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Disappointments iin fine dining

March 6, 2005

My wife and I went out on a date last night (“dates” mean no child!). It is always so nice to get out, be adult, and just talk and eat and drink and enjoy the magic that brought us together in the first place. I had read lots of positive things about Union, a new restaurant in Seattle, so made reservations for a late dinner there.

Well, my wife was beautiful, we had some nice cocktails at another place beforehand, the weather was great, so everything was headed in the right direction when we arrived for our 8:30 dinner at Union. Then all the magic went away.

I should clarify that my expectations for any restaurant are usually high, and it also takes a lot to impress me. Having dined at such places as Charlie Trotter’s, The Herbfarm, and Gordon Ramsay, among many other great restaurants, I have a pretty clear idea what the best in culinary and service experiences can yield.

I won’t belabor the point — Union disappointed me and my wife in almost every regard. Even with the discount we received (thanks to the enormous economic impact of my employer, which provides us the magic “Prime” card for primo discounts all over town) it was almost $200 I could have better spent in so many other ways. I very rarely just want to trash a restaurant in a review or to friends, but I am just sad that Union has either been overhyped or has already let standards fall so far.

For the sake of expediency, a short listing of the various restaurant sins committed last evening:

  • We were seated with menus, but no wine list.
  • The waiter first visited us almost 5 minutes after we were seated.
  • The captain or equivalent who brought us our amuse bouche was nearly indecipherable and didn’t seem to care that my wife did not eat meat. In fact, no one ever asked if we had any special dietary considerations.
  • He was initially fairly surly and a little snide. I have all the snide I need at home, thank you.
  • The menu was not that thrilling, notwithstanding the reviews, and was very limited in non-meat selections.
  • We each ordered three courses and a desert, and among those 8 plates there were probably only 2 that rose above the mediocre.
  • Our wine glasses remained empty for long stretches at a time before someone came over to fill them. Long stretches.
  • Our deserts arrived and were mostly eaten before our coffee.

There were many other things, both large and small, that made the dinner a disappointment. Looking around on a Saturday night and seeing several empty tables made me think that others have already started to realize that Union is not all that great.

The highlights, besides my lovely wife and the conversation, were the decent bottle of wine I selected and the lovely lamps hanging in the room.

I am usually very generous in my praise, and often will go out of my way to take into account how difficult it is to run a restaurant. No such luck here. Union failed.

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