We were looking forward to a special night out at Salento. Having been loyal and happy patrons of L'Angolo, and having read the favorable reviews here and elsewhere re: Salento, I never for a moment thought we would be disappointed.
There was no problem with the food. The artichoke appetizer was beautiful and tasty; our veal ravioli reminiscent of L'Angolo; and our companion's veal chop looked and was fabulous.
But the waiter we had this past Saturday night was the best example of how a poor server in the dining room can totally sabotauge a chef's efforts. What the chef doesn't know is going on in the DR is something he should know; hence this posting.
The evening started with a glitch as soon as the waiter arrived and asked for our order. My husband started to say "Well, I think we'll start with the artichoke appetizer; then..." He didn't get another word out before the waiter gestured impatiently and said "What do you mean? Who's going to have the artichoke appetizer? You? Her? Which one of you is going to have it? I need to know who's going to have what; I can't just take an order and bring it out!". Subsequently, when he remembered to bring bread to the table and saw that another of his colleagues had already brought it, he gesticulated angrily as though he was offended that someone else had stepped into his "territory". Completely bizarre behavior.
In all the restaurants we've eaten in, we have never had a waiter or waitress start off the evening with such rudeness and abruptness. I won't bore you with the details of what came next -- just more of the same. Happily, most of the evening, he completely ignored us once the food arrived, checking in once toward the end of the meal (translation: tip time) to ask if everything had been ok.
But whatever the problems at the beginning of the evening, nothing prepared us for the end. We had paid the bill; were sitting at our table chatting, surrounded by perhaps 7-8 other tables of diners, most of whom were still eating; and it was about 10:30 PM. Suddenly, the waiter appeared and interrupted us. "Is this yours?" he said to me, pointing down to the coat he was holding in his arms (I had checked the coat earlier upon arrival). I looked at it and said "Oh.... yes, that's mine", whereup he ceremoniously pushed it into my arms. He did the same with one of our companions, and there we said, our coats shoved into our laps and spilling over onto the table. How and why that happened, I still have no idea -- perhaps he misguidedly thought he was doing us a favor by snatching up the coat check buttons on the table and rushing to get them, even though we had not asked for them and even though the restaurant was by then full of empty tables and not-empty tables, and no diners were waiting to be seated.
We won't be going back -- who wants to risk having this guy as a waiter again!
I guess the bottom line is: good food, even great food, doesn't make for a good or great dining experience. Customer service is a pretty important part of the equation.
We used to go to a fabulous place in a strip mall south of Kennett Square -- near a paint shop. It was called La Mixteca or Mexicana -- it had great torta cubano's, among other things. Right next to a Subway, I think. Last time we went, it was closed. Does anyone know where they went? And if not, any suggestions re: authentic Mexican in the area? We're looking for a place just like Mixteca: great sopes, quesadillas, tortas, etc.
We just returned from a week-long stay in Santa Fe. Here's what I can remember:
1) Highlight of the trip was lunch in the courtyard at Santa Fe Cafe (restaurant of the year either this year or last per Santa Fe Reporter). GREAT lunch. Sampled the green chile burger; unbelievably good chile onion rings (they were so good we had to get a second order before our food came); desserts are unusually good so save room. We had unusually good service - a real pleasure. Make reservations in the courtyard.
2) Casa Sena Cafe: another courtyard lunch spot that had great food and a fabulous lush courtyard feel, but the service was not at the level of Santa Fe Cafe. No place that charges these prices should have waiters that show up with plates and say "So who gets the enchiladas?".
3) Espanola -- there's a great taco stand (I think it's called El Parador) right next to El Paragua on Santa Cruz or Santa Fe road (look it up before you go). Both are good in their own way. If you eat inside at El Paragua, it's a hoppin' kind of place at lunch and you will be ecstatic when the sopapillas arrive. Ethereal airy pillows of delight. Relatively inexp and very respectable margaritas.
4) Maria's in S.F.: kind of like El Paragua atmosphere-wise and the enchiladas were great. Love the margaritas.
5) Thomasita's for tamales. We got them to go for the Santa Fe Opera.
6) Pasquale's: this is a tough one. You're always going to have to wait and while the food is good, it's just enough overpriced that you leave and kind of feel slightly gypped. Orders of toast shouldn't be $4 or whatever it was.
7) Chocolate Maven. Weird hours (they stop serving food at 3 PM) and a funky location, but you have to have dessert and/or the really good looking migas for breakfast.
8) If you need wine for whatever reason, suggest you go to Whole Foods.
Best motel to stay at: El Rey. We rented a house this time, but El Rey is a classic: great adobe type rooms and a cool pool and hot tubs.
This is a very late response to this thread, but we have got to give you all the word on The Corn Exchange (which we had high hopes for, but alas.....)
We just returned from a 2-week trip that hit on a number of places in North Dakota, South Dakota, and so on. The second night we were in North Dakota staying at the Radisson (recommended -- a short walk away from restaurants and a decent pool; our daughter loved the "number" beds), we went to the Corn Exchange in large part due to a review we'd read in Gourmet.
The best phrase we can think of to describe this place is The Emperor in New Clothes. We walked in, were asked whether we had a reservation, which we confirmed, and were lead to our table. So far, so good.
Then our waiter arrived to tell us that we would be "chatting" with M.J. (the owner/chef?) re: the food; then he would come back and "chat" with us re: the menu; and we'd take it from there. We thought that sounded like a lot of "chatting" (his word), but we were game.
Well, it seems M.J. was busy chatting elsewhere, so after about 10 minutes, our waiter came back and said it looked like M.J. was tied up, so he would have to do both her chat and his. Oddly enough, the one-minute "chat" consisted of telling us about whatever specials were on for the night, and the fact that one of the appetizers (the one we'd decided on) was out but that M.J. had just pulled out some pheasant dumplings.
And so we started with the pheasant dumplings. Pleasant, but nothing special. And certainly overpriced at $9 for 3 less than plump dumplings. Our daughter leaned over and whispered "wow -- we could have had better dumplings at 1/3 the price in Chinatown!".
One of us opted for the steak with Point Reyes Blue Cheese (the best choice by far); one for the Pork Chop (ok, but so unmemorable now that I can't even remember how it was prepared); and the other chose the stuffed chicken with black beans (there were 8 black beans, by the way) on a bed, I think, of rice. Or maybe it was orzo (once again, I can't remember, because it was not terribly memorable). Somehow the nagging feeling kept building: this was a place that had pretensions, but not the culinary oomph to back it up. We had a decent bottle of wine which, again, was overpriced.
MJ, we noticed, essentially saves her chatting for chatting up the customers as they depart. Maybe it's a way of trying to leave a good note at the end so you'll return. We won't.
On the other hand -- if you find yourself in town for breakfast, try Tally's. The blueberry pancakes are amazingly good. Everything else looks like standard American breakfasts: respectable, hearty, and NOT overpriced.
Sorry to put the nix on Corn Exchange: we'd actually thought it had all the earmarkings for the dining highlight of our trip. It wasn't.