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Ortolan 1st time - recs?

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  • hboy Mar 26, 2009 11:48 AM
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I've read the other board topics comparing ortolan to other similar upscale places, but can anyone give me specific recommendations - my wife and I are going for the first time for her birthday on Friday.

Should we just order a tasting menu or go a la carte? Help, any suggestions most appreciated!

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  1. From my one experience, which was terrible, I would suggest a la carte. We had the tasting menu, and along with the terrible service (despite the place being fairly empty) I was unhappy to being walking out with a bill over $500.

    I have absolutely NO idea where the money went, as it certainly didn't seem to be the ingredients, the wines (pairing), nor the service, as I said.

    Try the a la carte. Or, don't listen to me (I'm still just irritated) and go with the tasting menu. Many, many people love this place, so it's possible we were just there on an off night.

    1. My husband has taken me for my birthday for the past three years, and we've had nothing but exemplary food, service & wine. I'm not sure what a213b ordered, or what day of the week he/she went, but I find it incredibly surprising. But that said, no restaurant & kitchen staff is perfect.

      We always go on a weekend night (Fri or Sat) and order the tasting menu. Make sure to inform them you are celebrating your wife's birthday, and I bet you will get superior service. Chef Eme may even stop by your table; he always did for us.

      Another plus is that the main room is incredibly gorgeous - a really romantic evening. Best of luck - I hope my rec doesn't fail you!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Phurstluv

        We did the tasting menu with wine pairings on a Thursday night late last summer. We also had a couple of glasses of champagne to start with, before beginning the meal -- it was an anniversary dinner for us.

        As I said the service on our one visit was sub-par and the food was mediocre (not terrible, but far from memorable).

        For example, during the cheese course, as our server was preparing our plate, he kept commenting on how generous he was being in an effort to make up for some of the earlier lackluster dishes. Though certainly courteous and well-intentioned, we had a little private laugh to ourselves when we noted his "generosity"; 4 cheeses amounting to less than what I get when I ask for a sample at BH Cheese Store or Artisan. I wasn't expecting Cheesecake Factory portions here, but sheesh ... at that point we could not help but laugh and shake our heads. And that was the BEST of the service!

        Regardless, I will say the main dining room is absolutely gorgeous -- a truly romantic spot. And from all of the raves I am trying to convince myself that dinner that evening was the exception, rather than the rule.

        At some point I will go again, but I will definitely order from the a la carte menu.

      2. Either of the two tasting menus are always a good way to go. If the tasting menus don't appeal, I think the langoustine are the best starter, though I also have had superb scallops there and also enjoy the escargot "parfait." For mains, he has a deft hand with lamb, duck and fish and I recently had delicious shortribs at brunch (also on the dinner menu). I would skip the pork entree--not the place's strong suit. Oh, usually you can get anything from the tasting menu a la carte if you ask nicely.

        The meal can be slow if the place is busy--tiny kitchen--but the service I have received has always been attentive and special occasions have been handled very well. Enjoy!

        1 Reply
        1. re: New Trial

          Thanks so much to everyone for the tips...I'll call ahead and tell them it's a special occasion. Fingers crossed we'll have a good experience! Appreciate the help guys!

        2. I've been to Ortolan 4 times, each time we went with the tasting menu.

          4 out of 4 times: Great food, competent service, good times.

          Chef Eme is cordial. His wife Jeri (who is the hostess) is very nice also.

          Tell them you're celebrating a special occasion. It should help to improve your experience (though I've only used that on them once before).

          1. Our experience at Ortolan was excellent in terms of delicious food and thoughtful service.

            We ordered a la carte and the highlights were the fois gras terrine appetizer and our entrees; the obscenely good squab and perfectly cooked duck. Note - the menu changes so these entrees might not be available right now.

            Their cheese cart is quite impressive as well.

            1. Everything. Don't forget to drink wine and talk to the somm. He's a funny Frenchman who loves CA wines. LOVE that place. Sorry, it's been a while since I was there, so can't remember specifics. I probably had the tasting menu when I was there though.

              1. I have been several times and always had amazingly delicious food. I have always ordered a la carte...I don't have a huge appetite and don't love dessert. But I don't think you can lose either way. I wish this place was busier because I think it is a gem. So romantic.

                7 Replies
                1. re: lotta_cox

                  Went tonight and had a fabulous experience. Decided to go a la carte, although they let me order the seared foie from the tasting menu (seriously delicious, paired with rich mushroom soup). Also got the langoustine which was solid, and my wife had the perfectly moist and flavorful short ribs.

                  Most impressive: my lobster spaghetti (a piece of lobster rolled in many individual strands of noodles, almost appearing to be wrapped up in one big lasagna-esque noodle) with a mango sea urchin sauce...it was, as anthony bourdain just said on his show i'm watching right now, "another 10 on the pleasure meter", SO rich and decadent and awesome

                  top notch service throughout, received not one but two visits from the chef (including a farewell where he implored us to return for the new brunch they're offering), plus special desserts for my wife's birthday

                  in a few words: hello, new special occasion place...thanks again to everyone on the board for their input!

                  1. re: hboy

                    Thanks for reporting back!

                    Chef Eme "gets it"... Make customers happy, and they'll return. Yay for Ortolan!

                    1. re: hboy

                      BRUNCH!!!! Maybe I will take my mom there for Mother's day! Thank you for sharing! I wish you took pics, the lobster spaghetti sounds photogenic!

                      1. re: hboy

                        So glad you took our advice, and not a213b's!!! So happy they impressed you.

                        Have to watch out for internet recs - always dicey!!

                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          Ouch! I'd like to think my recs are reliable, and would also like to point out here that I never, ever said not to go ... and even offered the caveat to my experience that it was most likely the exception.

                          I am glad they enjoyed it. Ortolan obviously gets a lot of love on CH, which leads me to believe they were having a very, very off night the one time I went. I will try it again, though I am not in any rush to do so.

                          1. re: Phurstluv

                            Yelp recs are dicey, whereas proven Chowhounds are definitely more reliable online. Isn't that the raison d'etre of Chowhound?

                            1. re: J.L.

                              Yes, you would think, but everyone has different tastes and ideas as to what is exemplary (service, food, etc) and what is not.

                              As you can see from the majority of the responses to this OP, though, a213b's experience was the exception, and as he/she pointed out, had gone on an off night, which even the most reliable and recommended restaurant can and does have.

                              That being said, I do take the recs from my fellow CH foodies very seriously, but my husband thinks that's a little risky! What can I say, he also has exquisite taste!!!