7.30.2005

al Boccalino

I am spoiled forever.
I am ruined for sub-par restaurants. It's not that I can't appreciate a greasy spoon or a meal made in a converted bus, either. What gets my goat is the restaurant that everyone thinks is good because it is located on Lake Union/Lake Washington/The Waterfront and serves chowder that costs $5.95 for a cup. (Don't get me started about the overpriced menu, over-coached service, and mediocre food at Duke's on Lake Union.) Maybe I should know better. These establishments are the tiniest step above T.G.I. Fridays or the like and are set up to serve tourists and business lunches on a get em in, fill em up, get em out scale. It does bother me that people actually think the food is good because in my experience it very definitely is not. Having worked in places like this, I can assure you that most of the people preparing and serving your food are not all that interested in your gastronomic adventure. They are working for the shift drink and untaxed tips that come with every soul-sucking lunch and dinner rush. Of course, I'm generalizing. I'm sure the chef at Duke's really cares about the chowder. It's just that the person on pantry quit last week so the dishwasher has been suddenly promoted and is trying to stretch the batch he made on Monday so he doesn't have to make another cauldron of your creamy seafood surprise. Gross.
I think one thing I've been slow to catch on to, but that is painfully obvious, is that just because a restaurant charges a lot for a meal in a very well appointed setting, doesn't guarantee that the food will be good. Duh. The most obvious example is that heavenly pointing beacon north of downtown that has come to stand for Seattle like a giant exclamation point SEATTLE! the Space Needle. Or SpaceBoss. (per B.log.) The good view=bad food equation is so cliche that it is almost postmodern to really have a good view and bad food. Is the Space Needle Restaurant actually an incredible piece of performance art?! If it is, sadly I will never know, because I will probably never dine there again.
I did recently dine at al Boccalino, the tiny Pioneer Square Italian restaurant just next to the viaduct on Yesler. It's small but pretty cute inside: The dining room was light and airy despite the small space. The service was friendly and personable. We were six for lunch and I arrived first. The waiter quickly brought water, bread and olives and offered me a beverage. The glass of red wine he chose was not that great and everything pretty much went downhill from there. Not that anything was terrible, in fact it all looked good on the surface. But I found when I lifted up my menu a big orange stain on the folded napkin at my placesetting. The bread was dry. My salmon was overcooked.

And the promise of the fish accompanied by vegetables and roasted potatoes resulted in one lousy half of a red potato. Did I mention that the salmon was overcooked? The linguine bolognese next to me looked pretty good. And it was a huge portion. Everyone with me thought it was all very good. I'm just ruined I guess.

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