the distinction and made no amends.
          I have to agree that the staff is a huge detraction at this restaurant and the t-shirts only emphasize the fact that they are amateurs. The ambience is really pleasant, though the bar can get noisy. Really nice clienetele.