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Replacement for Kokkari

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I have been singing Kokkari's praises for quite some time now, and was quick to suggest it to a special group of friends for a celebratory dinner last Saturday night. Because we hoped to be considerate of their need to turn the dining room on a busy evening and so that we wouldn't feel too much pressure to dine quickly, we reserved as early as they would seat us .

Even on busy nights, I have always enjoyed thoroughly the service at Kokkari -- warm, unpretentious, and not at all hurried. Exceptional service to me in moderately high to high cost dining is fundamental though increasingly difficult to find. Paired with the consistently good food and gorgeous atmosphere, the service made Kokkari it a favorite. However, on Saturday we were unabashedly up sold at every turn, rushed through each course, and made to feel foolish when we ordered from the lower end of the wine list (still $55 - 65 per bottle). Our waiter was also the sommelier, which to mind my means that he should be able to support the list selections at each price range. However, he was disparaging of most bottles below $80. He then suggested we order family style appetizers which he repeatedly pushed as "vegetarian." Finally, one of my companions explained that none of us were vegetarians and that we were interested in other appetizers. He argued that there were actually some meat selections with the family style appetizers saying "look, you should just go with this." Frustrated, we asked him which selections exactly comprised this appetizer option for the evening. He was unable to list them all. Very frustrating. Other small things soured the evening. He poured quite large glasses of wine as if to ensure that we'd order another bottle. To wrap things up, I stepped away to the restroom when my entree plate was removed and not five minutes later returned to find that desert menus had come and gone, and deserts and coffee had been ordered.

The food was still excellent on Saturday, as was the wine if not a bit high. However, the waiter, and his service assistants, deeply soured the experience. Though one unsatisfactory experience won't keep me entirely away from Kokkari, I'd like to know of another place with some of its attributes that has perhaps not "taken off" quite so much.

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