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Apr 30, 2008 04:13 AM

Jfood at Stella - Not a Good Experience

There was a thread recently about speaking against the trend about a restaurant that is a darling of the boards. And Jfood mentioned then that it is important to hear numerous sides if that is what the poster believes. So Jfood will buck the trend of a favorite in NOLA, Stella. The Jfoods ate there this past weekend and it was less than a fond memory.

Stella is a really pretty restaurant with old world elegance. Tables are far enough apart for conversation and there is a nice feel to the room. The Jfoods and friends were seated and the server asked for drink orders, brought the wine list and filled their glasses promptly. Wine was ordered for several at the table and the server brought over two copies of the Tasting menu for the four of them to review. He went through the theory of the Tasting, very well done. Seven courses, looked very nice, but there was no way after a long flight, an afternoon at JazzFest and an 830 start to dinner was 7-courses a good choice. The server returned and he was a little too forceful in pushing the Tasting. In fact Mrs. Jfood mentioned to Jfood that the server bordered on obnoxious in pushing the Tasting. After the third polite “not really” the table had to ask for the a la carte menu. The server was a little too upselling.

The a la carte menu included all of the choices from the Tasting in regular proportion, plus others. Jfood settled on the Seafood Risotto for an appetizer and the Sea Bass for an entrée. Mrs. Jfood chose the Caesar Salad and Grilled Shrimp on Sweet Potato/Andouille Hash.

The Risotto had a great flavor, very complex and very satisfying. Chunks of andouille, seafood and vegetables were the main event with the risotto itself taking almost a back seat. And it was a good thing as the Risotto was overcooked and mushy. But the flavors were so good and the Risotto itself such a minor part, it was very enjoyable, but not as great as expected.

The Sea Bass was next. Jfood took one bite and knew something was wrong. The fish did not taste like fish at all. Whatever it was marinated in completely overwhelmed the flavor of the fish and it was horrible and was almost burning his tongue (hopefully that was the issue). He called the server over and told him. Server brought over a menu for another choice. Mrs. Jfood whispered in his ear that she did not like her dish either. So Jfood ordered the King Salmon for Mrs. Jfood and took her dish as his. Jfood started to eat the shrimp and came upon Mr. Mushy as his third of 8 shrimp. How this shrimp ever left the kitchen is beyond him. He had to spit it out. He mentioned this to a runner and no acknowledgement from anyone. At that point Jfood was forks down on entrees. When the server arrived he did not mention anything about the shrimp to Jfood, so Jfood mentioned it to him. His reaction. “You already told the young lady.” Very condescending since Jfood did not know whether the young lady had told him.

Then Mrs. Jfood's King Salmon was delivered and Jfood could only stare. In was a deep dark brown, obviously placed as close to the broiler element as possible. Mrs. Jfood cut it open and it was absolutely raw. The Chef had obviously taken a hissy fit and sent this dish out in protest. Jfood walked over to the server and told him that the Chef’s antics were not funny in the least. He asked to speak with the manager. No manager came to the table.

The server returned and told us “the manger has decided to remove the two entrees you did not eat from the bill.” One had a bad shrimp and the other was raw. He spoke this as if this was a gracious offer. The entire staff acted as if it was an honor eating in their restaurant.

The server then asked if the table wanted dessert. Since neither of the Jfoods had eaten, they were somewhat hungry. They ordered a Bananas Foster to split. This was actually very good. The French toast piece that was included was a very nice touch and the sauce was very well done. Hey it’s NOLA, the dish was invented here. The final bill arrived and, you guessed it, the Bananas Foster was right there. Jfood told the waiter that it was very inhospitable not to have comped the single dessert.

So for all the great reviews and kudos for Stella, Jfood can only stare in envy. He was so looking forward to this meal and the food was horrible and the handling of the unfortunate situation was about as unprofessional for both FOH and BOH as ever experienced.

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    1. Not sure if I missed something but it sounds like you're saying that in addition to having two meals that you didn't eat comped, the dessert which you did eat should have been comped too because you only ordered one?

      Sorry if I've misunderstood.

      3 Replies
      1. re: LenNJ

        A meal that is served raw or with bad food should never have been served and therefore "comping" is not part of the equation, A restaurant that charges ~$35 for entrees is expected to serve edible food. Serving raw salmon, squishy (thereby bad) shrimp and bad seabass is unacceptable (BTW - this is unacceptable at any price point). The "bad" food was never eaten, therefore comped is not in the picture. But after failing miserably on their "high end" entrees, the least they could have done, jfood's opinion only, was comp the dessert. In fact the waiter agreed with jfood and was extremely apologetic.

        1. re: jfood

          Was the salmon really raw or served medium rare?
          Actually, I find that salmon is best medium rare and in Europe and Asia it is served that way. Americans generally overcook their fish.
          I recall speaking to a French chef who had a restaurant in NYC and Boston. In NYC, he serves salmon medium rare but in Boston, he serves it well done because, outside NYC , people want their fish well done apparently. So perhaps the chef was not playing games with you but rather serving salmon the way it should be served- medium rare?

          1. re: dec111

            Mahogany on the outside and raw on the inside andonly cooked on one side.

            jfood eats his salmon med-rare at best and this was raw.

      2. While we didn't have that bad of an experience, our trip there was not memorable either. There were five of us. We ordered everything at once. Apps came fairly quickly and they were delicious. Over an hour goes by and no entrees. A few apologies and finally the main dishes came. They were forgettable. That was several months after they opened and we've never been back. I'd be more inclined to return, but I see people recommending the same dishes that we ordered back then and didn't really care for - duck 5 ways, etc. It doesn't help that it's in the quarter either. I wander down there about as much as I wander in the Sahara, but I digress. Anyway, sorry you had a bad experience, and I appreciate the bad reviews as much, if not more, than I do the good ones.

        1. i'll be back in november. sounds like stella is off the list.

          3 Replies
          1. re: steve h.

            You would be missing one of the best restaurants in the City if you skip it. I've had a couple of very good meals there in the last few years, and I wish I had the chance to visit more often.

            One bad meal, post Jazz-fest at that, does not make a bad restaurant.

            1. re: Robert Peyton

              I doubt that I'd have that level of confidence in a restaurant that I had eaten in only a couple of times in the last few years. What happened to Jfood was inexcusable for an establishment of Stella's ambitions and price points. Commander's Palace's prices are substantially lower than Stella's, and I frankly cannot imagine that a Commander's customer would be treated the way the jfoods were. I've eaten at Stella three times. Two experiences were positive and the other left me wondering how a restaurant that claims to be among the city's best could perform so badly in both its food and service. It was not as deplorable as what happened to the jfoods, but it was hardly what I would call a first-class performance. You may be right in saying, "One bad meal, post Jazz-fest at that, does not make a bad restaurant." My own experiences at Stella, and the experiences of others -- including several friends and some people who've posted on this board -- would indicate that Stella is not exactly a safe bet.

              1. re: Rum Runner

                robert, rum runner:
                you're right. i've been a visitor since 1972. i'll pop over to to stella myself and call it the way i see it.

          2. Sorry you had such a terrible time! Sounds like a very bad night. If I were you, I would have gotten out of there after the entrees and headed to cafe du monde. I wouldn't order something expecting in advance for it to be comped. that's just asking for disappointment, which you got in spades. At least you still have brigtsen's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JGrey

              Jfood still has about a half a dozen beignets in his belly from CDM (and can now eat them with no whities on the shirt, sorta like the correct pose for eating a Philly Cheesesteak). If he had to bet after the first comment from the server he would have bet on the dessert showing up on the bill, so it was confirmation, not disappointment.