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Aug 25, 2009 10:37 PM

My First Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares Experience: Lido - Before and After

Back in June I had the pleasure/misery of partaking in the "before" night at one of Gordon Ramsey's projects, Lido in Manhattan Beach. My husband and I were there with another couple who hooked us up. The entire meal was horribly dreadful but we had a blast.

The patrons who were there were mostly friends of people who got in from a casting call and friends of people involved with Gordon or the rest of their team. We knew we would have to pay for the meal before we ordered. It was very expensive, took 3 hours, and it was all very, very, bad. Thankfully, we had 4 bottles of wine over the 3 hours so that made everything more palatable in more ways than one. The female owner cried the whole time and seemed not to have a clue what the show was about. At one point my girlfriend and I went into the bathroom where she was weeping uncontrollably and we were unable to console her. We explained that she was going to be lavished with an overhaul, redecorating, and lots of free press, but she kept weeping and saying "I didn't think it would be this bad."

Early on, the producer encouraged us to call over the cameras to report bad food, and of course we enthusiastically complied. Later, the producer (not a very friendly person) came by and said that we could not send back any main courses because they were done filming that part and that if we wanted dessert we should get it to go. At various points during the night, Gordon walked past us many times and made eye contact. No direct conversation, but by happenstance he overheard my friend say the osso buco was cold (we were no longer allowed to complain to others) and he yelled very loudly: This osso buco is STONE COLD take it back! They proceeded to microwave it and return it. YUM.

All in all, the food was WAY icky. Low quality ingredients all over or undercooked. Food tasted diner-like. You could tell a lot of it was premade/processed. The servers were sweet but clearly terrified.

From watching the show, we all assumed that we would find out later that the kitchen was filthy. It almost always is on that show. At one point, all service stopped for about an hour and we found out later that it was because Gordon was in fact reaming them out over filth and incompetence. But hey, I go to Chinatown and eat at C restaurants. How bad could it be versus that? I was there for the experience of watching Gordon in action and despite the expense and the yuck I am glad I got to see how it all went down.

So last night we decided to pay them another visit - post Gordon. We were expecting to be totally wowed. And expected them to embrace the fact that it was supposed to be an Italian restaurant. But the decor was odd. Light fixtures in the main dining room were pink umbrellas inside some kind of giant pink balls.

We sat in the patio, had it to ourselves. The decor was even more odd here. Around the entire perimeter of the room were auto windshields with bullet holes in them mounted on particle board. More particle board furniture was in the center of the room around a firepit. And the music was techno and angry. All I could think of was that Extreme Home Makeover show where they tear down the house and rebuild it in a week, clearly on a budget with many shortcuts.

As for the menu, they did not change the rather limited wine list but just added some carafe and tasting portion options.

We only ordered two things. First, a Marguerita heirloom tomato flat bread. The bottom was burned black, the top raw, the buffalo mozzarella cheese was of such low quality it did not melt properly and stayed an odd bright white color. The small cherry tomatoes on top were obviously not farmer's market quality even though we are in peak tomato season.

Wary from the appetizer, we opted to all share an order of chicken parm with a side of pasta in marinara. The pasta was overcooked. I suspected it was reheated in the microwave, but others disagreed. The chicken parm, however, was the piece de resistance. It was PROCESSED. As in chicken nugget. As in that stuff they made you eat at the school cafeteria or a NJ diner. Macaroni Grill looked like 2 star Michelin in comparison. Yes, that's right, Pre-breaded inedible chicken mush. It has probably been over a decade since I have been exposed to fowl that foul.

We were just horrified. I could not believe Gordon approved such an abomination. Perhaps Lido did like other KN restaurants? Tried out Gordon's changes and reverted back? Did we just miss the window? Reviews on Yelp are not that bad. I can only speculate on what went so horribly wrong.

As a final thought, they did not really update their website to reflect all the changes and leverage Gordon's visit. Maybe they have simply rejected him. A shame. I guess we will know more when the show airs in the fall.

I also posted this on my blog: http://foodandwineblog.thefoodietrave...

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  1. Very entertaining story. I am always curious about the restaurants post-KN remakes. I've even wanted to be a dinner for Hell's Kitchen (knowing that I'd probably starve but at least the food is free and you actually get paid $50 for camera time). Alas, I have no connections to that industry to get in on that set.

    Back to the KN series... I figure most of these restaurants go bankrupt. I'm shocked Yelp'ers are giving it a positive review. Considering half the time the show airs months later, you'd think they'd get Ramsey to pop-in unannounced like they do in the BBC version to see what (hasn't) changed. Heck, I hear Ramsey needs to money from TV to keep his own restaurants afloat. "Nice that risotta is, yes?" I suppose Yoda Ramsey could stand to have a few of his own restaurants made over. ;)

    1 Reply
    1. re: DrBruin

      I was completely shocked the place was that bad considering the positive reviews on yelp. Maybe they have a lot of loyal regulars? There are not a lot of premium dining options in that area in that price range so no really tough local competition.

      Re: I suppose Yoda Ramsey could stand to have a few of his own restaurants made over. ;)

      Totally. I just searched the boards looking for my review of the London from a long time ago, but I can't find it. I think I am not allowed to link to my blog review or CH will remove the post. Suffice it so say it was not a positive review. The post was called Kitchen Nightmares: Where are you Gordon? and it is somewhere in CH history - 5/08.

    2. Funny story! My wife and I got to eat at Hell's Kitchen (upcoming season 7). It was actually a great time! Gordon was nice as hell (no pun intended) off camera and they plied us all you can drink wine (which funny enough was NOT from his wine line--even on camera). The food was very good (with minor issues we and the producer hyped to get on camera (scallops overcooked, pasta undercooked)). You can't hear a thing going on in the kitchen from the dining area. All free---soups to nuts, even valet!

      As for past KN, the Secret Garden restaurant in Moorpark is a disaster! Six months post-a## reaming, the owner, an arrogant Frenchie, instituted nothing from Gordon, even remounting the original old signage. I went there for lunch...OK...NEARLY TWO HOURS to get three people food. The waiter seemed to be part of a Quantum Leap experiment (one minute I was smoking meth and the next...POW! I found myself here! What is this white thing tied around my waist?!). He actually announced that "I am sorry the bread is taking soo long (dude), but the chef burned it. He is making some fresh bread for you now". I am not kidding.

      The elk chop I had (once it arrived) was good, but when you have an hour for lunch, you can't take damn near two! And there were only 6 other diners...pathetic.

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