Seasick (Michael Mina -- San Francisco, CA)
So here's the thing. You spend a bazillion dollars remodeling a beloved and famous tea room in an even more famous hotel. You promise it will be bigger, better, sexier and that it will promote world peace. And then it sucks.
Michael Mina, the chef, the restaurant, the name, the brand -- it all sucks.
We ate at MM shortly after they opened. They had mad buzz for months before so we got all hot and excited. We had eaten his food when he was at Aqua, although he wasn't technically in the kitchen (our neighbor, Jay Wetzel was his chef de cuisine and was usually at the helm). Regardless of who was cooking, it was tasty and it was the menu Michael designed thus we had hope for his namesake.
Before I launch into the bashing, I want to mention one cool thing that MM did. Since they are in the Westin St. Francis, they lost their staff during the hotel workers' strike. Rather than ask people to cross picket lines, MM closed for the duration of the strike, retained all of the workers' jobs and gave free future meals to the customers who had scheduled reservations in advance that ultimately fell during the strike. This cost them around $75,000. So that's a pretty fucking cool thing. But it doesn't make up for the crappy food, which I'll tell you about now.
You walk into the dining room and there is no host, so where do you go. A skinny ass bitch runs across to direct you to your table. Once there, you are greeted by a waiter in some Sprockets-esque black outfit that looks so 80's (and not good, cool, retro 80's) that I pretty much lost my appetite right there. The dining room is pretty and relatively comfortable, but it definitely doesn't look like it's worth the millions Barbara Barry spent designing it (side note: Barbara Barry seems to live in a fantasy world where people will dress to match her dining rooms. I'm not kidding. She actually said this to the Chronicle. My guess is that she's got her meds to that comfy level that rich bitches thrive on and truly believes that if she thinks it, it will be so).
We ate there with Kathy & Bob (see the Fungal Infection post for more on them). Bob being a wine distributor decided to bring some wine. He knows Rajat Parr, the wine director, as they run in the same circles and all. We also ordered wine off of their list, as wine etiquette would dictate (you must order some of the restaurant's wine if you're going to bring some of your own. And your own better be some damn fine wine itself). Quite frankly, Rajat is a dick. He was so cold, so off putting despite the fact that our party included people he knew. As they say, if this is how you treat your friends...I mean, really, he's just a total dick.
And now for the food. I'll start on a positive note. We requested the truffled popcorn, which is usually only on the bar menu. It was great and I loved it. It was $8, which is no biggie, but the waiter failed to tell us the price. Usually, if you make a special request, the server will say "We'd be happy to accommodate you for an additional charge of X dollars." Even the finest of the fine do this. So if this is the positive note, you can guess where the review is going.
The amuse bouche were cute and playful. The shrimp corndog was beyond adorable (Michael Bauer, reviewer for the Chronicle somehow had a lobster one, but of course they couldn't have known it was him, right?). After that it all went downhill.
I went for the classics: tuna tartare and lobster potpie. The tuna is good, but not so special that I can't get something equally good for half the price. And holy fuck, the lobster potpie was so bad that I had to say something. The lobster was tough. So I'm paying a $15 supplement on top of the already steep price for this bullshit? You don't even know how to cook your fucking lobster? But what I said, when asked how things were (and after much prodding from Jon, Kathy and Bob), was: "Well, actually, the lobster pot pie was not very good. The lobster meat was tough." "Oh. We're sorry." That's it. Not "Oh dear, let us waive the supplement" or "Can we comp you a dessert?" or "Is there something else we can get for you?". I don't expect special treatment, but at a restaurant like this, you need to make sure your guests are happy.
Jon, Kathy and Bob all did some version of his little trio menu. It's all so precious that I could puke. First off, when you get six "different" tastes of a dish, they better all taste different (see how that works?). We all agreed that by bite three of each thing, we were bored. Bored, more bored, bored-est. Jon and Bob thought the Kobe beef was good, but not great, and definitely not worth the supplement. The crab "salads" that accompanied the sea bass were all the same. The same. No difference. More suckage.
And the desserts were just stupid and ridiculous. Who wants three chocolate cakes with chocolate milkshakes? Each one had a special flavor, for example, peanut butter. Pause while we all vomit at the thought of a chocolate-peanut butter cake washed down with a chocolate-peanut butter milkshake. Then imagine that two more times over with other crap mixed in. I love chocolate, I love good ol' pb, but that shit just makes me gag. I had a rootbeer float for my dessert (again, sticking with the classics) it was OK, but not amazing. I do have to give mad props to the chocolate chip cookies that came with it. And I have to take those same props away as I asked to have the cookies wrapped (I was pretty full) and they failed me. Fucking bitches.
Our server was OK, but mostly just stuffy. And when the bill came, we all felt really crabby and disappointed, because, really, when you spend that much on a meal, it should be good, if not GREAT. And this was mediocre at best.
The worst part? I thought I was crazy. Every fucking review out there of this place is fantastic. Maybe they got different food. Or maybe MM knew they were coming. What I do know is that several other peeps I've talked to felt the same way I did. In fact every CHEF I know who's been there has been horrified.
And who knows? Maybe some nights they do churn out an amazing experience for certain people. But if you aren't consistent, what do you really have? You have a shitty restaurant, that's what you have. And it's a restaurant that I won't be going back to. It was a waste of money for everyone, including the restaurant itself. Blech.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."