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SD-26 Ugh!

Bought a Gilt City deal- 5 course chef's tasting dinner with wine at the chef's table.

We bought the same thing last year, and the chef's were totally engaged with us, brought us so many different things to try- actually took pride in what they served us. So we decided to buy it again.

This time, the experience was as close to horrible and this restaurant should be embarrassed. There were two tables in the kitchen. One literally on top of each other. We were warmly greeted by the chef who said he was going to make us an "amazing meal". Well, I guess he was too busy the rest of the night, because a: we never saw him again, b: dinner was fair at best.

Our server, Raphael, had a major cold or some other disease- he was coughing as he was serving, in between checking his phone. At one point wary in the dinner he said something to my wife like, " oh, you think you're important because you're at the chef's table, well it's booked all the time, and you're just not"!! Are you kidding me? He then started yelling at the bus boys, and the wine steward who also was taking care of us. I called the manager over and he basically told Raphael not to serve us anymore- Unfortunately for the rest of the people he served, I'm sure his attitude or his health didn't change at all.

The salumi starter was fine, followed by chef Matteo''s signature Raviolio with egg which was wonderful. What followed was a joke. He sent out a piece of fish, which was put down in front of us without description. It was uneatable- smelled like, and tasted way too fishy. When the server saw we didn't eat it, they took it away, and brought us a plain pasta pomodoro which was fine. Next up, along with the comment, oh this is not on the tasting menu, was what looked like a short rib with some gnocchi. Well the gnocchi was good. Dessert of tiramisu followed which was fine. And then we sat. No offer of coffee, no offer of anything. Finally I found a captain in the dining room to get me a check. On the check was the full price of the tasting menu, of $145 per person!! And a suggested tip of $60 for the two of us.

All I can say is, this is a beautiful restaurant with an excellent chef. It looks like they are woefully understaffed, probably because of the way they treat the staff and this causes much havoc. We were also supposed to receive a visit from Marissa and or Tony May plus a gift card for wine- Neither of which happened.

All in all, a bad night in a New York restaurant that just doesn't seem to care anymore. What a waste of money!!

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  1. I was never a fan of San Domenico (mediocre food with crappy service), so I'm not surprised to read of your awful experience. Guess they haven't improved with time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ellenost

      I am surprised. San Domenico was one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC , IMO of course.

      1. re: foodwhisperer

        I've recommended SD26 several times; it's never disappointed us and friends have enjoyed it as well.

    2. We've wanted to try SD-26 for some time and Restaurant Week provided a good opportunity. In short: Very good food and very weird service -- from the moment we walked in. At the front we were told to head down a ways to the desk, at the desk we were told to head back a ways to check our coats. One of a supercilious duo of male model types showed us to a table where a supercilious server didn't even give us a chance to sit down before opening menus and placing them in front of us. "We have the RW menu tonight but of course they're not our most adventurous dishes," we were told as she pushed the items on the regular menu. Appetizers were almost immediately brought out with entrees quickly following. We finished in record time. The wild bass and tuna carpaccio apps and rabbit and goat entrees were all very tasty, also great bread, and beautifully presented. Lovely space, too. In no rush to return though. What a contrast to the delightful experience at Riverpark's RW last week!

      7 Replies
      1. re: City Kid

        Funny I had a similar experience at Lincoln yesterday. Ordered from the RW menu and I was eating my second course 15 mins into the meal.

        Overall, I would say its not fair to judge a place based on RW experience. Just my opinion.

        1. re: Ziggy41

          You may be right, Ziggy, but I think restaurants that don't use RW as a marketing opportunity to show their best face are foolish. Example: Having been introduced to Riverpark during RW I can't wait to go back at other times, but SD-26, not at all!

          1. re: City Kid

            Foolish as it may seem, most RW restaurants are not using it as a marketing opportunity, but as a way to fill the place during the slowest times of the year. Even Riverpark, which does an admirable job, was practically empty when we went there a few weeks before RW, but quite busy when we went during RW, so I'm not even sure how much repeat business it generates.

            I like SD26, but never have gone there for RW, as I would expect the service, which is a weak point at all times, to suffer from the larger crowds. I'd rather pay full price and enjoy it.

            1. re: rrems

              Unless restaurants just want to look busy or keep staff moving that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It's not a loss leader item -- like cheap oysters -- where people will spend additional money on other food. I doubt they make much, if anything, on RW meals and if people don't want to come back because they had a lousy experience what's the point?

              1. re: City Kid

                There is a reason for filling tables aside from profit. The staff depends on tips, so if the restaurant is not busy enough, they may choose to work elsewhere. And yes, looking busy is important because customers tend to look at an empty restaurant as a failure. This is what Savored is about, though the restaurant may not make any money after the discount, at least the staff is happy and the place looks busy.

                1. re: rrems

                  Rrems, I'm sure there is something to what you say but bad word of mouth, such as SD-26 is getting here can't be good for business.

                  1. re: City Kid

                    Agreed. I wasn't defending their practices, which I find short-sighted, but the fact remains that it is quite popular, and even the most experienced restaurateurs may not be as customer-service oriented as we'd like them to be. So far they are getting away with it...