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Tempo: Was I there on a bad night?

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jamie2742 Feb 19, 2008 10:34 AM

Went to Tempo for the first time this past Friday night (Feb 15) to celebrate my wife's b-day. Arrived on time for a 9pm reservation and was sat around 9:20 in spite of it not being particularly crowded.

A request via OpenTable to be seated in a cozy spot went unheeded (as did any mention of my wife's b-day, also noted in the reservation). On to the food....

First course: Farro Salad was probably the highlight of the meal. However, the fresh mozzarella special tasted like something from Key Food (required a knife to cut).

Main Course: Garganelli Con Zucca was salty to point of being inedible. Orata was OK.

Dessert: Assortment of gelati was solid.

So what's the deal? Based on the reviews here (which are usually dead-on), I was led to believe that Tempo was in the same league as Applewood and Al di La. Can't say I get that at all. Was I there on a bad night?

To end on a positive note, I will say that the room is very nice and the wine list very well put together.

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  1. s
    sam1 RE: jamie2742 Feb 19, 2008 10:59 AM

    well, i for one never put tempo in that camp. for the $25 3 course, its a great place...for full price like they used to charge, it was overrated.

    service for me always is an issue there but you focused on the food. my recent trips there, the food was okay...nothing amazing. my short rib entree had so much fat on it, i nearly didnt eat it.

    1. g
      gnosh RE: jamie2742 Feb 19, 2008 11:04 AM

      I was there a couple of weeks ago, mid-week (had been there before, but not for a while) and didn't feel happy when all was said and done. I loved my appetizer, which I seem to recall was some kind of polenta but the entree, salmon, was underwhelming--dry and crusty. Everything took forever. Also, I have to say we all felt a bit ripped off by the mixed drink price ($15 for a cosmo)--half the price of the entire meal. (The mid-week prixe fixe is $30.) So, you shouldn't go for the midweek "bargain"--as we did--unless you plan not to drink. (Or maybe a cheap bottle of wine would have been the way to go.)

      1. m
        maggiepc RE: jamie2742 Feb 19, 2008 11:07 AM

        I am not a fan of Tempo. My husband and I tried it several months ago after reading the raves and were very sorry to have been so close to yet so far from Al Di La. I must admit that I cannot remember what we ordered (somewhat telling). I do remember it being good/not great, however. The thing that really bothered us was the "feel" of the place and the unprofessional/obtrusive service.

        We were taken aback as we set foot inside and practically had our coats wrestled away from us after declining to check them. We were told that this was not possible; they must be checked. We were then seated and the "selling up" began before we could even look at the menu & wine list. We are wine drinkers and always order at least a bottle but not until we decide what we will be eating. I asked for bread as I was really hungry and was told that it was their policy to bring bread after they had taken the order. When the bread came it was accompanied by a tasteless show of oil-pouring. I noticed this happening at other tables, as well. Very silly.

        Anyway, we were nudged about things over and over. Again, my husband simply needed a moment to peruse the wine list but "suggestions" were made. I have forgotten other specifics but we just did not feel comfortable or inspired to return. There are many fine restaurants, at this price-point, in Brooklyn. No need for such nonsense.

        2 Replies
        1. re: maggiepc
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          sam1 RE: maggiepc Feb 20, 2008 07:18 AM

          thats exactly my experience at tempo. constant upsell but very unprofessional staff.

          the latter times i went, i made sure just to order a diet coke with my meal and they seemed to really not appreciate that.

          1. re: maggiepc
            FoodWine RE: maggiepc Feb 22, 2008 10:13 AM

            Maggie,

            We have been frequenting Tempo for way over two years, and have never experienced any of the things you complain about vis-a-vis the service. On the contrary, we feel that Tempo is the only restaurant in the area, where they really try to provide truly professional, Manhattan quality service. After all, at least two of the partners have worked in some seriously good Manhattan restaurants, and at River Cafe.
            Sometimes they have new staff members that do not yet have the hang of it, but they clearly are being trained, fast.

            We have not experienced "selling up". We are wine drinkers, too, and do not order drinks.
            However, if someone asks us, if we want this or that (before, during or after ordering) we experience it as attentive, efficient service.

            After all, there seem to be many patrons at Tempo who do like to order drinks, etc., before ordering dinner. So, if one of them is not asked if they want to order a drink or something before dinner, then they might complain. It seems to me, that whatever a restaurant does, they can never stop someone from finding fault - and starting to complain about small things that others do not even notice.

            What is the "constant nudging" you mention? If it means asking patrons if everything is all right or if you need something, whatever it is - that is what I consider good service.
            If I do not want it, I say "no thank you" -and if I want it, fine:
            I would rather be "nudged" that left unattended for too long a time.. please do come and "nudge" me, often, so that I can tell you what I do want. Mostly I want tap water, lots of water (and that is what I get), more bread more olive oil (oh, and yes, amuse me and pour it from high up, I am confident enough not to feel that this practice is "pretentious" - on the contrary, thank you for making a mundane routine a bit different).

            Maggie, you wrote: "...Again, my husband simply needed a moment to peruse the wine list but "suggestions" were made."
            Sorry, but I do not understand what is wrong with that?
            That happens to be one of our favorite moments of the evening - in any classy restaurant that has a good wine list and a sommelier. To get to pick the sommelier's brain. Fun.

            -Just listen to the suggestions, then say that you need a few moments to decide, and then keep studying the wine list. Not hard at all. My advice to you is, next time when you are in a restaurant where someone does that, first make sure that they are the sommelier - and if they are just a waiter, ask for the sommelier (at Tempo you ask for Robert, one of the partners, whose passion for wine and knowledge about wine is truly impressive. Thanks to Robert, we have tasted wines we otherwise would not have tasted, and have been really happy about this. Thanks to Robert, we have learned a lot. Imagine, to have a guy like this in Park Slope -now that is a GIFT.)

            "There are many fine restaurants, at this price-point, in Brooklyn."
            -Yes, there are other restaurants in this price point, but, in our opinion, not fine ones.

            "No need for such nonsense." Again, I fail to see what, of the things you wrote about, is nonsense. But if you do not like their practices, maybe Tempo just is not your kind of a restaurant. You clearly need something more casual, like Al Di La.

            By the way, we are more than happy to leave our coats at the coat check, and I really see no reason at all not to do that. Please be considerate toward other diners. I personally really dislike it when someone sees it fit to pile up their coats next to where I am sitting. Also, often people's coats smell. (tobacco smell, damp wool, whatever. I do not mean to insult people, after all, my coat might smell, too, - I just do not notice it because I am used to smells in my house, etc. So are you.) Why do I have to endure that, only because someone does not "feel like" checking their coat? I am eating - I am using all my senses to smell and taste the food and wine. I really, really do not want to smell anything else.

            This is not a hole-in-the-wall neighborhood place, where anything goes. This is a real restaurant, where a certain standard is to be kept. That might not be for everybody, but that does not mean it is wrong.

            I am at a loss about Al Di La, still. After all the raves about Al Di La, I could not believe that "this was actually it", when we first ate there. Such a disappointment ... and I really, really wanted to like the place.

            As I have written before, we have tried Al Di La about 4 - 5 times, always in a group of 4, tasting each other's dishes. At best we have thought that some dish has been OK, at worst we, as stated before in other threads, have been disgusted.
            I am mystified, since, after all, we both do love olive oil - and one of our own pasta dishes, with veggies and lots of garlic in olive oil, has a lot of oil in it. But the dishes at Al Di La, that swim in grease, are just gross. We have never felt disgusted with the food at Tempo, even when they had an off night. We have never experienced an off night two times in a row at Tempo, but at Al Di La, every time we dined there felt like an off night.

            On top of that, the hostess is really rude - for no reason, except, maybe she feels it does not matter, since they have a line - and if someone gets offended, "who cares", there are more coming in... right?

            And the room is, well, not much at all. As I wrote above, it is just a "hole-in-the-wall" -and when people here say Tempo is not in the same league with Al Di La, yes, I agree; Tempo is in a totally different league, and actually looks and feels like someone put some effort into it.

            I have decided that we have to give the Al Di La another try... but I just have not been able to bring myself (force myself) to go there again -yet. Because, every time I have eaten at Al Di La, I have felt that I just wasted a good weekend evening, and "could have gone to Tempo instead".

          2. j
            jdmetz RE: jamie2742 Feb 19, 2008 11:30 AM

            I remember liking Tempo the first time I tried it about 8 months ago, but having been back last night, I have to agree with the OP and what seems to be the general sentiment on this board - not worth it. We tried to get a table at Al Di La, but had come just after the first rush and were told it would be an hour and a half for either the restaurant or the wine bar. Not feeling like committing to that kind of wait, we decided ot try Tempo again. First thing we noticed was that the prix fixe had been jacked up from $25 to $29. Next, all the red wines by the glass were $12+, which seems a little steep. My chopped salad was pretty good and fresh, but it was a simple salad. My gf's bruschetta, however, was pretty bland and came on the same bread they give you to dip in the also bland olive oil.

            I completely agree that the pasta is way, way too salty. I had the fazzoletti with chicken ragu, and while the ragu was very tasty, the pasta tasted like it had gone through the rollers with a salt lick. The bucatini we got was very salty as well. Desserts were pretty blah as well, and my butterscotch creme brulee tasted more like key lime and had obviously come right out of the fridge to be quickly bruleed since it was freezing cold, not to mention runny from having sat around after it set up.

            If the price was lower or you could order a la carte and not commit to three courses, I might consider going back and not getting pasta. As it is, I think I'll wait for Al Di La from now on and give Tempo a big miss.

            4 Replies
            1. re: jdmetz
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              elecsheep9 RE: jdmetz Feb 19, 2008 12:00 PM

              I must say that I am very surprised at the sentiment expressed on this thread. Tempo is one of my favorite restaurants and, foodwise, I have never had less than a terrific meal.

              My favorites are the duck pastilla roll or the mixed green salad with goat cheese roulade for apps, and pork scallopine, fazzoletti with chicken ragu or short ribs for main. I do miss the venison dish they used to have on the menu. The food was always been spot on.

              Yes, they do always serve the bread after you order, although I must say that I am surprised as to them not bringing it earlier. And yes, they do always pour the oil, but I have no idea why this is "tasteless". I would prefer the oil to be poured in front of me, rather than being brought a bowl full of oil pre-poured.

              As for service, we had an issue only one time in all of the at least 15 times we have eaten there over the years. And it was not about up-selling, it was simply a very long wait between meals (excessively long, I counted a full half-hour from the time it was evident our mains were finished to being given dessert menus.)

              HOWEVER, that was a holiday monday, much like yesterday was (don't remember which day, but it may have been Columbus Day.) It was clear that they were severely understaffed, and weren't expecting the crowd they had. Also, the normal manager (I believe it is Robert) was not there, and a waiter was left to manage. This guy was clueless and we told him as much. He did comp us dessert wines, which appeased somewhat. Still, that was such an anomalous night, it has never detracted us from returning.

              I am wondering if last night was a similar situation -- because of the holiday monday, they were not staffed as usual and Robert may not have been there.

              In any event, it does sound like an "off night".

              Although, to be sure, the pacing of the meal is always very laid-back. We have never gotten out of htere in less than 90 minutes -- but I think they just want everyone to have a relaxing meal.

              1. re: elecsheep9
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                maggiepc RE: elecsheep9 Feb 19, 2008 01:18 PM

                The oil-pouring to which I refer was done in a very showy way. I agree that it is preferable to have it dispensed at the table. The way that it was being done that night, however--from a foot or so above the saucer--struck me as pretentious.

                1. re: maggiepc
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                  Larry Brooks RE: maggiepc Feb 20, 2008 03:18 AM

                  I agree.

                  When my waiter poured the oil from (more than) a foot from the table I cringed and whispered to my wife, "please....just....stop....no...."

                  Other than that and the coat nazi, I like Tempo.

                2. re: elecsheep9
                  j
                  jdmetz RE: elecsheep9 Feb 19, 2008 08:38 PM

                  Service really wasn't an issue last night and they definitely didn't seem understaffed. The pasta definitely was oversalted and nothing seemed like it was worth paying over $100 for three mediocre courses and two glasses of wine.

              2. Peter Cuce RE: jamie2742 Feb 19, 2008 05:16 PM

                I like Tempo as a second-tier place. The room is comfortable, the food is decent.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Peter Cuce
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                  oystersallday RE: Peter Cuce Feb 19, 2008 06:29 PM

                  i am glad to read this thread since i completely agree about tempo. i was really disappointed by my meal there and even posted about it. but the fans of tempo seem devout. i still feel reluctant to try it again.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce
                    FoodWine RE: Peter Cuce Feb 22, 2008 08:09 AM

                    If Tempo is a second-tier place, then everything else in the Slope is third-tier or lower....

                  2. jen kalb RE: jamie2742 Feb 20, 2008 03:33 AM

                    we took a party of 4 to Tempo on Christmas Eve - last minute booking - and overall were very pleased with our meal and the welcome. It wasn't the best meal Ive ever had but all the dishes were interesting and tasted very good (maybe a little too much salt and fat of various kinds to enhance the greens, though admittedly they were delicious) but it and the service was fine. I mean, who cares if they do something like pouring oil with a flourish? I thought it was a highly professional establishment and we will be happy to go back.

                    1. j
                      Juanita RE: jamie2742 Feb 20, 2008 06:27 AM

                      I was there on Monday night, a holiday, and definitely observed an understaffing problem. Half an hour passed before the appetizer (croquettas) arrived, with the bartender/server noting, "I had to fight to get these for you.." Oh - gee, thanks. When another half an hour had passed with no main (pappardelle), I came very close to walking out - something I almost never do anywhere. This was not a case of allowing me to have a leisurely meal - it was more like a huge annoying SNAFU. I still like the food, in fact I think some dishes are better than some of Al di la's dishes, but I will hesitate slightly in the future before choosing the place.

                      I had no idea the cocktails were $15 - that really is highway robbery.

                      1. zbs RE: jamie2742 Feb 20, 2008 07:33 AM

                        I had a very similar experience to the original post, and several that followed; even ignoring the service problems, the food is fine but no better than that. I understand how this may be appealing to some (a convenient $30, three-course), but I have little use for it, especially as it becomes not at all inexpensive if you want to have wine. I'd rather get one very good entree elsewhere (say, seated at the downstairs bar at Al Di La), or otherwise eat just as fine and cheaply in a less self-consciously fancy setting.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: zbs
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                          elecsheep9 RE: zbs Feb 20, 2008 07:58 AM

                          I guess its just different strokes for different folks. I've eaten at Al Di La probably 5 times over the past 18 months. Every time has been good, but all but one of those times did I leave feeling vaguely unsatisfied.

                          I know there is much love for Al Di La -- there has since I first heard about it from a co-worker back in 2001, but I really have never understood all the praise.

                          On the other hand, all but one time at Tempo have I had a terrific meal. And I have never experienced any up-selling of any kind.

                          1. re: elecsheep9
                            FoodWine RE: elecsheep9 Feb 20, 2008 01:14 PM

                            I totally agree with you, elecsheep9, except that our experiences at Al Di La have not been nearly as good as yours. As some people here know, we have actually left Al Di La, totally disgusted with the food and the greasy feeling it has left in our mouths.

                            I will elaborate (about Tempo) as soon as I get a bit more time to write.

                            1. re: FoodWine
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                              elecsheep9 RE: FoodWine Feb 20, 2008 01:31 PM

                              FoodWine -- you hit on a large part of my problem with Al Di La -- a lot of the dishes seem entirely too greasy. I am just about the furthest thing from a health food nut, but a lot of times after leaving Al Di La, I feel all heavy and needing to gargle and bathe.

                              1. re: elecsheep9
                                jen kalb RE: elecsheep9 Feb 20, 2008 05:20 PM

                                Personally I think both Al Di La and Tempo err a bit on the side of using too much fat to get big flavors- I think of their cuisine as Batali-esque in this regard - but its so excellent I find this a minor flaw.

                                1. re: jen kalb
                                  FoodWine RE: jen kalb Feb 22, 2008 07:57 AM

                                  If Tempo's food was as greasy as Al Di La's food is, we would not be regulars at Tempo.

                                  While some of Tempo's dishes do have a bit too much oil in them, many enough of them do not. In my opinion, the amount of grease the food is swimming in at Al Di La, is totally in its own league.

                                  1. re: FoodWine
                                    jen kalb RE: FoodWine Feb 22, 2008 08:30 AM

                                    I feel they are both purveyors of rich food - I guess in either place one can pick and choose dishes for a different result. For you this is obviously a big issue - its much less important to me, yet I noticed significant levels at Tempo as well as Al di La. We had three different preparations of bitter greens (which I love) and all were majorly enhanced with fat, Frankly I think that this issue has been fully enough aired vis a vis Al di La. You can argue about the aesthetics and your tummy but I think a full meal in either place, unless you choose very carefully will likely be high calorie and high fat in addition to delicious. Thats just the style and the way chefs work..

                                    1. re: jen kalb
                                      FoodWine RE: jen kalb Feb 22, 2008 09:52 AM

                                      I guess we have to agree to disagree, Jen.
                                      First, I do not count calories in these places. Why on earth would I spoil a dinner in a restaurant by doing that. But too much is just too much and is not tasty. The issue also is not "the tummy" - and I have never mentioned aesthetics. My (our) main concern is the taste and the after-taste and feel. Of course, if I feel queasy after a meal (anywhere), then something - an ingredient or cleanliness - clearly has been sub-par. In that case it becomes a "tummy issue".
                                      Of the numerous dishes we tried and tasted at Al Di La, most of them were over the top oily or greasy. Not so at Tempo. As I said, we would not eat there, if the food was as greasy / oily as it is at Al Di La.
                                      Also, respectfully, I will decide when I have aired this issue enough vis-a-vis Al Di La.

                                      Here are some of the dishes that I have liked at Tempo. Non of them is as fatty as the dishes we have eaten or tasted at Al Di La.

                                      -Roasted Baby Beet Salad (I wish they brought it back)

                                      -Wild Greens with Warm Goat Cheese Roulades

                                      truffle vinaigrette (love that vinaigrette).

                                      -Steamed Clams Cataplana (too bad for the ham in it, cannot share it with my husband, who only eats fish & seafood & veggies, etc.).

                                      -Polenta Funghi Misti, wild mushroom rag├╣ with fontina (the only dish that is way too heavy for me, but I just love the truffle aroma and taste, and the mushrooms. I usually leave most of the polenta, only because I need to leave room for the main course.)

                                      -Duck Pastilla Roll

                                      - Bucatini with Sicilian Pistachio Nut Pesto =I like it, but my version is better ;-)

                                      -Fettuccine con Piselli , very nice.

                                      -I love their fazziolette with chicken, and I also like the pasta with wild boar, both yummy.

                                      -Roasted Orata (I liked the old version better).

                                      -Salmon, so good. Great sides, not too heavy. Someone here complained that it was too crispy, and dry. Well, it is supposed to be crispy. The doneness, however is up to each diner. My husband requests it no less than medium, and I definitely want it medium rare. Only once mine has been too well done, but never dry.

                                      -Bass (or whichever fish they have that night) cooked in parchment paper.

                                      -I loved their lamb chops.

                                      -I love their french fries, but we order them rarely.

                                      I know I am forgetting something, but in general, this is what we like eating there, unless they have specials.

                                      I do have one complaint:

                                      I do wish Tempo changed their menu more often, I do admit it gets a bit boring for someone who dines there as often as we do.

                                      1. re: FoodWine
                                        FoodWine RE: FoodWine Feb 23, 2008 08:57 AM

                                        Some of he dishes I forgot were a few delicious meat specials, although that was a while ago. Oh yes, and I do like their pork scallopine and used to love their venison. (Please bring it back.)

                                        Most importantly: The sweetbreads I had at Tempo were the best sweetbreads I have eaten anywhere, ever. (And before that I had eaten sweetbreads only in very high end restaurants.)

                        2. Steve R RE: jamie2742 Feb 20, 2008 08:31 AM

                          Bad night, absolutely. I like the place quite a bit & have been there well over 50 times. Although there have been times that things weren't great, it's one of the best places in Brooklyn. The price point makes the place a bargain & the wine list is extensive and well chosen. Unfortunately for you, too much of the food you ordered seem to be below their normal standard. I'm not a salt freak and have had the Garganelli and other pasta dishes without your problem. Similarly, the mozz. I've had there has been fresh, tasty and soft. I do miss the burrata they used to serve on weekends though. Overall, I put it up there with al di la & Applewood in the Slope, as well as with Henry's End & Chestnut in my neck of the woods.

                          I'm not going to go on about some of the things some folks have chosen to complain about. Everyone can find some things that annoy them about any good place. Some folks dont like the coat check policy or the bread service or the oil pouring... okay, everyone has their preferences. I have my own list of pet peeves about Ssam Bar, Hearth, al di la and many of the other places that serve excellent food. Yet, somehow, I can put these in perspective. The bottom line is that, overall, Tempo serves very good, innovative fare for a very respectable price point in a nice room (well, rooms) with well trained service and friendly management. I'm sorry it didnt work out that way on your visit but think you just walked into one of those unusual occurances that happen.

                          1. c
                            cavafan RE: jamie2742 Feb 26, 2008 10:43 AM

                            As someone who eats pretty often at al di la, I'm really curious what dishes you're describing as greasy or oily. Aside from the beet ravioli which is clearly stated to be in a butter sauce, what are you talking about?

                            The whole Tempo vs al di la thing is obviously a matter of personal preference. We've stopped going to Tempo because we usually ate at the bar, and the rotating collection of bartenders were just laughably inept. And anything you save on the prix fixe is immediately spent if you want a glass of wine.

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