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Maialino

j
jrnlmkr Jul 15, 2012 06:29 AM

My boyfriend and I are suckers for brunch at a hotel restaurant; i guess, after a hard manhattan week, it is nice to feel like we're on vacation when we are so, so not. this week, we went to maialino, our second visit, and if it is up to me, our last.

There are a lot of things that go into making a restaurant one that i like to frequent. Delicious food, an intriguing and well-thought out menu, service that matches the style of the restaurant. For me, maialino fails on the last two and the food just isn't good enough to make up the difference.

However, before i jump into describing the things i absolutely detested, I would like to enthusiastically recommend the honey butter glazed pork biscuit. it was sweet and salty and fragrant and everything a morning pastry should be. my boyfriend, who eats faster than i do but is always considerate enough to leave me the last bite, well, i could see the muscles in his fork hand twitching, like it just might spontaneously reach out and grab the piece he'd politely left for me on the plate.

What I didn't like is a much longer list:

I found the menu difficult. I'm not an egg lover, and though there were lots of other choices, nothing really spoke to me. (To be fair, I should mention on both visits I had a really hard time finding something to order. My boyfriend, on the other hand, dreams of the soft scrambled eggs and would walk across town to have them.) I think it is weird how they mix sandwiches and salads in the same menu section with slightly vague descriptions; on our first visit, we actually had to ask which ones were on bread and which ones were salads.

the food was fine though i thought the portion sizes were just a bit, well, petite. i don't mean to sound like an unsophisticated diner that expects a family sized portion of pasta for $23--i'm not saying i wanted double or triple what i got. it's just when i saw the man next to me at the bar served his steak and egg, i actually heard myself say out loud, "geez, he's going to have to go have lunch after his lunch. there's no way that's going to fill him up." oh yea, and the bread was cold, soggy and tough.

food and menu aside, what really killed me about maialino was the service. as i write this, i'm waffling between nonexistent and horrible and can't decide which describes the experience better.
both times we visited, we sat at the bar, our preferred dining location in any restaurant. maialino doesn't have a huge bar and since most of the seated bar guests were eating, there should have been plenty of time for the two bartenders to take care of guests properly. Except they didn't.
When we arrived, I sat with a dirty place setting in front of me for a while before the bartender removed it and brought a clean one. She didn't change the one next to me, nor did she wipe it off before she plopped down a napkin and silverware for my boyfriend. We were never offered drinks.
At a bar. Never were asked. (I should mention both my boyfriend and I have tended bar at highly regarded chef run restaurants in manhattan, so we tend to be a bit forgiving when it is busy, we tip exceptionally well, and we know what is reasonable to expect from a server or bartender.)

Before we ordered, the lead bartender came over and asked the service bartender to handle a couple of bar patrons which she named by seat number. i can count. oh, she means us. then she proceeded to describe to him another bar guest, a vip, and right in front of us as we were being ignored, implored him to give the visiting chef really good service. we finally ordered and for the next fifteen minutes or so, while the service bartender flirted with the handsome gay guys next to me, i tried to catch his eye so i could order a drink. fifteen minutes. and a bartender standing right in front of me never noticed he'd not asked me what i wanted to drink, that i had no glass in front of me, nor that i was trying to get his attention.

The food came, we ate. And then, for the second time, there was the pesky problem of the dirty plates that sat in front of us forever. Gross. But not as gross as the red headed server who re-pony tailed her hair, smoothing it, twirling it and coaxing it into a rubber band. on the floor. in front of guests. then went back to serving tables without washing her hands.

It's weird. someone took great care with so many of the details in this place. pretty room. great location. so, why stop before you properly train your staff? especially in a hotel restaurant, why wouldn't you hire friendly, service oriented bar tenders who make guests feel at home and welcome?
and teach your waiters about basic hygiene practices.

yuck.

  1. f
    foodwhisperer Aug 14, 2012 10:03 PM

    I appreciate your report and hate that such a popular, well regarded restaurant, would let such things happen. I probably would have pushed those dirty dishes, firmly enough to be noticed.
    That's why I like Jean Georges, the service is exceptional and friendly. I hope someone from Maialino reads your report.

    1. ttoommyy Aug 15, 2012 06:51 AM

      Sorry to hear about the bad service you received. We have been to Maialino about ten times in the past few years and have always had very good to excellent service.

      1. b
        Bkeats Aug 15, 2012 09:22 AM

        Hate to hear about a bad experience at a place I like. I've never been for brunch though. Usually go for pasta and the pig which I think is great. Also never sat at the bar. Always table service and its never been anything like you've described. May be the bartenders are just less focused on diners than the servers that cover the tables. Before writing the place off, I would suggest dining there at a table and not ordering odrering brunch items, but the things they are known for. Who knows. Maybe that will change your mind or at least even the experience out.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bkeats
          ttoommyy Aug 15, 2012 09:26 AM

          Now that I do think about it, we did eat at the bar for brunch once and the service was no where near what we have experienced at the tables. It was not bad; it was just not accommodating.

        2. m
          mitchleeny Aug 16, 2012 10:20 AM

          It's understandable that you're upset. Have you written or emailed your concerns to Union Square Hospitality Group or Danny Meyer? They're/he are usually quite responsive.

          1. Bob Martinez Aug 16, 2012 10:39 AM

            I can't speak to the service issues you cite but I can help you with the menu.

            "I think it is weird how they mix sandwiches and salads in the same menu section with slightly vague descriptions; on our first visit, we actually had to ask which ones were on bread and which ones were salads. "

            Here's the section of the menu from their website:

            http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7108/77...

            The sandwiches and salads are clearly labeled.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bob Martinez
              t
              tex.s.toast Aug 16, 2012 10:53 AM

              I dont have issues with having to ask for clarification on menu's, but from that link you posted bob i think one could easily take issue with your definition of "clearly labled". Other than the two items with "Panino" in their name, which are clearly sandwiches if you have even rudimentary knowledge of italian pluralization and have ever seen a coffee shop with a sandwich press, how is one to know if there will be bread or greens surrounding the pork, swordfish, or mozz?

              1. re: tex.s.toast
                Bob Martinez Aug 16, 2012 11:15 AM

                There are only 5 items in that section of the menu. As you said, "panino" are clearly sandwiches. The porchetta is labeled "sandwich." The pesce spada is labeled as a salad.

                Only 1 item out of the 5 isn't labeled as either a salad or sandwich - the Caprese. While that's a common name for a salad the OP might not have known that.

                Even conceding that, 1 out of 5 hardly justified the OP's complaint that "... they mix sandwiches and salads in the same menu section with slightly vague descriptions; on our first visit, we actually had to ask which ones were on bread and which ones were salads. "

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