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Otter Cove formerly Vinnies- Old Saybrook

This restaurant has been opened about a month, in the same location as Vinnies. We had reservations for 19 guests at 7pm this evening. It took thirty minutes for the appetizers to come to the table. The "fiery" calamari lacked heat and taste. Bland and soggy.
My beau's appertizer, "Tex Mex Bites" were tasty and crisp. Good thing he enjoyed them, as he never did get his entree.
My brother's clam chowder was ok.
Approx thirty minutes later our salads came out. Several came out wrong.
The entrees took forever and came out sporadically. The guests who ordered sea bass were served first, approx 5 minutes later those of us who ordered fried seafood were served. Twenty minutes later the filet came out. My beau's chicken entree never arrived at the table. After the filet was served, he was promised it would be next. Five minutes later the server came to the table and announced his entree was given to a different patron. The order was cancelled, he would skip an entree.
My brother and I had fried whole belly clams. They were greasy and tasteless.
The waiter was apologetic and embarrassed. He assured us the manager would come to our table. He also said coffees and desserts would be on the house. He offered cheesecake, chocolate cake and creme broulee. Apparently too many people wanted the creme broulee because the waiter came back and announced the kitchen only had two servings left. Dinner was over by 10 (yes, 3 hours later).
The manager never came. The issue was not pushed. This was a family celebratory dinner and no one wanted it ruined. Several guests were from out of state, however my beau and I live ten minutes away. You can be assured we will not go back nor recommend this restaurant to anyone.

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  1. What a shame--especially since (a) it was a family celebration and (b) there are so many other delicious dining options in and around OS. We actually tried to get to Liv's Oyster Bar tonight, but the only times they had open were too early or too late. In retrospect, I wish we had just taken the later reservation since I've heard good things about Liv's.

    Tonight was apparently a bad night for wasting money, time and calories. Sorry you were in on it, too!

    1. Have you tried The Back Porch on Ferry Road? We were there last week and loved it. The food and service were great (although we were only a group of six) but from what I could see everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and the place was hopping. It's a shame for you because this was a special occasion for you and your family. I have had the same experience in the past and it's always disappointing.
      FYI - if you live in the area, there is also music at The Back Porch on the weekends. I just signed up for their updates at "thebackporchbuzz.com". You should check it out.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MarieLouise

        I went to eh back porch several times last summer

        the food is not that great - its "OK" as far as some other great places you can get food to eat on t eh shoreline - but def passable if slightly overpriced for the quality you get

        but the music and the crowd make up for it - -

        and the service is always friendly - but service pace is def hit or miss -

        if it is crowded on a music nite - be prepared to wait for your food

        as long as you are out on a nice nite on the deck - enjoy it !

      2. Liv's I would NOT recommend. They are way overpriced and the food is not great by any means. If you are on Main Street in the OS area, I would say try Jacks Steakhouse! I have never had a poor appetizer, drink, dinner or dessert from there! And Jack, the owner and chef, will prepare your meals to your liking. I have gluten allergies and he always custom makes my meal, along with any one else!

        I have eaten at Otter Cove a few times now and haven't had a poor experience yet. I am sorry to hear that you did!
        I have had their clam chowder and thought it was decent and pretty much the same as anywhere on the shoreline. Another time, I sat in the bar area and had their boursin chicken entree with the mushroom cognac sauce on the side, which was awesome. I higly recommend it. It came with their house salad, so not too sure how one can screw that up and warm fresh bread. To finish up the meal, for dessert I had their chocolate cake, which was excellent. I know that all their desserts are made right there on the premise.
        Its unfortuante that you did not have a great experience at Otter Cove as I am sure you probably will not return, but I would try it again once summer gets rolling and they've been open for a bit longer. Most nice dinners in a restuarant where there are courses serve do take about 2.5-3 hours, or maybe I am just use to the nicer places in Greenwich an NYC.
        I will say the highlight of my visits have been in the bar area and talking with the fun bartenders who are super friendly, attentive and go out of their way to please their guest and make conversation with ones who want to talk to a nice face!

        3 Replies
        1. re: rhodyroman

          Went with family today for Father's Day and joined Chowhound just so I could write this review, I was that underwhelmed. We also tried the "firecracker" calamari which was not even remotely spicy. It was, as sallyct described, bland and soggy. It tasted like it had general tso's sauce on it. The calamari itself was not cooked properly, it was mushy and stringy and the sauce made the whole thing slimy. I considered it inedible. The one thing I did like very much was the artisan bread/bruschetta (can't remember the exact name - it was an appetizer). Very tasty. Crisp pita-ish bread, roasted veggies on top, with some kind of balsamic? reduction drizzled over top.
          My father had the sea bass which he said was okay but would not order again. My mother had the chicken boursin which she ate half of and took the rest home, so she obviously liked it. My husband and I both had the ahi tuna with crab and asparagus risotto, with which we were both very disappointed. The tuna was a fairly thin steak (we were expecting a nice thick cut) and overmarinated in what tasted like bottled terikayi sauce. The risotto, which wasn't AWFUL, was served lukewarm and that made the creamy sauce taste and look a little like mayo. Anyhow, speaking of bottled sauces (which our waitress suggested was used for the calamari), that is the answer to the question of how a chef can mess up a salad. Our house salad greens and vegetables were fresh, but the dish was ruined by the bottled, sweet dressing they used. I've had better dressings from those packets you get at your work cafeteria. And seriously, how difficult is it to make a dressing from scratch? I find it inexcusable for a restaurant to use bottled. And I admit, I'm making an assumption. If it wasn't bottled and that was homemade, it needs work.

          The service was good, we did not have to wait long for our meals (although I don't mind waiting and find sometimes it enhances the experience to wait a bit between courses) and our waitress, Lindsay, was very nice.

          I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone nor would I return.

          1. re: Stephanie 73

            Try Liv's Oyster Bar. Not sure what the poster above you is talking about--we went recently and enjoyed everything we had (including drinks and the service). Here are several reviews of Liv's:

          2. re: rhodyroman

            Well, I have had good meals at both Liv's and Jack's, and would not call Liv's overpriced. And the Back Porch, though not in their league, has a nice view and the food is ok.

          3. I went there last night and I have to say it exceeded our expectations! the service was grteat (in spite of the fact that they were hosting a rehersal dinner party) The only disappointment was that due to the party we were unable to be seated outside.
            The calimari was exclellect.... not spicy (so ok if you wanted hot spicy it was not) it was crispy and the calimari was cooked perfectly. salad was was very good - simple and good, decent wine selection...service was very consciensous, informative. Mahi Mahi was very good, cooked nicely. Dessert selection was varied and unique. I woudl definately recomemend it to anyone

            1. We have been to Otter Cove Restaurant O.S. several times in the past year for dinner and a dinner party of 8. The food has been incredible every time, and the service top notch!!! We love the atmosphere, and decided to have our son’s Rehearsal dinner party at Otter Cove. After talking with Lisa, the owner manager we decided to have hor d'oeurves on the patio while our guests gathered and were able to mingle. With the fountain bubbling in the background it was delightful. Our 79 guests were then directed inside where we were served a scrumptious salad, followed by our main course choice; prime rib, almond encrusted tilapia, teriyaki chicken, or butternut squash ravioli in a creamy alfredo sauce. We finished our meal with easy conversation over desert, and coffee or tea. Every meal was served piping hot, and delicious. Our guests raved at the dining experience, and we couldn’t thank Lisa and her spouse, the chef enough. To Say it was incredible hardly describes how delighted we were to have our dinner party of 79 guests, yes 79 guests go so smoothly. Incredible! We highly recommend Otter Cove Restaurant for your cozy dinner of 2, or a larger gathering, you won’t be disappointed.

              3 Replies
              1. re: mlbergin

                I've never had a bad meal or experience at Liv's, strange. Sitting at the bar can be fun if you don't have a reservation (and if there's room, it's small.)

                Enjoyed my meal at Aspen in December, but it was extremely LOUD.

                I thought Jack's was closed?

                1. re: dennisl

                  Jack's IS closed--you're correct. Most of the comments on this post are from last year (which might have thrown you off).

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Well, duh, what a dummy I am!

                    Thanks, kattyeyes, I never looked.

              2. I haven't been to Otter Cove since they took over from Vinnies, so when the DW expressed a desire to eat out we decided to try it. The fairly large dining room (about 80 seats with a party room upstairs) is decorated tastefully and divided by a large fireplace. After we were seated I noticed many late comers opted to chose seats in the far end of the room away from the rather enthusiastic TGIF-ers in the bar.

                I decided to go with the special lamb chops in a scrumptious glazed sauce with asparagus wrapped in filo dough and broiled small potatoes. Delish. They also offered a mixed lettuce and cilantro salad with a salsa dressing and chicken, and I was able to persuade the agreeable waitress to give me the salad without the chicken, which provided a nice contrast to the lamb. They have a fairly extensive wine list, with many available as a glass, and I had an agreeable FFCoppola Shiraz. DW eschewed her diet and got a cheeseburger and Sam Adams. On her first bite she had a Meg Ryan "When Harry met Sally" moment, with a moan of pure bliss, so I guess that means the cheeseburger got an A. (The fries, however, rated only a C). A very dense and chocolatey torte finished off a quite nice meal.

                Evidently the problems mentioned earlier (and over a year ago) in this thread have been worked out, and although one visit certainly only sampled a fraction of their menu, I have no problem in recommending Otter Cove to other Chowhounders. The prices are on the high side of $$, but the quality was pretty good.