18 October 2006

Nix on Bellanotte

Last week, one of our company executives told me about a dinner meeting he’d been to. After we covered the substance of the meeting, I asked him where the dinner was. He told me Bellanotte in downtown Minneapolis in the Block E entertainment district on Hennepin Avenue.

“Not good,” he told me. “I won’t go back. You should write about it in your blog.”

His main objection was very poor service. This was a small group of 8-10 people. It was a late evening dinner. People were tired. They just wanted to have a relaxing dinner and get out of there. The service was very slow and inattentive.

My wife and I had the same experience at Bellanotte several months ago. We also decided that there are too many good restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul to waste time with a disappointing venue.

And yet, it wasn’t easy for me to decide to write a negative review. I’ve never really panned a restaurant before on KriksPicks. It made me consider the approach by another restaurant blogger, RestaurantGirl, who reviews restaurants in New York City. I don’t travel to NYC much, so I don’t have any experience with the restaurants she writes about. But you should take a look at her blog if you travel there.

Anyway, in her profile, RestaurantGirl says that her policy is only to write about restaurants that she wholly recommends. I can sympathize with that policy. First of all, a restaurant review is such a subjective thing. A cuisine or style of cooking that is unappealing to me might be someone else’s favorite. Second, who has time to write about the negative experiences? I’ve got notes on at least a half dozen restaurants that I haven’t mentioned in my blog. Why waste a post on a place that I don’t recommend?

It happened that I was talking to another co-worker about the dinner and mentioned it was at Bellanotte.

“Ooo,” she scowled. “I went there once. It was not good. I won’t go back.”

So that’s it, Bellanotte. Three strikes, you’re out.

Even harder than writing a negative review about a restaurant that I didn’t like is my dilemma about Cue at the Guthrie. My wife and I went there with friends a couple of weeks ago. Three of us had good meals. One of us was so unhappy that he swore he’d never go back.

I had roasted lamb with wild rice. When you look at the menu posted online, lamb isn’t on as a regular item. I think that my entrée usually is done with elk and for some reason, they substituted lamb the night we were there. I really liked the lamb. But I'm curious what it would have been like with elk.

My wife had grilled, marinated poussin with black barley-preserved cherry risotto and Madeira glace de viande. I thought this was the best meal of the evening. The risotto was wonderful.

One of our friends had braised rabbit with wild mushrooms. He liked it quite a lot.

But our other friend had the pork prime rib, and he was very unhappy about it. It was all fat and bone, very little meat.

We all agreed that our service was mediocre at best. And I think that’s the core of the problem.

Example 1: When we arrived, we dropped our friends off to claim our table while we parked the car. When we got in to the restaurant, they were seated and had ordered wine. (It was a Saintsbury Pinot Noir. The wine was very good.) We joined them, but our server never brought us menus, and we had to ask for water.

Example 2: My wife asked the server what is poussin? The server told us it was a milk-fed chicken. We knew enough about food to know that didn’t sound right, and my wife ordered it anyway. When I got home, I learned on Wikipedia that poussin is simply a Cornish game hen.

Example 3: Perhaps most importantly, an attentive server would have noticed someone at the table not enjoying his meal and intervened in time to prevent a dissatisfied customer.

So what’s a blogger like me to do? I can’t ‘wholly recommend’ the restaurant, but there were some good things. Part of the trouble is that I really want to like Cue. It’s an attractive space, and I want to see that part of Minneapolis thrive. So we will give it another chance.

1 comment:

Jaime Castaneda said...

Thanks Steve although I am not an aficionado of Minneapolis' restaurants I enjoy rading your assesment on the varios restaurants. I encourage to do more of that where ever you go including DC.