Perusing the past year's restaurant reviews has brought to light something I suspected: I wasn't very mean in 2011. It was difficult to find five scathing critiques. In fact, I really didn't find any -- there was only mild sarcasm in a few of the following. Still, these were the most disappointing restaurant meals of the past twelve months.
I vow, as one of my New Year's Resolutions, to be much tougher in 2012.
The dining experiences at Andalus "didn't quite clang our chimes," starting with the "cool, capacious ambiance" that seemed "all too quiet and cold -- the antithesis of warm, boisterous tapas bars of Spain." Tapas were "really full-size appetizer plates," which is "not how tapas are supposed to work." Paella, for $40, "brought mostly prosaic ingredients while lacking promised squid, fish, and peas." Our order of ajo blanco (chilled garlic/almond gazpacho) "never arrived."
4. De Rodriguez Ocean
The backstory to Ocean's negative write-up is that, unbeknownst to me at the time, Doug Rodriguez was out of action with a physical injury during some of the initial months of opening. Timing wasn't on Doug's side. Although the paella was "pedestrian," and the overall experience "half-baked," some items (like ceviches) were good. But the restaurant appeared to be "more like a business plan than a place to dine: big-name chef on the marquee, an emphasis on seafood, and a means of snatching some lucrative tourist trade from the real estate south of Fifth Street." And while I didn't know the famous chef was absent, I sensed it, saying the menu was straightforward enough "that it could be prepared without needing Mr. Rodriguez on deck." D-Rod is back on board now though.
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3. LouLou Le Petite Bistro
Lou Lou seemed "lost in another time and place," serving bistro fare in "antiquated manner." The pizzaladiere "tasted very old -- the brittle crust partially burned and the topping inedibly salty." I could go on, but the bigger story beyond the review is that the owners took things to heart and changed chef, kitchen staff, wait staff and menu. If I'd reviewed my last lunch there, it would have read glowingly.
2. Rickenbacker Fish Company
Problems from the start, with "teeth-baring dogs" welcoming us from behind a fence in the parking lot. Then, although "we'd made reservations and arrived on time, and there were still seats available," we were seated at "a cocktail table in an empty bar lounge." We were moved, but the food never moved us. Misses included clam chowder that "tasted an awful lot like potato chowder," rice pilaf "reminiscent of lunchroom cafeteria versions," pasta that was "al mushy," and "thoroughly unseasoned" vegetables." The water view wasn't so great either.
1. Eden South Beach
Eden proved to be too unimaginative, which was more irritating than usual because the chef is heralded New York toque Christopher Lee. "The room wasn't much to look at a Talula, and it still isn't," I griped, although outdoor seating in back wasn't much better: an "array of empty white plastic tabletops" and a "barren" bar. Music was "too loud" as well, but the bigger complaint was that "one can find the same starter selection at any T.G.I.Fridays." A petite $14 "Reuben" appetizer "contained no bread or bread substitute," and although entrees were better, desserts were all fruit-based -- leading to the suggestion for those who aren't in the mood for fruit to "bring along a few cookies to munch on after dinner."