Viviane: The Worst Meal at the Prettiest Restaurant

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To preface the massacre that’s about to occur, I’m in a wretched bloody mood. For several reasons, but I’m mostly irritated because I looked at my credit card bill and remembered how much I spent on an utterly useless meal I had on Tuesday.

But back to the point of this blog post. I love eating out, almost as much as I love cooking. I pride myself on restaurant reconnaissance, recommendations and obnoxious know-it-all attitudes about the best way to serve oyster mushrooms or whatever.

I am not a chef. Nor do I purport to be. I am a cook. I am a foodie. And I have eaten at the best restaurants all over the world. Not all of them. But a healthy, bankruptcy inducing number, to the point that I can at least identify if some goddamn bread is stale.

And this blog. My insta. My side food writing position. Those have all allowed me a platform to vocalize by things I like. And things I don’t like. (The latter list is getting longer by the minute, since I’m pissed.)

Flashback to Tuesday. The Viviane at the Avalon Hotel opened last October, with a desert-chic, midcentury modern pastel decor begging for girls’ nights out and overflowing mimosa brunches. I’d sort of forgotten about it because it’s, like, on the westside, aka basically Siberia. But when a food blog I follow posted about a wine-paired, prix fixe menu showcasing a local winery, I was down. I gathered my foodie troupes and off we went.

I made a reservation and had Evan confirm via phone that we were on the list for this stupid dinner.

We arrive. We are most definitely NOT on the list. Despite two confirmations. Fine. I even cracked a little joke when the manager stated we were “regular clientele.”

And the it just crashed and burned. Doomed from the start.

  1. The heating elements installed in the cabana have only an on/off switch. “On” equates to roughly 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. It was so hot, my phone overheated on the table. It took 40 mins for them to turn it off.
  1. Foie Gras Mousse (the first appetizer at $24)* –  came out frozen. Like actually frozen. Like the knife provided could only chip off parts of it, that you then had to roughly scrape over the tender brioche, of which there was not enough and of which fell apart. We had to ask for bread three times. But don’t worry, by the time the bread came out, the foie gras had melted under the heater and was sort of a luke-warm, mucous-y, liver-y mess.
  1. Filet Mignon Carpaccio ($18) – sliced too thick and there were enough capers to make a salad out of it. In retrospect, this was the best part of the meal.
  1. Broccolini Rapini ($10) – watery, soggy vegetables on an indeterminate species, undersalted and sad.
  1. Porcini Ravioli ($27) – What. The. Actual. Fuck. The flavor was good. I’ll throw a bone on that. However, the ravioli pasta was so undercooked, my fork couldn’t cut through it. IT COULDN’T CUT THROUGH PASTA. We had to send it back. They didn’t charge us for the redo though, which was only slightly better. (As an objective finding, the edges of the ravioli were not thin enough. The body of ravioli would thus appear done, but the edges were hard, gummy pasta things.)
  1. Shellfish Boudin Blanc ($33) – When the crown jewel of the menu came out, I was starving. We all were. Per Jonathan Gold’s recommendation, we opted for the the boudin blan. Rock shrimp and lobster came served in a fish cake made of scallops and warmed up with an Sauce Americaine sauce. It sounds very glamorous. I’m pretty sure the new Burger King fish burger is better. The fish cake was not freshly prepared. It was gummy and tough and not even warm. The rock shrimp and lobster were so tough, I couldn’t tell the difference. And the Sauce Americaine was also watery and underwhelming.

So when the manager brought out a second bottle of wine, we asked him not to open it. It came out over 35 minutes after our initial request and we knew at that point, we could not finish the main courses, nor would we order dessert. He inquired as to what was wrong to which I responded with the aforementioned points.

Now let be clear. I prefaced the critique with the open and understanding statement that I knew they had a special event going on (one that we should have been on the list for, but nevermind); that the restaurant was relatively new (I was soft on this -> 6 months is enough time to bring out a bottle of wine in a reasonable amount of time); and that I am picky about the technicalities of food preparation. I didn’t complain because I didn’t like certain flavors, but because menu items were legitimately inedible.

To which the manager responded, “well the sauce americaine is not supposed to lobster bisque.”

No shit sherlock.

And, “well, I don’t understand – its the best dish on the menu.”

Well that doesn’t say much about the menu, does it?

Okay okay, once they remade it, the boudin blanc was phenomenal. The fish cake was light and airy, the shrimp and lobster fresh and tender and the sauce perfectly salted. But it was too late in the game to salvage this meal.

So we went to Vons and bought break and bake cookies. And I am willing to take a bet that that was a better choice that pushing through to the dessert menu.

*For the record, I very rarely discuss prices. When I go out to eat, I know that I am not paying for just the food, but the ambiance, the service and the artistry. I have recently been cooking more at home in an effort to budget, so now when I go out, I am far more likely to consider the price to value ratio. I gave the prices to illustrate the unacceptable ratio here. A few other rules on my eating out: I try not to order things that I can make it home. So I will never order a omelette or a steak or a chicken curry or spaghetti bolognese. Because I can do that home. I also will forgo that American rush of service – the table turning, rush you out, give you heart palpitations service – because if a meal is good, Imma take my goddamn time and enjoy it. But that’s only if the meal is good. Not even excellent, but just moderately enjoyable. This meal was not that.

 

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