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SDRW - Chive

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We had a party of 6 and arrived at Chive for our 7pm reservations. I have to admit, using Opentable.com for reservations made it much easier, since when I called the restaurant to ask some questions, I was put on hold at least 3 times (once before I had even finished a sentence). To their credit, we were seated right away. We saw a lot of people eating at the bar, so if you wanted to go tonight (this is the last night for SDRW) you could probably do that.

Chive adds that lovely SDRW-induced automatic 20% gratuity. They also had options on the menu to upgrade from $30 to $40. This gave you two more options under the 2nd and 3rd course: scallops or something in the 2nd, and a beef tenderloin or lamb lollipop in the 3rd. We stuck with the $30 menu.

Drinks were about $9-11, we gave our waiter our order, he disappeared for at least 15 minutes, and then our drinks came out in pairs. With delays in between - why didn't they all come together? After more waiting (and no bread to nibble on - I don't even know if we could have ordered something off menu) he finally came back to take our dinner orders. I don't know if it's the materials of the walls or what, but I couldn't hear the person across from me unless we both leaned into the table.

1st course:
The squash soup was okay, with some chestnuts placed in the middle of the bowl. Not particularly warm, but perhaps that's because the bowl was so huge compared to the amount of soup. The beet terrine, I heard, was quite tasty, so if you like beets and goat cheese, you'd be happy with that one. I liked the mushroom ravioli. The pasta was tender, the mushrooms had nice bite to them and the broth was delicious. I used by bf's soup spoon to clean it all up. The crispy potatoes were more like pan fried slices of small potatoes, but the mustard aoli made it worthwhile. No one got the salad.

2nd course:
The prawn spring roll was indeed filled with a large tasty prawn, and had 4 generous bite-size pieces. The ceviche was made up of slices of hamachi on a scoop of mashed avocados. On the side was a small dollop of the lemon creme fraiche, which was topped with some sort of gummy seeds (I've had them before and I can't figure out what they are). It was good, but not what I expected from "ceviche". I really liked the crab mac 'n cheese, even though it reminded me more of a tuna casserole with the not-goopy sauce and peas. But it was tasty, we did spy bits of crab, and it was probably the biggest portion of anything all night. Yum.

3rd course:
We had one beef salad, one chicken pinchitos (skewers), and the rest of us got the braised pork. To me, the best part of the chicken dish was the lime and yogurt sauce for dipping. Nothing else seemed outstanding to me. The pork, however, came with a wild boar sausage that was very tasty (and not gamey) and the pork was fall apart tender with some tasty dark sauce.

4th course:
The "study of chocolate" was replaced with a chocolate marquis. The panna cotta looked to be replaced with a cheese course. The kinda crispy rice pudding was still there (the best part was the creamy top and bruleed sugar, the bottom half of the ricey part was dry and boring). The cheese plate came with fig jam and some raisin bread, one blue cheese and another cheese. I didn't taste it, but my friend said it was much better than the cheese plate at Baleen. I really liked the chocolate marquis - it was creamy, melty chocolate, so what's not to like?

The small plate format makes it a nice place for happy hour, but I don't see going back for dinner. If we wanted small plates for dinner, we'd go out for tapas where the dishes are made for sharing (not plated for one or two bites, literally). It's also pretty noisy, adding to a happy hour drink-and-dish vibe.

I'm glad we finally checked it out, I'm glad we didn't go for the $40 menu, and we still had a great night out with friends. I'm tired of having places tack on 20% gratuity simply because it's SDRW but not stepping up the service because it's SDRW and they might want to try and impress new customers. Give me good service and I'm more than happy to throw in a nice tip. Expect me to give you more money simply because we're not spending $100/head in food and booze? No. From seating to leaving, it took almost 3 hours. I guess it's nice we didn't feel rushed, but I would have been happier if we could have enjoyed more conversation in those gaps.

Now to sit back and wait for next year. It seems each year we learn something new.

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  1. Three hours? That is ridiculous. My 7 course tasting menu, plus a white truffle risotto supplement, at Per Se took three hours. Chive is four small courses for god's sake. Yet another example of the pitfalls of RW. Thanks for taking the time to post the review leanneabe.
    Cheers
    http://sandiegorestaurants.typepad.com

    1 Reply
    1. re: Captain Jack

      I don't know if the long meal was due to SDRW or if that's just how Chive operates, but I know that I'm not going back to find out.

      When I read (from another review) that the meal took 3 hours and the place was stifflingly warm, I optimistically thought our meal would be different. The first thing we did when we stepped in was remove our coats and roll up our sleeves... and then 3 hours later we marveled at how late it had become and we hoped our validation for Horton Plaza was still good!

    2. Thanks, Leeanne, for another very nice review.

      I've always thought the food at Chive was quite good, but we've not been for a long time -- not because of any lapse in the cuisine or the service, but the place is such an acoustic boiler factory, and neither my wife nor I are proficient in Ameslan.
      . . . jim strain in san diego.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jim Strain

        The last time you were at Chive, did they have the small plate format or was it more app/entree/dessert format? I thought I heard they changed this over the last year or so.

        I agree, the poor acoustics along would keep me from returning for anything more than a drink and snack (if I was downtown after work).

      2. I believe possessing a table for three hours limited the waiters from serving at least two parties or so, and a 20% gratuity is more then indicated! Otherwise, they can NOT make a decent living and move on to other jobs.
        To keep attentive efficient staff, they have to earn enough to keep them interested and not be replaced by an entry level beginner at waiting tables. Perhaps if it were an Hour and a half, then 15% would be routine.
        Not only is there a big turnover in wait staffs, but restaurants have the highest mortality rate per year of any businesses! So it will be easier to find a good restaurant or favorite waiter at one, if they find it worth their efforts.
        I know my experience of waiting tables in collage was a motivator to study hard for eight years to fulfill my destiny. Interesting, I did not give up food, but just went deeper into the effects of food at the cellular level, while fulfilling my destiny.

        If the waiters make the meal an enjoyable one, then they deserve the 20% and sometimes more, if they comp something. If a $ or $$ difference is that critical, then a lesser restaurant would be indicated. After all we are talking about the top of the line on these strings. If they do not stand up to that, then they should be passed on in my experience.

        2 Replies
        1. re: nutrition

          I agree, if we had lingered over our meal and stretched what should have been an hour and a half to a three hour meal, they should be tipped accordingly. But we were there for 3 hours because of either the waitstaff or the kitchen (or maybe a little of both). It was quite a while before our order was even taken by the waiter, much less the first plate delivered. I also don't understand the delays between courses, since you tell them what you want for each course at the beginning (as opposed to ordering an appetizer while perusing the menu, ordering the entree, and then ordering dessert once finished with the entree).

          If you want to be appreciated as a server, it may help to explain why drinks are coming one at a time instead of dropping one off and disappearing until the next one comes along.

          We did notice that the couple next to us (who, in a weird cute way, would eat half their plate and then switch plates - we just share bites but don't physically switch plates) would sit and talk/shout for quite some time with each course over untouched food. They sat down after us (but their order was taken before ours) and when we got up to leave after paying they were still talking over their entree (3rd course). I can't imagine how much longer they were there!

          1. re: leanneabe

            Nor do we know how much they tipped.

            One common reason for slow service is the kitchen being overloaded or backed up, so it is out of the waiters hands. Other or several Big parties seem to be a common cause for slow service to small table. They just might be GQQD repeat guests and tip well to keep the waiters attentive.

            I have a friend who insists on TWO glasses of iced water placed on the table practically as soon as he sits down at Hambuger Hamlet. And he gets it pronto with continued refills, since he is a regular customer, 1 or more times a week. He tips generously, knows both the waiters and busboys by name, asks about their friends or family current events, and never needs to ask for much, since everthing is anticipated in advance. He tips the busboys seperately! He doesn't have to wait very long for the waiter to take the order, get it to the kitchen and served without delay! And the place is always very busy at dinnertime. The moral for good service is to take care of everyone, and you will be also.

            I found that you can tell when a waiter is not organized with their tables, and who is experienced or not. But to hold it against a newby who is trying very hard to please you, carries little good karma with it.

            I have also seen people tip in advance and ask to be given good service, when the conditions are stressed for the waiter. Works every time.

        2. Sorry to hear about Chive, I've always had a deliciously wonderful experience there. Service? While relaxed, it has never even approached the atrocious level you've described. Let's hope it was just related to RW difficulties. Also, it's been my experience that if service is terrible, it affects the taste - consciencely or not. No matter where you dine, better luck next time!

          1. We went to Chive last night and it wasn't a 3 hour fiasco, but we did still feel like the waitstaff was unable to manage their tables efficiently. My husband ordered a 2nd glass of wine that never came, the table next to us was served their dessert course before they even received their 3rd course, and we hardly saw our server throughout our entire 2 hour meal. I was glad that I had read some of these reviews before we arrived for our reservation so that we were prepared to wait, but it certainly didn't make for an ideal experience. The food was good, but I don't think we'll be returning anytime soon.