Chris Walker Versus's Profile

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Filthy Martini

I have a friend who will love this.

Dec 05, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Recipes

RENO DINING: Sezmu Restaurant, Disappointing?

Wow. Two comments back-to-back praising Sezmu from brand new users who have yet to fill out their profile or comment anywhere else on the CHOWHOUND message boards? I'd be remiss to accuse anyone of anything but it seems awfully peculiar.

JollyEater (assuming you're just a new CHOWHOUNDER and not some Sezmu representative): Perhaps within your explanation of how good Sezmu is lies (one of) my problem. Yes, you can taste every ingredient but they don't always come together. There isn't a cohesiveness that causes a "wow" factor when eating the meal, as I explained in the original post. As for chef Dunning's sourcing of "fabulous and sustainable products", I do applaud that. I wish more restaurants in Reno did the same. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I'm not ready to outright dismiss Sezmu as I have Reno's deplorable Bistro 7.

I will be dining at Sezmu again soon. Should I enjoy my meal I will follow-up with something positive. And if I don't, well, more of the same.

By the way, I love how no one will address the god-awful panzanella salad. If you enjoyed that thing (when it was on the menu) I seriously question your palate.

Nov 07, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

RENO DINING: Sezmu Restaurant, Disappointing?

Here's the problem with Sezmu's service: They treat you as if you should feel privileged to be there, rather than treating you as if they're happy to have you. That's not to imply I need my ass kissed, it's just to say a patron shouldn't feel unworthy the minute they arrive, they should feel appreciated. Kind of like a, "Hey, thanks. Out of all the restaurants in the city you chose ours. We'd like to show you that you made a great decision." I don't know, am I asking for too much?

Since posting this I've been fortunate enough to dine at Ubuntu in Napa, CA and Lola in Cleveland, OH. Both of those meals are what I'd call "outstanding". The flavors were incredible, presentation made sense, service was professional and friendly and completely unpretentious. I thought about my experiences at Sezmu during both meals and I unwaveringly stand by my opinion that a lot of Sezmu's dishes don't work or fail to dazzle the taste buds.

I've never walked out of Sezmu feeling elated however; Ubuntu was so good it made me consider taking up a vegetarian lifestyle; at Lola I have to keep myself from smiling the entire time because the food is so wonderfully delicious. Some might say it's unfair to compare a restaurant like Sezmu to that of Lola but I think it's okay because that - and correct me if I'm wrong - is what Sezmu aspires to be, a top tier restaurant. The truth of the matter is it's just not there yet.

Oct 20, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

RENO DINING: Sezmu Restaurant, Disappointing?

Has anyone else dined at Sezmu in Reno and found it disappointing? I’ve eaten there at least five times and have been consistently underwhelmed. I’m wondering if anyone else has dined there and felt the same way.

I’ve been contemplating whether or not I should write this after my experience at Sezmu last Friday night. I’ve never felt the need to talk poorly about Sezmu in a public forum until now. In fact, I’ve always rooted for Sezmu. It seems like something Reno needs: a high-quality, locally-owned, fine dining restaurant worthy of joining the ranks of proven winners like LuLou’s and 4th Street Bistro. Reno has too few upscale, what I guess you could call “Bay Area” level restaurants, as it is. I think that’s why I’ve been so willing to let obvious missteps slide in the past, I want to believe that Sezmu is excellent. I want Sezmu to succeed. I want to recommend it to friends; I want to want to go back. But Friday night was a breaking point. My dining experience was beyond dismal.

My girlfriend and I arrived slightly after 7:00 and were immediately seated. We ordered cocktails. Before we could make a proper toast, our server was table-side asking us if we were ready to order. He hadn’t even told us what was on the chef’s tasting menu. When I asked what was on it, he didn’t apologize or acknowledge his error, instead he breezed through the night’s courses and said he’d give us a couple minutes to decide. True to his word, he re-approached our table within minutes and, apparently annoyed, asked, “So, you guys eating tonight?” I was so taken back by the comment and the rushed nature of the service I couldn’t even process how rude and uncalled for it was until later.

My girlfriend ordered a la carte, I opted for the tasting menu. Her grilled corn and summer squash soup was decent but the cornmeal crusted “chicken nuggets”, served behind the large soup bowl, were dry. Furthermore, it appeared as if the nuggets were supposed to come with mustard but all that was on the plate was a faint yellow trail where mustard might’ve once resided. We weren’t sure if it was intentional or not. The risotto in my Chanterelle risotto with frog legs was clearly undercooked. The frog legs were an interesting touch but, ultimately, the dish fell short.

The second course of the tasting menu was a tomato purée poured over a shrimp concoction shaped into a cylinder. The presentation was nice but there was no flavor. I kept taking bites, trying to find the nuances, hoping to taste something. It never happened. The dish can only be described as the blandest thing I’ve ever eaten, it was completely forgettable. My girlfriend had the artichoke and green bean salad with picholine olives, capricious goat cheese, and lemon vinaigrette. The goat cheese was wonderful, creamy and subtle, but the vinaigrette was insipid and the beans were raw.

While we were still working on our second courses, a server tried to bring out our mains. Upon seeing that we hadn’t finished our second courses yet, they were thrown under a heat lamp (evident by how hot the plates were). My girlfriend’s halibut suffered the most as it came out dry. My lamb was cooked perfectly but obviously lost some of its internal temperature sitting under the lamp. The side dishes were embarrassing. The lamb was served with a mint cous cous, and while I appreciated it as a unique play on the lamb and mint combination, it epically failed. The other side dish contained the same artichokes as my girlfriend’s salad and added nothing worthwhile to the plate. Only the figs that were served with the lamb were good or made sense. The halibut’s side dishes were no better, a panzanella salad containing huge chunks of the same bread as the bread served in the bread basket before dinner, and a balsamic reduction that failed to bring cohesiveness to the dish. It was so bad my girlfriend spent more time trying to figure out if the bread in the panzanella was in fact the bread from the bread basket than she did eating the halibut or the salad.

Redemption came in the form of dessert. I can’t remember the name of what we had (the Sezmu dessert menu on the website hasn’t been updated, it was a French word though) but it consisted of salted, caramel ice cream, a round puddle of caramel in the center of the plate, and a delightful, layered chocolate cake. It was undoubtedly the best part of the meal. At this point, we’d all but been abandoned by our server, his focus was on the table of four sitting next to us. Luckily the bartender, who also provides table service, had taken his place.

With dessert finished and our wine consumed, one might think an espresso or cappuccino would be in order. Our server didn’t see it that way. Finally coming back to our table, he didn’t ask how our meal was or if we’d care for coffee. He placed the check by my side said, “Take care of that whenever you’re ready.” Then he walked away. Somewhere between violently livid and sullenly disappointed, I reluctantly tipped a scant 15% and we left.

Service has always been an issue at Sezmu. I remember the first time we ate there, our server was so condescending and treated us like such novices I finally had to say, “You must get a lot of bad diners in here.” I figured she must have dealt with so many uneducated patrons she just assumed everyone who came through the door was an idiot. I didn’t appreciate it. Concerning the food, there are some good things on the menu at Sezmu. For instance, the Waygu flap steak and Fulton Valley chicken breast are fantastic. (Then again, when you’re a competent chef, as head chef and co-owner Larry Dunning undoubtedly is, it’s pretty hard to mess up a quality piece of meat. A Waygu flap steak is almost like a free pass.) But at the same time a lot of things miss. Take the seared scallops with black beluga lentil salad, tiny tomatoes, and gypsy peppers. While all individually great (Sezmu’s seared scallops are some of the best I’ve ever tasted), there’s no “Wow, this really works” moment when you combine everything into one bite. The flavor profiles of each ingredient never properly mesh and all you’re left with is fantastic scallops on a plate otherwise full of disappointment. At Sezmu there is often more emphasis on style over substance, presentation over functionality.

I won’t say I’ve written off Sezmu for good, and I attribute that to what I said in the beginning: I’m rooting for Sezmu. I sincerely want it to be wonderful, a place I look forward to eating at and taking friends to. (I took my entire office staff there a week prior. Per usual, some dishes failed while other’s - like the Waygu - were phenomenal.) But after last Friday, after the combination of blatantly bad food and atrocious service, I’ve got to stop pretending it’s exceptional just because I want it to be exceptional.

I’m wondering if anyone has sentiments similar to mine, which is ultimately why I’m posting this in a public forum.

Sep 29, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

Beer recs for backyard bbq

Yeah, you're 100% right. I agree completely.

Jul 29, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Beer

Beer recs for backyard bbq

Yeah, I also wrote: "You want something that's not going to sit in you like a rock, you want something crisp and citrusy, a good lager." I think that's a better explanation as to why I would pick a Lager over something like a Porter at a BBQ, not because it's yellow. The color statement was an afterthought, just description. But hey, whatever.

Jul 28, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Beer

Beer recs for backyard bbq

Josh: who said anything about making decisions based on the color?

Jul 25, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Beer

Beer recs for backyard bbq

Jim: you nailed it, light and refreshing. I mean, you figure you're in the sun all day, socializing, swimming, whatever. You want something that's not going to sit in you like a rock, you want something crisp and citrusy, a good lager. At least I do. I don't know, I guess I pick my adult beverages based on my surroundings. A sunny bbq or ball-game: I want a relatively lighter, golden colored beer. A quaint, dim-lit pub: give me a Guinness. And so on.

Jul 23, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Beer

Boccalone Ferry Bldg Report

Ohhh. I fogot this was opening up. I love the Boccalone salumi I've ordered. I might have to make a trip to the city just to get my hands on one of these delicious sandwiches. Thanks for the reminder.

Jul 22, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in San Francisco Bay Area

Beer recs for backyard bbq

For a backyard bbq, I'd go with Pabst Blue Ribbon. Classic. Understated. Of course, Pabst isn't for everyone (and not "white trash", in my opinion) so if it isn't your cup of tea (or pint of lager) I'd recommend Anchor Brewing Company's Summer Beer. Here's a link:

http://www.anchorbrewing.com/beers/su...

Jul 22, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Beer

Best Pho in Reno, NV

I didn't care much for Pho by the Target off McCarren. It just felt really disingenuous for some reason. But maybe I'm wrong, I'll try it again before I write it off for good.

Aside from that, all of these recommendations sound really worthwhile. I'll have start my Pho trek across Reno. Thanks, guys.

Jul 03, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

RENO - Whats your top 3 recs for $15 or less meals?

Betos is a good if you're on a budget, so is Pho 777. Something I didn't see mentioned you might want to try is Eclipse Pizza on 3950 Mayberry Dr. You can get any of their incredibly delicious pizzas in the ten-inch size for $7 (before tax) and, in my opinion, that's plenty for two people. Or, go crazy and try two different pizzas for $14.

I need to try Chutney one of these days.

Jul 03, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

Best Pho in Reno, NV

I'm partial to Pho 777. Their broth seems to be the best, in my opinion.

Does anyone have any recommendations of where else I should be going for Pho? There have been lesser places popping up around town since Pho/Vietnamese has become the "next big thing," I just want to know if I'm missing anywhere.

Jun 27, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

Armagnac (In The Napa Valley)

Really awesome, thanks. That D&M has just about everything I'm looking for on their website. I'll definitely have to check out J V Wine & Spirits, as well. Thank you all, again.

Jun 06, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Spirits

Armagnac (In The Napa Valley)

Hey, thanks. I actually might be in San Francisco this weekend; does D&M have a website, or can you give me the address?

Jun 05, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Spirits

Reno dining--Sezmu and ??

I second Barbara's encouragement: 4th Street is excellent. Quite intimate, too. You might need a reservation.

Also, just a recommendation: if Dave or Duncan is behind the bar at Chapel ask for "Black Manhattan." It's incredible.

Jun 05, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

Reno dining--Sezmu and ??

I highly recommend LuLou's. It's been around for a long time, I've eaten there several times, and it's never disappointed. I would describe it as Modern American.

Chapel Tavern is also across the street; the best place in town to get a quality cocktail.

Jun 05, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in California

Armagnac (In The Napa Valley)

(Forgive me if this topic should go in the San Francisco/Bay Area section but since it involves spirits I thought I should post it here.)

I've been reading up on Armagnac lately and am very interested in acquiring a bottle (or two). Does anyone know of a retailer, winery, or anywhere, really, in the Napa Valley that sells Armagnac?

Jun 05, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Spirits

Cocktails w/ Aperol

Try mixing a bit of Aperol with white white. It can be very refreshing.

Jun 05, 2008
Chris Walker Versus in Spirits