dont say anything at all. At least thats what our moms have been telling us for years, right? I love reviewing restaurants. Sharing good food with the world is my mission in life, so I always enjoy introducing others to new food experiences. I try and keep an upbeat, positive vibe on the blog over here, so youll rarely find me giving a bad review, so to speak. But sometimes an experience warrants a discussion and discussion is something I love around here.
There is one restaurant in Rhode Island. ONE. There are restaurants who cater to vegetarians (not many) but only one I can think of that is purely vegetarian and vegan food. I have loved the Garden for years. I first discovered it in high school as a budding vegetarian, and it was the place I took my veggie-loving hippie college roommate on outings. My parents took myself and a few friends there as a send-off when I moved to Italy for a summer. Not surprisingly, it was one of the places I wanted to visit before I moved to Canada and a place I have frequented when I come home to visit. I may not be a regular customer, but I look forward to it from 700 miles away.
I live in a city full of vegetarian friendly restaurants, so looking forward to a restaurant in another country means it has to be good. And it is, every time I have been there it continually impressed me, as well as any of my comrades- vegetarian or not. The menu was never long, but always with a large variety of interesting options from a butternut squash quesadilla to vegan gluten-free macaroni and cheese and even a couple raw dishes.
My father made a reservation at 9am on Sunday morning. When we arrived at 5:45 for our 6:00 reservation, they told us there was no reservation. Now, hes turning 50 this year but hes not senile (hehe)- my mom heard him on the phone.
We were told we were going to have to wait because there was no room for us, but they would make room when they could. Not only was our reservation for seven not taken down, but now we had to wait. We were hungry and willing to squeeze into a smaller table, if need be- and I explained this to the waiter in the nicest possible way. He told me I didnt need to get so angry with him, and walked away.
Hey dude, you havent seen me angry. So we waited for about fifteen minutes, which wasnt too bad and we were excited to sit down for our food. The waiter told us because of the wait our drinks were on the house. We were very appreciative of this, it was nice of them to go out of their way for the mistake that they obviously made. We thought the annoying saga was over and we would be able to settle down to a delicious meal.
I started out by ordering a ginger lemonade, because well, I could! It was tasty, though my mom and cousin thought it was a little tart. I told them I could tolerate it because I drink kale. 😉
When we sat down to look at the menu, we realized it was different than the last time we had been there-only one item was marked gluten-free. Last time most of the entrees were gluten free and there were options as well. Getting a little nervous, we tracked down a waiter and asked him. Turned out there were plenty of gluten-free options. Phew. Since my sister and I were so hungry, we ordered an appetizer to start.
He ordered a miso soup, which came out within five minutes. No appetizer in sight. Another ten minutes rolled by and still, no appetizer. We figured they had forgotten about it. But no, it finally arrived- along with our entrees. We each had one of the Hearts of Palm cakes, and they were good- but would have been better when we didnt have our food sitting in front of us!
Everyone loved their entrees. He and my sister had the vegan gluten-free mac and cheese which I tasted a couple bites of and was very tasty. I heard the burritos and quesadillas were delicious, and my moms farmers pie was tasty as well. I would know, because I ate about a quarter of it.
My dinner, the roasted cauliflower steak with turnip mash, poricini mushroom sauce and gingered green beans, was a flop. All of it except the green beans. The green beans were fabulous- perfectly blanched, still crispy with a nice sauce. The turnip mash? Not so much. It was bland, at best, though the texture was nice. The porcini sauce was also incredibly under seasoned, so eating them together didnt help. The cauliflower steak was an interesting concept- the cauliflower itself was really well roasted, but the sauce on top had a curious green flavor that wasnt reminiscent of any pesto Ive ever had. I was so, so disappointed with this meal- a meal I had looked forward to the entire weekend.
Not all was lost- my family enjoyed their meals and I liked what I had from bites of theirs. Presumably, my dinner was just a dud. I was full, but unsatisfied. I couldnt help feeling like this experience was less than lovely, especially because I have been there on multiple occasions and never was both the service and food bad.
So I left a quick note, along with my business card, thanking them for the free drinks for messing up our reservation, but mentioning our disappointment with both the food and the wait. It was courteous, but in my opinion something that needed to be stressed. On all other accounts the restaurant has been good, and I dont want to not return because of one meal.
There were mixed reactions on me leaving a note, as to whether it was a good idea or not. I believe constructive criticism is crucial. Learning what youve done wrong helps you fix it in the future and grow. Maybe I should have left it alone, but Im not one to not speak up. It wasnt unwarranted, we were all unimpressed with the situation. So whether or not I should have left them a note is up to interpretation. But what I do know is as a chef myself, I want to know if my food is incredibly under seasoned. As a restaurant owner, I want to know that reservations were lost, patrons were left to wait and food did not arrive on time. Does this mean I wont go back? No, not at all. Theres a very good chance Ill go back, this was only one experience. But this one experience, though slightly downplayed for the blog, was annoying at best- and I think it had to be noted.