Saturday, April 19, 2008

SF Restaurant Reviews

As San Franciscans in the know, well, know, two rather chic new restaurants started by the Kuleto’s group have opened up along the Embarcadero. IMHO, they are to be avoided at all costs.

Epic Roasthouse, which I have (rather brilliantly) nicknamed Tragic Roasthouse was a sincere disappointment. If I wanted to pay that much for a three-hour meal, I would go to Michael Mina and have my foodie socks knocked off, thank you very much. And, just so we’re clear, the three hours was not due to leisurely dining a la Barcelona or Firenze. No no, this was a neglectful three hours. I won’t give you chapter and verse, but some lowlights include: a 25-minute wait for our table, being seated for 15 minutes before our menus appeared, having to remind the waiter and the busboy to bring us water the first time and every other time afterwards, at least 20 minutes between when our appetizers were cleared (which was 10 minutes after they should have been, which prompted a gentle query of the waiter where our food was and some lame “explanation” about how my date’s lamb chop was really thick and needed extra time to cook), very nice but not outstanding meat quality, and runny Hollandaise on our asparagus. To be fair the ambiance was cool and they did a very nice job on the birthday chocolate soufflé. But the cherry on my sundae of rage is twofold: 1) when I told the hostess on the way out, after she inquired, about the problems described above, rather than apologize she kindly instructed me that their meat takes a long time to cook, and 2) when I wrote a very even, un-hostile letter informing of their shortcomings and successes, I received no response. Too bad you don’t care about word of mouth, Tragic Roasthouse.

The next day, Barrett and I were sitting at Hi-Dive enjoying a burger and watching the UCLA game. The above had happened the night before, and so we speculated whether Waterbar (Tragic Roasthouse’s sister restaurant next door) were any better. So at halftime, knowing that there was a TV in the bar at Tragic Roasthouse, I called Waterbar to ask whether there were one there. The line was pregnant with aggrieved silence, and then the hostess (who I can only assume was running on low blood sugar) snapped haughtily, “We are a fine dining restaurant.” “I know,” I replied pleasantly. “My friend and I were enjoying the UCLA game and thought we would, as neighbors of yours, watch the second half there but didn’t want to make the trip without knowing if there was a television.” “We don’t have one in our bar. If you want dinner, I suppose I could help you with the restaurant” was her riposte. I will confess that, while my reply didn’t contain any expletives, it was not my finest moment. OK, a few comments

1) You are a hostess at a restaurant, missy. I have bussed tables, had food thrown at me, cleaned bathrooms, and done most every other kind of restaurant job (including being a host). Not a venue in which one should put on airs.

2) Even if you were going to put on airs, this is not the 80s (we’re—supposedly—in a recession), and you are not Dorsia (you are a new restaurant in a town with restaurants popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm). You might want to try cultivating new relationships, especially with 30-somethings with disposable income who enjoy food and live four blocks from you.

3) Um, doesn’t your sister restaurant have a TV in its upstairs bar? If you think that’s so déclassé, you might want to talk to Mr. Kuleto.

So, friends, perhaps I can save you some aggravation and money. Stick to Town Hall!

Proud to be an American

As some of you know, my family has been fortunate to have the most wonderful woman in our lives for three decades. Graciela Ayala has been taking loving care of me, my grandparents, my Mother (whom she regarded as a sister), and now my Father for as long as I can remember with grace, style, and fullness of heart. Today, Tuesday, April 15, 2008, she was sworn in as a citizen of the United States of America. I could not be more proud. She is 70 years old and would not have had to do this, but she felt that it was time she did it to, in her words, thank the country that has done so much for her. She is honest, hard-working, and dedicated—the kind of immigrant who, when the conversation turns to overarching policy debates, makes you rethink your position. Moreover, she and her husband have reared three wonderful children who are bright, hardworking contributors to society. Her son Isaac, for example, got a full engineering scholarship to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and now consults all over the world (Japan, Germany, etc.) for a major international engineering firm. It is an honor and a privilege to know her and love her. When I told her that my Father and I wanted to give her something special to mark her citizenship and asked her what she would like, she replied, “An American flag, so that I can wrap myself in it, and kiss it, and be reminded of how much this country has done for me and my family.” I honestly got choked up. God bless America!

As a lesser point of interest, she studied her brains out for weeks for the citizenship test, and at the end of the day they only asked her five questions, most of which follow:

1) Who lives in the White House?

2) Who takes over if the President is incapacitated?

3) How many stars are there on the American flag, and what do they represent?

4) How many stripes are there on the American flag, and what do they represent?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

American Airlines is SOOOO Ghetto

I've been trying to call American Airlines for the last 45 minutes. The first time, I started going through the menu but, as my flight is a complicated one--gotta have a nice little stopover in Dallas to sit in on a hearing on cross-Motions for Partial Summary Judgment. Remind me again how it is that my tenants stopped paying me rent for 3 months, I evicted them as per the terms of the lease that THEY drafted, and they turned around and sued ME? And this has been going on for a year?

I digress, as usual. So I finally gave up and started saying "Agent" into the phone. The nice lady, a shade patronizingly, said, "I think you want to speak to an agent. Let's return to the menu so I can direct your call where it needs to go." Then they disconnected me. Each time I call back, they tell me all their agents are busy and to call again later. Wasn't the point of shipping all customer service overseas to frackin' (so glad Battelstar Galactica has started up again!) Bangalore was to save money and always have people to answer our calls? If the government is going to keep hurling money at the airlines for bailouts, couldn't they at least deploy it with some style, like the Concorde did (before it went belly up)?