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Jun 16, 2008 07:30 AM

Let Down By Providence (Long)


My wife and I visited Providence to celebrate our wedding anniversary on Sat. night and were profoundly disappointed by the service which was rude, incompetent and disorganized.
This was our second visit to Providence, the first time being in December when my wife was pregnant. Our first visit was wonderful, and there simply weren't the superlatives to describe it. Sat. night's experience could not have been more different. It was jarringly bad.

I have a shell fish allergy, and the first time we visited Providence last December, had asked if they could accommodate that allergy with a chef's menu, and graciously was told that they would work around any dietary restriction, including vegetarians. [This made a lot of sense given the reputation of the kitchen and its location near Paramount]. We called ahead the day before to notify them of my allergy.

When we were seated, my wife reminded our waiter of my allergy (a gentleman with a shaved head that we were later told was Matthew) haughtily assured us that he was aware of my allergy.

When we inquired about the chef's menu he told us that they likely could NOT accomodate my allergy, but he would check with the chef. We explained that we had been told otherwise previously, that we called ahead the day before, and that we had come specifically for a chef's menu experience.

When he returned to the table, he simply asked us if we had decided what to order, and when we asked him again about the chef's menu, he said that they could not accommodate us. He did not apologize and offered no work arounds, such as allowing my wife who does not have such an allergy to have the chef's menu (which would be a departure from the house rules). We ordered a la carte, and he then abandonned our table until the very end of the evening

After a wonderful amuse bouche (including an incredible mojito gelee), a second (!?) amuse bouche arrived. Since it was (a) a second amuse bouche and (b) had two items that were obviously shellfish (an oyster and some uni-looking thing), I told the new server that there must be a mistake. Rather than ask why I thought so, he condescendly explained it was an amuse. We then re-re-re explained about the allergy, and the second amuse was withdrawn and replaced with a snapper amuse.

Later in the evening, we heard our original waiter's voice a couple tables down discussing the amuse mix-up at our table with the couple dining at the OTHER table, loud enough for me to hear him boasting how flexible Providence is.

During the cheese course, the waiter (again not our original waiter) noted that after we rejected a walnut leaf wrapped cheese, that my wife commented on my slight walnut allergy. He then told us a long story about how another restaurant sent his date to the emegency room because of walnuts and told us that the bread that he gave us was walnut bread, and volunteered that he would be back with other bread. He never returned.

No one ever apologized for the chef's menu fiasco, our waiter preferred to abandonn the table, and the maitre'd never reappeared. Oh, and the only real recognition of our anniversary was a dime store birthday candle thrown on the dessert at the end of the day.

Now, I am not a stickler for service. There were other aspects that would reflect poorly on Providence that would not have cratered the dining experience. For example, no one inquired about whether we wanted wine with our cheese or any drink other than coffee with the dessert. Or for another example, my wife had to send her wine glass back. The waiter who brought the cheese tray made some wonderful recommendations, but also could not describe a couple of the cheeses. My wife asked where one of the cheeses was from, and he said he didn't know but it was from where all the cheeses of that type were.

Admittedly, we had high expectations. Our evening at Providence was meant not just as a celebration. It was my anniversary present to my wife. We've never been treated that poorly from ANY restaurant before. I couldn't believe that we treated that way at Providence.

We are at a loss to explain how this all occured. It took many people screwing up across several days to do this. It also took arrogance and a basic disregard for our experience.

Some of the food was wonderful. My wife loved the prawns. My foie gras ravioli was fantastic. The mojito amuse was amazing. The dessert (a milk chocolate whisky panna cotta) was terrific. My entree - the foie gras stuffed turbot -- sounded specatacular but was lackluster, and my wife's lobster risotto was good but the risotto itself was not as good as that we prepare at home. The wine pairings were acceptable -- they didn't clash -- but neither enhanced the food nor did the food enhance the wine.

Needless to say, we won't be back.

  1. Hey lawdog262,

    Thanks for the 411. That's terrible what happened to you and your wife; like you, my first visit to Providence was stellar and I guess I'm lucky I never ran into that situation before.

    With a restaurant like Providence, Service *is* a key part of the meal, and it sounds like you were treated badly (pretty horrendous really).

    Since you've given up on the restaurant, why not send a letter to them (or reprint your post above)? Might as well see if your input won't straighten out the waitstaff a bit.

    1. Sorry to hear about the bad experience.

      I would suggest contacting the restaurant and explaining what happened.

      Also, if you paid with a credit card, I would also suggest calling the credit card concierge -- those guys are usually very good at getting a restaurant's attention when something goes awry.

      1. That sounds so unlike the Providence I know! I have never had anything but superfine, warm service, and they go out of thier ways to accomodate my deadly nut allergies and oyseter allergies for the tasting menus!

        i am so sorry.

        Please contact Donato and let him know immediately! I KNOW he will do something to make it up to you.

        1. The allergy thing is really inexcusable. Did you ask to speak with the manager?

          5 Replies
          1. re: a_and_w

            I just got off the phone with Michael from Providence who took the initiative to call us to talk about our experience and to try to make things right. He was obviously concerned and intent on figuring out what had gone wrong and why, and making sure that other diners do not have a repeat of our experience. He also explained that they have a policy against making alterations to the chef's menu or making the chef's menu available to only part the of table, and the reasons for not departing from the policy. It would seem that the way the evening began for us was a miscommunication. In all events, I give him credit for his obvious concern and taking the time to discuss the evening with me.

            1. re: lawdog262

              Hopefully something like this will never happen to you again, but if it does, speak to the manager while you're there. A top notch establishment will usually try to make things right by comping some or all of your bill. Again, their obvious indifference to your allergy concerns is outrageous.

              1. re: lawdog262

                wait...You got off the phone w/ Michael as in Michael Ciramusti? Did he offer you anything after hearing about your experience? I think that deserves more than just an apology.

                1. re: lawdog262

                  My wife and I have been to PROVIDENCE several times and they have always accommodated her garlic/onion allergy with the Chef's Tasting Menu, sometimes even substituting an entirely different dish when necessary. Overall our experience of the service has been well above average. It remains one of our fave restaurants in town.

                  1. re: lawdog262

                    Like Tailback, I'm also curious. Did you mean Michael Ciramusti and he didn't offer you anything comp-wise?

                2. The original comment has been removed