Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Leaves a bad taste

Restaurants do not provide goods. They provide services. I don’t go to a restaurant because I can’t cook at home. I go there for the convenience, the ambience and yes, the quality of the food. Eating out is a combination of these three factors. When we’re really bushed, we order in. When we feel like hanging out, we go to some nice place where the food may not be all that great. When we have friends from out of town, we take them to some place where the food is awesome. And we accept that we are paying not so much for the actual food served as for the service, the surroundings, the pleasure of the senses and not just the palate.

So last night we went to Fire and Ice. I’ve been there once a couple of years ago and thought that it was not bad, but nowhere near good enough to justify the hype. Last night N* felt like a Med spread, so there we were. After some bread and antipasti (of which more later), we were served pasta Alfredo con prosciutto. And it was DRY. The pasta was beyond al dente, it was undercooked. (How can you get BOTH dry and hard unless you’re just terrible at cooking pasta?)

But we were tired. Hungry. So (after some effort) we managed to flag down a waiter. Asked him (very nicely, especially considering my level of fatigue, starvation and consequent irritation) to take the pasta back to the chef and have it tossed with some more Alfredo sauce. He looked bewildered. Then said he’d get back to us. Vanished. All this, mind you, while the pasta congealed and our tempers simmered. Shortly, one numbers Shorty arrived. We explained again (still nicely, but I counted to 20 first). He said (with Big Fake Smile) “Of course, sir!” We smiled back (happy non-fake smiles). THEN he said “But we will charge you extra for it.”


Are you for real?!

Yes, we will charge extra.

Go away and do what you like. Just do it fast.

So, this Fire & Ice, which sundry friends have praised to the skies, serves BAD pasta. Even if it was a one-off, it would mean they do not have consistent quality.

Then, they have the immortal rind to tell you that if you want your food edible, that costs extra. I mean, what are they smoking?! (They actually charged FORTY per cent extra for tossing it up with sauce)

I am Not Happy. So here are all the wonderful things I noted about Fire & Ice.

1 – They’ve jammed in too many tables. It’s a fairly large space, so they must be really greedy to make it look crowded. I couldn’t lean back with my hands behind my head for fear of bumping into the pony-tailed ex-pat at the next table and giving him the Wrong Idea. (Fear because my gaydar beeped. Very loud.)

2 – The waiters need a LOT of training. They also need baths and laundry. And breath mints. And those chequered bandannas, the ones they wear to look like cool Latinos? They make them look like engine stokers. Grimy engine stokers.

3 – The menu is limited. Only two kinds of soup and one risotto? They do, however, have some variety in the pizzas and pastas. But no farfalle or fusilli, no gnocchi. Unless the waiters are clueless, in which case refer to Pt. 2 above.

4 – The so-called focaccia was more like pan pizza crust. Just about OK when slathered with melted mozzarella (what, you didn’t know I’m on a healthy eating trip?), but the insides were NOT soft and there was no discernible flavour. It’s supposed to be the same dough as pizza, but surely it shouldn’t have the texture and character of a pizza base? The jury’s out on the olive oil.

5 – The antipasti platter was mostly good. Decent salami (though sliced too thin for my liking), really good bocconcini and fresh tomatoes. No feta cheese, no lettuce or indeed any fresh greens, now that was a disappointment

6 – The pasta supposedly “con prosciutto” didn’t have prosciutto. Standard ham does NOT qualify as prosciutto. Especially if it's barely discernible to either the eye or the palate.

7 – I wanted to speak to the manager. He was not in the restaurant. Where is he, stuck between a pair of headphones down in Bangalore?

8 – They did not have a complaint book. I was given a sheet of paper, where I explained my dissatisfaction at some length. But I don’t know if it will reach management (or whether they will respond).*

Value for money? Well, this place is not cheap by Calcutta standards, but it’s not hideously expensive either. Except that bad food is bad value no matter what the price-line. Maybe I’m more critical because people have praised it to the skies. But really, this is no better than a neighbourhood joint that happens to be in an up-market location. The food is indifferent and the ambience is indeterminate.

And we could have overlooked all of this if their attitude hadn’t sucked big time.

I’m never going back there. Druther check out Café Toscana. And there’s always La Cucina.

* - I mailed them. It bounced.


What's In A Name ? said...

That's what I call "The Novice's Guide to Italian Food" albeit on a Calcutta street.

About bad service, well, they are not the only one.

Chronicus Skepticus said...

*Nothing* pisses me off like poor service.

But I'm terrified of leaving a poor tip in case they decide to er...garnish my next meal (in the unfortunate event that I do end up at the same establishment).

Waiters have long memories.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

WIAN, most places in Cal have improved their service.

CS, I left NO tip. And as I said, I'm not going back there again. (I make better pasta than their's in any case. Though that's not saying much.)


Anonymous said...

So the Janitor is back ?
Scorpio/Getz nites are here again...

Anonymous said...

So the Janitor is back ?
Scorpio/Getz nites are here again...

iz said...

How pissing off is that! I would have made an issue about the 40% extra thing. You were too nice. BTW, Father A used to run a restaurant and the thing about waiters spitting in your food? Totally true!

m'mita said...

De gustibus non est disputandum!

After staying in the US for 20 years and Italian food being a staple here -- my opinion is -- what makes good italian food is *good quality cheese* and *good meat*.
I wonder how do they get good quality feta/mozarella,prosciutto etc. in these Kol. restaurants.

Anyway, enjoyed your post and quite a foodie you are!

Phantasmagoria said...

Next time, listen to me!

S said...

how annoying is that?! you should've just left without paying a penny!

km said...

Remind us all once again why you don't write more often for magazines and newspapers? (or do you?)

//then again, which newspaper would carry a restaurant review that uses words like "gaydar" and "engine stokers"?

Chronicus Skepticus said...

JAP:Are you going to answer KM's question? Or should *I*?

*icy glare*

Noire said...

Hehe. I've always liked my pasta like Maggi. Cooked to death. None of the al dente floss. I guess I'll be thrown out of any self respecting Italian estb. To be on the safe side I eat pasta only at home.

Rimi said...

"no discernable flavor", eh? The sell-outs just saw a sharp rise in their collective classiness. Thou enhanceth whither though goeth... except, it would appear, Fire'nIce.

(No work about the godawful outer décor? Or has that been changed?)

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Well, now we know where not to go on our annual back-home trip. Leaves you with a fiery-caustic tongue and an icy resolution, eh? And charges you extra? Not done, not digested.

Tai Chi said...

Good ol' F&I. suppose they're just the way they are and take "dont try to please me" as "try to displease me". Beer was very well chilled, reasonably priced - so that's there or was 3 years or so now. Me, if I cant' go out, try to catch a helping of HOMP everyday at 2000 hrs IST on NDTV-GT. Fun guys them two - keep going an eye for an I at each - yet each knows the other will never leave me.

Ron said...

Where is this god awful place?

Dr Filth said...

I liked the way you thought this through. :)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

M'mita, there are Indian stores in the US, so ...

Iz, thanks. That's overshare.

Ph, I hear and obey!

S, like I said, I was too tired for a scrap.

KM, because (a) I have a day job that goes on too long and (b) magazines and newspapers have deadlines.

CS, I just did.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Noire, I MAKE better pasta at home. Except gbocchi. I can't do gnocchi.

Rimi, thanks for pointing out the typo. But it's "discernIble".

SS, post coming up on where you SHOULD go.

Tai Chi, w.o.e is HMOP?

Ron, Kanak Building opposite Jeevan Deep on Middleton.

Filth, why the name change?


SS said...

HOMP is Highway On My Plate on NDTV Good Times. The guys are hilarious and enjoy their food.

Sue said...

Hey, we went there to celebrate the third anniv in Jan and I was very ill the next day. Food poisoning, although Vicky was fine. But we did have different dishes.

Plumpernickel said...

THAT is precisely why, when I discover a winner on the menu, I stick only to that. F&N -> only thing to eat - lasagna, the spinach bacon pizza and the minestrone. Eating anything else is pointless and never that great.