Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What if you don’t like it? (Wherein Φ betrays his middle class betatude)

A visit by the grandparents is always a great opportunity to take Mrs. Φ on a dinner date.  Unlike Sheila’s deadbeat in-law, mine are actively involved with the children (a convenient side effect of which is that by the end of the week, they’re ready to go home).

Last night we went out to an Italian restaurant called the Brio Tuscan Grille.  (Class fail #1:  chain restaurants.)  The Brio is at about the price-point that I’m willing to go there for a date but not willing to take the children.  Happily, most people must hold the same opinion, because we didn’t see any other children there either.

I had had a large, and late, lunch, so when we took our table at 6:15 (Class fail #2:  early dinner), I was determined to eat light.  Bread came first, of course, and I ordered a bowl of excellent lobster bisque as an appetizer.  The entree was a while in coming, so I had lots of bread and bisque by the time I received my Mediterranean Chicken Salad.

The salad was utterly flavorless.  What’s shocking about this is that grilled chicken on romaine and baby spinach with black olives, avocadoes, and tomatoes is one of my favorite meals when Mrs. Φ prepares it at home, as she does once or twice a week.  But here it tasted like a coleslaw mix without any vinegar.  I added salt and pepper with no noticeable effect.

“Mmmm . . . ,” Mrs. Φ said over her ravioli-looking dish.  “How’s yours?”

“Awful,” I replied honestly.  I tasted hers and it was indeed delicious.

“Are you enjoying your meal?” our waitress server asked breezily.  “Mine’s good, but my husband doesn’t like his,” Mrs. Φ  piped up.  I described my reaction, and she put on a concerned look as she asked, “is there anything you would like instead?”

“Let me try it with the parmesan cheese,” I said.  So they grated some parm on the salad.  No help.  “Maybe Caesar dressing would help it,” Mrs. Φ offered.  They brought Caesar dressing, which I added liberally.  No help, and by now I had a thoroughly bastardized concoction in front of me that even my dog wouldn’t eat.

Now, I was 90% sure that the Brio’s offers of another entree were intended gratis, but I agonized over accepting it.  I had, after all, received exactly what I had ordered, and even though I hated the thought that I had bought something I didn’t want, I also hated imposing my lack of appreciation on the restaurant.  So I said to the server, “I appreciate all the help you’ve given me tonight, and . . . I’ll be fine.”  This last bit must have been pretty pained, because the manager soon came out to talk with us.

“Sir, I’d like to treat you to our Chicken Orzo.  It’s my personal favorite salad.”

“Okay,” I mumbled, “but only a small one.”  (I was by this time thrown off the idea of eating anything else.)  When the orzo came, I was as complimentary as I could manage, but most of it when it went into a doggie bag to-go box (Class fail #14:  taking restaurant food home).  As I discovered at lunch today, the leftover orzo salad really was first rate, but I needed more of an appetite to appreciate it.

Brio didn’t charge me for the Mediterranean, and only charge half price for the Orzo (even though I had specified “small”, the salad still looked pretty big).  Verdict:  two thumbs up.  Pleasant atmosphere, no children, great service, reasonably good food.  Just don’t order the Mediterranean Chicken Salad.


Erik said...

I had, after all, received exactly what I had ordered

Not true.

You we ordering something with an expectation based on the restaurant's advertising, and probably somewhat based on the quality of food you've had there in the past.

Sheila Tone said...

You eat it at home two or three times a week, and you finally get out to a restaurant, and you order it there, too?

You must really, really like Mediterranean chicken salad. I'll have to try whipping one up for Mr. Tone.

I'll bet she marinates it and just puts a light dressing on. Whereas they didn't marinade it and gooped it up with flavorless ranch dressing.

It's not a class fail to eat early when you've got young kids. You fall asleep early, so what can you do.

Sheila Tone said...

"I had, after all, received exactly what I had ordered, and even though I hated the thought that I had bought something I didn’t want, I also hated imposing my lack of appreciation on the restaurant."

It's their fault, not yours. And if you don't tell them, and give them a chance to make you happy, then you'll probably never go back there again. They want people to come back. So they are grateful when you give them a chance to fix what you don't like.

Φ said...

Yes, she marinates the chicken. Plus, I'm pretty sure this is where all that basalmic vinagrette goes that she has me buy . . .