Monday, September 21, 2009

Food for thought - Chart House Phila.

Last night, GeekBoy and I accompanied 6 friends for dinner at the Chart House, by Penn's Landing, in town.

I will NOT be recommending that anyone ever eat at this restaurant again. If I did at any point after 1997 (the last time I ate there), I apologize profusely - let me offer you a gift certificate to any restaurant of your choice to make up for it.

It was, by far, the worst dining experience I've had in, probably, the last 10 years.

To start off with, it took 30 minutes after we were seated for our server to come to our table, and then, he only filled the water glasses. (let me preface all of this by saying that at no point while we were there was the restaurant even close to half full)

About 15 minutes later, he came back to find out if anyone needed drinks or wanted to order a starter. We advised him that we were ordering from the prix-fixe menu, which consisted of a set salad and dessert, with 3 choices for entrees (lobster francaise, halibut with a lobster cream sauce and a rib-eye). Several people order the lobster and our server says he'll have to find out if the kitchen has enough to fulfill the orders, as they were running low earlier. I, and 2 other folks opted to try the lobster bisque - in addition to the fixed meal, and everyone ordered their entrees. 15 minutes later, we got bread and told that the kitchen can, indeed, fulfill the lobster orders. At this point, we've been at the table for an hour.

While ordering, my friend V. advised the server that in addition to being lactose intolerant, she also cannot eat shellfish. When she ordered her halibut, she asked for it plain, no sauce, due to her dietary limitations - the lobster cream sauce would send her system into an uproar.

10 minutes later, our server comes out to inform us that the kitchen dropped one of the lobster dishes and now someone will have to order something else from the 2 other entrees, because they do not have any extra. My thinking is that that person should have had the option to substitute an entree off of the regular menu, due to the restaurant's mistake, but that was not offered. So J. ordered the halibut.

Meanwhile we get our soups, and then our salads arrive. The bisque was good, the salad - meh. Chopped salad is fine with me, but when it is nothing but iceberg lettuce and garlic, drenched in olive oil - well, it loses a little something. But, whatever, I deal with it.

A half-hour later, our entrees come out. Our giant salad plates are still sitting in front of us. Really? You're not even going to clear the salad plates before bringing out the entrees? I can snark, because I was a waitress; but also, I am extremely easy to please in restaurants. It does not take much to make me happy. Bring me bread and drinks within 10 minutes of my sitting down and you can disappear for another 30 minutes before I will start to get annoyed. Keep the table clean and make sure my food is hot and timely - I am the happiest person you've ever seen and will tip upwards of 20-25%.

V.'s halibut comes out drenched in the lobster cream sauce. She reminds the server that she ordered it plain and that she cannot eat what he's brought her. Terry (our server) apologizes and takes it away. Meanwhile the rest of us have our food and are sitting there, waiting for hers to come before we dig in. She tells us to just go ahead and eat, don't worry about it. OK.

I tuck into my halibut and first bite, pull 4 bones out of my mouth. OK, I'm done. I'll be goddamned if I'm going to choke to death in THIS place. Put my fork down and wait for the server to come back to ask for a box (GeekBoy is good with leftovers). At this point GeekBoy points out to me that the lobster cream sauce very closely resembles the lobster bisque. Huh - well, what do you know - it IS the lobster bisque. Way to cut corners, Chart House.

20 minutes later, Terry brings her the replacement fish. This time, it's drenched in a butter cream sauce, because he could not believe that she really meant that she wanted it plain, with no sauce. Are. You. Kidding. Me. He sends the manager over. This little man tells V. that there is nothing that the kitchen can make that will be out in short order and the only thing he can offer her is their 'help yourself' salad bar. WE JUST HAD SALAD YOU TWIT.

V. and I head up to the salad bar to see if there is anything she wants. Not really. At this point it all looks like shit.

While we are standing up there, the manager stops by to apologize again. We explain that V. was very clear when ordering that she could not have shellfish or dairy and twice was brought food that she could not eat. He then proceeds to offer her a SHRIMP dish or CRABCAKES. Now they've GOT to be playing with us. This can't really be happening. Is everyone in this restaurant learning impaired?

Meanwhile, GeekBoy visits the men's room and finds that there are no towels - he alerts the host to this and brings his wet hands back to the table to dry off on his napkin.

On his way back to the table, I let him know that our desserts will be boxed and we are out of there. I manage to grab Terry walking past and let him know that I need a box for my fish and I want our desserts to go as well. V. asks for her dessert to be boxed too.

20 minutes later, I get our boxed food. 30 seconds after we get the boxes we are out the door and retrieving our car from the valet.

The worst 2.5 hours of my life, foodwise, that I can remember. I mean, I didn't have this bad of a time when we were in France trying to cobble together enough words from my phrasebook to make sure I wasn't ordering organ meats.

Our reservation was for 6 PM. At 9:48 PM, I got a text from V. saying that she was home and eating cereal (with soy milk) for dinner.

At no point during our time at the table did anyone from the restaurant try to make things right, in a way that I found anywhere near acceptable. When we were leaving, the host could see that there was something wrong, and asked us - we told him that we had already spoken to the manager. At that point, what would they be able to do? There is no chance in hell that I will go back there, so gift certificates and/or gratis meals mean zero to me.

Thanks for nothing, Chart House.

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