Fine dining in Emeryville?

I wrote about the Townhouse in Emeryville a couple of years ago, when we tried it with Jack and Carol, and I remember liking the place quite a bit.

Recently, we’ve eaten there twice as it’s a convenient meeting point for management dinners with Kate and Brad.  “Management” is the way you say tax deductible in business school.

The food is good.  We are particularly fond of the avocado bruschetta, an enormous appetizer that is attractive, tasty and quite filling:

Sliced ripe avocado on toast with balsamic reduction.  Very close to a meal all by itself.

Sliced ripe avocado on toast with balsamic reduction. Very close to a meal all by itself.

Portions here are large–Gail has twice chosen just to have two appetizers (plus her share of the avocado), and twice thought she had too much food.

Last night the “specials” were a gazpacho with crab and a halibut with crab.  Both were very good, both were the same “specials” that were offered two weeks ago.  I do not think that word means what they think it does.

I had the pork chop stuffed with Italian sausage.

Stuffed pork chop with mashed potatoes and string beans.

Stuffed pork chop with mashed potatoes and string beans.

Hard to get more down home classic than pork chop, spuds and string beans, but the stuffing makes it sort-of original.  I wish the chop had been cooked a bit less or brined or both; it would have been more tender and juicy.  The potatoes and beans were decent, but pedestrian.

Here’s the real problem I have with the Townhouse—the reservation system.  They are on Opentable, of course.  But for some beknighted reason they have activated the system where you have to give them a credit card to hold you table.  Folks, The French Laundry.this place ain’t.  People are not clamoring to get in here months in advance.

On top of the credit card issue, they insist on 48 hours notice of cancellation or they threaten to charge you.  My life isn’t that easy; things are happening and changing all the time, people have events and trips and families and issues all the damned time and there is often much less than 48 hours notice of a dinner being changed or moved or cancelled.

I tried to talk to the host about this, but he claimed that sometimes they were busy and no-shows were expensive (that part is undoubtedly true–always, always, always call to cancel if you can’t make it).  He said Opentable would not let them ask for credit cards only on busy nights: it was all or nothing.  I call bullshit on this, other restaurants manage to get card numbers for special nights only.  He also claimed that the 48 hour rule was from Opentable, but I doubt that as well.  I think the Townhouse is just trying to bully their customers and make a few bucks with petty rules that in the long run make me not want to eat there.

So the bottom line is that the food is good, the service is decent, the location is convenient and the way they treat their customer base regarding reservations is miserable, insulting and unpleasant.  They were pretty darned empty last night, maybe you just don’t need a reservation, at least mid-week.

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