Friday, July 13, 2007

Mediocrity Rules

If given the choice to cook or eat out, I will almost always say cook. Not only do I enjoy cooking, I know what I am going to get if I cook and I know it's going to be great. I find going to restaurants is like gambling. Do I want to bet an average of 20 to 50 bucks that Mr or Ms supposedly-professional-cook won't ruin my evening? Well, the answer is usually that I do not.

Today Matt and I had long days and when he came home after 8pm I was famished and we had nothing in the fridge. "Let's go out!" we said. As I've mentioned, Matt's obsessed with veggie burgers and this brunch place, One World Cafe, usually has a veggie burger of the day that he never gets to order because we are always in there for breakfast foods on weekends. We've had dinner at OWC before but not in quite a while, either we were a lot more tolerant of mediocrity last time we ate there or things have really gone down hill.

With our menus we received a list of specials, the page boasted about Indian spiced vegetables, including fresh green beans and bell peppers, served with a baked marinated ginger tofu over a bed of rice in a coconut sauce. The page also informed us that the veggie burger of the day was a tofu vegetable burger with honey mustard and "the works". The day's special appetizer was baba ganoush. Sounds good doesn't it?

We placed our orders and disaster ensued. The baba ganoush had the flavor of a kindergartener's tub of paste and 8 skimpy strips of pita bread with which to scoop up a heaping mound of the stuff. Not that how we'd finish this slop was a concern since our main courses arrived about 6 bites into our appetizer.

Matt's "burger", although displaying a few grill marks for show, was soft and soggy, quickly falling apart and giving us reason to believe the main ingredient was not tofu, but in fact, mashed potatoes. Actually I think you could coax more solid texture out of mashed potatoes, so I am still at a loss as to how this "burger" was concocted. Speaking of mashed potatoes, Matt ordered a side of them, which he informed me had the blandness of sand. Although the potatoes supposedly were made with garlic, nary a hint of it was to be tasted.

As for my meal, it was about 2 lbs of rice topped with what I imagine was some sort of store-bought sauce mixed with frozen or canned green beans and red peppers that had been revived in a microwave. No tofu was present whatsoever. The lifeless, soft, soggy veggies came with no tofu and "spiced" for the palate of a 90 year old with high blood pressure and diabetes. I pushed my food around on my plate and got progressively more vocal about my green beans which were not "fresh green beans" but that sickly, muddy, boiled for days green of Gerber strained peas.

After about 20 minutes our server finally came to ask me if I wanted my mostly untouched meal to go. I told her I did not. I really dislike to complain in restaurants. It seems almost pointless since the person you are complaining to didn't cook the meal and probably doesn't know all that much about cooking any way. I imagine the average restaurant server subsists on a diet of day old coffee and cigarettes. In spite of all of this, I tried to calmly and politely explain that I was disappointed with my meal. The server replied "well, next time let us know earlier and we can bring you something else." LET YOU KNOW EARLIER?! Are you kidding? You just came by to fill our water glasses 20 minutes after our food was served. Do I want you to bring me something else at this point? No I do not, my dining companion has already choked down his meal and wants to get out of here and from what I've seen of the evenings offerings so far, I can't imagine something else is going to hit the spot any way. I will just take my atrociously overpriced bill and get the fuck out of here and go home and make myself something to eat.

I wanted to leave no tip. I couldn't really do it since I am always imagining restaurant servers are harried, struggling students without health care or something and I'd feel like a fascist for stiffing them. Fifteen percent was all I could muster. I normally leave over twenty and tend to be tolerant if the server is busy and not take bad cuisine out on them. It was this business of telling me I should have asked for something else that got to me. Maybe I would have if I'd been asked about that in a reasonable amount of time.

As we were leaving I saw a girl picking at her plate and overheard her say to her server (who did come to see how they were doing at her table) "Wasn't this supposed to come with tofu?"

Where's my chef's knife...


marias23 said...

Oh, I hear you, sistah! The thought of eating out is even worse when you consider the unhygienic practices that some kitchen staff have. Give me pots and pans at home any time!

Heather said...

Oh my god, that is so gross. I agree that One World has gone way downhill -- I think the last time we ate there was with you guys, actually, and it was already bad.

Some night when you come over I will make black bean burgers. I think Matt will agree that they rival the glory days of the One World daily special veggie burger.

theONLYtania said...

Hey guys, my omni-boy is taking me on vacation for five days in August for my birthday.. anywhere I wanna go! We're going to spend one day at the inner harbor in Baltimore.. got any favorite restaurant suggestions? They don't have to be totally veg, I don't mind regular restaurants that just have good veg options..

Insomniac Chef said...

theONLYtania, you should either go to Liquid Earth or Zodiac. Those are the best places for veg food in Baltimore IMO.

SteamyKitchen said...

Most of the time I would cook than take the chance and eat out...wasting lots of money that could otherwise go to MORE KITCHEN GADGETS!!!

p.s. can u do me a fav? can you please change the link to my site to my new domain? thanks so much!