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SDRW - Pampelmousse Blah!

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What a disappointment! This was my second time to Pampelmousse Grill and after the first I was not in a hurry to return, But, its restaurant week and so we thought we would give it another chance. Simply put it was a waste of money.

Here’s the program. They seat you and then inform you of the “specials: which all carry a increased charge over the $40 restaurant week price fixe. SO, for foie gras it’s an additional %15 and for the steak entrée it’s an additional $20. So by the time you have what the chef thinks is special you’re at $75 buck per person. Then comes the ultimate in your dining “experience.” When you finish they have already added a 20% tip to your tab. Apparently this will occur during the entire week.

The ‘show case” menu for the week is much uninspired, and just plain lousy. The shrimp/crab first course was died out, over sauced with a thick sauce and sitting on top two anemic pieces of asparagus. The “Kobe burger” was merely one hunk of salty meat, slapped on a dried out bun. I guess they think that since there a truffles in his dish it make it gourmet! The truffles were not earthy and aromatic but rather pungent and exuded a unpleasant odor. The deserts where blah!

You still have time to cancel your reservations and go to an establishment that is truly showcasing their cooking.

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  1. So sorry to hear you were disappointed at Pamplemousse! But thanks for the review. I really look forward to everyone's reviews during SDRW. Some restaurants that are usually good sometimes are disappointing during SDRW for one reason or another.

    In case you haven't seen, we went to Baleen and they are also tacking on an automatic 20% gratuity. Although, adding expensive "specials" to the menu just seems like a lousy move to pull. Considering that a lot of people's first visit to a restaurant is during SDRW, you'd think restaurants would be trying their hardest to put their best food forward!

    1. Jeez. Reading about the 20% service charge at this place and Baleen made me go back and recheck my receipts from 1500 Ocean and Tapenade. Whew! Neither of those places imposed a service charge, but I'll certainly be more aware at the next place.

      Some places must imagine that their Restaurant Week patrons are largely rabble who just want to get a fancy meal at a cheap price while stiffing the wait staff. Instead of winning customers with great food, the idea seems to be annoy them with bait and switch tactics. And I can well understand how a bunch of extra-cost "specials" could leave a bad taste, even at a usually good restaurant. Sorry for your disappointment.
      . . . jim strain '62

      1. I agree, Scout, this restaurant has been the least impressive of the 6 or 7 we've been to during Restaurant Week over the last couple of years. We went last year and we just thought: Ehh. In my opinion they rolled out the cheapest entrées possible.

        If anyone is looking for a recommendation for a great one for Restaurant Week, The Oceanaire is still at the $30 price point and has around 5 or 6 options for each course. I read that they are extending for a week. I've posted about it on my blog already, I should edit that down to share for a post here.

        1. If you log on to www.sandiegorestaurantweek.com there is a link on the first page for "Diner Feedback" which we can use to spread the word to the people who might actually care about what we are experiencing this week at the participating restaurants. I would think poor reviews would get a hearing there.

          The whole idea (I thought) was to increase the exposure of all of us to some great restaurants in our area. Better exposure (think profit) for them, better dining for us. You betcha I'm interested in tasting from their kitchen at a reduced cost. After all, I probably wouldn't be eating out this week if it wasn't for SDRW. If I have a great time and experience great food, then I'll be back with my family and friends. Why can't some of these places get that?

          2 Replies
          1. re: dbsb

            I actually just did this after our Baleen dinner. I said that many of us feel the point of SDRW is to experience a restaurant we may not normally dine at, and if the dishes don't represent the menu, then it lessens the chance we'll return to gamble on food. I also noted that we were disappointed that Baleen chose both the higher price point ($40) AND a rather high gratuity instead of one or the other. Add to that, I didn't feel the service was spectaular enough to warrant 20% on a normal night. I would give 20% to an attentive server who offers recommendations on both food and beverages, actually places new silverware instead of dropping it onto the table wherever he pleases, and doesn't act like he didn't notice we have no bread when it's pretty obvious there's no huge, towering round of bread anywhere on the table. If we hadn't been so happy with the quality of the food, I definitely would have talked to the maitre d' about that "gratuity".

            Another idea is to write to the restaurant itself (actually, this would be nice if you really enjoyed how they did SDRW, to let them know they should continue). We don't frequent Fresh in La Jolla anymore due to the bad taste it left from last year's SDRW. I think they would appreciate knowing whether or not it's worthwhile to participate next year.

            I would expect that restaurants know they might not make money this week in hopes that they attract more regular diners. We almost definitely wouldn't try a new (to us) restaurant at regular prices as easily as we could justify going out during SDRW. I mean, we're going out twice this week, something we rarely do! We'll probably only splurge another few times for the rest of the year, so SDRW has a lot of potential in attracting us as repeat business.

            1. re: leanneabe

              Last year, the AZUL was the restaurant on the TO DO list for a long time. The Dinner of Halibut and the Cuban COCONUT Baked Banana Cheesecake was so spectacular, that we have been back many times. If you recall, it was sponsored by Pellirigrino Spring Water. The portions were full sized to go with the large bottle of Pelligrino for one.
              This year the choices seemed cut back at $30.00. Would have been happy if the food were more of the normal menu choices at $40.00.
              On many visits, the friends enjoy the Kobe burger so much, that is all they order during HAPPY HOUR prices. It is more then filling, and another dish is not really necessary.
              It has become our favorite restaurant based on last year's RW.
              Tonite, went to La Bastide as a follow up to last year. The waitress confirmed that the portions are a bit larger then last year. The recent Chef is turning out nicely prepared food. So things have improved around Scripps Ranch and Rancho Bernardo meaning I don't have to drive to LaJolla for a special treat everytime.

              I have concluded that debating over a 15 or a 20% tip is being too frugal. In the kind of restaurants, we are talking about here, a 20% gratuity should not be a major consideration. Usually, these places do not have a high traffic volume or turnover, as we sit and savor longer! Therefore, I have decided to think 20% for good service and 15% for the ordinary service. I remember waiting tables many years ago, when 15-25 cents was a big tip. Of course, lunch was 45 cents at the Men's Union Dining Room. But then I never forgot the $15.00 tip on a $75.00 Lunch for a 5 or 6 person lunch. But they did get good service! I was most appreciative! Believe me, I needed every $, that I got to get through college and have a meal downstairs in the cafeteria. So a Random Act of Kindness can be considered a PAY FORWARD, when you leave a more generous tip! It has been proven these kind of acts release special neuro hormones to our benefit.

          2. We feel lucky now that Pampelmousse never returned our call for SDRW. Que Lastima !

            1. I'm so sorry you had such a disappointing experience. We dined there a few months back and had great service and food. Your experience makes me not want to return. I think it's pretty clear they don't actually want to participate in RW for genuine reasons, and they are trying to somehow shame people into spending more money this week. Jim Strain pretty much summed it up. It's ridiculous.

              1. Thank you all for your response. My wife and I have lived in San Diego since we were kids. We travel extensively and always love to return home. The one thing we crave is great food! Creative, inventive and inspiring. We research before we travel( Chowhound rules!) and savor our finds when we find them. Pampelmousse is a splinter in the San Diego food scene. I have taken the time to look into the background of this "establishment" and I have nothing good to report. So I will refrain. My conclusion is simple to all that savor the best in dining out....pick another place in San Diego. I could go on but I will again refrain!

                My message to Pampelmousse...Don't renew your lease!

                1 Reply
                1. re: scout909

                  Do I sense some animus here? All of us have occasionally dropped a discouraging word on one or the other eateries, but you seem to be enjoying it entirely too much. What's the dark secret in this establishment's background? Are they secretly owned by Mickey D's?