Friday, June 18, 2010
R2L Height over Hospitality
The Lil Lady and I both had high hopes for this spot. We hadn't read any reviews or asked around. Our expectations were based mostly on hype I guess. After dining and chatting about our experience at R2L I learned that the restaurant is not exactly held in high esteem by local critics.
Craig LaBan's 5/9/10 review mentions the nice view and here Laban straight up gushes, Oprah style, about L2R's culinary director and Aimee Olesky's ex Bryan Sikora. He opines that Bryan may be able to get things ship shape once he's in place.
Well that view IS pretty nice. The banquettes with window views are really swell, like Chicago style. But you know what? I was a manager in this building for years, and Cigna's corporate gym has a loftier view. Our executive dining room was 20 floors higher yet. L2R's view didn't put me in a spell.
If there have been improvements since Bryan joined up, things must have been dire. On our visit there were so many service flubs that a cranky patron might have walked out. Drink orders were missed. There were at least 2 different menus presented to our table. Clearing, crumbing and resetting were thoughtlessly haphazard. Timing between courses was way off. Desserts were cleared too quickly and more. As the service fiasco is proceeding, suited dining room managers and servers glided by our table again and again, blind to empty glasses, uncleared plates/silverware, unset places etc. It was infuriating.
Oh wait. Bryan is a chef. How about the grub? Well we were a 7 top and I got to see a few plates. The striped bass next to me was salty and bland at once. The scallop and belly it was plated with were nearly non-elements. It was a pathetic portrayal of a regal fish. I had filet of beef. I think it was about $40. It was on a par with the beef sold at SuperFresh, which is not bad at all. On my left there was an order for ribeye with Bearnaise sauce. But it wasn't Bearnaise sauce. The main veg being served was asparagus (no one is busy combing the farmers markets for anything lively and local) white and green with holladaise. Ok, maybe it wasn't hollandaise. If it was, it sucked. If it wasn't, it was a flaccid and wan goo. Nearly everyone had a cup of "french fries" on their plate. These were crisp and salty and not hot. Just OK.
The millionaire cocktail was tasty and there was a vanilla cake dessert that was fragrant with a luscious texture. We were served a plate of mixed ices that had vivid flavors. Calamansi was a treat! The lobster roll appetizer was flat and pricey. The truffled flat bread app was tasty but way salty. The risotto balls were crisp but not interesting. The olive tapenade was good for a street snack. The table bread looked good but it was gone in a flash and barely replenished. Coffee service for 5 was presented with about 1/2 oz of warm milk. Please someone explain!
All of which is to say that this was a regrettable dining experience. If you read the R2L restaurant critics they are all about the inventiveness and wit of his cuisine. If you read the R2L page they talk about spectacular food and dining, "a unique interpretation of Creative American Cuisine." Not so much. More like ineptitude on the floor matched by flatness in the kitchen. The cuisine was pretty much oblivious to the season and the quality of the $$ priced ingredients was only average. Many essentials of first class hospitality were absent. No amount of hype or height can cover that up.
The view really is pretty nice.
UPDATE: I believe I might owe Chef Sikora an apology. I learned recently that he was a part of R2L for a very brief time. Sorry Bryan.