Brasserie 19 (W. Gray) Experience
We went to Brasserie 19 on 5/8/11. I am not sure if this was the first weekend they were open or the second, but I thought I would give you the run down.
First off, they were aiming for the upscale/downscale concept because (according to their website) they wanted people to feel they could come eat there 3-4 times per week instead of just on anniversaries or birthdays, etc.
It was a very eclectic mix of patrons. You clearly had the old-money River Oaks crowd, but you also had a lot of younger people there on dates, dining with friends, etc. It was a lot more casual than what I was anticipating.
As for the service....it was TERRIBLE. The entrees were plated one at a time, each one coming about 5 minutes after the previous one. Seriously, the kitchen has some kinks to work out. Which, depending upon when they opened up, this may be an easy fix. Although, this is the 3rd installment from these guys (Ibiza, Catalan..) so you would think the recipe for a successful opening month would be second nature by now. Not the case here.
After the entrees FINALLY got there for ALL of us, we had yet another issue, which may just be a product of a waiter in the weeds? My friend's wife ordered a glass of wine that was a suggestion of the waiter. It never came, so she inquired about it. His reply: "Yes, ma'am, what did you order?" She said, "well I don't know, I took your recommendation, so you tell me." --- clearly he had no clue so I am sure she got whatever glass of Pinot Noir they could pour fastest.
AS FOR THE FOOD: The appetizers we ordered: (gnocchi & steak tartare) were good. HOWEVER --- they were TINY. I know this is a French themed restaurant, but when I say tiny, I am referring to 5 small pieces of gnocchi for a table of 4. Literally. We each had one and I snagged the 5th piece. Worth $15? Not in the least bit for the amount of food. The steak tartare yielded about 5 fork fulls as well. They were both very good, but the waitstaff should advise the tables that you need about 3-4 appetizers because they are so small you will get one bite. They never did. So I ordered a cone of french fries, as a table next to me got one and they looked good. Those held us over until the main course came.
My wife got the blue crab cocktail (which was listed as a main entree) and it came out 1/2 full and looked like it could yield about 3-4 spoon fulls, if that. She told them she had no idea it was that small or would be 1/2 full, so she got the Halibut instead. The portion was average size and she remarked that it was very good. My buddy got the filet ($38) and he said it tasted EXACTLY like the filet at Ibiza. I had the ribeye ($32) which came with mushrooms and marrow. It was an 18oz (I was told) ribeye
and it was good. It was good for the price point. It was cooked the way I asked (med rare) and had good flavor. Our other friend got a salad and the 1/2 lobster. It arrived LAST after we were almost done and it was prepared shelled, on ice. She was never told it was served chilled. She ate it but was not happy that the waiter did not inform her of this (and there was no mention in the menu).
The re-fills on cocktails and other drinks were very very slow. Again, this could be one waiter slammed in the weeds and not a reflection of the restaurant in general.
When we got the dessert menu it looked "okay" but we did not want the fiasco of waiting one by one to receive our dessert. So we left and went to Tony's for their souffle.
The total bill (including drinks) was about $185 or so. Overall, it has the capacity to be a pretty good place IMO, but time will tell. We had a good time, but I will be back for lunch a few times before I try them out for dinner again.
Just my .02
You want the servers to TELL you the portions are small? Really? And do I understand correctly that someone declined the blue crab cocktail because the portion was too small? Glad you guys liked your steaks, and they were cooked as requested, so obviously some things were going smoothly in the kitchen. Too bad the service was slow, but, as you said, the restaurant has only been open a short time. Im sure they've hired experienced servers, but it does take time to get the rhythm going right. Mind if I asked how much you left as a tip?
You seem to be an experienced restaurant patron, so I guess I dont have to point out that in the world of fine dining, the entree and appetizer portions decrease in direct contrast to the increase in their price. If you want a big meal for a small price, there are many restaurants that can accomodate you. I just dont think it is fair to judge a high-end restaurant by the size of their portions.
@ Chef Lambo - I expect the servers not to lie to your face when asked a direct question. If I ask how many appetizers I need to order (thus implying I don't mind spending the money as long as there is enough to go around) I expect an honest answer. Honesty goes a long way with the tip. We left the guy 20% and would have left more as we typically do for "good" service. I understand the negative correlation between app size and price. I just expect not to be lied to. I would not consider this "high end" just as the very nature of their theme would suggest that it is not a high end place but a place that serves quality meals at a price that should be on par with the quality. I didn't feel we were gouged by any means, just misled by the staff. On a side note - they have great fresh squeezed lemonade if you are looking for a summer drink to quench your thirst while waiting for your table or food.
I agree that honesty on the part of the server is important. Perhaps you and your server had different perceptions of how hungry you "implied" you all were! Sometimes if you actually SAY (instead of trying to imply) "hey, we're pretty hungry, what would you suggest?" you might have better results.
Did they have "specials" that the server recited to you? Was he/she able to discuss the details of any given dish? The Ibiza/Catalan folks are especially well trained in that area. When last I ate at Catalan, I asked the server where the pork in a certain dish came from, and he was able to tell me which farm. They can't however, read our minds.
Thanks for the head's up on that lemonade! My favorite summer drink. Several of my Chowhound friends and I are celebrating our birthdays in June. This might be a nice place for us to try for lunch.
The pork at Catalan is or shall I say, was, provided by Black Hill meats. They are a local purveyor of specialty pork. They have rare breeds of pork that you will not find at most restaurants in Houston. Most Houston restaurants use the same low grade Sysco processed meat and throw some sauce on top of it and plate it at $29.95 and you are led to believe it is quality. Ask around, more and more restaurants are using Black Hill meats, (Haven, Catalan (before they closed), and numerous others).
Thanks for that. This sounds like a place to avoid for a while until they can get it together. We ate at the bar at Max's Wine Dive this week and watched the chefs. We watched bone marrow being plated every now and then, a dish I can't bring myself to try due to texture, but that may not be such a bad aversion, because I have learned it has 300 calories PER OUNCE! Maybe that's why it was a "side" to your 18 oz (!) steak.
I recall about a yr ago sitting at Arcodoro restaurant and the table next to us breaking into laughter after their appetizers reached them... The 4 dinners seated looked confused then started laughing at the tiny apps, they paid a fair amount on! How insulting that restaurant owners take the attitude that "less is more" aiming to gouge consumers.
As for Max's,, my last two visits while seated in front of the open kitchen window revealed the cook staff eating with their fingers while preparing meals for diners.. I complained once and rcvd an assurance that they take the issue I brought to their attention seriously and would address with staff.. On my second visit months later, it appeared the message never filtered down to the chef's as this unhygenic practice continued.. Dealbreaker for me.. I'll never return. The risk of transmitting infectious disease is a burden this consumer will not accept. Makes you wonder what goes on in the restaurants that don't give dinners a show.