I am always skeptical of restaurants that come attached to hotels or resorts. But after several recommendations by other travels, a thumbs up by Frommer’s and a big sign on their door boasting Fodor’s top pick on the island for 2010, I decided to give it a try.
The garden setting was warm and inviting. I was greeted at the door by Chef Paul Newman (no, not THAT Paul Newman, the other one). He directed me to a hostess, who took me to a table and tried to jokingly chide me for dining alone. Please note: when someone is dining on their own, it is not their fault and they do not want it to be pointed out. Yes, I dine alone. Yes, this means the bill size will be smaller.
Even before I sat down, the wine steward was hovering. He approached the table and I asked if he had prosecco by the glass. He told me he didn’t. He pointed out the half bottles of Moet & Chandon. I told him I was more interested in prosecco. He then confirmed that if I really wanted a glass of prosecco, that he would open a bottle for me. I asked him “Really, you would do that for me? Oh, that would be lovely!” I asked him to leave the wine list for later and off he went to get my bubbly.
Another gent promptly arrived at the table and without preamble read the daily specials off his note pad. Now, where I work this would be grounds for a week’s suspension. Servers are to arrive with enough time before shift to familiarize themselves with the additions and unavailable items. To not do so is to not be prepared. To not be prepared is to not instill confidence in your guests.
I ordered the bacalhau (a salted cod and potato dish, traditionally from Portugal), followed by the coconut breaded prawns and then the penne pasta with prawns, crab and artichokes. When the server confirmed “two appetizers?”, I said no, I wanted them coursed (the bacalhau first, the prawns as a mid-course and the pasta as my main). But alas, the two appetizers arrived together. As both were hot items, I had to choose which to eat first. I went with the bacalhau, which was exceptionally good. Nice blend of sauces and basil oil with a light pesto and oven dried tomatoes sitting delicately on top of each. They were quickly gone.
The coconut breaded prawns were also very good. There were three large prawns perfectly cooked with just enough sweetness in the coconut breading without being overly sweet. Three dipping sauces; a light barbeque, a honey rum and a delicate soy sauce. I tried one prawn with each sauce, and I have to say the soy sauce was the most enjoyable. The balance of salty from the soy with the gentle sweetness of the coconut was quite clever. The fried linguine was a nice twist and I broke it into smaller shards and dipped it into the soy sauce as well. The tempura fried celery heart I tried but gave up on. The middle was a bit soggy and the outside was now cold since it had been sitting while I enjoyed the bacalhau. Cold tempura is not my friend.
Once these dishes were cleared, a palate cleansing strawberry sorbetto arrived, just enough to refresh my mouth before moving on to the pasta. Sorbettos and granitas in between courses are always welcome.
Now, having reached the end of my glass of prosecco, I would have enjoyed either another glass of the same or a glass of the Duckhorn Decoy Sauvignon Blanc. However, the wine steward was not to be found. The gal that did approach, I enquired if he could come visit me because I wanted to purchase the remainder of the bottle he had so kindly opened for me. I would then have a second glass with my meal and ask to label and store the remaining bubbles for the next night. He never showed and so I ate my dinner without a beverage. No one came by to quality check my meal, and hence I didn’t get the opportunity to ask for something else to drink, nor for a sauce or gourmet spoon for the pasta sauce.
Dessert was pre-ambled by a little poof of strawberry mousse. The coconut macaroon cake with passion fruit sorbet was nice enough but after being spoiled all these years with the wizardry of Chef Theirry Busset, it just didn’t wow me. The tartness of the sorbet played nicely with the cake, but two things confused me about this dish: the seeds from the passion fruit left in the sorbet were a distracting texture (whenever I bit down on one I has to pause to make sure it didn’t get lodged in my teeth); the whipped topping on the cake did not taste like fresh whipped cream and was heavy (I have to surmise that it was either over whipped, too much gelatin, or exactly what it tasted like: store bought).
When the bill came ($133.10 US for little ol’ me) I noticed that I had been charged $25.00 for a glass of processo. The full bottle was $50.00, so I called a server over and told her that if this was the case, I would buy the full bottle. She came back and said she didn’t quite understand . . . did I want to buy a full bottle plus the glass I already had? So I explained that I had had one glass. The bottle was $50.00. The wine steward had opened a new bottle for me. If he was going to charge me $25.00 for one glass out of a $50.00 bottle, then I would purchase the full bottle. She said she understood and would be right back. I sat for another 7 or 8 minutes waiting. Finally she came back and said ‘He said that is the price of one glass”. Seriously !?! Lemme get this straight, it’s $25.00 for one glass from a $50.00 bottle, but $25.00 for a half bottle of Moet & Chandon, which is a superior bubble?? AND it turns out what he had done was poured off a glass from an already opened bottle which was being used to make champagne cocktails and so he hadn’t really opened a new bottle as he claimed. Which means I was not able to purchase the reminder of the bottle to take back to my room. By this time I needed that second drink. I detest when people piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. The credit card slips arrived with the gratuity already added to the bill. Fine. But at least give me a pen that works so I can sign the receipt.
I really wanted to like this restaurant after so many good recommendations and the warmth of Chef Newton. Sadly I was left under whelmed, under served and over spent.