Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On the record - one lousy night at the Gaddi's

We all had those kind of days when we just wanna muddle along, trying to get by til the next day and hope no damage's done, didn't we? Well, during a recent dinner visit to Gaddi's, we felt like the staff was having that kind of a day. Yes, I meant the entire team.

Not boring everyone with the details, but the evening went off to a sour start before it began, when we discovered the restaurant forgot our special request made at the time of reservation. "Sorry, but it's too late for us to do anything now" was all that we got in response. Really? Is this the Peninsula Hotel or the Peninsula Hostel we were talking to?

It's not that big of a deal really, just that we did expect more from a hotel of such caliber. Anyhow, we arrived at the familiar scene of the grand dining room, with the crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, fancy silverware on the table and all. The menu has already been arranged - it's essentially an abridged version of the Diamond Jubilee Degustation Menu (in celebration of the restaurant's 80th Anniversary), so we didn't spend much time going over the menu. In retrospect, thank God we went for that instead of the full degustation menu - it's already one course too many.

We started with the amuse bouche of slow-cooked salmon with cream foam and some "salmon roe" on top, as this was what's been described by the waiter who brought us the dishes. I don't know about you, but I never had a dark-colored salmon roe before. The foam - tasted like something you get on top of a cappuccino - was completely overpowered by the salmon and caviar - I guess that's why traditional wisdom called for a sour cream in this situation instead. Overall the dish wasn't bad but just a bit too ordinary to be called an "amuse bouche".

Moving along, our first course was poached rock lobster and wasabi mayonnaise on rock lobster jelly. I love the presentation - little quenelles of rich mayo infused with wasabi accompanying a few pieces of sliced lobster meat on a bed of jelly - and that's about it. "No wonder it's called the rock lobster", quipped C as she tried to cut through the lobster meat - it's overcooked and a bit too tough for the knife. No taste whatsoever in the rock lobster jelly which sat beneath the paper-thin piece of lobster meat - it's more convincing if they honestly called it an "agar disc to make the portion looked bigger than it really was".

Second course was duck liver cooked in fig leaves and aged balsamic vinegar. The liver was cooked as a whole wrapped in fig leaves and carved into half by our table side. It's rich and tasty, and worked well with the fig that served on the side. The few drops of balsamic vinegar hardly did anything to the dish but nothing wrong with that combination either. I liked the dish.

Seeing is believing - Sole fillet with sea urchin coulis
I frowned when the silver dome was lifted to reveal our third course. It's said to be sole fillet, with potato filled with clams and sea urchin coulis. Aside from the fact that first, this combination seems odd and second, the sole fillet, served with Meuniere sauce, was so thin that the chef needed to fold it twice to make it (barely) presentable, the biggest problem was with the sea urchin, the half piece which sat pathetically next to the fillet (instead of coulis as described on the menu). The repulsively dull, brownish color of the sea urchin immediately suggested this being of inferior or not of the freshest quality, and more likely both. That was confirmed by the fishy, bitter taste after a tiny bite. I was actually stunned whoever in charge at the kitchen actually let this off the station and to the table - either he didn't see that as a problem, or he thought he could get away with it. We rarely rejected dishes at a restaurant but we did just that without hesitation this time.

White Truffle Risotto - not bad for a "conscience money" dish
The restaurant manager did come by with apologies and replaced our dish with a small dish of white truffle risotto. At least that was decent with good portion of white truffles shaved on top of a well-cooked risotto.

Roe deer saddle roasted in cocoa bean and juniper berry crust, with glazed Jerusalum artichoke and Brussels sprouts
The main course of roe deer saddle was probably the (only) saving grace of the evening. It's cooked as the whole piece and carved in front of us. It's served with a side of juniper berries and glazed Jerusalem Artichokes. The meat was perfectly roasted, tender and burst with intense game meat flavor, though I hardly found any trace of cocoa bean aroma or taste. which was said to be roasted with the deer meat.

The front service of the evening left much to be desired as well. Well they did replace the dish we returned, but that's the least I expected they must do anyway. Most of the time the restaurant appeared to be short-staffed, and often we had to ask for things, not once but multiple times, before getting their attention - be it filling our wine glass or getting more bread during the meal. The only exception was when we asked for the check, it was brought to us in no time - they just couldn't wait to see us out. 

A flambéed dessert made 20 minutes too early
After the main course, we told the waiter to hold the dessert so we could finish our wine first. But a minute later someone rolled in the trolley and started preparing the flambé dessert, much to our surprise (and annoyance). In the middle of cooking he must have remembered what we asked and quietly took the dishes away. Just when we thought they would make a new one for us later when we were ready, he simply brought the dishes straight from the kitchen - apparently the ones he has made some 20 minutes ago - without even a word of explanation. Gosh, did they really think we were blind or stupid and they could simply get away with such sloppiness?

I am sure some of you might think we were a bunch of food snobs nitpicking on the minor issues and making a fuss out of nothing. Well, put it this way, we were not the only table returning dishes to the kitchen and having problems with the service that evening - as we overheard from the next table. With the family of a certain well-known tycoon sitting at that other table, at least we were relieved to know the restaurant weren't being discriminatory with their service - it's just poor across the board regardless of who you are.

The night wasn't a downright disaster in terms of dining experience - unlike the one at Robuchon a few months ago - but it's wrong on a lot of fronts that it became an evening we would rather forget. Well, at least the meal looked good in pictures, as if that brought any comfort to us. Thanks Peninsula and Gaddi's for nothing.

Other pictures on my flickr page:


Peech said...

…and people wonder why the Peninsula gets no macarons for their restaurants…

You only got half a tongue of sea urchin?! They didn't think you deserved a whole tongue?! I don't think I've ever had half a tongue of sea urchin… at any restaurant, anywhere...

gary s said...

Yeah, they have been inconsistent - sometimes you got a meal that blew you away, and sometimes you got this.
Well, in my case, I got one half tongue of sea urchin too many. =)