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Connie & Ted's - Opening Night (a review)

s
susiequeue Jun 5, 2013 04:18 PM

Somehow, my brand new husband got us reservations to eat at Providence's Michael Cimarusti's new (more casual) restaurant, Connie & Ted's, last night.

I'll start by saying it is probably not fair to review a restaurant on its opening night. But I kept that in mind and am not even going to mention a few missteps.

We got to the restaurant on time (early - 6:00) and it was already a-buzz. The building stands out from far, far away. If you've seen the photos, they don't do it justice. You CANNOT miss it -- and it's a very playful, fun look.

We were seated on the patio, which I liked. It was about 72 degrees out and beautiful. The service was EXTREMELY efficient (perhaps a little too much so! But more on that later.) I didn't get the waiter's name, but he was very friendly and helpful.

I decided to try one of their "signature" cocktails that they feature in the menu. I couldn't tell from the write-ups which one would appeal, so I told the server I didn't like sweet drinks. He knew just the off-the-menu drink to offer -- a whiskey-based fruit punch. It turned out to be a very small glass with too-many ice cubes (for $12). I liked it fine -- it was indeed refreshing -- but frankly, it was sweet!

On to the food! My better half ordered a half a dozen oysters and enjoyed them very much. If you know your oysters, you'll like this a lot: they have a huge selection of fresh oysters (which appears to change depending on what is fresh). I ordered a fresh broiled scallop cooked in its own shell. I love scallops and this was absolutely delicious. (One would expect a perfect scallop from this chef and this did not disappoint!)

Then we both ordered the trio of chowders. There is a Manhattan style, a New England style and finally what they call a Rhode Island Clear clam chowder. We both had fun with the three small chowders. My husband felt all three chowders were "thin." He expected the clear one to be thin, but not the New England, for example. To his surprise, he liked the Rhode Island clear soup the best. Me, I liked them all! Funny thing is I probably liked the oyster crackers the best! They were homemade and shaped in very small cubes -- like a child's tooth.

Our soups were rushed away -- I had to tell them no, I was not finished -- because the entrees were ready. My husband saw our waiter motion to the server to bring them back to the kitchen because we were still enjoying our soup. That was... not good.

Meanwhile, the tables were filling and the noise was heightening. It felt like a scene in Annie Hall. There were CAA agents to the left of me, music producers to the right... (True sound bite: "You know, if you just do one night at the Bowl, it's the same as 18 shows in the mid-bleepin'-west!")

When we first arrived at Connie & Ted's, we could hear the music -- it was from my era (CCR, Dylan, Neil Young, Allman Brothers...) An hour later, it didn't matter anymore, it was getting so loud. When I went to use the restroom, it was a zoo. Wait staff was all cloistered around the front counter, pushing, grabbing, bumping into each other. The restroom, as an aside, is not well designed. Some unlucky employee had better be assigned just to cleaning it every two minutes. There was a trash can in the lavatory the size of a miniature -- like it was made for one of those hobbyists' doll houses. The sink-trough collected water and looked perpetually dirty. Good luck with that.

Now the entrees. My husband ordered the striped bass which was on the list of fresh-that-day. The server recommended that it be prepared with an herb crust. I didn't know what to order. The server extolled the virtues of the scampi-like grilled shrimp, so I agreed. It must be noted that we kept asking the server what he thought; he did not impose his opinions on us.

The entrees came out quickly (again, too quickly). My husband's fish was not great, I am very sad to report. For being so rushed, it was actually a tad overcooked and seriously under seasoned. My shrimp was not scampi-like at all as it too cried out for salt and pepper (much less garlic). When we tried to add salt and pepper, our shakers had been completely overfilled and nothing came out... till we unscrewed the top and a mountain of salt poured out (luckily onto the table).

Unwilling to be hurried out, we ordered dessert. It was a homemade vanilla ice cream that tasted much like a McConnell's ice cream with a sort of candied walnut topping. It tasted good though (hey, I love McConnells!) and was not overpriced at all!

The plusses of our dinner include the excitement of being there when it opened (which obviously was also sort of a minus!). I must also rave about the stand-out architecture and design as well as the ambiance/vibe before it became a cacophony of people and noise. The New England clam bake/fresh fish theme is a great addition to L.A. The starters that we ate were delicious overall and I enjoyed the whimsy that permeated the menu. Finally on the plus list has to be the very attentive service. Even the busboy was sweet.

The downside to the experience was the rushing (that, without a doubt, tops the minus list) and feeling like we'd better leave so they could turn over the table. Maybe we chose the wrong entrees because, as mentioned, they needed seasoning! Next time I think going with the boiled New England dinner or clam bake or perhaps a Portuguese stew -- all might be a smarter choice. I've never had a lobster roll, so maybe I should have tried that!

One last gripe-ette is just my own personal pet peeve: I really hate the L.A. scene. Since it was so crowded and noisy, you got to hear every pretentious comment ("I don't like oysters, but I own that feeling..." or, "So I told Miley to change her hair...") Then again, that's entertainment!

And we will be back! (Early, before it becomes a zoo..!)

  1. s
    susiequeue Jun 5, 2013 04:20 PM

    Oops -- forgot to tell you:

    Connie & Ted's
    8171 Santa Monica Blvd.
    West Hollywood, CA
    (323) 848-CRAB
    www.connieandteds.com

    1. PeterCC Jun 5, 2013 04:45 PM

      Thanks for reporting back! Do you think the rush service was due to the crowds or to opening night jitters? They did at least a full week of friends-and-family service, should I would have hoped some of the kinks would have been smoothed out.

      Maybe I'll wait a few weeks to try or go during off-hours. Glad to see they have lunch service from the start!

      1 Reply
      1. re: PeterCC
        d
        Dirtywextraolives Jul 3, 2013 09:32 AM

        As you probably already know..... They still have started lunch service. Much to my chagrin I drove out there about a month back, and pulled in the lot promptly at 11:30. I parked, in what seemed to be a full lot, already, and got out of my car. Someone was standing on the porch/patio near the front entrance and asked if they could help me. I said I was here for lunch, and he kind of smirked and said they were not serving lunch yet.....((sigh)). So for now, looks like we have to deal with the crowds and scene until they do.

      2. J.L. Jun 5, 2013 05:11 PM

        Thanks for reporting back!

        1. l
          linus Jun 5, 2013 05:27 PM

          that scene is not exclusive to l.a.
          i've heard such in every city i've gone to. it just depends on the kind of place and what they're serving.

          1. c
            chewbacca Jul 1, 2013 12:06 PM

            I moved away from that neighborhood last year. I lived in WeHo for 20 years and welcome those early prohibition hours and ovens that are grandfathered in with certain locations. I loved Silver Spoon because you could go in any time of day or night and get served. I swear I was at C&T yesterday at 4 pm (a Saturday) and the place was closed! I said no F way! SilvermSpoon was open beyond B-L-D! No wonder they have to charge such high prices when they are only open for limited evening hours! So they are closed for Pride? West Hollywood lost a lot in this deal.... So much for servicing the community. LOST!

            3 Replies
            1. re: chewbacca
              Servorg Jul 1, 2013 12:14 PM

              As you can see by visiting their website, C&T's hours are 6PM to 11PM, Tuesday through Sunday.

              http://www.connieandteds.com/

              1. re: chewbacca
                a
                andytseng Jul 1, 2013 01:22 PM

                They just opened. I think their intention, like many restaurants, is to eventually open for lunch as well.

                1. re: andytseng
                  f
                  foodiemahoodie Jul 1, 2013 04:38 PM

                  They told me (Donato) that they will eventually be open for lunch.

              2. JAB Aug 11, 2013 06:51 PM

                I attempted to relive my "yut" at Connie & Teds and was left disappointed. The Clam Cakes were cooked at too high of a temp and were dark on the outside and not fully cooked on the inside. The dusting of salt was unnecessary. The fried calamari rings were cut too small but, the tentacle parts were good. The lobster in my lobster roll was overcooked and had no texture. I gave half away to another in my party who had split another one with another in my party and they stated that theirs was better with more texture. The clam strips were fine. The beer list was good but, the pours seemed like 8oz. The bussers were very attentive.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JAB
                  d
                  Dirtywextraolives Aug 11, 2013 07:28 PM

                  Too bad, sounds like the oil was too hot on those clam cakes. I agree, there is no need for the dusting of salt, but it does make it look pretty in the pictures....

                  Our calamari and my lobster were both cooked perfectly. A lot can go wrong when cooking fish & seafood......

                  1. re: JAB
                    Porthos Aug 11, 2013 07:35 PM

                    Had a great dinner Saturday maybe partly because we didn't order a single thing you did. The yelp photos showed unappetizing clam and crab cakes so those were easy passes. Got a dozen oysters to start: kumamoto, mermaid cove, kusshi, and one other that escapes me. All very good. Tomato salad. Excellent. The tomatoes would have been liquid if they were any riper and juicier. The touch of coarse sea salt really highlighted the sweetness. We then all split the New England boiled dinner, plain and simple grilled halibut, Portuguese fish stew, and bone in angus rib eye. Every dish was excellent. The only miss was the creamed corn side that we picked to accompany the halibut. It was so laden with cheese that it overwhelmed the sweet corn. We took one taste and left the rest untouched.

                     
                     
                  2. f
                    foodiemahoodie Aug 21, 2013 10:54 PM

                    Finally went - loved it.

                    Went with GF and her GF.

                    Had the chowda samplers (all very good, Rhode Island the unanimous fav of the group), grilled calamari, New Bedford scallop (could eat 10 of these - seems like something from Providence), deviled oysters, fried clams w/bellies, lobster roll, grilled spot prawns, shellfish marina (with mussels and clams), wilted spinach side, some mixed drinks, and a lot of dirty martinis.

                    Food delivered - simple, straight forward fish shack food done right. Like what you want Gladstone's to be (and isn't. Gladstone's is like Connie & Ted's - in Hell).

                    We sat outside, not as noisy. Look forward to going back. Might even head out there late and sit at the counter.

                    And the incomparable Donato Potto as host of the evening just wrapped up the old experience with a feeling that this is an instant classic L.A. restaurant.

                    Waddled away - too much food for 3 people and I couldn't stop eating.

                    And then dessert came. We were like that guy in the The Meaning of Life - one wafer from exploding, but that Blondie could not be denied. "This is the last bite, really." "Okay, just one more. " "Hm, this is really the last bite. " Until it was gone. Thank god they didn't put another one in front of us.

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