Thursday, August 03, 2006

Seeing Red

Few things suck worse than going back to a restaurant you once adored, and being not only disappointed, but thoroughly pissed off by the experience. Such was our fate tonight.

As I mentioned before, The In-Laws are in town, and offered to take care fo The Lad for the evening whilst we got away. This is not something we get to do often, so we jumped at the chance. None of the movies listed at the local theatre sounded good, so we decided to just go out for dinner and drinks. After tossing out a couple of names, we settled on Red Agave, a local Southwest/Latin bistro that is considered one of the best restaurants in Eugene. We've eaten there before, as well as at another restauraunt owned by the same people, El Vaquero, and had been blown away by the food, the drinks (including a Caipirinha that will kick your hiney and leave you coming back for more), the atmosphere, the entire experience. Besides, the owner is friends with TFR's boss, so we got a 20% discount. We were looking forward to a wonderful evening.

We got there at around 8:15, well after the after-work crowd, and since it was a Thursday, we got a table right away, asking to be seated at a sidewalk table. About twenty minutes later, the waiter got around to taking our drink orders -- Bourbon and Coke for me, a mojito for TFR. Another 15-20 minutes later, our food order was taken. We decided to be frugal and just order appetizers -- I had the flank steak skewers with a jicama and orange salad, TFR had the crab and spinach stuffed Anaheim pepper.

HALF AN HOUR LATER IT ARRIVED!

In the meantime, we saw neither hide nor hair of our waiter (exctept for the one time he asked TFR if she wanted another Mojito) -- the bus staff took better care of us during that time. We WERE, however, treated to the entertaining antics of the hostedd who kept wandering down the sidewalk to smoke with a friend from the business next door. Later, when we mentioned to her how long our food take, she explained that the stuffed Anaheim pepper takes a long time to prepare.

THEN WHY THE HELL IS IT SOLD AS AN APPETIZER AND NOT AN ENTREE?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the point of an appetizer to be somehting light and quick to prepare to tide the diner over until their meal is ready? So why whould you present as an appetizer an item that is filling and time-consuming to prepare? Sorry, I just don't get that.

And there was more to the poor service than the time required to bring us our order. What really bothered us was the lack of service from our waiter, who came across as a superficial and inattentive. He had the conversational style of a used car salesman, and you got the impression that except for getting our order right, he really wasn't concerned with paying attention to a word we were saying.

Here's the real tragedy: The food was freaking delicious. The flavors were complex but not confusing, the flank steak was cooked to perfection, the textures and aromas were wonderful. But I don't go to a restauraunt that expensive just for the food. Hell, I know half a dozen cheaper restaurants that will serve you food that will blow your MIND when it comes to flavor. When you pay that much for food, you're also paying for service, ambiance, and presentation. The service was atrocious. The evening was delighfully cool, but we rapidly became too frustrated to enjoy the ambience. And by the time the food arrived, it was so dark that the only lighting provided, a single tealight candle, failed to provide the illumination needed to appreciate the presentation. I could have paid the same amount of money for more food, just as tasty, with the same presentation at Sizzler.

And the service would have been faster.

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