Plus ca change,

Plus ça meme chose.  (The more things change, the more they stay the same)

Out tonight with a small crowd–Gail, Micky and Linda, Winnie and Jerry.  We decided to try the Park Bistro, which was the Duck Club in the Park Hotel for the last 27 years, and has been newly renovated, remodeled and renamed.  It officially reopened on last Saturday.

I like the salt and pepper grinders.  They showed nice attention to detail in the remodel.

I like the salt and pepper grinders. They showed nice attention to detail in the remodel.

I last ate in the Duck Club maybe 10 years ago, having an experience so miserable that I haven’t been back–we waited an hour for dinner, then got an ice cold plate of food.  I was not amused, and went into the kitchen to express my non-amusement.  They don’t like that.  Too bad.  They comped my dinner that night.

Tonight started off well–I made a reservation on Opentable.com, drove over and dropped my car with the valet–parking isn’t great at the hotel, but the valet is free.  Take your luxuries where you can find them.

The remodeling is quite pretty–the room is light and airy, with lighthearted art on the walls and waitstaff casually dressed in light blue shirts.  The tables in the window nooks have tablecloths, the others don’t.  There is a large, marble topped table for 8 in the front of the room as well as a private room which seats about a dozen.

So, we’re seated.  Some drinks were ordered.  Then, nothing.

My ice tea came.  Gail’s wine came.  Jerry put in an order for a bottle of wine.

More nothing.

We asked the busser if we could order.  She said yes, but isn’t the person who actually does that.

Finally, more than 20 minutes after we arrived, the waiter got around to asking if we were ready to order.  We were.

The Park Bistro menu is pretty good, with a decent breadth of offerings that include a number of items “for the table”, meats, seafoods, a couple of pastas.  There is a $37 prix fixe meal which seemed like a good deal.

Our first courses arrived.

I ordered the Heirloom tomato caprese salad.  They brought me the heirloom tomato panzanella salad, which isn’t the same thing at all.  I wanted the salad I ordered.  The waiter came over, and said there was no caprese salad on the menu.  I said there was, the first item in the prix fixe dinner.  He said that only came with the dinner and couldn’t be ordered.  I said they were a restaurant and they most certainly could make me a salad,  He went away shaking his head, but must have shaken some sense into it, because a very nice caprese soon appeared, although it was short on basil (and kind of chintzy on the cheese, too).   Fortunately, the excellent tomatoes made up for its shortcomings.

Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and not enough basil.

Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and not enough basil.

Gail, Linda, Winnie and Jerry all ordered the caesar salad.

It's the real thing with an anchovy this prominent.

It’s the real thing with an anchovy this prominent.

Asked about her salad, Gail said “It’s fine”.  That’s Gailspeak for “It’s acceptable.  Not wonderful.  Fair.”  Winnie was less impressed.

Chairman Mao had his Long March.  We had the Long Wait.  We sat.  We chatted.  We schmoozed. We dawdled.  Then we got cranky.

My iced tea was empty, and I had no luck getting a refill.  I told the same busser I needed more, but perhaps she doesn’t speak english. I told the waiter, who took away my empty but that was the extent of his efforts.  Mike tried to  book bets on which would come first, my tea or my food, but everyone voted that it would be the food.

Finally, Gail got up and braced the waiter, who said it wasn’t his fault.  True, but she had to yell at somebody and he was the guy who could make something happen, at least in theory.

Finally, at last, after almost 90 minutes, our meals arrived.  I won’t say they were worth the wait, but they were pretty darned good.

Gail had the steak-frites,  a hangar steak and fries.

That's some juicy beef.

That’s some juicy beef.

Linda and Jerry had the seared Ahi.

Nori-wrapped Ahi

Nori-wrapped Ahi

This looks good, but the Ahi is over-cooked.  Seared Ahi is usually essentially raw with just the tiniest ring of cooked meat on the seared edge.  Still, there were no leftovers.

Winnie had the lamb porterhouse, basically a 4 inch thick loin lamb chop.  Sorry, it didn’t photograph well.  Or the photographer wasn’t up to the task.  No,  that can’t be right, it must be the fault of the dish.

Lastly Mike and I had the Seafood Carbonara., house made fettuccine with “house made salmon bacon” (which seemed like smoked salmon to me), peas, clams and “uni butter”.  I enjoyed this dish, but it bears no resemblance to any kind of carbonara I’ve ever had–there was no cream, no cheese, no egg yolk.

Something called seafood carbonara.

Something called seafood carbonara.

The manager came over, quite apologetic about the interminable wait.  He said the restaurant had only been open 3 days (not counting the previous 27 years) and they had more business than they expected.  Since there were only 7 tables of diners in the room, I question this.

On the other hand, he comped our entire meal, except the wine.

So I’ve eaten in this restaurant 2 times in 10 years, had hideous service both times and haven’t paid for a meal yet.  The food, when it was finally presented, was hit and miss–the caesar salad was mediocre,, the Ahi over cooked, the steak-frites excellent.  Winnie loved her lamb porterhouse, and Mike and I enjoyed whatever it was that they call seafood carbonara.

Is it really a 3 day old Bistro that needs time to work out?  Or is it a 27 year old hotel dining room room with a few cosmetic changes that can’t get it together?  It may be unfair of me, but I’m going with the latter.  I’ll check back in another 10 years.  Maybe.
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