Thursday, 3 June 2010

What a fizzer

Tasting Menu - $100 per person

smoked travelly (sic) chowder, organic spring bay mussel, ocean trout roe
5 bruny island oysters of your choice (they have a selection of 5 different toppings for oysters at 373, so we chose to have one of each)
thorpe farm goats cheese semolina gnocchi, tomato consommé, rocket pesto, garlic wafers
twice baked blue swimmer crab soufflé, bisque
duck breast, duck fois gras dumplings, duck consommé, red cabbage
cressy farm lamb rump, young winter vegetables, celeriac puree
lemon mousse, citrus compote and judbury honey crème brulee, chocolate biscotti or
lemon sorbet and two cheeses of your choice, lavosh, semi dried grapes

On reading the above “tasting menu” after we arrived, I got really excited. It sounded so great, on paper. Restaurant 373 had (last month?) won the local Hospitality Industry award for best restaurant. Graeme Phillips had given it the thumbs up as well in a recent Sunday Tasmanian review. I was truly anticipating a wonderful night of fine food, and fine company.

The company exceeded expectations. It’s a pity the food and service didn’t meet them.

Out of every course named above, I can honestly say the only two items I thoroughly enjoyed were one of the five oysters (the one topped with limoncello), and the (three) Cressy Farm lamb slices.

The service, whilst being technically faultless, was bland and impersonal. It felt like the two floorstaff were going through a ‘tick and flick’ sheet in order to reach the end of the night, as quickly and efficiently as they possibly could, as course after course briskly succeeded each other. They didn’t exchange one single word of conversation with us at all, apart from the basic food presentation enquiries.

Extremely disappointing.

Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

A shame, Rita. But your post got me thinking....

- Do different people get treated differently? When people turn up with notebooks, paper, pens and a laptop, do the staff think "Shit, let's be on the ball tonight - we are being assesed".

- I have heard many chefs make negative comments about "tasting" plates and menus, what is good and bad about them?

I have not been, so cannot comment on your experience but I cannot understand how restaurants win all these awards and then when "Joe Public" goes in there, the restaurant turns out to be crap....

Food for thought?

Anonymous said...

Oh and to add to my above post....

"travelly" ???


Rita said...

Jesus! You're on the ball Anon! I barely pressed the 'Publish' button on that post and there are two comments from you!
Yes - totally hearing you re the "travelly" - what a shocking spelling mistake on their menu!
To go back to your first question, we didn't turn up there with pen, paper, laptop or anything other than our cute little selves!

The reason we decided on the Tasting Menu was that it seemed to contain most of the more notable menu items so we figured it would give us a good cross-section of their menu. We were truly excited about sampling as much as we could there at this prestigious restaurant.

Those were your words, not mine, that it was crap. I wouldn't use that word to describe the food there, but I will say we were extremely disappointed with pretty well all of it. We are closely involved with the restaurant industry, and as such, very interested in eating at this reputable place.

Anonymous said...

A good one again, Rita. So happy to see you back!

The AHA and Tourism Awards, unfortunately, are not entirely graded on the dining experience. You have to show business plans, marketing strategy, training methods, etc etc etc, so, technically, you could probably win the award with a very sharp submission and reasonable recognition of the judges when they come in to the establishment. I'm also not sure of the qualifications of the judges...

There was an interesting review of Remi's place by Stephen Estcourt, not sure if you read it?

Again, great to have you back!

Anonomouse said...

That's terrible Rita. Anon 9.24 has got it right about the awards though. Food is often subjective in nature so an award I take with a grain of salt. That's why I blew up when they got Tasmania's best restaurant award when there are clearly better restaurants around.

Just on tasting plates. I think there has been so much crap that has gone around on a tasting plate they are a little bit tainted. Add "assiette" and "trio of" to that list also. It's rare that a chef has the skill and palate to make a tasting plate, of a suitable level, without being a little, well, naff.
It's something that has a lot of potential on a menu but rarely works. When I see it on a menu I have my doubts, especially at a restaurant of a lesser quality.

Tasting menus are an entirely different beast altogether. They are great and can really showcase a chef's skills but they are often unbalanced and a bit egotistical (similar to a tasting plate actually). The chef might try to be "creative" and do something that is just not kosher. Funnily enough, a fair few try and do the molecular thing. But... If I see a tasting menu I almost always go for it. You can learn about a restaurants kitchen in one night by having a tasting menu.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rita,

I'm the first anon.

The reason behind me making the comment about rocking up with pens, paper and laptop was because I was curious on if the judges of the awards get treated differently whilst assesing restaurants because they can be identidied by turning up with pens and papers and writing things down all night...

I have only ever had a few tasting plates - they were nice, but not great. The one I enjoyed the most was probably a chocolate tasting plate - not cheap, not fancy, but just really nice.

Funny actually, because I have dined at the restaurant Tasman (Grand Chancellor) and as GP pointed out in a review, they had a TASMANIAN SEAFOOD PLATTER and one of the first mentioned items were prawns...... You can't even grow prawns in Tasmania!!!

When I go to a restaurant I generally want to try as many different foods as possible - to get a good experience. (I also always tend to 'try' alot of alcohol...but thats a different story!) So if there is a tasting plate or trio of something or whatever I often order it.

A commentor on this site once said that Tasting plates are made out of food that has been left in the fridge too long, GOD I hope not!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh -- and once again forgot to add something to above post.

Did you end up paying the full $100?

If I go out and have a great meal, I'm happy to pay $200 per person... But when the meal does not satisfy me, I am always happy to bitch about it to the staff.... This frequently gets me a discount.

Rita said...

Paid the full price Anon, plus some, for the drinks! It wasn't the staff's fault we didn't enjoy it, as there was nothing wrong with the food itself. It wasn't off or anything. Someone there must have loved it?

Anonymous said...

A different anon here..

Went to Remi de Provence full of goodwill, thoroughly prepared to have a fantastic fulfilling night on the back of Stephen Estcourt's review. And we were very disappointed.. have to agree with G.Phillips on this one.

Tassiegal said...

YAH! RITA IS BACK! (does a happy dance in her office).
I agree with the sentiments to 373. Its awhile since I went there but I distinctly remember very staid service as well as a few Basil Faulty moments from the trainee FoH. I generally drive past there about 8pm on a Thursday and very rarely do I see more than one or two tables seated and eating.

Anonymous said...

Most in the food industry have little interest in the "industry awards" from the AHA as only establishments that pay a hefty annual fee can enter - It is an eye open when you know this as some very good places are absent continually from the awards as they do not see value in the annual fee.
Most of the offerings from the AHA are discounts for banking and insurance which can be accessed as individual establishments if you negotiate hard with Banks etc...
Oh and a yearly piss up and possibly an award or two - take a look at the previous years awards the same old large industry players seem to win each time.

I think I am correct in saying that the awards are bestowed without visiting the winning establishment and sampling the food/service - it is judged mainly from the applicants written application.

So I suggest that any AHA Industry award should be treated with a very large pinch of salt.
An interesting exercise is to ask you favorite eatery it they are a member and why not ?