Cafe Kati - Catastrophe
Despite it being mere steps from where I live, I had not dined at Cafe Kate before. It was not because I hadn't *tried* though! A year or two ago, I sat down on two different occasions and ultimately walked out due to poor service (on one occasion, I sat alone for a full 20 minutes waiting to give my order while waiters buzzed around me).
On this night (last Friday evening), I had two friends who had locked themselves out of their apartment and were looking to kill some time and get some food. Being very hungry, we agreed we would sit down and eat at the first restaurant that could seat us. At 7:30, Cafe Kati surprisingly had backroom tables available and the three of us entered.
To their credit, the service was considerably better than my previous two visits. However, the food we got was far from memorable and was garnished with so much shredded beets and carrots to become a joke. We started with ginger potstickers. Had this been the only example of the bounty of shred, the rest of the evening might have been
The dinners ordered were the pork belly, the cod with miso broth, and the chicken skewers. The pork belly actually tasted good, once you scraped aside whatever bizarre doughy coating surrounded it. We honestly weren't sure what it was. The grilled cod itself was flavorful, but the broth, noodles, and massive amount of shredded greens did little to complement the cod. The broth was insipid and the noodles rather gummy. I didn't taste the chicken skewers, but the gentleman who ordered them only ate one and didn't want to bring the others home with him. And the huge tangle of red beets was prevalent as an unnecessary garnish on EVERY PLATE. Variety, people!
We didn't bother staying for dessert. For entrees north of $25, this place is a joke and I won't bother returning.
We had similar experiences regarding both food and service for a party of nine a few months ago. Of 13 different courses ordered for appetizers and entrees, nine arrived with large piles of beet/carrot garnish.
The bass I had (served in a dashi broth) was quite good, though, once I threw away the beets and carrots. Flaky, tender fish with a flavorful, but lukewarm broth and unoffensive, if unspectacular, noodles. I generally try to avoid ordering anything twice when there are things on the menu I haven't tried, but I would order this again if I were forced into this space once more, speaking both to how much I enjoyed this dish and to how frightened I am by the rest of the menu.
The meal took 4.5 hours - by far the longest 3 course meal I've ever had the displeasure of sitting through. Our table shared several appetizers, which were universally boring, with the much acclaimed dragon roll being the worst of the bunch. To be fair, I'm not a fan of fancy rolls - I'm a traditionalist when it comes to sushi - but the rice was cold, dry, and overpacked, and the filling didn't do much to help the cause. I felt like I was eating leftover rice that had caked from sitting too long.
Just under 2 hours passed between the time our appetizers were taken away and our entrees arrived. We were comped caesar salads for the wait, which was nice, given that we hadn't even complained about the waiting period.
Desserts seemed passable, and my dinner mates seemed to enjoy them enough. The exception was the far-from-acceptable too-sweet too-cold butterscotch pudding which was somehow icy, mushy, and watery all at once. I'm not sure anybody could make Jello this bad if they tried. If I recall correctly, all the desserts were also served with a butter cookie of some sort: if there's some sort of twisted one-garnish rule in this place, I would've chosen the cookie over the beet/carrot monstrosity, but it would've been close.
I really wanted to like this place too, as it's also only about a block from where we live, but at least it provides for a good story whenever we walk past its doors.