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Oct 21, 2007 12:48 AM

Bastide: Stay away, an unpleasant dining experience.

We just returned home from an awful dining experience at Bastide. This was our second visit to the restaurant.

We have been dining at the Bastide space for about 25-30 years, starting when the restaurant was Le Restaurant. We always loved the space and wished every restaurant that opened there nothing but the best.

Our first meal at Bastide was about a month ago. Four of us dined there and found the food good, with some dishes mediocre and others quite good. After the meal, each of the four concluded the meal was nothing special and concluded we would not likely return.

My wife and I decided to try it again. Hence, tonight's meal with two other couples. All I can say is that it was painful. We were asked if we'd like to have the chef "cook for us." We agreed and asked for a wine pairing as well. Big mistake!

We started at 7:30 and ended after midnight. The meal was horribly paced, with long gaps between courses, with no waiters in sight. A dinner with wine pairings should mean that the proper wine will be served with each course. On one occasion, the course was served and the wine for that course did not arrive until after the course was completed. As the meal progressed, the gaps between courses grew painfully long; the explanations as to what each course contained disappeared and so did the wine descriptions. What should have been a special, wonderful experience turned into an unpleasant experience. Each of us couldn't wait to get out of the place.

And, to make matters worse, the food is just so-so. Nothing great. Some courses were quite tasty and others were ordinary. When coupled with the awful pacing, I would rate the meal a "C" at best. And, the meal was extremely expensive to boot.

Bottom line: The restaurant does not have it together.

My prediction: The restaurant won't be in business in six months.

My recommendation: Go somewhere else. This place is a loser.

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    1. re: russkar

      C'mon -- I am well stoked to get on the bandwagon to diss the haughty, pretentious posterior that my readings about Bastide have cultivated. But you have to give details: What did it cost? How many courses? What were the highlights and lowlights? It is clear that you don't feel taken care of and are pissed. But after sleeping on it, please give more details so the rest of us can get a better picture and decide.

      1. re: nosh

        I was there last night as well and had a very similar expereince. From the beginning the timing of the courses was very off. Although I would say that the amuse bouches were quite good, as well as the Thai Soup and Seafood salad. However, everything after that was not. There was a fish dish that lacked flavor and depth, a very fatty short rib dish and an average pasta dish. It was as if these dishes all had great potential, but were missing key ingredients that would take it to the next level....the level you would expect at a restaurant like this. Dinner with tip and tax (the tip of 18% is automatically added) was $252 - for 2 people - this was without wine or drinks. For that kind of money I expect a lot more.

        1. re: allisonteal

          We spent more than that *each* on our visit and all felt that it was a great experience. I personally thought it was totally worth it. Our courses were paced perfectly, though I understand that they don't get it right every time. I'm sorry you hit an off night.

          1. re: hrhboo

            No matter how much you spend, you should expect good service and more than medioccre food.

            1. re: Diana

              Naturally, that is what we all expect. Unfortunately, we don't always get it. Acknowledging that this happens does not mean that I condone it.

              1. re: hrhboo

                This was the comment that put you in an iffy light. I know it was unintentional, and had you thought a little more,perhaps you would have realized how it could look sorta off :

                "We spent more than that *each* on our visit and all felt that it was a great experience."

                1. re: Diana

                  That is a factual statement. We did all feel that it was a great experience even after spending so much on it. I understand from Alison's post that the service/pacing/food on the night she went was terrible and not worth the money she spent on it, but ours was beyond perfect and worth every penny. That is all I was trying to convey, along with my sympathy towards her for her unpleasant evening.

          2. re: allisonteal

            I want to also add that a large group of people next to us had an even worse experience than us. I did not hear all the details, but one woman's husband actually left and didn't come back! All I know if that there was a lot of apologizing from various people at the restaurant and they had their ENTIRE meal comped!!

            1. re: allisonteal

              wow. sounds horrendous.

              everybody @Hatfield's seemed to be having a jolly good time on Saturday night.

      2. Well, there are a number of things I could say about the posting, including its vague nature. I feel bad that you had a poor experience, I honestly do.

        Here are my specific comments based on your posting.
        "Bottom Line" That is quite a valid point and probably true. They may not have had it together that night which is indicative of many new restaurants. You didn't make any mention about the restaurant not having it together during your first visit, so much so that you decided to return.

        "My Prediction" Well, you're way off on that one. Why? Well, because they have an incredibly well known chef. More importantly, because they are the best-funded restaurant in Los Angeles. Is that my opinion? No, it's pretty much fact. Joe Pytka is an incredibly wealthy businessman and commercial director who is famous for being tryannical but also famous for having great items, including chefs and staff, the physical space itself, etc. So, if the restaurant ISN'T in business in six months, it will only be because Joe Pytka wants to close the restaurant on HIS terms, just like he did with the previous incarnation of Bastide.
        "My recommendation" Well, again that's your opinion and of course you're entitled to it, but I think time will tell and will more than likely say that your opinion is in the minority.

        7 Replies
        1. re: peanut112

          Their chef is NOT incredibly well known, rather has a reputation to establish in this town. I wouldn't put him in the top 50 well known LA chefs. He may be great, but has little reputation yet.

          1. re: Adsvino

            On the contrary Walter Manske is one of the most well known chefs in the nation. He was the exec chef at Patina for many years and has received many write ups in culinary mags both industry and layman. A few years go Food & Wine listed him as one of the top 25 nationwide.

          2. re: peanut112

            Being "best-funded" and properly funded are entirely different things.

            Lots of restaurants have opened with deep (and I mean deep) pockets only to fall by the way side in less than a year.

            The Mozza twins are not necessarily the "best-funded" restaurants, but they would definitely be high on the list of the most properly funded restaurants in LA.

            You don't need all the money in the world if you spend what money you do have wisely.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              My comments were simply in response to "the restaurant won't be in business in six months" to which I completely disagree based upon funding. Best-funded and properly funded are INDEED different things entirely and ipsedixit you are increditly spot-on in that regarded, based upon your Mozza comparison.
              I didn't say anything about deep pockets being a key to success, but I did offer deep pockets as a counter-point to being gone in six months as the OP stated.
              As for not being in the top 50 most well-known chefs in LA, that's up for some serious debate. If you said top 50 in the US or even top 50 in California, then I might be able to agree with you, but I doubt there's actually 50 chefs in LA that deserve a 'top 50' title.

              1. re: peanut112

                Not to quibble peanut112, but I didn't make the "top 50" remark.

                As to Bastide's longevity, I agree with you that it has legs beyond 6 months. People behind it realize that they aren't in the restaurant business to turn a quick buck, or two.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Ipse, absolutely....I forgot to include Adsvino as the entry into that paragraph. After reading all of your various posts over the years, I wouldn't expect you to make that remark.
                  Have a great day.

            2. re: peanut112

              hmmm, if you think deep pockets are the key to a restaurant's longevity, maybe you ought to talk to alain giraud.

            3. Wow. bold statement Food Scrounger. Most foodies seem to feel the food is exemplary at times and very good at others. EVERY report (that Ive seen) until yours has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course, if your opinion becomes the NORM then I would agree that the restaurant will go under, but until then, one off night wont kill bastide.

              Also, this is the first review I have ever seen about bastide that didnt mention the ingredients of the food! You merely said "the food is so-so". Was it too fussy? Was it too subtle? Was it underwhelming and not creative enough?

              I will say that many people have complained about the wine pairings and wine policy. That might be a policy that could bring Bastide down, and that part I can believe.

              Also, every report I have seen suggests that a meal takes 4+ hours. that means your meal took just as long as everyone else's, yet no one else has complained about the length of time. French Laundry offers a few more courses but also taks 4-4.5 hours to complete. Many great places in France take 4 hours. Of course Bastide is not French Laundry and I dont know the finer details about the pacing issues, but 4.5 hours doesnt seem excessive at all to me.

              Laslty, why didnt you politely tell management about your experience? I am certain that if you called Bastide and told them that people were bringing the wine and food at separate times and that the staff failed to explain each dish, that management would act swiftly to correct these issues. In my experience with these types of places, management usually invites you back for free. You cant always expect 100% great service, but for the price you pay, you should EXPECT management to address all of your issues.

              11 Replies
              1. re: jlrobe

                I strongly second the suggestion to contact them (sometimes a letter or email is better than a call, since you have more time and space to lay out all your thoughts in a straightforward and understandable manner). It's always paid off for me.

                1. re: jlrobe

                  As you will see from my post above, Food Scrounger was not the only one who had a bad experience. And the food wasn't too fussy - it lacked depth and flavor. Sometimes we added a bit of salt and it made it better, but mostly it just felt like something was missing. Case in point, they served the pumpkin tortellini that I had heard raves about from other diners, however ours did not have the 30 year old balsamic drizzeld over it...there was nothing. Therefore, the dish was sort of bland and boring. I felt like I could made this dish on my own without a second thought. And while I don't mind a long dinner...when it takes 4.5 hours and it is not evenly paced, it becomes annoying and thus diminishes the dining experience.

                  1. re: allisonteal


                    Thanks for all your comments. Since we opted to have the chef "cook for us," we received about 9 courses, with wine pairings. We expected a wonderful evening. We didn't receive that. Far from it.

                    As I said, one course was served without wine---the wine for that course arriving after the course was completed. As for another course, wine glasses were set up, but the wine never came. Empty wine glasses from prior servings were left on the table through several courses.

                    As for the quality of the food, the opinions in our group varied. Some thought some of the dishes were excellent; others thought some dishes were o.k.; some disliked some of the dishes. I'm not going to describe each dish, except I will say that, of the nine courses, the first five were fish/seafood. All of us thought that was boring and unimaginitive.

                    We've eaten at French Laundry. There is a vast difference between the leisurely pace of a meal there and the meal we had at Bastide. The difference is that, between courses at the French Laundry, you can enjoy a glass of wine in the garden, returning to your table when you're ready for the next course. We were not in the patio at Bastide and we had no choice about the pace. There were lengthy, unexplained gaps between courses; this was coupled with missed wine pairings and, on some courses, non-existent explanations as to the contents of the course and the wines. All of us agreed, the pace was simply too slow---by any standard. Long period went by with no waiter, no nothing; the most attentive person was the man who filled our sparkling water glasses. After the first serving of bread, we never say the bread person again until we asked. There were long delays between our sole meat course (a delicious slow-cooked beef) and dessert; and coffee was offered long after dessert, when all of us were worn out. We even had to wait a considerable period of time to find a waiter to bring us a check.

                    What a restaurant of this caliber should be selling is wonderful food plus wonderful service. This should equal a wonderful experience. The experience is a giant part of the meal. This one was painful. A restaurant of this caliber should never have customers begging to get out. We couldn't wait to get out.

                    We did complain that evening. The manager agreed the pacing was poor, apologized profusely and stated she was discounting the bill by half. She didn't. The total cost: $1,600 after the supposed 50% discount. This would mean that a meal for six would, but for the discount, have cost $3,200. Even though the service was awful, an 18% gratuity was included; we had no option to reward or not reward for the poor service we received. Given our complaint, it seems to me that if the restaurant felt the service should be compensated, it (not us) should have paid the gratuity.

                    As for the food, I'll give a few personal comments regarding my two visits to the restaurant. On my fist visit, I enjoyed the three-step "taco" opener; we got it again the second time. I find that once is enough. One of our first courses was octopus cerviche; I found it overly spiced. On our fist visit, our main course was duck; we found it tasteless. On this visit, the only meat dish was slow-cooked beef; I love it, but the meal had by then descened so far downhill that it was hard to enjoy. I loved the chocolate dessert. All the rest was good to acceptable, but not, in my view, outstanding.

                    I hope my 6-month prediction is wrong, as I'd love nothing more than to see this restaurant make it, providing it gets its act together. One thing is clear: I have no plans to go back.

                    That's all for now.

                    1. re: Food Scrounger

                      Did you remind the manager of your agreement to discount the bill?

                      As far as I know, Bastide offers a 4-course tasting and a 7-course tasting. Are you saying that there is an additional tasting menu option? By your description of the dishes you had, it looks like you had the same 7 course tasting that we enjoyed (7 + 3 amuses and an additional dessert course). The cost of the dinner seems about right too. If you haven't done so already, you should definitely contact the manager and discuss her promise to discount your bill.

                      1. re: Food Scrounger

                        Thanks for the clarification. It REALLY helps me form a more complete opinion about Bastide. I appreciate that.

                        Also, it is very sad that your dining experience was that deplorable. there is no excuse. There is also no excuse that your entire meal wasn't comped! You were really cheated! I still suggest you write a letter and get your money back (or your company's money). After giving them that kind of dough, I think you have a right to be heard properly.

                        1. re: Food Scrounger

                          One minor point: I've noticed that at some restaurants, the bill often will not come unless you ask for it. I always thought it was an European custom. I know at least one old school type person who will be minorly offended if the check comes before he is ready to leave.

                          1. re: Renault78law

                            We were ready to ask for the bill for quite some time, but no one from the waiting staff approached us. We were in the "chef's table" room. After waiting an intolerably long period of time, I got up from the table and went to search for someone to give us the bill. That's when I voiced our complaint.

                        2. re: allisonteal

                          I agree. 4.5 hours of poorly paced food is not fun. After food scrounges clarifying remarks, I have a clearer picture.

                          It sounds like you got cheated. That sucks. You should also write Bastide a letter. If for nothing else, to make sure they get their buts in gear before my wedding anniversary :) (just kidding).

                            1. re: Food Scrounger

                              Well if you dont get a response, let us all know. It would really deter me from going if they didnt even dignify you with a response. That would be very low class in my opinion.

                              Well, I hope you have better dining days in the near future.

                              1. re: jlrobe

                                considering it's only been 2 days since the OP's dinner....i'd give bastide some time to respond.

                      2. I am so sorry that anyone has a bad experience at anyplace... the opera.. a museum.. wherever... but Bastide... I am amazed that any restaurant in Los Angeles survives given the attitude it its diners.... Bastide makes an attempt to serve a type and style of food that is rare.. it fails from time to time. but at least it tries.. unlike many of the places that are full ... of people who do not dine.. but eat.. if not for risk taking.. we would have nothing ... I doubt that any of the complainers have eaten at a GREAT restaurant on a bad night.. the French Laundry has bad nights... Fat Duck does.. but Cheesecake factory probably doesn't... so if you want perfection eat there .. and perfect wine comes with screw off I for one would rather have a bad night.. than the mediocrity that is required to make most people happy all the time.. the chef tries.. he take us on a journey... not to fill us up.. but to make us think.. it is not a place to EAT.. but to experience.. and the failures can be just as exciting as the successes if you are willng to learn about yourself.. and those you are with.. but not if you already know everything about everything. ... Bastide is about ART and Sondheim said "Art isn't easy... "..

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: restheaven


                          I don't disagree with your assessment of what Bastide tries to be, and what haute cuisine aims for.

                          But I think Food Scrounger's real gripe about the experience at Bastide was the service, both in terms of lack of attention and poor pacing of the different courses.

                          By Food Scrounger's own admission, the reviews of the food was actually a mixed-bag (e.g. some thought that it was "excellent" while others merely thought it was "o.k.").

                          I can forgive a restaurant's bad night when the issue involves the food and the execution in cooking, but when the bad night arises because of service hiccups, then it's less excusable in my opinion ... especially from seasoned veterans like those behind the operations of Bastide.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I would also think that there's a higher expectation set on service when one spent $1600 on dinner.

                            Not every one is well off enough to spend that kind of dough and play russian roulette on the service.

                        2. I'm actually rather surprised by this thread. I had a wonderful experience at Bastide just the night before the initial poster. 7 courses; we chose our own wine (I'm not a fan of paired wines). Sat at 7:30 and out at 10:30-ish. I am not particularly surprised at the length of the initial poster's meal per se - bastide did strike me as a place that would allow one to linger unless a diner indicated otherwise. But, I must say, I am surprised by the comments with regard to the service. In fact, I tipped well above the already included gratuity because I felt the service had been stellar, especially compared to other recent dinners we'd had in LA. We have recently relocated to LA and honestly have been rather uniformly appalled by the level of service we've experienced, though bastide (and providence) were the fab exceptions.

                          I felt the food itself did range from the above average to the really rather tasty - I still have dreams about the thai-styled curried soup, but I could have lived without my slightly overcooked scallops.

                          As I read this thread I'm wondering if, somewhat paradoxically to most experiences, I went to bastide on the off good night??

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: nikky

                            I don't think you went to Bastide on the "off good night", both the posters who had unfavorable experiences were there on the same night. All other reports have praised the service, which was exceptional on the night we went. I'm eating there again this weekend, I hope my experience is as good as my last one!

                            1. re: hrhboo

                              I should point out, though, that nikky's experience of a 3 hour meal does seem to be an abberation since our meal ran to about four and a half hours. Anyone going should plan on at least a four hour dinner based on most the posts.

                              1. re: mollyomormon

                                my apologies, i meant to note that i did inform the server that i needed to leave by 11. they were more than accommodating and we did not feel rushed even though i had been told to expect an average of 4 hours for a 7 course meal - though honestly, a 3 - 3.5 hour dinner for us is lingering and we were probably there for 3 and a quarter hours ...

                            2. re: nikky


                              service in LA is very casual. Its how its done here. There arent many places that have the level of service as bastide.

                              Maybe melisse, ortolan, and possibly the foundry, but most great meals dont come with traditional service.

                              LA also has really loud dining rooms on average.

                              These are things that will require adjustment unfortunately.

                              Welcome to los angeles.

                              1. re: nikky

                                Our experiences have been the same as yours and were going back in a couple of weeks.