Three Words: Artisanal was Dismal

At least the fondue was insect-free.
It's Restaurant Week in NYC, and I wanted take advantage of some real culinary delights that the best city on the planet has to offer.

Which is why I got upset when I ended up here, of all places: Artisanal Bistro.

For the love of God, why do I always pick these rotten restaurants?

I don't seek out these places! Instead, I had hoped for a blog full of flavorful, insightful places to dine. Instead, I have had more bad experiences recently, than good.

It's really unfortunate.

And at the same time, it's perfect blogging material!

Here's the scenario:
It's a Sunday afternoon and I'm browsing OpenTable.com for a reservation. Not sure what I want, but it seems the places that I had earmarked were not available. OpenTable allowed me to look at available time slots for all restaurants participating in Restaurant Week.

I went through the list once, then back to the top. Artisanal is pretty close to my apartment. I have walked by there a few times...and began to think, "Hmmmm.... fondue might be good tonight!" I've never been there before, so why not finally take the chance?

Bread and cheese. What's not to like? 

So I booked the reservation and we were out of the house in about an hour. All ready for some cheesy action!

I always approach a new restaurant with a great deal of enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to something new and I can only hope that it will be a terrific experience.

Alas, this is my downfall.

After getting there on time and taking our seats, we hear trays falling. This wouldn't be the first time. It was an on-going event at Artisanal. Apparently bus boys and wait staff have issues holding trays, glasses, silverware; anything that could hit the floor, does. And frequently. Coordinated, they are not.

I ordered fondue (I know, shocking). My significant other ordered the Prix Fixe: Wild Mushroom Risotto, Mussels Frites, and the dessert that would come later. Much, much later.

[FYI: I should also put out the disclaimer that I have traveled in Switzerland extensively. I know fondue. I know all about cheese. If it is possible to be a Fondue Snob of Non-Swiss Decent, I'm it.]

When ordering, I also asked for some iced tea. Not a tall order to go along with a plain fondue dish. I thought we were ordering simple.

Food arrives. No iced tea. At least not right away. Tap water was on the table, so I wasn't dying of thirst like I had at another bad restaurant. (You can read all about that disaster, here.)

A runner brings over the iced tea after about 6-8 minutes passed with my main course. I see something in it that resembles a segmented insect. Uh. No. Not going to drink that. However, could I find ANYONE in the immediate area that was NOT dropping something loudly in the vicinity or could actually help me get a new glass of ant-free iced tea? Anyone? At all?

Finally told the waitress. And she quickly took the glass away with promises to give me a new one. Ten minutes later, still no iced tea. No action. The water glass is close to empty now too, and again, where is the waitstaff? Still dropping things, apparently.

I continued to eat the unremarkable fondue. (It was just cheese. There was dried out bread cubes that tasted more like sawdust. For a restaurant that bills itself as having these incredible cheeses, ummmm... I'm not feeling it. Or rather, tasting it.)

The prix fixe was tolerable. That's about all I can say. There just isn't anything else to be said about the food.

The waitress comes by once more, and has the "Oh! Iced tea!" moment. She goes back and brings me a glass of iced tea. She quickly sets it down and rushes away.

I'm staring at this glass set down before me. Curious. It already has a straw in it. The last iced tea came with a fresh straw and a lemon on the outside of the glass. This lemon was IN the glass. Oh. And sugar was already added. Along with an ANT IN THE FREAKING GLASS. The dingbat GAVE ME THE SAME GLASS OF ICED TEA!!!!!!  Lord only KNOWS WHERE SHE PICKED THAT UP after it SAT for over 10 minutes in another location! Is this waitress OUT OF HER FRICKIN' MIND?!?!?!?!?!???!??!???!??

The ding-a-ling, of course, was no longer around - she had disappeared. We wouldn't see her for over an HOUR. That's right. An hour. The waitress was just overwhelmed -or just stupid. Not sure which. Maybe a combination.

At LEAST another waiter brought me a FRESH iced tea after another 5 minutes of waiting. Although, at that point, I was a little leery of this restaurant's hygienic practices.

About 45 minutes later, we got the prix fixe dessert and waited ANOTHER 25 minutes after the plate was cleared for the check. We actually had to request that the General Manager to find out where our waitress had hidden in order to LEAVE this Dismal Artisanal. The GM returned with a check and had comped a couple of items from the final charges. I mean, at least he tried....

It was too late to care anymore. I was still in shock over my tainted tea and the total lack of service.

Final thoughts: Artisanal is NOT a French bistro in ANY way, shape or form. It is a loud diner. The food is just about the same quality as any NYC diner too, but be ready to pay a French bistro price. Bring ear plugs if you have them as well as a florescent wand to flag down staff (you know, the kind they use on the tarmac at the airport to wave the planes into the gate). Don't have plans to go anywhere and bring a can of Raid, just in case.

What About You?

It's the beginning of NYC's famed Restaurant Week -and I'll admit: I'm overwhelmed. And it's 2 weeks long, not ONE - so how sweet is THAT?!

There are so many choices, so many options!

I will target my favorites like A Voce (Columbus), Cafe' Boulud, Convivio, db Bistro Moderne, Gotham Bar and Grill, and for my pasta fix, I've circled Lupa Osteria Romana.

What about you? Any ideas or thoughts on places you might try?

Don't Go THERE: D.O.B. 111

Rarely can I truly be appalled -at the level I was last night.... Trying out a new-ish restaurant D.O.B. 111. They have been open for a few months or so, but NO EXCUSES, people! This establishment went WELL beyond the AVOID this AT ALL COSTS kind of notice.

Let me try to explain....

First, we approached the door and "BYOB" was written on a piece of paper on the front (of the door), along with a smaller scribbled "cash only" note... handwritten with that East Village who-cares-about-our-signage-appeal.

Whatev. I like the East Village. Embrace the quirkiness. Plus, I don't need alcohol - I'll get a different beverage tonight. NBFD.

We had a reservation and were on time. Yet, we all noticed that when we walked in the door, people were crowded around -looking for guidance. ONE  female was supposed to be the hostess -yet she was also a server. And not a friendly or happy employee, either. She had issues that were beyond a mere PMS moment. She was just a first class b!tch. Yes, that is what I said.

It's not often that I meet someone with zero service experience. Oh wait. I may have read about this somewhere... I think guards at Dachau may have had the same mannerisms. Yep. That's it. Bingo.

After 3 kind requests for TAP WATER, we were told, "Sorry, we just don't have enough glasses. We've only been open for a small time, and we're not stocked to give all customers water." She then huffed and puffed away, as if we were being pains in the asses for expecting a drink of ANY sort, much less water. We must have been out of our minds.

Are you EFFING kidding me?

Wait... it gets better. In a "better" means "WAAAAY worse" kind of way.

After Miss Huffy the Beotch made her Gestapo announcement that there would be no water for us, the gentlemen at our table immediately departed for the kosher bodega across the street to purchase bottled water for our table. (I really fell in love with one of them. He's my hero. And my waterboy. God bless him.)

While waiting for them to return, the rest of us perused the menu. I reminded myself that the chef was supposed to offer some haute Vietnamese-French goodness on a plate. I was still hopeful. Just parched. Maybe it was the 100 degree weather that made me thirsty. My bad.

The guys returned with super-sized water bottles for each of us. Life would be fine. Or so we fooled ourselves into believing.

We seriously ordered a large sampling off the menu thinking we would get redemption. We were HUNGRY! We wanted to sample. Scallops, soft shell crab, quail satay, filet mignon, beef carpaccio, pork belly, black cod and fried rice cakes.... Oh the possibilities.

Oh no.

Scallops had SHELL pieces still on them. POORLY prepared and cleaned. The crab was just deep fried with little flavor, quail was swimming in a heavy peanut sauce (ewww!), filet mignon was overcooked and dry, beef carpaccio was unbalanced with its overdone spices, pork belly was fatty and like eating a wet sponge, black cod was just a bad, uncooked piece (and I like raw), plus the rice cakes just did not do it either. Flavorless and a whole lot of WTF glances went around our table. It was a mutual feeling of, "Let's get the HELL out of this place. Now. RIGHT NOW."

We begged and pleaded for the bill several times -because Miss Nazi Genius (aka Hostess from Hell) couldn't get her act straight.

I'm not kidding. The table next to us alerted her to several billing errors. Apparently, the prices in the computer differ from the menu - as in, the billed prices are HIGHER than the menu prices. If a customer doesn't check, OH WELL. And if you call her out on the obvious errors, she yells that she can't HELP it. She blames everything on the computer. When the customers look at her in horror, she continues to loudly announce that it's not her fault but she will take it out of her TIPS... The restaurant is silent. And scared. (BTW - if you think I would even tip her fifty cents!?? M-F'er puh-leeeeez!) I'm sure she sends money to the Communists Against Humanity Fund anyway....

Sooooooo.....after sampling a ton of the shite that Chef Michael Bao Huynh sent out, drinking our own BYOW and waiting relentlessly for our overpriced bill that almost never came, I was glad to get out of there without purging my stomach's contents.

DOB 111: Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

In the words of our table neighbors, "Wonder what might be in that space in a few months?"

Survival of the fittest will surely kick this place out of it's rat hole it's in... and Frau Verbissener will have to get another job at Child and Family Services or something.

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