Thursday, October 27, 2011

Distinctive Cork - Closed

It is sad to see what I thought was a good independent restaurant not make it. Distinctive Cork was in Naperville in what has never been a good location, but had some much more going for it. First Scott the owner and chef knew what people wanted. And as a nod to him, he was a damn good cook. His wines were out of this world. The service was very good (for Naperville) and he tried to coax people in with music. He tried to give back to the community by giving up his space to causes.

Sadly, he suffered not from great food, good atmosphere (I hate that space) or great wines, he lost to the economy. When you are independent, it is tough. Those big chains in downtown Naperville can suffer through a bad month by going to their corporate masters and begging or cheapening the food or cutting an assistant assistant manager. Scott couldn't.

As a side note, we hadn't been for a while. Partly because of the economy and frankly the location. I think my wife found the prices a little high for a quick bite and a little underwhelming for a good meal. Also, we aren't eating as much for dinner these days, because well, I need to not eat as much these days. However, I think if he could have survived, we would have went things picked up for everyone.

So I salute you for trying. You were a success. I hope you will want to do this again in some form. You have the chops to run a great place. I have ideas...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How a restaurant sours you

My wife and I were in New York recently. She has been a few times without me and just raved about "The Harrison" in TriBeCa. So as part of our anniversary, we decided to go. And it was a disaster.

This is supposed to be a well done restaurant. Not overly famous, not overly fussy. The menu sounded good online. So we got there and were seated. I've complained before about loud restaurants and this was a little loud. It is in a quaint older building and in order to keep some of that old New York charm, I can sacrifice some noise for charm.

We ordered a heart of palm salad to split. The salad was nice and they split it (as any restaurant should do). It was a fine salad, but that isn't saying much.

And then they presented our dinners.

We had ordered the skate wing and trout. The skate was presented on a normal sized oval plate. About 1/2 the plate was covered in a salad (didn't I just have a salad?), the skate took up about 1/4 of the plate and the rest of it was a fancy tartar sauce, a gribiche, which is a tartar sauce with egg, except I didn't see or taste and egg. The poor skate was sort of semi hiding under the salad. My wife had the trout. Now I've never seen trout or any other fish served skin side up. There were three portions of dark skinned fish with a dark sauce (they say it was a sauce perigourdine). This is over a bed of tough and tasteless escarole. Allegedly there was salsify somewhere in the dish, but I don't remember where. And two halves of a cippollini onion. Well cooked, but not the most pleasant to look at.

We ate it and just didn't care for either dish. The trout was cooked (underneath the skin) and the skate was done very well. But the rest of the meal was well boring. It had no appeal to me. My wife was apologizing to me about the meal, saying this isn't what she ever had.

We complained enough that the server came over and we said, this is not good enough for this restaurant. Now we did finish the food (we were hungry! since this was to be our big deal). He did take the entrees off the tab, but we didn't want dessert or coffee, so we left.

We were still hungry, so we went to a place near our hotel and had dessert and a cheese plate.

This is a failure of the executive chef and the owner. One peek at these plates (they still serve the trout) should have told them this is a poorly designed, poorly managed plate. The plate was not visually appealing nor was it satisfying to eat.

Sadly, my wife will probably never go back. It's New York, there are tons of places to eat. But she is now disappointed because it should have been much better than that. And I'm disappointed because it looked like it was a good place, but didn't pull two plates off and we wasted a good meal.

So the morale of this story to eaters and restaurants. We as patrons have a right to a satisfying meal visually, taste-wise and quantity. And the restaurant has a responsibility to try a lot harder than they did. Yes, they comped our meals, but in the end they lost two seats, probably $50 and all they got was this bad review.