November '08 - Crabtree's Kittle House - Long writeup
It was the wife's birthday, so we decided to try the Kittle House.
Overall, the experience was fair, but not good and definitely not great.
Wine List - As amazing as everyone says that it is. A great read. That's when the fun stopped around the wine. I ordered a bottle of wine from Cain. 20 minutes later of being fed bread, the sommelier comes over and says "I cannot find the bottle anywhere. I will go back downstairs and keep looking." We told him to not bother, because until we had our bottle of wine, the waiter was obviously not going to take our order and my wife was starving. So instead, I had to spend double on a bottle of Jackass. Most places that I have been will offer you another couple bottles that are in the same price range. They didn't bother, they just wanted to bring me the binder again. I just went with the Jackass so that we could move on.
Now the wife is starving. She was sold on the tasting menu as she had been staring at it for nearly a half hour by now. Waiter comes over and I inform him that we will both do the tasting menu, but that I am allergic to seafood, so to substitute my seafood with the chef's choice. Waiter goes to the back and they refuse. He says, "Both of you must substitute those dishes". Now, I have been to many a restaurant where the tasting menu states underneath "Minimum of 2 people must participate in the tasting menu". As there was nothing on their menu that stated this, I said "Forget it, she will get the tasting menu and I will just order the sirloin". "Sir, you cannot do that, the tasting menu is for a party of 2" So I ask him where on the menu it says this, as my wife now has her heart set on it, and he informs me "It's implied". Really? Since when are tasting menus implied to be for two? I have been to many other restaurants where we've had the tasting menu and the kitchen has replaced the seafood for something that I can eat.
So now my wife is seriously disappointed. We just both order a la carte. She has the Spicy tuna tartare and I had the pasta w/ foie gras apps. Very good. Then she ordered the Chilean Sea Bass and I had the Organic Sirloin. Hers was prepared perfectly. I cut into my sirloin and there is no red and hardly any pink. Usually such a thick piece of sirloin will be cooked quite rare in the middle for a "Medium Rare" order. So I bring over the waiter and inform him that my steak is cooked Medium Well, not Medium Rare. He says "That's how you ordered it" So now I just look at him and say "Why would I possibly order it medium well when I ALWAYS order Medium Rare?". It was really just the fact that he's arguing this with me instead of offering me a new steak. Now we've been here for 2 hours, and I really didn't feel like forcing the issue and having them fire me another steak that would take another half hour, so I just let it go.
Desserts were decent. I ordered the cheesecake and it tasted like a pile of whipped cream and butter. My wife's hazelnut torte was awesome.
Overall I will say that I will never go back. The service alone has chilled me to the bone. Food is decent, but you can get much better at somewhere like X2O. The novelty of the wine list wears off quickly.
There really is nothing to believe or not believe. I can understand them running out of wine, especially with their selection. That being said, 20 minutes is a very long time to be looking for the bottle, especially considering that they must keep a very organized cellar for that amount of wine. And in that time, they could have offered an amuse bouche or something to tide us over during the wait.
There is also nothing to believe or not believe about the service. It was what it was. They were going by typical protocol of not taking our order before the wine had arrived. They just could have done it in a much more professional manner. I am sure that had I sent my steak back that they would have fired me a new one, but I just didn't want to turn the evening into a 3 hour ordeal as we wanted to get back home to the kids.
I'm pretty sure that Mr. Vogt was the sommelier that took over when the first one took such a long time to get the bottle. (white longish hair, early 50s or so), and he was quite pleasant. I guess one thing that tweaked me a little about him was his decanting the wine without my asking for it. Wasn't really a big deal, just weird to me.
Oh, and if you've never had the chance to try the Martinelli Jackass Zin, I highly recommend it.
I've personally never been to a restaurant where you can make substitutions on the "tasting menu". I"v e also never been to a restaurant that offers a tasting menu to just one person at the table; meaning that all the diners must participate in the tasting. So in that aspect I think it is sort of 'implied'. However, I never assume, and always ask if it doesn't specify on the menu.
Granted I don't know how busy the restaurant was amongst other factors but it sounds like they could have bended a little bit for you guys to accommodate the fact that you can not eat seafood and your wife REALLY wanted the "tasting".
The wine situation of not being able to find the bottle really boggles me. I can understand being out of the wine but not being able to find it is a little weird.
As far as the decanting of the wine; I don't see the complaint there. In my opinion, it's proper wine service if you order a decent bottle of wine. Any restaurant with a wine program such as the Kittle Houses' would do the same for you. It's like if you went to the bathroom and left your napkin on your chair and when you came back it was nicely folded on the table for you........would you complain...?
I agree about the "whole table" policy in relation to tasting menus as it seems the norm. However, the subsitutions (or lack thereof) seems a bit out of line. In relation to the decanting, I would expect the guest to be asked or at least advised that the wine may benefit from such treatment and leave it to the discretion of the guest. You know, "The Customer is always right" type of mentality. It also would have been nie for the wine steward to come back with a couple options when they failed to find your first choice. All of this is what made for such a poor experience. Too many "dropped balls"................
A couple restaurants where I've done the tasting menu and they have accommodated my seafood allergies with a tasting menu, not impacting others in my party:
The Modern - Dining Room
But like I said, there are many that have the same policy of not splitting up a tasting menu and/or not allowing a single person to partake.
As for the wine, I'm not necessarily complaining, I just found it odd that they wouldn't at least tell me before doing so. There are good reasons why certain wines should not be aired out, one of them being that decanting brings a wine to room temperature a lot faster in a decanter than it does in a chilled bottle.