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Done with Chez Henri

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lesliewh Apr 28, 2012 06:19 AM

Last night was my fifth visit to Chez Henri, with our first about ten years ago. We have always enjoyed the atmosphere and found the food to be creative and well-prepared. Among the members of our group last night, we had been there over twenty times in total, so we have been loyal and enthusiastic patrons of the restaurant. However, after disappointing experiences the last two visits (one year apart), we are officially done with Chez Henri.

We arrived 15 minutes early for our table and were not seated for almost an hour. When we were, the excruciatingly slow service began. It took the waiter almost 30 minutes to get us our wine (a vacqueyras which arrived ice cold) and 45 minutes to take our orders. The food was slow coming out, and uneven when it arrived. The pappardelle with rabbit was delicious though underseasoned, the frogs legs very good, ceviche tasty, but bistro salad (two orders) were boring and somewhat tasteless. The main courses were well-prepared: pork chop, chicken, red snapper (special). 15 minutes after we finally were able to order dessert, the bread pudding arrived cold, the creme brulee was disappointing (well-prepared but top had gone cold due to sitting so long), and the coffee was cold as well. We didn't return any of the desserts or ask for a new coffee because at that point, we just wanted to be done with the dinner.

The final straw for the disappointing night was our server. He disappeared for long stretches, was not attentive to our table at all, and then difficult at the end. While I don't want to believe this is the case, we started to wonder whether it was because some of the people at our table had vouchers from Gilt City for a 3-course meal for $55. He asked us at the beginning whether we had any vouchers or coupons, and then told us the restrictions on the menu. We had read that the staff at Chez Henri can cop an attitude for those using coupons, so had wanted to not mention that until the end. When it came time to settle the check, it was a nightmare. It took us 15 minutes to find him, then he brought a check calculated as if we had ordered everything a la carte - we assumed this was so we would know how much tip he was due if we had not had the vouchers. Then he went back and recalculated the check with our vouchers included. I find it hard to believe that patrons who order a prix fixe menu are given a check that indicates what the meal would have cost without the pre-chosen menu, but we were. When he returned our credit cards after we paid, he turned on his heel without a word.

We all understand that in the past, wait staff at many restaurants have been undertipped by those bearing coupons, tipping only on the discounted value. We do not do that, and as repeat customers at Chez Henri, are not people who were only there for a cheap eat. But if the staff has the rude attitude our waiter had last night, they will not receive large tips, and will not get repeat customers who may be venturing in for the first time. And if they resent those with the coupons and vouchers, then don't offer them anymore. Period. I want to point out that we gave him a15% tip of the after-tax amount, which was more than he deserved based on his attitude, but less than we would have tipped had if the service had been good.

I'm sorry to give this review, but disappointed that we had last night's experience. Another good restaurant bites the dust.

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    pollystyrene RE: lesliewh Apr 28, 2012 10:12 PM

    That's too bad. From reading other Chez Henri reports over the past year or so, you're not alone. Do you ever sit at the bar? I haven't been in a couple of years, and wonder if the bar area (the only place I've sat there) has gone south, too. Something isn't going right, with all the coupons and the 3/4 page ad in this week's Phoenix. Maybe they should try putting their money into quality food and service instead.

    1. opinionatedchef RE: lesliewh Apr 28, 2012 11:57 PM

      After stellar service at Island Creek but Not Good service at Clio's this week, I'm beginning to wonder if Boston is in the middle of a service crisis. But maybe it's always been this way.....I just hate to think of places where hard working chefs' efforts are sabotaged by bad service. (Just to be clear, though, this was not the case at Clio; food was mediocre as well.) It does sound like, except for the salads, your food was good. (You have me wishing for frogs' legs!)

      4 Replies
      1. re: opinionatedchef
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        kimfair1 RE: opinionatedchef Apr 29, 2012 08:47 AM

        I've often found service lacking in Boston, especially when compared to first class restaurant service cities like San Francisco and New York. I think it can be somewhat attributed to the make-up of our city. In places like NYC and SF, there are plenty of folks who go into restaurant service as a career. Here it seems, many servers are college kids looking to make some money while in school, but for whom serving is just a stepping stone to whatever job they hope to get upon graduation. If you're looking at service as "just a job", you're unlikely to give it the same care and forethought you would if you thought of it as a career. It's not that I haven't had good service here, or even great service (Menton is still the best service I've had in the city, followed by the original L-Espalier), but I've never had that type of service at the low to middle priced places, and have often had fair to poor service at many higher end places here. I'm not going to say I've never had bad or inattentive service in NYC or SF, but the likelihood is greater to have great to excellent service in those cities than here, unfortunately.

        1. re: kimfair1
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          jjbourgeois RE: kimfair1 Apr 30, 2012 05:53 AM

          Your remarks are so very true. Service has always been an issue in Boston. It is rare if you get anything even approaching the quality that one would see in San Fran or NYC.

        2. re: opinionatedchef
          Bob Dobalina RE: opinionatedchef Apr 30, 2012 04:36 AM

          I had "indifferent" service at the downstairs bar at Russell House Tavern on Saturday night. Guess I'm not one of the cool kids. Too bad, because I always round up when I tip - doing math on a full stomach gives me indigestion.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina
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            CookieLee RE: Bob Dobalina Apr 30, 2012 08:58 AM

            That's too bad. I'm hoping it was an off night for them. I've always been amazed my how much they go out of their way for me. Could be because I'm the oldest person by decades that dines there...

        3. Boston_Otter RE: lesliewh Apr 29, 2012 06:39 AM

          After reading rave reviews of their Cubano here on CH, my friends and I went to seek it out. Our server was decently friendly at first, but as soon as we mentioned the Cubano, he cooled. He tried to convince us that there were many other good things on the menu to order, but we insisted on ordering the Cubano. After that, the service was downright rude. I haven't bothered going back.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Boston_Otter
            Prav RE: Boston_Otter Apr 29, 2012 02:26 PM

            I thought you couldn't order the cubano unless you were at the bar - did they change the policy?

            1. re: Prav
              Boston_Otter RE: Prav Apr 29, 2012 03:54 PM

              I was in the bar area, but they sat me at a table. I mentioned that I wanted the Cubano and they gave me the bar menu with a lot of sighing and cajoling.

          2. chickendhansak RE: lesliewh Apr 29, 2012 08:41 AM

            Not to discount your experience, but I've been pleased to get the opposite response on the two occasions I've been there with a Groupon. They have been very pleasant about it. I have a tendency to be almost apologetic about wielding Groupons, and of all the places I've been to with one, Chez Henri has been one of the most relaxed about it.

            I've only ever eaten in the bar, which may affect things; I don't know.

            They must feel that the coupons are working for them because I see that today there is yet another Groupon for Chez Henri.

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              CookieLee RE: lesliewh Apr 29, 2012 01:52 PM

              I dined there about 2yrs ago. I was rather surprised by the poor service. The waiter acted like he was doing us a favor by serving us. He had quite the 'tude. I understand the separate menu for the bar, but when my two choices of entree weren't available, I thought they could have bent the rule and let me have the cubano.

              1. libertywharf RE: lesliewh Apr 29, 2012 05:08 PM

                You are going to let one bad experience cancel out 23 good experiences? Not sure why people wait an hour when they made reservations. Is there a bigger sign that the night is going down hill?

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                  fantundo RE: lesliewh Apr 29, 2012 07:51 PM

                  I had a similar experience about a year ago and have not been back. It was the worst service I have had in a restaurant in years. It took us 45 minutes to get our order, and when we complained, the server told us condescendingly that the food was prepared to order. They didn't offer us so much as an extra slice of bread. When the food finally came, my fish was raw. Once again I complained and got another condescending explanation that they didn't serve their fish overcooked. By this time, I was past politeness and offered to call the Board of Health and let them settle the dispute. They then charged me for the fish, I refused to pay since it wasn't edible, etc. There are too many other good places to eat in the world to put up with that.

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                    LStaff RE: lesliewh Apr 30, 2012 07:10 AM

                    >we assumed this was so we would know how much tip he was due if we had not had the vouchers

                    I don't see a problem with this in the groupon era...I am sure many that utilize them don't think of tipping on the pre-discount amount.

                    >I want to point out that we gave him a15% tip of the after-tax amount,

                    Before or after the voucher discounts? ;-)

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                      AaronInBoston RE: lesliewh Apr 30, 2012 08:52 AM

                      I've had mainly very good experiences with groupons, in fact I can't remember the last time I've had a bad one (service wise). I use them almost bi weekly to dine out. This past week we dined at OM with a google offer and the server was very pleasant. I think most restaurants understand most people are using them for a deal and will try to get out cheaply but if they provide a great experience they may win a new customer. I am actually scheduled to use a gilt city voucher here (Chez Henri) this coming Saturday. I always try to be polite and notify the server when we order that we have a voucher. Establishments that make me feel appreciated and not a burden win my business. I hope to not run into the same issues this weekend.

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                        bear RE: lesliewh Apr 30, 2012 10:10 AM

                        It's too bad you had such an unpleasant experience. I guess we've been lucky. We've used two groupons there without issue. The first was at the bar with very good service (very tall male server) about three months ago, and then friendly enough dining room service last month.

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