Florida Cookery's manager, an unflappable and poker-faced woman dressed in an austere black-and-white uniform, set a heavy spiny lobster dish on our table. Around her, the dining room lit up with that unique razzle-dazzle that South Beach restaurants often possess Saturday nights.
It had been 25 minutes since we inquired about the lobster entrée, 45 minutes since our appetizer course, and more than two hours since we had sauntered into the restaurant at the ritzy James Royal Palm Hotel.
The dish was late, late, late.
Maybe the kitchen was slammed. Perhaps the place was overbooked. Or was the waitstaff overwhelmed? We'll never know. We never heard any excuses. Instead, the manager took a step back from our table, clasped her hands, and apologized for the dish's delay. She asked us to visit Florida Cookery again soon. She wanted to ensure our return, so she comped our lavish dinner of crafted cocktails, numerous courses, and pan-braised spiny lobster. The check for two would have amounted to more than $150.
In four visits to the restaurant over two months, I consistently experienced lax service at Florida Cookery. Sharing plates rarely arrived. Improper eating utensils were delivered. Dishes were cleared too soon or too late. The same night my meal was comped, I experienced a rude hostess, an awkward busboy, and a ditzy waitress who bounced up and down while explaining the menu. There were many instances of utter neglect -- long periods when our table, which was set in the corner of the 75-seat dining room, was forgotten.
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