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Cork(Chandler) - Likely lone in my dislike

Though we're fairly long time residents of Chandler, last night was our first visit to Cork. In the couple years it's been open we've never talked to anyone that's disliked the restaurant and it certainly gets good reviews here and everywhere else on the web.

Thus, my surprise at having a negative experience. I will say upfront that while dining the recent review of Noca(http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/772014) came to mind as in some ways our experience seemed similar.

There were 6 of us last evening, four of whom were dining at Cork for the first time. The room is very comfortable. The manager showed us to table towards the back and along the windows. We settled in, began chatting and reviewing the menu and wine list.

I soon noticed I was sitting under a large blower. My chair was directly under it. I thought to myself "this is going ot be a long evening" as the draft was very strong. I debated asking about it as I figured there was nothing anyone would be able to do about it and I didn't want to create a fuss at the table. But when the server next approached the table I did quietly ask him if there was a way to turn the blower down so there would be less draft. I immediately regretted it as this created much fuss from him and the manager yet there was nothing that could be done about the draft (note to those in the Noca review that took the OP to task for not saying anything: I was repeatedly told last evening that that shutting off the blower would warm the restaurant and that they had another patron already complaining about how how they were before I indicated I was uncomfortable). The ambient temperature was actually comfortable in the room and had my chair been 6 inches to the left or right it would have been fine but I was directly under the blower which was throwing a very strong draft(one of the large round industrial types). Perhaps they shouldn't set a table in this immediate spot?

Anyway....it created an uncomfortable scene for myself and my fellow diners and I regretted saying anything. My husband did switch with me which was kind of him but did create a little disruption in the dining room as we moved around.

We ordered a bottle of wine and reviewed the menu. Overall, I agree with the reviews of the food for Cork - it was all prepared quite well. I liked there were several interesting fish and seafood items and I had a difficult time choosing. The sides were all interesting as well making selection more difficult. My halibut was perfectly prepared and I enjoyed my arugula salad.

The service pace was very slow all evening. Our table didn't mind as we were there to enjoy each other's company...however the wait staff apologized many times for it. Not sure what was throwing off the kitchen. With each course the runners had the diner's positions off and there was confusion on who was to be served what with musical plates resulting each time. This was actually very surprising as it seems outwardly as if the staff was trained well and the restaurant takes service very seriously. But three runners for 6 people and every meal is delivered incorrectly for each meal?

The true offending moment came at the end with the check however. At some point, the server discussed a separate check for each couple, we were surprised but pleasantly so and agreed. Then he re-approached and indicated since there were two bottles of wine across three checks and our dinners were all comparable perhaps it would be easier to just have one bill split evenly across three cards and he asked for credit cards. I think our table was caught off guard....no one minded splitting the check evenly as that's what we always do when we dine together anyhow but the whole asking for the cards thing was weird. After he walked away we all looked at each other and asked if anyone had actually seen a check yet, thinking maybe someone had and the rest of us had missed it by being deep in conversation. We had not. The three credit card slips arrived for signature and there was still no bill included. We sat and discussed this,confused and realizing we were going to need to ask for one. Again, very strange for a restaurant that seems so professional. It was then that my husband wondered aloud if the service was included in the amount we were looking at on the credit card slips as he remembered seeing on the menu that grautity would be included for parties over 6. So...we asked for a bill which the server brought without apology for neglecting to provide one and in fact there was a 20% service charge attached. As we were discussing how strange and awkward this whole thing was the server re-approached again, apparently having overheard us and NOW apologized for neglecting to tell us the service charge was included "oh, did i forget to mention that?"

Maybe it was an innocent mistake but the whole thing was awkward and completely unprofessional and really for me at least put a damper on the evening. There are many good options in Phoenix for dinner at this price point and this being our first experience here really put me off to ever returning. To answer the likely question, no we did not discuss with the manager because at that point what was to be gained...being offered something in return would not have made me feel more positive about the service experience. For us, as first time visitors this will be our last visit there.

It does remind me of the Noca experience posted above....many many love Cork and probably would be wiling to return after this one-off experience due to their past experiences.I know I am very much the outlier in my negative experience. Had we had history with the restaurant maybe we woudl feel that way. Maybe we would be more likely to have talked with management about our disappointment. But as the saying goes...there's only one opportunity to make a first impression and unfortunately in this respect Cork failed last evening...

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Noca
3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

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  1. Respectfully, I don't see much in common between your review of Cork and the other poster's review of Noca, other than the fact you were both seated under an AC unit. The Noca reviewer was dissatisfied with the ambience, the service, and the food. You seem to have been ok with the ambience and more than ok with the food (your one passing comment on food was that the fish was cooked perfectly and the sides were interesting) - they just stumbled a couple of times on service. To me, unless we are looking for perfection, if a restaurant scores high marks on food and ambience, the service can only be a deal breaker if it is atrocious. While the service clearly detracted from your experience and made a negative first impression, I am a little surprised that it alone warrants a thumbs down on the restaurant as a whole given your overall description of the meal.

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    Noca
    3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

    3 Replies
    1. re: aricat

      It was the handling of the check that turns me off to return, the other service mistakes i can handles but this was to us(i ran into one of the other couples today and they also are reluctant to return as a result) unacceptable at any restaurant, particularly one of this caliber. It felt shady and shifty and is the kind of thing that felt intentional on the part of the server to double his tip.

      As i said you only get one chance to make a first impression. The end of the evening left a bad taste and lack of desire to return, I made the comparison to the Noca review because, like that poster, I know I'm naysaying another well liked restaurant based only on one visit. Like most we don't have unlimited disposable income and when I choose to splurge like this I don't want to be left thinking the restaurant was taking advantage of us.

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      Noca
      3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      1. re: aricat

        What it has in common with the now infamous Noca review is that it's 1050 words, 57 of which are devoted to the food.

        Which again, isn't to suggest anything mentioned by the other 993 words isn't fair game. I just wonder at what point Chowhound ceases to be a food board and becomes a service and ambiance board.

        FWIW, ziggylu, you're not alone in your dislike of Cork. But I disliked it because:

        The duck was underseasoned and completely obliterated by the powerful and overly sweet fig and cranberry chutney that accompanied it.

        The tuna crudo, similarly, couldn't stand up to the puckeringly tart pickled mushrooms and salty sweet caramel it was paired with.

        The seared scallop, while paired with some nice lentils, lacked texture and the pork worked into the lentils was kind of lifeless and bland.

        The cod has a beautiful, bright and fragrant herb jus, but was overcooked and paired with an underseasoned and watery squash puree.

        The lobster-stuffed beef roulade was blown out by an overabundance of thyme in the crust.

        The oysters, with minus-8 vinegar and horseradish cream, were served almost bone dry.

        The braised brisket with leek-mushroom risotto and pork tenderloin with asparagus and mustard jus were both meaty, full-flavored and satisfying, but not nearly enough to save the meal at that point.

        All of which, even in abbreviated fashion, addresses what this board is (or at least once was) supposed to be all about... the food.

        1. re: Dmnkly

          You make some good points, and also offer some astute reflections on the food. That is appreciated.

          However, dining (what ChowHound was about at one time) is more than just the prep of the food, though that is a major element. If we limit all reviews and posts to just the food, then if the server spits in our food, in our presence, should that be overlooked, as the food came from the kitchen in fine order, and the spittle had little effect on the taste of the dish, but only on our impression of the service? I think not.

          Dining IS about food, but it is also about the other aspects of the total experience, and they DO count, as they should. Should a horrible wine service be overlooked, just because the food was great? It is a composite of many aspects, and I feel they should all be considered.

          When I do a review here, the food and wine (plus the wine service) are probably 60 - 70% of the report. However, I also report on the decor, the spacing of tables, the comfort of the seating, the ambient noise level, the stemware, the flatware, the service and other aspects of the restaurant. I want any reader to have some idea of what my full dining experience was about, and possibly be able to determine what their's is likely to be about. Maybe I missed the memo that everything but the food prep was off-limits?

          I think that this board has always been about dining, and that is multi-faceted. Maybe I am wrong here.

          Still, I do agree with your point that the two reviews (this one, and the NOCA review) are very light on the food aspect.

          As for my brunch at Cork, I cannot recall the dishes, as that was several months ago. However, the three of us did pass our dishes around, and everything was good to very good. I cannot recall if I did a full review, but the only negative for me was the reflective surfaces and the noise level. Though only partially full, I found the restaurant to be a bit loud by my tastes, but then most are nowadays. I cannot recall any other negative in my visit, even down to the stemware. We ordered a Meursault, and the server brought the requested Burgundy balloons, in lieu of the normal white wine glasses, which were nice, but the bowls were too small for a bigger FR Chard. This accommodation was nice. Not doing it initially was overlooked, as I had to make the same request in several 1 & 2 Michelin starred restaurants in London recently - not all, but enough to take note.

          I do not wish to fight over the concept of CH, but to only point out what I feel is important in a review and a discussion - every aspect of the dining experience, with the food taking center-stage.

          Just my feelings,

          Hunt

      2. By chance we were dining at Cork the same night I saw your post, and just got back.

        Food was very good and, since it was Sunday, it was pretty inexpensive (this month's Sunday special $35 menu is Moroccan food ... pretty tasty).

        Service was a bit disjointed but I they moved one cook and maybe some wait staff to their new resto BLD, which just opened, and the owner-manager is probably running ragged trying to be in both places. So hopefully this is a short-term problem.

        Anyway, sorry you had so many problems with the service, hopefully it's a short-term problem caused by the distractions of the new resto and these will be fixed soon. Long as the food is good we'll keep returning but I can understand why you have tuned the place out.

        1. Wow, that is unfortunate, and at several levels.

          As we live in North Phoenix, we've only done Cork once, and then for brunch. That trip was very good, if not excellent, but we were a party of 3, and it was NOT at dinner. Then, everything was very good, but we are now talking apples to oranges.

          As for the draft, I would have asked to be moved. As I wear contacts, I have strong drafts. My wife is much more sensitive to temps, than I am. Still, we have had issues, and have never been denied a new table. I can see where a table for six might be limiting, but the management needs to know, so they can talk things over with their HVAC contractor. There should not be bad seats in a newish restaurant. Though I did address other issues in that linked NOCA thread, I do not think that I commented on the temp of the restaurant - only other aspects.

          It sounds as though the server/captain did not do a good job. We dine with friends, and never ask for separate checks, but DO split the total bill (after seeing it, of course), by the couples. This was an error, and that server needs to learn from the event. This should NEVER happen. I would contact the management, and detail the issues.

          I am also a little surprised at the 20% gratuity being added. That is a bit high, IMHO, but maybe I am old school. Now, I normally start at 20% for good service, on the total bill, and have been known to work up from there. To assign that level, however, is presumptuous, again in my opinion.

          Sorry that you had a bad experience. That does not need to happen, and especially in this economy. Things need to be "well-oiled" now, more than ever, and the diner needs to be satisfied. This CAN happen, and a good restauranteur needs to address any issues.

          We will very likely return, but considering the location, it will be on special terms, like a late night board meeting in the area, or an event down there, where we are staying in the neighborhood.

          Sorry to hear your tail, but I would definitely contact the restaurant, and share your experiences with them. The management strikes me as a group, that takes things seriously. Maybe I am wrong?

          Hunt

          1. I know that blower. I left the restaurant when they sat me under it. I never sit in a draft. My food gets cold. My neck hurts. Lesson learned.

            1 Reply
            1. re: recipelover

              Sounds like they need an HVAC contractor in. A major draft is not a fun thing.

              Hunt

            2. My wife and I have been to Cork a number of times for the tasting menu and happy hour, and have almost always been happy with the food and service. We did have one bad experience with a particular waiter who gave us inaccurate information regarding the menu and prices (we wanted to wait for a seat at the bar for the happy hour menu, he told us the prices were "a couple dollars more" -- not true). He also just seemed disinterested, which is somethign we'd never experienced at Cork before. Both my wife and I left feeling he'd was either very careless or delibertately disingenous. We dread being seated now in case we get "the guy."

              1. You totally should have brought the waiter's attempts to dishonestly double his tip to the management's attention. This was no error. As a veteran of the hospitality industry it is clear to me this was a deliberate attempt to get a "double tug." Such things need to be pointed out to management to minimize the chance he will succeed with the ruse for other, less astute, diners. BTW, for what my two cents are worth, I think it is completely appropriate to discuss ambience and service here. Dining is a complete experience. Great food can be overshadowed by bad service and uncomfortable surroundings. I appreciate getting the whole low-down.