Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mon Ami Gabi-almost a great restraurant

For Valentine's Day weekend, we decided on going to Mon Ami Gabi. This is located in OakBrook Center Mall near Cheesecake Factory. Mon Ami Gabi is a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant and I'm not a big fan of them. And I finally figured out why. I'm aware that this is truly a "Chain Restaurant" but we had seen it in Las Vegas and we both wondered about it. And so I had issues when we got there because it is a Lettuce Entertain You place. So we made reservations through Open Table.

We were going to a concert that evening so we had early reservations. Now being early is both good and bad. In this case it was neither because I don't think they are ever quite ready and they are big enough to be as ready as they can be.

As I said, we had reservations and this is in the mall area. We walked in and the reservation was ready (it was 4:30, it should be). I always check out the people. There were people who came here to eat and some who just done shopping. I don't care, but the shoppers are walk in people. We were shown to a two person table right next to a wall and on the other side of it was a wait station. And the restaurant is 1/3 full. We stopped and had to ask for another table and got the next one. It was acceptable. But here is my problem. When someone comes in with a reservation, shouldn't you give them a decent table? The tables we were at should be for walk ins only.

The restaurant kind of looks like a Paris restaurant (I assume). It has the trappings etc. The menu is pretty French and was a pretty good menu. Not a fancy menu, but a nice selections of meats, seafood, sandwiches etc. Again it is a mall restaurant. The service was very good. He seemed qualified and seemed to know the menu. And overall the food and service were pretty good.

By the way, the wine menu was predominately French wines. And a pretty good selection and price. This sort of surprised me since French wines don't always sell that well in this area in my opinion and I certainly didn't expect it here. That was a nice surprise.

It finally hit me where I was. I was eating at a Photocopy of a French Restaurant. And if you take a photocopy of a photo, you get blurring around the edges. It isn't as sharp or as crisp. And that is what this and many copies of restaurants are, not as sharp or crisp as the original.

When we left, the usual question is would you go back. Both of us agreed that if we were in the Oak Brook area and were interested in spending a little more on dinner, but would like a nicer dinner, this is a good place. We would try it again, but we wouldn't go out of our way to go all the way to Oak Brook just to eat there.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why I hate Yelp and Restaurant Reviews

People go out to eat for a lot of different reasons. Yes, everyone needs to eat, but people go out because they want to impress a date, impress a client, because the name is hot, to be seen or see people, because the chef was voted #1 in what ever her specialty, the room is visually cool and sometimes because the food is good. I go to restaurants differently than most I guess and although I look at Yelp or those sites, I usually take most of them with a skeptical eye. First most people yelp to show off. And you can show off by nit picking a place rather than saying, it was good. I've seen 'reviews' that make me wonder if the restaurant had changed owners, servers, chefs and decor since the last time I was there. And rarely do the 'reviewers' say much that doesn't really reflect back on them.

I know restaurants have bad days. And depending on the place, I can excuse some mistakes etc. My tolerance for mistakes depends on the price and the hoity-toityness of the place. I expected Le Francais to be 0 mistakes, it wasn't when the Lachowicz brothers owned it (and ruined it). I also expect any simple mistakes to be corrected and if necessary something to counter the mistakes, like a dessert etc.

But the yelpers like to show off. Like the people that notice the shadow of a boom mike in a movie or which way the tie of the guy behind the actors moves in different shots. No one really cares about some of the minutia that these people pick on.

But I do read them. Usually only to see if the same issues are raised by multiple people. If a number of people say their reservation was delayed a hour, then the restaurant has a problem. If one person says their table wasn't ready for a hour, that may be a situation that the restaurant couldn't fix.

So the point of this is to not accept what an anonymous poster writes. Heck, I barely accept the recommendations of friends, because what they like is certainly not what I like. Francesca's is a good example. I really dislike the chain, but I have a friend who adores it. But I know we are looking at the situation from two very different points of view.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Distinctive Cork - Pricy but worth it

I saw an item on Facebook about an event and it happened my wife was working from home and I asked if she wanted to go to Distinctive Cork. We've been a number of times and like it, and so we went. I forget about Distinctive Cork and I'm always sorry I do each time we go.

This isn't a neighborhood joint. It is a classy wine bar and restaurant. If you want a crowded, noisy place where the food is just adequate, but you are paying for a well known name, then you won't like it. But if you are looking for a relatively romantic place with a fabulous wine list (all by the glass!!!) with a very nice menu, then this is it. It isn't cheap, but the value of the wine and food are spot on.

The Distinctive Cork is located on Gartner off of Washington in the Naperville Plaza Shopping Center (Casey's and Trader Joe's). They do lunch, but I've never been there. They open for dinner at 5pm. They make a wonderful Cheese tray and pair that with a flight tasting and it is the start of a great evening. They have music on select Fridays and Saturdays. Check out their web page at www.distinctivecork.com.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A quick run down of places

This is sort of a quick run down of places I might like to write about in the future. If you have any other ideas, let me know. These are in no particular order.

Miller's Lombard Ale House (Near Yorktown Mall, other side of Butterfield). A great casual place. Great food, cold beer and Sports on TV. It reminds me a little of Smokey Bones. Lots of seafood on the menu. I like it.

Meson Sabika-Naperville. I really like it best during the spring, summer and warmer fall days. The focus has changed over the years to a wedding place and I think that detracted from the place. But it still is a nice place to go on a summer evening.

Ram Restaurant-Schaumburg. I love this place. It has a micro brewery on premises and the food is excellent. They make the best calamari we've ever had. Of course, not as good as the Indianapolis location (Gencon and all).

Traverso's-Naperville. I feel it always is missing it's mark. The food is ... good, but something is missing. Not sure what it is, but I'll think about it.

Maciano's-Aurora on Eola. I shouldn't write about this. It is too good. Small, loud, limited tables. Excellent pasta and pizza. Well worth a short drive. Locations in North Aurora, Streamwood, Plano, Elgin and two in Rockford. This is a small locally owned group and frankly a great place.

Pizza Fusion-Naperville. It's hip to be green, but it great when the food is worth being green. Not a normal type pizza place, but I like it a lot.

That's a short list, but a good Sunday morning activity. Let me know if you agree or disagree or have a favorite to talk about.