Restaurant Week 2013 - Graham Elliot Bistro

After my phenomenal experience at Boka, I got a little greedy. I had only planned to do three Restaurant Week dinners in 2013, but after having such a positive experience, I thought it would be possible to squeeze in just one more, budget be damned. I had been looking at the tasting menus posted by other participating establishments, and could not get the offerings from Graham Elliot Bistro (G.E.B), out of my mind. I had been wanting to try the restaurant anyway, seeing as how it is located next door to Nellcôte, a mere block from my office, and I walk past it all the time. It is only open for dinner, however, so Restaurant Week seemed like the perfect time to give it a try, and besides, their tasting menu was practically tailor-made to appeal to my taste buds.

Being a Friday night, the only last-minute reservation I could obtain was at 5:00, which wouldn't have a problem for me, since I work so close to the place, but it meant that Justin would just have to meet me there late. The problem was compounded early in the day, however, when we awoke to nearly three inches of ice crusting our neighborhood's sidewalks and streets, from the wet, sloppy snow that had fallen the night before and frozen in place. Even with a pair of crampons strapped on to my shoes, we still missed our train and had to catch a later one, causing Justin to be slightly late for work, meaning he'd be even later for dinner.

Once we made it downtown, there was much less ice on the ground, so I decided to remove the ice cleats from my shoes, which turned out to be a fateful error. Right in front of my own office building, I slipped on a patch of black ice (I later learned that we had run out of salt the day before), and though I didn't fall all the way down, I did manage to sprain my knee in the process of trying to stay upright. I spent the whole day icing and elevating my knee and throwing NSAIDs at the problem, so you can imagine my frustration when I hobbled over to G.E.B. and was informed that I could not be seated until my party was complete. Even after I explained to them that I had sprained my knee, they let me know that I could wait in the bar, which I hate doing, because I don't really drink alcohol and I always feel compelled to order something besides a soda when I'm sitting at the bar. Even though the restaurant was practically empty at 5:00, I had to stand awkwardly near the door, waiting for Justin, for nearly 20 minutes.

After that, the evening never fully recovered. There was one problem after another, until I had resolved that I would never return to G.E.B., no matter how close it is to my office. Sometimes, you need to quit while you're ahead, and my Restaurant Week experience at G.E.B. drove that point home painfully.

Ambiance - G.E.B. is located in a narrow shotgun-style space, with only a handful of detached two-or-four-top tables and a long banquet running along the opposite wall. A long partition separates the diners from the kitchen and a corridor were the servers and busboys move to and from the kitchen, which would have been fine if they weren't yelling over said partition to communicate with other staff in the dining room. We were seated at a two-top right against the partition and all the servers talking over us like we were invisible became extremely annoying as the meal progressed.

Service - Aside from my aggravation about being denied a seat despite having a sprained knee (seriously, do they think people make up stuff like tat just because they don't want to wait), the service we received from our waitress wasn't much better. After unsuccessfully trying her best to upsell us on the regular menu and the wine list, she practically disappeared. I had to flag her down for a refill on my drink, and I was not amused.

Food - Considering I booked my reservation on the strength of the menu G.E.B. had posted on the Restaurant Week website, you can imagine my disappointment when the server handed me a hard copy and everything I had planned on eating was gone. I realize that the menus are subject to availability, but you can't tell me that they weren't able to procure potatoes for baked potato soup at this time of year.

Instead, I ordered the chicken and dumpling soup, which I thought would be more like my grandma's version, with a rich, thick broth full of body. Instead, what I received was a bowl of chicken broth, with a scant few pieces of precisely cubed root vegetables and about three 1-inch dumplings. It was too bad that they were so misery with the dumplings, as they were flavored with mustard and herbs and were easily the best part of the dish.

Instead of the beef cheeks, I ended up with pot roast, which was quite tasty at least, but the portion size, in tandem with the bowl of broth, left me suspecting I would be hungry again later. Dessert was the star of the meal; both my Nutella-filled beignets and Justin's ice cream sundae featuring peanuts, caramelized banana, broken pretzels and chocolate sauce were truly excellent. In fact, if I weren't so biased against the place from everything else that happened during our dinner, I'd consider going back there for dessert only, but that's just not going to happen.

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