One of my most favorite restaurants is closed. Shuttered. Gone. Even through all the other disappointments this week, this one was the most disappointing.
Since last Fall, I have gone by Cafe Rani a few times. Each time, I was surprised to see brown paper on the windows, but encouraged by the words: “We’re renovating! We’ll be back soon!” So, like a loyal customer, I continued to go by week after week … never did I see the contractors associated with these “renovations.”
So, today, imagine how excited I was to see people sitting in the courtyard! I thought to myself, “YES! The day has finally come! Chicken Salad with grapes and blue cheese and all the yummy in the world … here I come!” Alas, this was not the case.
At first, I didn’t notice. I went to the hostess stand, looked around and thought, well, it is a little early for it to be busy. But then it occurred to me: it was already almost 1 pm. Why didn’t I have to wait an hour? And then it hit me — a new name … La Fin du Monde. What? The end of the world?! What happened?
A very nice lady greeted me (by then, I was there easily for two minutes). I questioned the change; she responded with the usual, “Oh, new owners, new menu!” As the truth set in, I was flabbergasted. “Do you want to sit inside or out?” … “In,” I stammered. Still. Flabbergasted. I sat … and waited. And waited. And waited. It was easily seven minutes before a server came by, and when he did, it was as though I was intruding on HIS day. It would have been nice to know if there were other options than water. Or if perhaps my day was going well. My business partner arrived for our meeting. We waited some more. And more. And more. Another 12 or so minutes. Finally at the point of no return, I began to look around. He came back … “Do you know what you want?” Well, um … no, but okay.
I chose the Smoked Chicken Club. My business partner, the Chicken Salad. I’m not sure whether the chicken salad sandwich was actually supposed to be good. In fact, the experience was so not memorable, I can barely remember what the sandwich tasted like. I do recall that the sandwich was quite beautiful (see below). I also recall that the brioche was great (of course, come on … it’s brioche). But, the chicken was dry and the sandwich had no taste. The tomatoes were nicely ripe and the butter lettuce was crispy, but the “in-house” bacon was dry, chewy and bland. The sandwich came with a side salad, which I did not eat. The dressing was pungent; I couldn’t even get past the baby taste on the tines of my fork. In fact, I could barely finish the sandwich; I brought half of it home because I couldn’t bear to waste food.
The check came, but without even an attempt at an up-sell of dessert or coffee. As the server dropped the check and walked away, I turned to my business partner and said, a bit on the loud side perhaps, “Oh, did you want coffee or dessert?” Startled, the server turned on his heels and stared at me, gaping mouth. “Don’t worry about it,” I said .. and he continued to walk away. Really, though? Not even an attempt to up-sell?
Brand new restaurant with crappy service and mediocre food? I should warn you, La Fin du Monde … simply having the same space as Cafe Rani will not give you the luxury of swarms of people. We didn’t go to Cafe Rani simply for the courtyard — we went for the amazing service, incredibly fresh food and consistent expectation of waiting an hour for an excellent meal. It would do you good to take that lesson.
All in all, it was a pretty sad experience. Perhaps that could be because of my expectations of a beautiful salad, outside on an amazing day with an even more amazing server, but perhaps not. I guess I will have to find a new place for mind-blowing salads. I am open to suggestions. But be forewarned — I think I just found <<la fin du mon monde>>.