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Nov 6, 2010 04:49 PM

Dining Trauma

I went with a friend and her two young children to the WestFarms mall yesterday. I am so not a mall person. We went to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner. I had no idea, no idea.

It was an epic fail on every level. The food was gruesome. The dishes were filthy. The decor was unspeakable. The menu, even had it been prepared properly, was overpriced and there was not a single remotely healthy or digestible option. Even the cocktail menu was frightening, with prices that would make the mixologists at 116 blush for, what looked to be garish concoctions of artificialflavoring, coal-tar dyes and high fructose corn syrup. But whoopee, you would have gotten to keep a souvenir "glass", made of plastic and executed in the same horrid lack of taste as the rest of the place.

But above and beyond the poor quality and the exploitation of kids to milk their parents for money, it was the greensploitation that really got my hackles up but good. Because when you name a place for the rainforest, there is some expectation of environmental responsibility. Not here. Not at this place. There were four or five tanks choc-a-bloc with saltwater tropical reef fish*, so many jammed in per tank that you knew that their life expectancy was very short indeed. I don't doubt that part of the operating budget for these places consists of regular replacements for the fish. And in any event, I dare say the fish are caught from dealers who are supplied by collectors who use cyanide, so the fish are doomed even under favorable conditions. This did NOT seem to be the sort of joint where the execs would spend extra to protect the reefs any more than they are doing any good for any other ecosystem, including their namesake habitat.

The display included poorly-executed animatronic (if you could call it that) gorillas and elephants and crocodiles (if you could call them that. Indeed, I would have been hard pressed to tell you just what sort of crocodillian was represented by the thing in the moat out front.) and kind of a nasty tree foliage and vine canopy. The much-heralded rainstorms consisted of flashing the house lights and some lame thunder effects and a bit of a dribble here and there from the ceiling. Bad bird models, worse dragonfly models and giant butterflies on a par with the art on a discount shower curtain from Walmart. Oh. Ugh. Yucky. Lots and lots and lots of overpriced plastic crap out front for sale.

And if all of this didn't anger me enough, I then read that they had the temerity to offer educational tours. EDUCATIONAL. I am spitting out the word. That was the worst of it. Connecticut has a grand reputation for public education. But you might not know that we fall flat in the standings when it comes to science education. If this is the kind of nonsense that gets passed off as science, and if this wretched chain or franchise or whatever the heck it is, can get any takers for its "educational" tours, that's an indicator, eh?

They should change the decor, bring in more light and color, loose the nasty tree things, and call themselves the circus cafe. Even if the food stayed the same, so vile that it makes a Happy Meal seem like fine and healthy dining, at least it would all be less offensive.

* Come to think of it, piranhas would be more appropriate than salt water fish. They ARE from the Amazon, they would be cheaper and hardier than the wretched triggers and dories and butterfly fish AND they would come in handy for any parents, guests or even staff WHO COULD NOT TAKE IT ANY MORE, because you could jump in the tank and put an end to your misery.

Yeah. I did not enjoy it and what little I ate gave me a nasty case of the trots last night. UGH.

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  1. Ummm, you went to a chain restaurant geared toward 6 year olds...did you really expect anything other than that?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Tinkerbelldee

      I didn't expect anything. That's why I wrote "I had no idea."

      I wasn't up to speed with the brand. I don't go to malls. I have never set foot inside a Cheesecake Factory. I haven't darkened the door of Chucky Cheese. I just don't do it. I did not do it when my son was that age either. And if I had, he would have refused to eat the food.

      I didn't mention it, but my friend's kids were not wild about the food either. The three year old had a few noodles, but refused anything else. The seven year old was revolted. He was actually upset. He said, "Mom, these carrots taste like soap!". So I don't think it is designed for six year olds. Six year olds are picky. I have run into children who do eat processed crap and refuse real food. Why would I know that this place catered to that demographic?

      The first time I ate at a Friday's, it was for a work function. I opened the menu and asked the table "So what's good to eat here?" and one of the party, who was about half my age, said snidely "Everything's good. What, you've never been to a Friday's before?" I hadn't. And what I had was edible, but to call it good would be pushing it. I don't do malls. I don't do chains when there are other options, unless I am with a group. And I don't keep up with advertising.

      I didn't figure it would be momofuku or Sally's. I didn't figure it would be roasted Tapir stuffed with strangler fig garnished with bullet ants either. But I did not know what to expect, exactly.

      1. re: Pipenta

        I never step foot into chain restaurants and I do not have children, and I know what a Rainforest Cafe is by walking by it. It is fairly obvious from the entrance what it is, they even have the menu posted at the entrance, I stopped one day and looked at it for fun.

        I am just saying that it is not as if you were seated by a Maitre' d in a tuxedo, but probably a teenager with a headset and sneakers. The first glance is a store, not a dining room, there is animal sounds as you walk by it. There are many things that should have tipped you off before you even stepped into the restaurant.

        I am sure it was a terrible meal, but trauma is a little dramatic, don't you think? I hardly think you will be affected by your visit for life.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. It's a fun restaurant geared toward kids. While not fine dining, it's edible. Your attribution of 'the trots' to the restaurant is ridiculous, unless your palate and constitution are so refined that a little junk food is toxic. But whatever. At least the RF Cafe doesn't pretend to be anything that it's not.