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Disappointment in Details

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When seeing potential is painful.

The local restaurant that everyone knows is something that makes neighborhoods, well, neighborhoods. Nicole and I frequent a few of these. One in particular sees us visit time and again because we lived nearby, literally a five minute walk from the place when it opened. The early days of the restaurant were the early days of our marriage and we had many pleasant evenings engaged in conversation over good food and wine. We moved to a “luxury” apartment before long, taking us out of the neighborhood and reducing the frequency of our visits.

That the cuisine is Italian certainly doesn't hurt the cause. The décor is elegant. The staff is friendly. The space is cozy, often full of neighbors, where at least a few people can be seen greeting diners at other tables upon arrival or departure. This is a place that by all appearances is doing well, and one that I want to do well.

I have to tell you about the luxury apartments. Our move there was unfortunate. We moved from a real neighborhood, a wonderful mix of residential, office, and retail space. The kind of place where one could—and I did—go for days without use of a car without even trying. I loved being a few minutes' walk from a movie house that showed really interesting films, one-of-a-kind restaurants, fabulous ice cream, the best library for a city its size in the nation, and about anything one could want. Our apartment building was built in the 1920s, like much of the neighborhood, and had a certain sort of elegance far removed from the soulless ostentatiousness that dominates much of the modern real estate market. Life there was pleasant.

The luxury apartments, I grant you, were larger. They were newer. The community was gated. As the reader will undoubtedly know, riff-raff can't get around gates. The only real problem was that the gate seemed to be broken every few weeks, presumably by someone driving right through it in their vehicle. Well, that and the fact that one had to haul one's trash bags halfway down the street and fling them into dumpsters. Then there was that matter of the aggressive geese that took over the artificial lakes put on the property and half of the walkways. The grass got to be nearly three feet high in the summer. Anything like a restaurant, retail outlet, library, or in fact anything that anyone might ever want to visit was a car ride away. But the ceilings were high and it had a fireplace that blew smoke up the chimney at least as often as it filled the living room. It was luxury living—nevermind the details of actually living there.

It's that whole nevermind the details bit that annoys me.

We thus return to the restaurant and our most recent trip there. As we were headed to the symphony later in the evening we opted for wine directly rather than settling into dinner with a cocktail beforehand. The wine I ordered from the modest but sufficient list was nice. It had significant markup but at a rate that on the lower end of what is pretty consistent with what many restaurants add. Our server did ask if I wanted to taste before she poured, though it seemed that she was struggling to remember the right way to go about the ritual. I tasted and approved the wine. Then she poured the rest of my glass before turning to my wife. Bzzzt.

Off our server went, having taken my cork. The cork that I did not even get to see, much less have the opportunity to add to my collection. Yes I already have hundreds—probably over a thousand—of them. That, however, is beside the point. If I am going to be an eccentric in my old age, complete with collections of things that people think strange, I need to get started now. That cork cost me $30. I want my cork.

I got over the cork as we explored the wine and settled into conversation.

A lovely looking spinach salad arrived. And then all of the staff took care of numerous other duties. After waiting for about five minutes I finally gave up hope of ever being asked if I might find fresh cracked pepper a desirable addition to the salad. It was well put together. It would have been better with the pepper.

I got over the pepper. Out came the entrées. I had a six cheese ravioli in a light red sauce. I underestimated the sauce—my own fault, really, for not putting much faith in the “light” part of the description—so the wine I chose was a bit overpowering. I opted to cleanse my palate and to focus a bit on the sauce. There just wasn't much to it. Nor was there much to the cheese. Nor the pasta. It was needlessly bland.

I got over the sauce and looked around as the restaurant filled up. Quite a few patrons clearly put on their best T-shirts for the occasion. Some of the parties even had matching T-shirts, which is how I knew that it was an extra special occasion.

Nothing at dinner was a disaster. It wasn't even bad. It was just that in one way after another, almost everything failed to achieve anything beyond mediocrity. The food and the décor were good, but they were forgotten by the time that I had observed everything else. I left the restaurant feeling disappointed and a little annoyed. I don't engage with people and pay them to give me something to get over.

There just is not any reason that a city the size of Columbus, and one full of people who appreciate good food should settle for an experience that fails to impress. No more am I going to tolerate restaurants that require that I forget about the details of actually dining there.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2011-11-16 11:32 AM
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