One of the best things about a big city is its variety of restaurants, so of course, before my recent jaunt I prepared a list of all the places I wanted to go eat. At the top of the list was an upscale vegan place with the unfortunate moniker, Fressen. In Germanic languages the word means “to devour feed like an animal.” I suppose they had their reasons for the name so I didn’t let the name put me off because Fressen has been named as one of the hippest vegetarian eateries in North America by VegNews.
The menu looks enticing. The reviews, however, are all over the place, from gushing to “I’ll never set foot in the place again”. I’ve never been to a place that advertises itself as a gourmet vegan restaurant, so I had to go regardless.
As I hinted yesterday, the whole experience was a disaster from start to finish. When I go to a place where an evening of dining for two adults (with appetizers, wine and dessert) will run close to $100, I have certain expectations. Fressen is an excellent example of everything I dislike in a restaurant — which is why I decided to blog it. It’s not so much a review as a list of things a lot of restaurants do that are extremely annoying. If it’s a sports bar, I take a deep breath and put up with stuff, but not at a place that pretends to be chi-chi.
We had reservations, of course, and were prompt, but there was no one to greet us as we came in. As I mentioned yesterday it was really, really dark with the only light coming from a few tea candles on random tables. And the music was nightclub-loud. We stood there looking stupid for about 5 minutes before some young chippy trotted over and said, “Oh!”
So, here are some things that restaurants should think about, in my opinion.
- When a customer asks you not once, but twice to turn down the music, you should probably do it, even if you can’t really hear what they’re asking you over the bass.
- Servers should be properly and hygienically dressed. Unless it’s Hooters, bare midriff at face level is kind of an appetite killer, whether it’s the smooth tanned midriff of a 20-something woman or the taut, furry midriff of a 20-something man.
- Although we were aware that Fressen makes “everything from scratch” some indication from the servers as to how many hours this entails would have been good.
- I really don’t like it when the server handles my glass of wine by the bowl, so when they deal with the challenge of bringing a bottle of wine and several glasses to a table by tucking the bottle under the armpit, that’s seriously off-putting.
- And, though I know all the great products one can add to dishwashers to disinfect and remove unsightly spots are great, they leave a residue. They smell and taste funny. When you stick your nose in a wine glass and all you smell is chorine, this is not good. Rinse the glass, please. Don’t make me ask.
- When bringing a bowl or plate to a table, servers should find a way to do it that doesn’t involve sticking their fingers in your bowl or on the top of your plate. Licking their fingers after putting down the bowl/plate is a really big no-no.
- Servers having loud arguments with the hostess about “that table of 8” and why on earth she allowed them to sit there when a party of 12 has reservations for that table in less than an hour, should maybe be conducted in the kitchen and out of earshot of the customers.
- Making people wait, 50 minutes between courses is ridiculous. It’s vegetables, people. No vegetable or anything else, takes that long to prepare. Hire a few more prep staff.
- Servers should check back with the customer once in a while to see if they’re still breathing or would like some more booze or bread or something to gnaw on while they’re waiting for their very elaborate broccoli to appear.
- It’s very haute cuisine to have signature sauces, but that doesn’t mean you have to drown everything in them. It’s one thing not to be able to see the food, but you should at least be able to taste it and/or find it at the bottomless pool of sauce.
- It’s probably very chic to serve everything in a gigantic bowl or other similar artistic vessel, but you should take into account that the person trying to eat the thing in the bowl needs to somehow divide it into bite-sized bits. It’s hard to cut things in a bowl.
- Oh ya, the food? Meh… who knows. I was so fed up with everything else I just wanted to snarf it down and get the hell out of there. I will never set foot in that place again.
Sadie’s Diner, (of the fabulous veggie bacon) on the other hand, was more than perfect. Friendly staff without being overly familiar, lovely decor, (which you could see on account of the windows weren’t all blacked out and some lights were on), home-made, yet prompt service, soft background tunes. And did I mention the amazing veggie bacon??
Oh ya, and although I know it’s de rigeur for English-speaking wait staff the world over to say “youze”, it’s still really, really aggravating. So, just stop it, okay?