Food 8, process 1
We tried a new place in Pleasant Hill tonight, Urban Plates. The latest offering from a growing chain, with mostly organic ingredients and reasonably healthy options for a quick dinner out. It’s a step up from fast food, but not what you would want to call a real restaurant. Urban Plates is most like a cafeteria, which thinks it’s hip, slick and cool. We weren’t thrilled.
The menu offers some pretty nice dishes. There is a good selection of dinner salads, plated entrees with a decent variety of sides, sandwiches, soups, mini-pizzas and great looking desserts.
It all falls down on the process. If you order a dinner salad, you get one of those numbers on a stick and they bring it out to you. If you order one of the “plates”, you stand there while the cooks portion it out, then choose your sides. Except that the cold sides are in front of the proteins, the hot sides are behind, so the plates are shuffling back and forth while the cooks are loudly calling out what dish is ready–this is all theater, designed to make it look fast and efficient. Real kitchens don’t work that way. I found it loud and unpleasant, while being clumsy and ineffective.
They were offering a roasted corn and poblano soup, which I wanted but was unable to figure out how to order. By the time I had my plate and walked forward, I was in front of the pizzas and there was nobody to order soup from.
The menu says they have local and regional wines, whatever that means. Gail’s choices of chardonnay were oaked, or unoaked—I didn’t hear any mention of the label.
I had the grilled ahi with the roasted brussels sprouts:
The food was good. My ahi would have benefited from some soy sauce and wasabi, but that was not to be. The roast potatoes were excellent, the broccolini was properly cooked and just a bit spicy, I thoroughly enjoyed my brussels sprouts.
I didn’t enjoy the look of the plates with the food just thrown on them. I didn’t enjoy the silly para-military posturing of the cooks shouting out the orders. I never enjoy carrying a heavy tray around a dining room trying to choose a table. I wish I had been able to order a soup, and think wine should have a brand. The soda choices are proprietary “natural soda sweetened with organic cane sugar”. I just want a diet Coke. Of course, the only sweetener available is Stevia.
At first I thought maybe the issues bothering me were related to be new, and would shake out in time. Then I realized that this is the 10th outlet for this chain, and they know how they want to do things, whether I agree or not.
Since they are across the street from the movie theater, I suppose they will have a steady stream of customers looking for a quick meal, and Urban Plates will provide it. It’s fast, decently prepared, and reasonably priced. If you don’t have any service, you don’t have any tip. I’d go back if the process was better, but maybe I’m just a grouch.