Sunday, October 11, 2009

reservoir: The meal that made me want to shop instead of eat

Dear Friends and Family,

I’ve lost my ordering mojo. If found, please return it promptly to my WeHo residence in a marked envelope labeled “Diana Takes a Bite’s Mojo” lest I mistake it for the Anthropologie catalogue that I’m supposed to recycle immediately upon receipt.

Thank you.


“D Takes a B”

Whenever I was goofing off as a young tike, my dad used to tell me, “Once it’s funny. Twice it’s silly. Three times and it starts to get a little annoying.” I used to bristle at the remark (everything I did was hilarious every single time), but today, or more accurately, tonight, I’m starting to wonder if my dad was actually being profound when he was spouting off his seemingly disdainful pontifications on the limitations of my humor.

The past few dining experiences I’ve had in Los Angeles have been decidedly lackluster – partially because the dishes I’ve been served haven’t been executed to the level I expect when I’m digging deep into my budget for adorable fall jackets, and partially because I’ve done a poor job ordering. The first time it happened, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, “At least the dessert rocked my mouth party! I’ll get the entrée right next time!” The second time, I declared, “Silly ole me, guess that’ll teach me to order a salad instead of pancakes for brunch – har har har!” But tonight, after a particularly disappointing dinner at reservoir in Silver Lake, I’m not much in the mood for laughing.

I was really excited to try Gloria Felix’s seasonally inspired restaurant that allows diners to create self-constructed entrees based on a list of sides and proteins. I’d studied the menu prior to my arrival with the intensity that one might devote to the Bar review or something far more important than the inconsequential ritual of stopping an organ from growling.

After much contemplation, I had set my mind on ordering the braised beef short ribs with pomegranate reduction glaze and the farro with grilled asparagus, broccoli rabe, currants, toasted pine nuts and roasted shallots ($26). But when I arrived tonight, I wasn’t particularly hungry for red meat and opted for the black cod with miso glaze and forbidden rice with fava beans, baby oca potatoes and roasted balsamic cipollini onions instead ($24). I wanted a lighter main course – particularly since I was also anxious to try the arugula, prosciutto, manchengo and fried egg pizza ($10) as a starter.

I wanted to love everything, and went into each dish with the optimism that I approach most situations in my life (Exhibit A: My blog is pink, not black), but ultimately my selections this evening all reaffirmed what I’ve been suspecting for the past few weeks.

“I’ve lost my ordering mojo.”

As I quietly nibbled on my slice of a shared arugula pizza, I couldn’t help but covet the sweet corn ravioli with brown butter sage ($12) my more prescient companions were savoring for their starter. Unlike the refined juxtaposition of flavors in the pasta dish that was enhanced by woodsy mushrooms and fried sage leaves, the different components of the pizza were in direct competition with one another. It wasn’t harmonic – it was jarring to my palate, and the only distinct flavor I could taste was an ample (and unwelcome) application of tomato sauce.

Despite my disappointment, I pushed the pizza debacle aside as a fluke and excitedly awaited the arrival of my entrée. I knew it wouldn’t be transcendent like Nobu’s world-famous miso cod, but I was still confident that it would satisfy my craving for the Asian-influenced preparation of the flaky white fish. Unfortunately, I found the glaze on the tender flesh to be so off-putting that I, for the first time in recent memory, could not finish my entrée. The thick black blanket of what a fellow companion tasted and likened to “burnt hoisin sauce” was not just jarring to my palate – it was offensive to it.

The tepid forbidden rice accompaniment (according to our server, a good pairing for the cod) did nothing to rectify the situation – it merely filled up space on a plate I couldn’t bear to fight my way through like the champion eater that I typically pride myself to be. I lustfully made eyes at the superior entrees on my table – the tender short ribs with farro that I was so close to selecting myself, and the filet mignon with gorgonzola port sauce and potato gratin and green beans ($28).

Once again, the nagging suspicion echoed it’s disconcerting chorus in my head.

“I’ve lost my ordering mojo.”

After our main dishes were cleared, I decided to give it one last college try with an order of the peach and blueberry crumble with condensed milk ice cream ($10). Or, more accurately, my dining companions decided for me since they knew I was “struggling, Coach.” Fortunately for my sanity, the crumble was everything a crumble should be. Translation: The top was crumbly, and the fruit was supple, warm and plentiful.

I was finally happy.

Yet, as I pulled into my driveway tonight $56 lighter, I couldn’t help but feel saddened by the totality of an experience that could have, and should have, been better. Not just because I’ve supposedly “lost” my knack for zeroing in on the best items a restaurant has to offer, but because I shouldn’t have to have that knack in the first place. What’s the point of including various menu options if not all those options are worthy of exclamation? And while I’m pontificating like the man who pontificated to me as a child, what’s the point of dining out if every meal is going to be like a game of Russian roulette?

I think I’m going to hedge my bets on the cute blazer at Anthropologie and a quinoa salad at home next time.

Either that, or just let someone else make all ordering decisions for me.

1700 Silver Lake Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90026
Phone: (323) 662-8655


Gastronomer said...

Woman, you are a kick ass writer. Vern and I can't believe you whipped it out just like that!

You're absolutely right, dining out shouldn't be like a game of Russian roulette. I think they just messed up tonight in the kitchen.

Chin up! There will be plenty of good eating in your future!

Jenn said...

Awe... You'll get your mojo back. Mabe it's just taking a breather. Give it a little time and it will jump back into you with full force.

weezermonkey said...

I don't think you've lost your ordering mojo at all.

I blame the kitchens!

Anna A. said...

Wow that sauce looks toxic! At least the ol fruit crumble came through with the "W" for team D Takes a B.

pleasurepalate said...

Believe me, we've all had our days when the food isn't well executed at a restaurant, but that has nothing to do with whether you ordered the right dishes or not. It usually means that either the restaurant is having a bad night or perhaps, the restaurant wasn't very good in the first place. :)

mattatouille said...

the glaze on that black cod looks really burnt. The menu at reservoir just doesn't seem inspired. i haven't been back in a while, nor am i interested.

yutjangsah said...

that's too bad di. it does take a few visits to find favorites but for sure a sauce shouldn't look like la brea tar pits.

Diana said...

Cathy - It did seem like a bit of an off night for them. I'd go back again, but next time I'm definitely ordering the short ribs!

Jenn - I'm thinking maybe I should just stick to chocolate and taco trucks for a while. :)

Sharon - Thanks for the back-up!

Anna - The fruit crumble was really nice -- and LOADED with peaches! Yum!

Abby - Very well-said. I'm hoping, for Res' sake, that it was just an off night. I've heard pretty good things about it in general, so am hoping that my experience isn't a typical one for diners there.

Matt - In hindsight, I probably should have said something to the server about the sauce. In all honesty, I didn't even consider the possibility that the sauce could be burnt until a fellow diner suggested it.

Sook - La Brea tar pits - hah!

SinoSoul said...

I didn't want to gloat the day after your disaster but: we had perfectly cooked black cod (without trite miso glaze) at Bar Tartine the day after your disaster. Didn't cost any more than your plate.

Reservoir has been receiving mixed reviews since the get-go and had to fluff up with the recent free PR dinner event. Sucks you were conned.

Braised short rib on the menu translates to: we will cook a cheap cut of beef to death because we are uninspired.

This place is apparently a joke and I sincerely hope your dining companions encouraged you to send that dish back.

H. C. said...

I must have stolen your mojo -- the last few times I've gone to places with mixed reviews (bottega louie, reservoir) I've had pretty decent meals, though I did taste my dining companions' fare which didn't come out so well. But I totally agree with Gastronomer that any restaurant serious about their shouldn't have a menu landmine.

H. C. said...

and I'll return your mojo back next time I see you ;)

Diana said...

Tony - So jealous of your superior cod experience! I don't really think I was necessarily "conned," but do wish I would have spent my money elsewhere (or on those short ribs - even if they are a cheap cut of meat). I don't have enough padding in my bank account to throw money away on burnt sauce!

HC - I knew it was you! This whole thing dates back to my birthday party at BarFood - no wonder you drove Ashley and me home!! You wanted my mojo! It all makes sense now...