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Jan 31, 2009 08:54 AM

Marliave 1/30/09

Went last night with a group for friends for a birthday celebration and we all really enjoyed ourselves. I really like the nostalgic feel of this place. We arrived a little early for our 8 PM reservation and we sat at the bar to wait for a member of our party. The hostess told us our table was ready in the upstairs dining room, but didn't rush us whatsoever.

I think their cocktail menu shows a lot of character. I had a warm cocktail, the Marilyn Monroe which was rum, orange bitters and some other ingredients served in a large snifter and it was a great way to take the chill off, later upstairs I had an Old Fashion which was mighty tasty.

I've dined downstairs before, but this was my first time upstairs. I'm fairly certain that when Marliave first opened, there was a pretty clear distinction between the upstairs (more pricey) menu and the downstairs, but now I think that has changed with an "After 5" menu (served after 5 PM) available on all dining levels including the oyster bar. As much as I like the casual downstairs, the upstairs dining room was indeed more special.

We shared a few apps, the rarebits, charcuterie plate and the mussels. All were very good, the pork rillette (of the charcuterie) was the table favorite, we did have to request more toasted bread for the charcuterie, rarebit and mussel broth, but I don't think that would have been an issue if you are an individual dining on any given app, but for for 5 folks sharing, it was a little scant- a very, very minor quibble.

Our server was great, she knew the menu, the history of the restaurant and was happy to share her favorite dishes on the menu. Professional and attentive.

Two ordered the Sunday Night Gravy (gnocci, San Marzano tomatoes, lamb, beef and pork) - just as delightful as the gnocci at Grotto. The Colorado Lamb and the Duck meatballs with foie gras ravioli ( a little too Al Dente for my wife's liking).Both dishes off the after 5 menu, I had the caviar on deviled egg from the raw bar menu and the Ruben.

The Colorado lamb was a roasted sirloin cut and perhaps the most tender and juicy lamb I've had in quite some time, I would definitely order it next time. My Rueben was monstrous, served on two thick slabs on house baked rye bread which I was expecting to be very dense, but to my surprise was really light an airy, yet hearty enough to hold the whole sandwich together, really well executed and the corned beef was "like buttah" but I wish there was a little more in there. The fries which accompanied my sandwich we very popular with everyone at the table.

Overall a great time and worthy of a place on my "go-to" rotation.

Scott Herritt was there, mostly expediting and doing some serving. Inspecting it seemed (while we were downstairs and could see the kitchen) pretty much every plate coming out of the kitchen. He was omnipresent on both floors making sure everything was going smoothly and people were happy. This is the attention to detail which I wish was found in a lot more local restaurants and is certainly a big factor in why Grotto is so successful and generally well embraced on this board.

A few last notes- nothing on the standard menu is over $20.00. After 5 menu main courses between the upper 20's and upper 30's. Both floors were fairly crowed for a Friday, but not slammed. Accepts Open Table reservations.

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  1. So glad the place was busy. Want this place to succeed.

    1. Nice to hear they've started to merge the menus. The difference between upstairs and down was really stark at first.

      I treated my suburban sister and her whole family (including three teenagers) to dinner downstairs there recently when they came into town for a show and she told me they were planning to go to a Cheesecake Factory afterward. The kids didn't know what to expect and at first were taken a bit aback by a menu with so few choices compared to what they're used to, but they couldn't believe how good the food was and weeks later they're still talking about it. I feel like I've done my good deed for the month - helped support a good new restaurant AND helped show some potential young chowhounds that there's more to dining than the chains have to offer.

      1. I just got an email with the details of their Valentine's prix fix. Note that they are ALSO offering the a la carte menu. But this sounds like a good deal by V-Day standards. All items are served to share for two:

        The Marliave: A Valentine's Menu
        Two Share...$50/person
        Melted farmhouse cheeses, Apple wood smoked bacon, Lager, Toasted brioche

        Soup Tureen
        Lobster bisque, Cognac butter, Snipped chives, Garlic crunchies

        Mixed greens
        Tossed tableside, Warm goat cheese croutons, Reggiano cheese, Aged balsamic vinegar, Extra virgin olive oil

        Wolf Neck Farms beef tenderloin, Creamy spinach, Roasted potatoes, BĂ©arnaise, Red wine sauce

        Bananas Foster
        Vanilla ice cream, Caramelized bananas, Dark rum

        1. Wow. I have to tell you, I'm amazed I'm reading this. My wife, a friend and I went to Marliave last night, the 30th, and had the complete opposite experience. We got to the restaurant at 7 and were seated promptly upstairs. The hostess apologized that they were out of menus and it would be a few minutes. Well, it was 10 minutes before menus arrived, and the server who dropped off the menus was gone before we could order a drink. We waited another 10 minutes, until another server came by and we asked for a glass of wine and a cocktail list. Again, we waited. We watched food coming out of the kitchen, drinks being served, but we were left all but ignored. After 45 minutes we left. No drinks. No one took a food order. The one server I asked about the oysters couldn't explain them to me.
          When we left the hostess was apologetic, as was one of the servers, but we'd had enough. The service was a total mess. Everyone seemed mildly frantic. They had more people running food than I could count, but it didn't' seem like there was any sort of organization of the dining room. I was really disappointed. I know it's early, but it's going to be hard to get that taste out of my mouth.

          I will say the food looked great as it passed by our table, but the service was a complete and utter trainwreck.

          In the end we ended up at Neptune Oyster where we were seated in less time than we spent at Marliave with a table, had a wonderful meal with wonderful service.

          7 Replies
          1. re: PGolds1984

            That's inexcusable, you should have asked to speak to the manager. Even now I think it would be worth writing them a letter basically describing it as you have here. You'll probably get a gift certificate out of it, and hopefully better service next time. Give them a chance to make it up to you. That is certainly not the norm for the place (well, actually, it's certainly not the norm for ANY place that expects to stay in business, but you know what I mean).

            1. re: BobB

              that's disturbing... "You'll probably get a gift certificate out of it"
              complain until you get something?? i probabaly would just not return or try them on another occasion, but to call them on bad service just to "get a gift certificate out of it" is pretty lame

              1. re: cockscomb

                Actually, I don't believe the suggestion was being made just to get a freebie. If the restaurant offers a gift certificate and the patron takes them up on it, they're both agreeing that this wasn't a typical experience, and both would expect a successive visit to go better. Win-win.

                1. re: Chris VR

                  maybe the suggestion was not just to get a freebie but the fact that it was an incentive to complain was worth commenting on. i'm all in favor of sharing negative experiences with a restaurant and i agree that you should "give them a chance to make it up to you". but to suggest that complaining may in fact get you a gift certificate is just overall pathetic. if they choose to offer something to make up for their errors than all the more reason to give them another chance. i wouldn't suggest using that as a reason for one to complain

                  1. re: cockscomb

                    I see two scenarios possible i making a complaint to a restaurant: 1) you just want to bitch about it and nothing is going to change your mind. Such a patron would not be interested in a gift certificate. 2) you are doing it in the hopes that the restaurant would do something to make you, the unhappy patron into a happy patron. In that scenario, thepatron does (and should) expect something back from the restaurant. It could be an apology and an explanation of how the restaurant is making changes to ensure this doesn't happen to another patron. It could be a refund. But it SHOULD be a gift certificate to encourage the patron to return and change his/her mind.

                    Anyway, we're getting too off topic for this board. You'd probably want to start a topic on the Not About Food board if you want to discuss this aspect further, because this probably won't last long here.

                    1. re: Chris VR

                      yes.. perhaps i will start this on another board. because either way, when i make a complaint, it's not to get something from a place of business. i wouldn't complain to my bank about some of their services to perhaps get some money from them. i wouldn't complain to ups when they don't get me a package overnight in hopes that they will turn the clock back for me.

                      i agree that a restaurant may want to offer a gift certificate as an incentive to bring a potential unhappy customer back but it's never something that i would suggest they SHOULD do. the restaurant can determine, based on individual experiences, what they would like to do to encourage a customer to come back. my comment was that i found it lame to suggest that would be a good reason to write them a letter. what is wrong with people???

                      1. re: cockscomb

                        Perhaps I phrased that badly but Chris VR correctly picks up on my intent - not to try and scam something out of them but as an expectation that a reputable establishment would do this to try to make amends and show that this is not a typical scenario. Not "hey, do this and you can get something free," more like "listen, I'm sure they'll want to make it up to you, probably by doing X."

          2. Went on Saturday night - empty when we arrived around 7 - no reservations necessary. It picked up a bit both up and downstairs, but not packed by any means. Based on the unified menu, we chose to sit upstairs. Fiancee found the room of tables a little cold and monotonous - I tend to agree - who does not love a banquette or booth?

            Started with the mussels, which were VERY plump, clean - broth was very fragrant with herbs, garlic - requested extra bread for dipping. Generous serving for $10.

            My fiancee had the roast chicken, which was enjoyed - extremely garlicy, which was not necessarily a bad thing. The chicken was just a wisp past perfect, but very very good. I had the steak with fries - properly a medium rare - lots of fries. Both dishes were pretty salty, which could turn off some folks. We did not mind, but were very thirsty.

            Couple of odd notes - they have three scoops of ice cream for $12 - I don't know who would want all that ice cream during such a cold winter, but was interested by the lemon verbena, so offered whether I could get one scoop for $4? Nope - as it turns out the freezer was on the fritz so no ice cream at all. I guess I believe that.

            Asked for a Ward 8 - bartender did not know what it was? Had to look it up, which is fine, but'd think that Marliave, with its whole historical we've-tried-to-duplicate-exactly-the-speakeasy-roaring-20s-vibe-
            that-actually-happened-in-this-building thing would know how to make the drink that was invented just a few doors down at Locke-Ober.
            Anyway, the version I received seemed a tad bit light on the whiskey, and was oddly served in a stemmed glass - did appreciate the orange, lemon and black cherry garnishes!

            All in all, a fine meal.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Well, I certainly love a banquette or booth and think they should be mandatory. I even have one in my house. Thanks for the review. I just looked at their website and am confused by the new menu system. Do they continue to serve the regular menu after 5, and simply add the "After 5" offerings? And can you order from either menu on both floors? Do you prefer the downstairs atmosphere to the upstairs?

              1. re: pollystyrene

                The "After 5" menu is basically the expanded dinner menu. The regular menu is available at all times. There is no longer a distinction between what you can order upstairs and downstairs - it's all the same. I think the upstairs is more suitable to quiet conversation and downstairs is more open and more focused on the bar, so more prone to louder conversations. Just depends on the mood which one you might prefer. I think the initial inclination to make the upstairs fancier and the downstairs more casual was not a bad idea in concept, but in the end, there just was not that big a difference between the two, which perhaps led to some bewilderment (mine at least) and I am happy for the consolidation.

                Also hoping that they work in a few different dishes or specials because the menu seems a little heavy.