Monday, January 23, 2012

Dining Debacle.

A few months ago I read this blog post about The Bent Brick, a restaurant in Portland, Oregon.  It sounded wonderful and I liked the idea of being able to sample the entire menu.  I thought it would be a great thing to share with my friends on my birthday.  I went online and made a reservation for eight people.

Saturday evening arrives and we are at the restaurant and I was pleased to see that they seated us against the wall as I had requested.  Alas that was the only good thing about the evening.  The waitress approached us, handed us the menu and informed us that with large groups they prefer to do the tasting menu.  I opened up the menu and was surprised to see that the price was now $55.00 per person.  Based on the blog we read we figured that there would be enough food to share and placed our order with the waitress.  The response was "I don't know, we prefer that you all have your own." to which one of my friends asked "well could you find out?"

At this point we should have got up and left.  I was seething.  I watched her as she asked the Chef and there was lots of pointing and huffing.  After a while she came back and informed us that it would be fine.  Two of our friends chose not to have the tasting menu, but have their own entree.  At no point were we told that the food portions are only enough for one, or is it on their menu.

Our friends Becky and Beau (Becky from a local vineyard in Oregon) bought along a bottle of her Brut and wine to share.  Corkage fee was $20.00 per bottle.  In most restaurants around the country corkage fee is waived for industry because that is what we do to form better relationships with the people who are most likely to be asked when pouring their wines, "Could you recommend a place for dinner?"  It is all about helping each other out.

Now this is where it got to be fun.  First plate plonked down in front of us were three mussles on a bed of rocks.  Yup, rocks.  We all looked around and Bear asked the waitress what we were supposed to do.  Her response, "those are to share."  So I took one mussel, cut it in half and shared it with Bear. I was so dumb founded I forgot to take a picture.  Becky was then in charge of the camera.

We arrived at 7:00pm and food started coming out at around 7:35pm.  I am noting the time as it is an important part of the tale.

Next up was the pickle plate.  The tasting portions were for three people.  Remember we are all sharing. One plate was for 3 people.  Hopefully this will clarify any confusion.  We were not given three individual plates with individual tastings.

Pickle Plate, how adorable one sliver of pickle each.

Next was the country ham rillettes, green tomato mustard and toast.

Tasting portion for three people

Crispy pork snacks , buffalo style.  Sorry no picture and I am to blame.  I was so damn hungry that when the plate was put down I would grab and pass along.  Suffice to say this was no more than thinly sliced pork skin deep fried. 

Ken's Bread and Butter, which I cannot remember and Sunchoke Tot and sorrel cream were to follow.  Again no picture, but you can now imagine what the portion size was.

Parsnip, Carrot, Rye berries, brown butter, sage

Crab Louie sauce, cucumber, grape

3 clams, Sunchoke, Chowder, Seaweed

Braised sunflower seeds, Peppers, Cheddar, Chicory (sunflower seeds were like boiled peanuts)

Egg, Chanterelle, Bone Marrow, Onion

Sweet Bread, Cabbage, Horseradish, Dill, Bacon (that little piggy was hiding)
The time was now around 8:45pm.  Remember when I said that two of my friends decided to order off the menu.  They had not received their food yet.  At no point where they told when their food would arrive.  As you look back over the above pictures are you remembering that we were sharing?  At the cost of $55.00 each.

Finally the LARGE items, the Salmon was half the size of my palm.  Our friends at this point received their food as well.

Salmon, Pumperknickle Spatzle, Brussel (leaves only) Red cabbage (hiding under Salmon)

Lamb, Beets, Quince, Buttermilk

Pork, Fried Rice, Persimmon, Turnip
Honestly at this point we were all beyond disgust stage.  We actually turned it into a game and my friends truly did save the evening by making me laugh and pouring a little more wine into my glass.  I was truly so ticked off I didn't even take a picture of the desserts.  Suffice to say, Cheerios should not be part of a dessert and serving various forms of chocolate milk in three shot glasses with a straw is just not classy.  If you were to put one portion of every meal that we tasted, I would wager a guess it would not fill the inside of dinner plate.

While training in the hospitality industry I was fortunate to work under some of the greatest chefs.  Chefs who belong to the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs  As the waitress was putting down the samples and explaining what the dish was, the phrase my Chef would say came to mind, 'keep it simple.'

There is obviously a market for The Bent Brick in Portland, alas it is not us.  I really do feel that their wait staff need some training.  Let's start with the diner that just sat down worked hard for their money.  Make their experience an enjoyable one. We did try to speak with the manager at the end of our meal, last dish being served to us at 10:15pm.  She had left. The cost for three tastings was $165.00. 

As the waitress put down our checks she said "Thank you for celebrating my birthday with me."  So it was her birthday as well. 

I should have responded "Thank you for almost spoiling mine."


  1. Okay...whoa...let's back this crazy train up...the MANAGER left before the last customers were gone? You have *got* to be kidding me!!

    In my industry, the manager is always the first one there and almost always the last one to leave!!

    I'm glad I wasn't there...I probably would have told the waitress, "Well, you better call him/her because this is an issue that s/he needs to deal with and she needs to deal with it now."

    Granted, I don't get bitchy with others in customer service...but this sounds like a situation where a bit o' bitchy would have been warranted.

  2. I hope you tweeted at them!!! I hope that someone who works there comes across your blog. We are living in times when customer service is going to make or break a company. Not many companies seem worried about it but look at the ones who've learned the hard way lately, like Netflixs and Bank of America.

  3. I worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years, so when I go out these days, I hate it when it turns out disappointing. I'm so sorry your birthday was this. At least you could blog about it. I don't think this place will stay in business long though.

  4. @Alina ~ As a manager and in training I was always the last to leave.

    @Meg ~ friends have been tweeting about it since Sat. Restaurant is on Twitter. Nothing has been said.

    @Pseudo ~ Tomorrow's blog will be about the restaurant that saved the day.

  5. The evening was saved by the wonderful company. The restaurant is cool looking and has a neat vibe, along with a good wine list. That's all it has though.

    Poorly trained staff, lazy food combinations, and an apparently apathetic manager. Also what the hell was up with that sunflower seed dish? Good lord how pathetic.

    We won't be going back and I won't be recommending it at the tasting room I manage. Charging industry people for corkage is so beyond stupid..

  6. Oh dear, we both had odd birthday dinners. Dear January, get your act together. Nubian and I deserve some GOOD meals.

  7. Awww that's disappointing. Hopefully you went to Yelp and all the other review websites to express your disappointment and help others not to fall into the same trap. That pickle plate is a crime.

  8. Unbelievable! I'm glad you got those pictures. One thing you have to admit, it is definitely a birthday you'll remember.

  9. And the crowd shouted, "Crucify them!"
    Seriously, this must get some true Twitter love. I'm heading there next.

  10. Oh how crazy is this? As I am never likely to visit The Bent Brick at least I will never have have a check of $165.00 for 'burp!' size portions. This sounds truly atrocious BUT you will never forget this birthday meal that's for sure! :)

  11. Cheerios & chocolate milk? Maybe they gave you the kids' menu by mistake.

  12. Oh dear Lord, I go AWOL for a few months and come back to find that these idiots ruined your birthday dinner??? Although, it sounds as though calling it "dinner" is a bit of a stretch? Where did you stop to eat on your way home???? ;-)

    PS - Happy Birthday, fellow Aquarian!



  13. Having been the blogger that led my Nubian Queen right into her dining debaucle, aside from feeling tremendously guilty, I must clarify a few things.

    When we ordered one tasting menu per each couple, the waitress's smile turned upside down. Feeling her tip go way down (along with said smile), her attitude went way up and she didn't smile again until dropping off the check. The waitress specified that most orders were large enough to share, except the mussels, there would be just one of them per couple. For that I was prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was that our 3 orders would be combined. We were to share one plate of food among 6 people. Dear, sweet Nubian, I'm so sorry your birthday dinner was a fiasco and thank you for your honest post. If restaurants want to stay in business, they must be consistent on all levels, The Bent Brick was very far from hitting that mark.

  14. @SipWithMe ~ Dear Ms. T, Oregonian also did an article stating what you stated in your blog, so no worries. You all made my evening enjoyable and I noticed how you quietly removed the rocks from out of my reach. xox


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