Hungry Cat: Disappointment #1
My girlfriend was in town, so we went to two places that we go to almost every time she is here: The Hungry Cat and the Alcove (in Los Feliz). Now, I know there is some split amongst 'hounds about the food and price at these two places, but my girl and I have always found these two places to be reliable and worth the overhype and price. To keep things short, I have a separate post on our experience at the Alcove.
The Hungry Cat. I have been here at least 5 times and never had a problem. This last visit, however, was ... difficult. It was a Saturday night and we were a party of four. I will qualify the foregoing laundry list by saying that when we arrived, the restaurant was slammed and everyone appeared to be very busy.
- Had reservations for 8:15, seated at 8:55. In the meantime, the hostess apologized for the wait (which was nice), and offered to take our order for drinks while we waited. She took our order around 8:30.
- Said drinks did not arrive until 10 minutes after we sat down. The drinks, as always, were fantastic. I do love the drinks here.
- The waiter got around to our table a few minutes after our drinks arrived. We asked him questions about the entrees and the specials, and he non-answered every question by saying, "Oh, it's totally awesome. You should get it."
- The first two entrees came out 25 minutes after our initial order.
- The second two entrees arrived 10 minutes after the first two, and after we shared and finished off that first set.
- The waiter came by once to ask if anyone wanted a second drink. My friend ordered another cocktail. Cocktail #2 arrived just as we were finishing up dessert.
- The bill took 15 minutes to arrive, after asking for it twice.
All in all, we arrived at the restaurant at 8:10 and didn't leave until 11:45ish. I had the barramundi, which was delicious albeit salty. My girlfriend had the crab soup (very tasty!) and the squid stuffed with chorizo (I don't like squid, so I can't comment. My girlfriend thought it was good, but worth only 12 out of the 16 dollars it cost). Our friends had a crab salad (pretty good, but also overpriced) and the special, a salmon riellete (not so great - tasted like bologna). We also had chocolate bread pudding for dessert (their only one), which was great according to everyone who likes bread pudding (not me).
As I said, I have been here several times and understand that there are off-nights. Just lucky that we didn't make plans for after dinner, because after all that waiting, we were all really tired.
You know, chef/owner David Lentz and his wife Suzanne Goin are opening a second HC outpost in Santa Barbara, and soon, from what I understand. The sense I immediately got was that there is NO WAY the Hollywood Hungry Cat will be able to run smoothly without his utmost attention; because to me, it's always been on shakey ground. Never perfect, always fun, expensive, but a treat. Suzanne has two very successful, busy restaurants. I'm all for chefs expanding their reach, but it's one thing to open a restaurant near the other so you can pop into both while the new one's getting off the ground; it's another thing entirely to open a second outpost in a city 90 miles away, that on a good day, takes 90 minutes to get to.
Not saying it's an excuse, but it could be a possibility for inconsistencies. Personally, I'll steer clear of HOllywood HC until that SB one is up and running.
I had a recent disappointing outing there as well. I've been there for dinner and always had a good experience. Decided to do a quick lunch before an Arclight film. I was anxious to try the Pug Burger, which I'd read good things about. It wasn't crowded; I was seated immmediately at a table in the front with my back to the window. I glanced over at the (empty) table next to me and saw a roach crawling into the fold of the napkin. I told the host about it; he removed the napkin. I moved to another table. (which I'd already requested because the sun was streaming in and it was too hot there.) I suppose I should have left, but didn't. Ordered the burger, medium rare. It came fifteen minutes later (maybe twenty), well done. Before I left, the host came over and apologized. Said since the place next door had closed, they'd had problems. I'm thinking it will be a while before I go back. Magnolia will be my next pre-Arclight lunch destination.
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I don't know if I can stomach the wait. We went down on a Monday at 8:00 knowing that we didn't have a reservation, but the hostess on the phone said to come for the bar and didn't try to dissuade us at all. We waited for a full hour and all the hostess would say is "getting closer." By the end of the hour, we saw people having cocktails on the side patio and felt a bit snubbed. Who gets to have cocktails on the patio? When the hostess stopped wouldn't make eye contact anymore, we just left. It would have been better is she had said on the phone "We're so busy, there's very little chance of getting in." I never would have waited an hour. Soooooooo annoyed. Is the food that incredible?