Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mendoza's - Review

I take great pleasure writing reviews for establishments like Mendoza's. Mendoza's is perfect for what it is. Authentic Michoacan fare, where everything is homemade, the mariachi band is loud, and the buzz is deafening. It was supremely busy and the food took a lifetime to arrive, but it was definitely worth the wait! Everything was tremendous, down to all the sauces in the squeeze bottles (which I thought of stealing so I could have them later). I definitely found my new favorite "Mexican" restaurant. Come here, take your time and enjoy something wonderful.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Meadowood Restaurant- Review

Dining at Meadowood Restaurant was certainly an enlightening experience. After a full day of wine tasting and loving the pure beauty that Napa had to offer, my boyfriend and I decided to finish our perfect adventure with an evening of extravagance. We journeyed up the winding roads of St. Helena, famished and nervously excited, praying that our experience would be live up to the vaulted expectations that we had. The setting was picturesque, looking up, the milky way lit up the night sky, the smell of the trees enlivened our senses. The only way to describe the setting is pure romance. It was beautiful, the ambiance was hushed but still comforting. The evening began with two glasses of Krug.

I would like to think that I, like my boyfriend, am a completely unique diner. I rarely do a "standard" tasting menu an I order way too much food for my own good. Meadowood offers two styles, a tasting menu of nine courses and a Summer prix-fixe menu of four courses. My boyfriend and I found ourselves in a predicament. The tasting menu, to be honest, was not nearly as exciting to read as the prix-menu and we wanted to try more than just four items from that menu. We ended up trying everything offered on the prix-fixe menu, which ended up being a total of fourteen courses.

Each course was exquisite. Chef Kostow's vision of California cuisine is a revelation. Each course was thoughtful and balanced, presenting an elegance rarely found in a Chef so young. The best bite of the evening came from the Lobster, Morel Mushroom, Sweetbread, and Black Truffle course. As if peering into my soul, Chef Kostow created a dish of everything I love most in life. It was so perfect, I forgot how to speak. I sat in a catatonic trance, unable to move, reeling from the feeling of pure bliss. It was literally that grandiose of a moment. I completely understand why Michelin bestowed three stars to Chef Kostow. Completely deserved.

Service here is remarkable and by far the best I have ever had, anywhere. As a professional in the industry, I am constantly disappointed by service, jaded because I can spot a flaw without any hesitation. Olin was our server and he was a consummate professional. His gate and personality were indicative of an illustrious pedigree, his demeanor was warm and welcoming, and he was on point throughout our entire experience.

I loved Meadowood. They made us feel like we were the most important guests in the dining room. Every moment was appreciated and lovely. I cannot wait to come back and do it all again.

I am back.

So I created a blog last year to explain the service industry to the world and got caught up in life. I am back now and will be writing with a vengeance. After spending the last year opening a potential two michelin star restaurant and working with one of the brightest chef's in the entire world, I now know how I want to convey my expertise to the world. Look for my new reviews on here, subscribe to my blog, leave me comments. I am an open book and am looking to share my love of food with others

Monday, August 16, 2010

Opening a restaurant!

Hey Blogworld,

It has literally been months since my last post. Well, a lot has changed since then. I have moved on to a new restaurant. Benu in San Francisco. I am a captain here, where Chef Corey Lee is in the process of revolutionizing the way we view fine dining. This has been a process that I started in March, actually right around the time I started this blog, and have been working, along with my fellow Benu people, on opening the restaurant.

Well, we finally had out opening night, August 10th and it was amazing. This blog will change slightly, to reflect the new challenges associated with opening a restaurant, to perhaps explore a new dimension of serving tables. First off, I want to say that opening night for me personally was a challenging experience. We are still getting used to the space and of course, mistakes are bound to happen. I made two my first night, but persevered and had an amazing rest of the week. One of the things that is important to remember, no matter how big/small of the mistake, always push forward and continue to work. Never let getting yelled at stop you from giving the guest an amazing experience.

As I continue to grow at Benu, I will be updating based on nightly situation's as well as exploring the world of the critic. Benu is due to start receiving critiques within a month, so it is definitely an exciting time. Other than that. I will update on Tuesday, with a nightly recap of service, and start a new topic of discussion!

Good night!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The ability to not say NO!

As I was dining recently at The French Laundry, the only three Michelin starred restaurant on the west coast and the restaurant that can proudly say it was voted the best restaurant in America, I learned one of Chef Thomas Keller's personal philosophies. He said, "Never say no!" So many times when we find ourselves at our most busy moments we forget that other people are in need as well. So many times the word 'NO' is used in a restaurant and in order to become truly successful at a restaurant that word needs to be eliminated from your vocabulary.

Today we will discuss two different aspects of NO and how it affects the dining experience. The first is telling the customer "No". Many diners are not foodies, they are the inexperienced amateurs who make up the majority of the population. Many of these diners have walls/guards up when they walk into an expensive restaurant and are looking for that one mistake/nuance to hate it, and most likely write about it. Also, with any diner there tends to be a lot of special requests, whether it be a dietary restriction/allergy or just a dislike for what is on the menu. They, in order to have the dining experience they are looking for need us to always responded with "Yes, I can do that for you." I know this might sound difficult, but it is imperative that we succeed in always saying yes, even if it means getting reamed the Boss/Chef/Manager. As a professional I have experienced first hand what happens when you tell someone they can't have what they want. People write about it, every flaw becomes a major problem, and you then get yelled at. It's better in the long term for your guests and for yourself if you suck it up and just say yes!

Another aspect of NO is telling your peers NO. You cannot ever tell someone who needs your help no. You are never that busy, ever. There are many obvious reasons why you must always help someone in need, even at your most busy. First off, they are going to remember that you refuse to help them and they are less likely to help you in return. Their service will suffer, which will make the guests experience suffer, with an end result of both of you getting yelled at (again I speak from personal experience) and honestly, you don't want that reputation. No owner/manager is going to want someone on their staff that says NO, that won't take the necessary steps to guarantee the overall experience of the restaurant.

So that's it, NO doesn't exist, only YES, your guests will be happy that you accommodated them, your reviews are more likely to be positive and imagine this. What if one of the guests you review is a food critic for a national publication and it gets written, that you refused accommodate their special request? How are you going to explain that? Exactly...Just say YES! and with that I say good night!

Take Care,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pretention vs. Attention

Yo yo yo,

It's time for another update. I thought today I would continue discussing service and service styles that you will find in most fine dining restaurants. I recently ate at a restaurant for lunch and had a more than decent time, but the service was cold and shrewd. The management staff was stuffy and pretentious and as I was thinking about rating the restaurant I couldn't help but want to take away points for lack of warmth.

Don't get me wrong, the server, a young female (which is rare), was friendly enough, but the she rarely smiled and really showed no depth as a professional. She marked the table correctly and things were served in a timely fashion, but there was something missing. It's so important to connect to your guests and it is your responsibility to do so. If there is no connection, there is no experience. Every single person in the restaurant had this lethargic and unapproachable look to them, so much that it made me feel weird. It's disconcerting when you are spending $100 for a lunch to have that feeling. The serving assistant looked mean, like he hated being there, the manager was uptight and had that "I am looking down on you look" and that's not what people need when they are spending their money. The funny thing is reader(s), I watched the server interact with the bartender who was across the large dining room, not necessarily completely visible without looking through a large glass pane diagonally across from where I was sitting, laughing and smiling acting completely different with him than with us. Don't get me wrong, I don't need a jester at the table, but bring the warmth and smile you had with your coworker to me, because frankly he doesn't give you your tip. (You can find my review for Spruce, San Francisco, Ca on Yelp tomorrow!)

There is a fine line, there always is, when dealing with this echelon of restaurant. Personality and attention, warmth and genuineness has to be part of you repertoire because if they are not, get out of this industry because you are wasting your time . People do not want pretentious service, there are a hundred other restaurant who will provide that warmth with great good, and your restaurant will fail. Overall, I am not completely hating on this restaurant, I really didn't mind the experience, I just wish they would have cared as much about me, a 20-something guy, casually strolling in for lunch as they did for the group of six ladies to my left who were ordering wine and who probably had a larger check. Again, this ties in with the "you never know who is serving you" idea. Oh well, just pay attention, don't be pretentious, be humble and approachable and you won't have any problems.

Have a good night,

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's been a while!

Good Evening Bloggers,

Well it has been a busy week for me and I have ben on vacation. I worked this weekend and took some time to think about what I wanted to write about next. This blog will be dedicated to "UNCOMFORTABLE SERVICE"! We have all had that server who made us uncomfortable, whether it be because of attitude, speech, or general oddness. Let me tell you a story...

I was in Las Vegas this last week with my family and was famished, literally starving from inhaling cigarette smoke and pushing small buttons that read "max bet" on the slot machine for eight hours. We decided to walk to Aria, the newest casino in city center and test the waters. We came across Cafe Vettro, a posh, modern, cafe setting, that I guess had food that would be simple yet comforting. We were seated easily enough, the hostess walked away as we went up to the counter, which was odd, then scurried over to us before I could start to complain (let me remind you, I was STARVING, so I was definitely on a short fuse). We were seated, the restaurant was basically empty and we were greeted by our server. This dude was weird from the beginning. HIs presence was ominous and his gaze was piercing and definitely uncomfortable. He took forever to do anything and made odd comments like, "this is the most expensive caesar dressing in the world, made with white anchovies!" It made me very uncomfortable the way he would stand there for twenty seconds before leaning forward and speaking. It made me want to leave. (This review can also be read on YELP)

Now, some of you might ask, what is wrong with what my server did. First thing that was wrong was taking forever. When you have been drinking, as most people in Vegas had been doing, the first thing you want to do is get them what they need. It keeps them busy, and even if you are not drinking, bread and drinks are more likely to keep your guests from noticing that the food is taking an inordinate amount of time. Also, never leer at your guests. People are more likely to be uncomfortable if you just stand there and stare. Lastly, never make a comment about the expense of an ingredient! It doesn't matter, it doesn't make the salad taste better, and honestly it's not going to make the salad more enjoyable. Just leave it out! Some people will even get angry if you start mentioning prices of things. I mean, seriously, so it's expensive caesar dressing, not WHITE TRUFFLES!

The point is bloggers, even in the most casual of environments you want your guests to feel comfortable and for the majority of the time, it's not rocket science. One thing you do have to understand is that it gets more difficult as you ascend towards a higher price point. In today's economic climate, it's hard for people to spend money, comfortability is key, if you can't make them feel comfortable they won't like the food, they won't like you, and I promise they will tip accordingly.

Have a good night,

P.S. Tomorrow's blog will be about the word NO!