While I was in DC over the weekend, I like most tourists when they are visiting someplace, happened to go eat at a local restaurant. As I will be the first to admit, I love to eat. So as you can conclude, I enjoy good food, and even more so while partaking in another of my favorite pastimes, traveling.
So back to my recent outing to DC, For the two nights I was in town, I went to two different places to eat, both Italian Restaurants, both a very different experience. And I came upon a very important conclusion. What is that conclusion you ask? Simply that whoever decides what is to be called ‘Fine Dining’ needs to have his head (and his taste buds) examined.
Allow me to explain.
Now I am not a hard man to please as far as food is concerned. I do try the more unusual foods every now and then, but for the most part my diet is the same as most other American males in their early twenties.
However, being in DC, and with family, means that there is call for something more then fast food. This of course, means fine dining. The very words ‘fine dining’ conjures up many images, both good and bad; the key for the restaurant is to have more of the former. There is a fine line between deserving such a reputable reputation, and just being a pricey hole in the wall that serves cooked snails for $50 a plate.
I shall begin by giving two examples of such establishments of fine dining from my recent trip to DC.
The first restaurant (and the far better one) I dined at was the ‘Tuscana West’.
While the decor was a tad fancier then the average Olive Garden, it was nothing too over the top. White marble and polished wood with traditional Italian decor provided a classy, old-world feel to the place. Add a few nice touches such as a grand piano, with someone playing it nightly, skillfully belting out tunes as you enjoy your meal, and the atmosphere was almost as good as you can expect.
The service was very good – No sooner so you sit down then one of the waiters comes to pour you a glass of water with fresh bread and olive oil. Handing out the menus, he listed off the specials with an intimate familiarity. And even for a busy Friday night, the wait for the food was not too long. The food was outstanding, among the best Italian I have ever eaten, which speaks volumes on it’s own. Best of all? It seems as if everyone involved at this restaurant was genuine Italian. You can’t do much better for pasta than having made just like the way the chef learned from family back in the old country. Bellissimo!
The other restaurant, which shall provide the bad end of the fine dining spectrum, I ate at was ‘Siroc’.
I knew that this was going to be one of those bad ones when our waitress came to give us our menus and left before even asking us about our drinks. Maybe it’s just me, but if a restaurant is going to charge people $40 for a meal, I at least want service a few bars above what I expect from the local Applebee’s. It only got worse when they gave us the menu, which much to my shock, not only did not have Italian staples like pizza or alfredo, but offered such oddities as sauteed skate. For those of you who don’t know, that is a kind of stingray. Even for me, that is odd.
To make matters worse, the wait for the food to arrive was terrible, and that is taking into account that they had a grand total of ten customers that evening. And the food was honestly nothing special. I could have gotten pasta at my local Italian place better than that stuff, and it would have been a hell of a lot cheaper.
So what have we learned from all of this?
For starters, if you are going to call yourself a fine dining establishment, that means more than just selling entrees for the price of a small television. It means that your employee’s should be professional and courteous. That the atmosphere should be the very best, adding to the entire experience. Most importantly, the foundation of any restaurant is the food, and that goes for everything from fast food to five star joints restaurants.