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Let Down By Providence (Long)

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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 We then re-re-re explained about the allergy, and the second amuse was withdrawn and replaced with a snapper amuse.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. Sadened to hear about your bad experience. We had one of the most memorable meals when went to Providence last year and I'm afraid any subsequent visit would tarnish the memory of the outstanding first.

                  1. Funny that the one iffy time that I went, I had a shaved headed waiter who was a bit condescending and less than mindful...and shared all kinds of off the cuff anecdotes. My friend and I don't drink alcohol, stated that on the front end, and out come those mojito capsules, and some gin and tonic square! Other than that, the meal was (almost) flawless, although I should have used my own judgment rather than his with the cheese course. My friend said is was one of the best meals she had in her life, but the service made us squirm quite a bit. Not what you would expect that that price point.

                    1. Sorry to hear about your experience, but like others have mentioned, your input is best used by the restaurant, so I hope you'll be writing to them as well. Even if you won't be back, it might help other CHers with their future dining experiences. And maybe if they offer you a free meal, you could toss that my way! j/k... sorta.

                      In my experience, everyone has a different idea of what risotto should be like, so I don't judge too many restaurants based on that.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: andytseng

                        What I do judge restaurants on is their inconsistencies. And Providence has way too many for me to ever go back to that restaurant. My experience there, was definitely hit or miss. One entree was decent, the next was horrible. The service was not up to par, and for the prices they have, I'm expecting the best of everything. I'm not a fan of the restaurant, and wouldn't recommend it. If you are looking for trendy, then be my guest. If you are a true foodie, then you will go elsewhere.

                        1. re: Elischa

                          i think most of us would disagree with you on this one. No one goes to Providence to be trendy...that's what we have Nobu and Koi for.

                          1. re: Elischa

                            I am just flabbergasted. I have NEVER had anything but an amazing time.

                            1. re: Elischa

                              I must agree with you. Every now and then the food is amazing but more often forgettable...and the service...well that's another hit or miss....We decided that there are many other great restaurants in LA and not bother with such inconsistency

                            2. re: andytseng

                              I wasn't trying to judge Providence on the basis of the risotto. [Although anything a restuarant serves is fair game to be judged]. I was just trying to pass along our thoughts on the food so that others could make a more informed choice. Beleive me, the risotto was not the make or break of the evening.

                            3. I think the fact that he called you after speaks to the class of Providence and Michael

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: BBQ101

                                i agree. all of us make mistakes (restaurants included in the us). what makes the difference is how we react afterward.

                                  1. re: FED

                                    Yeah, but this is more than just a mistake. They almost sent one of their diners to the emergency room. This has happened to me with nut allergies, and it's no joke. Calling and apologizing was the least the manager could do. He should have comped their meal.

                                1. To bad about your visit. We were just there the other night and they were able to accomodate a fully vegetarian chefs tasting menu for one of our party. My problem was not so much the service, which was average, but the food, which was below average. Having been to Providence before I expected the very best but left with my expectations sadly missed. We had the 5 course tasting menu and I felt let down with the last 3 courses. It wasn't that they were bad but more that the dishes were something I would expect out of any average seafood restaurant. Nothing special. The dessert was actually inedible, a corn ice cream with blackberrys that were so under ripe the were too bitter to eat. Its really a shame as this WAS a great restaurant. After this evening I am going to eat at Sona over Providence any chance I have. There are just too many good restaurants in LA to settle for average, especially when I'm dropping over $600 to eat. I can eat at Sushi Zo three times for the same price as Providence once and Zo will not disappoint.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: emile

                                    one bad night for a few people does not mean that Providence is no longer great!

                                    1. re: Diana

                                      Providence is certainly good, but there are better tasting menu options out there. I have had the Chef's menu at Providence over a dozen times in the last couple of years and been several other times for lunch, both 5x5 dinners and had the 9-course menu twice. Not all of those experiences were stellar, in fact some were excellent, many were good and a few were downright mediocre. Providence does not hit it out of the park every time and they regularly have bad nights. This is the case with every restaurant so I'd never hold it against them, but it has been my observation that Providence has definitely slipped over the past year.

                                      I understand your love for Providence and I do think highly of the food but when you say that it's the "best", what are you comparing it to? Have you had any Chef's menus in any other restaurants of similar caliber lately? Comparing tasting menus in restaurants of that price range in LA, I'd pick Ortolan or Melisse over Providence any day.

                                      1. re: hrhboo

                                        I have had other menus. I go to PRovidence maybe once, twice ayear (usually once, this year was unusual) and they've kncoked it out of the park every single time for me-with food and service.

                                        They make my special occasions truly special, whereas at other place, I felt just one of a crowd in the dining room. This makes them tops in my book!

                                        1. re: Diana

                                          Which place made you feel just one of a crowd? And which other Chef's menus have you tried in the past year that you can use as a point of comparison? Naturally you would think Providence is still the best if you haven't actually been anywhere else.

                                  2. We dine at Providence fairly often, always have the chef’s tasting menu and I have never had a bad or even mediocre meal. I have had the chef’s tasting menu at Ortolan, Sona, Grace, Spago, Il Grano, Melisse, Joe’s, Hatfield’s, Valentino, Omakase at Urasawa and that’s just Los Angeles recently. Providence delivers every single time, both in terms of service and as well as cuisine.

                                    10 Replies
                                      1. re: Diana

                                        With all due respect to each of you, you can only say that Providence delivered for each of you. You can't say that it always delivers. Based on my December experience, I fully expected that it would deliver an excellent experience for us on Sat. as well. That's why we picked it for our anniversary. That's why we wanted the Chef's menu. That's why we asked in December if they could accomodate my allergy. That's why we called ahead to put them on notice regarding the allergy. There are plenty of posts that seriously call into question its consistency and its service. And the fact that there were numerous, major problems with the service, and which weren't confined to one staff member, really underscores that. Greatness would be called into question by one of these incidents, but seems incompatible with so many people screwing up.

                                      2. re: lizziee

                                        i agree. every time! and i dine there regularly.

                                        1. re: george glass

                                          Exactly. They treat the regulars much better than the first timers. How you get to be a regular under those circumstances, I'm not sure, but we never went back. We had the tasting menu with wine and I was underwhelmed with the food and really unimpressed with the wine. One of the courses was served with a vino verde which believe me, I love, but don't try to tell me it's classy. I could see other tables getting little boxes of candy or cookies or something to take home. Not us. I guess they were the regulars.

                                          1. re: keaton

                                            maybe they ordered candy or cookies to go.

                                            1. re: george glass

                                              Good point. Could be. But the presentation looked like a gift and felt like we were on the outside looking in. Just the vibe of it. They don't give you a little something on the way out?

                                              1. re: keaton

                                                Finally I am posting about our own disappointment with Providence. For a special birthday last year, we seriously stretched our budget to go have what we thought would be a memorable and incredibly mind blowing meal. The only thing memorable was how we were treated (shabbily) and how we also felt like we were on the outside looking in, and how we couldn't remember a single dish the next day. I have felt intimidated (my own thing, not blaming anyone) by the mass worshiping of Providence here and hadn't posted but now I know I am not the only one. I can't conceive of returning to Providence and gambling away hard earned money.

                                              2. re: george glass

                                                While they might have ordered them to go...when we went they were complementary
                                                ....but I still won't be going back.

                                              3. re: keaton

                                                1) i know the restaurant fairly well and am known to them; i've never received a "parting gift" either. so it must have been something else.
                                                2) the point of wine pairings is to match the food and sometimes it's un-fancy wines that are going to be the best pairings. vino verde, albarino, gruner v, sauvignon blanc are all terrific wines with seafood.

                                                1. re: FED

                                                  The issue isn't that it is un-fancy, the issue is that it was presented as if it were.

                                          2. Folks, we think this thread has run its course. Everyone's had their say about what they've experienced at Providence, and debates about what they should have done or whether lawdog is entitled to feel the way he does about his experience won't help anyone eat better. We're going to lock the thread and ask everyone to move on to a new topic.