Monday, April 17, 2006

A Little Humanity with My Hummus, Please...

What is it with vegetarian restaurants and nasty wait staff? Lately, we have been experimenting with vegetarian restaurants in Manhattan in an effort to, well, eat less meat, and well...eat more vegetables. Several recent experiences highlight what seems to be a trend in the area of vegetarian dining..nasty waiters! Is it a conspiracy? A few weeks ago, we eagerly looked forward to a meal at Angelica's in the west village, which I had been wanting to try for years. After a short wait for a table, we were seated and given menus and water, all a good sign that things should progress nicely from there. Not so fast. Or rather, that was what our waiter seemed to want. You see, after reviewing the menus for a few minutes, we knew what we wanted but just had a few questions. However, our waiter insisted that we absolutely should not order yet, and kept disappearing every time we looked for him. Finally, we were able to order, only because we kept pleading for someone to get our waiter like a desperate call for help. Thank goodness he came back. The food arrived fairly quickly, a salad and some marinated tofu/seitan dish, and a delicious minestrone soup heavy on the - you guessed it - vegetables! There was still a small problem though, our napkins had disappeared, and while a busboy dutifully filled our water glasses every three seconds, we were really having trouble functioning without napkins and our waiter either did not notice or could not have cared less. "I'll go get us some," I said to my husband, eyeing a large stack of napkins on a service cart not far away. "No, no," he said, "we'll ask the busboy, he's coming this way." So we did, and the busboy brought us a huge stack of napkins which was nice, except he threw them in a messy pile in the middle of the table, like we were in a fast food joint. He couldn't have handed them to us? At a price point of over thirty dollars a person, this certainly wasn't too much to ask. We enjoyed a delicious soy cheesecake dessert, and left quickly, as for some reason they had turned on the air conditioning on a cold March night, leaving us diners to shiver in our down jackets as we polished off tempeh and soy cakes. Hmmm....

The next troublesome encounter was Easter Sunday, where we treated ourselves, or thought we would, to Gobo's, also in the village, which we had read good reviews for online. Plus we enjoyed their groovy web site with a "see, feel, hear, touch" sensory interface going on, ( a strange woman's voice utters each of the senses when you click on the relevant icon)highlighted by enlarged images of spring rolls and noodles. What could be bad? Well, not the food. It was actually quite tasty - as we polished off several tapas style dishes of scallion pancakes, steamed vegetables with tahini sauce, light and fluffy soy cheese dumplings, and an avocado carpacio (shaped like the spaceship in "Close Encounters)", with a zingy wasabi sauce. The problem, again, was with the waiter, who never appeared even though we were sitting for nearly twenty minutes. We looked around as others who came in after us were showered with attention. We did receive multiple water refills, but come on, we hadn't eaten all day, and I didn't want water, I wanted food! My husband complained to the hostess, who said she would "look into it," but never apologized or explained anything. A few minutes later, a young guy appeared out of nowhere and took our order nonchalanatly, as if all was hunky dory, but he didn't clarify anything either. The worse part was, the restaurant was pretty much empty except for the few tables up front, where we were. On our way out, we said goodnight and pretty much decided against a return visit. The hostess simply waved us off, like she had better things to do. For a pricey meal of close to $80, you'd expect a little more consideration. It's enough to make a borderline veggy trade in their sprouts for sirloin.

A few minutes later, my husband bought me a beautiful bouquet of tulips at a small bodega on Hudson Street a few blocks away. The salewoman wrapped them up in paper and wished us a happy Easter. At last, a little customer service. Next time we go out to eat, we're going for prime rib at our favorite steak house, where everybody knows our name.

No comments: