Tue 19 Feb 2008
So, a few nights ago we’re at a fine-dining restaurant, and the way we know it’s fine-dining is because the place is a sea of snowy-white linen, the tables are set with multiple glasses and pieces of silverware; there are flowers and shaded lamps on the tables, the lighting is subdued, the chairs are upholstered in red velvet and the waiters wear those traditional short white jackets with ties. And entrees are $27 to $39. It’s very old-fashioned for a new restaurant, which it is, and on this week-night only three tables are occupied.
The waiter brings the menus and hands me a wine list and asks if we would like something to drink before dinner. As I usually do, I reply that we’ll look at the menu first and then order wine. The wine list is pretty high-toned, and I decide on a bottle of the Hendry Pinot Noir 2005, Napa Valley, at $78, a marvelous wine, as it turns out. But that comes later.
The waiter returns and we order dinner and the wine, and off he goes. We nibble bread, sip water, chat and so on. A few minutes pass and I’m wondering where the wine is, and then the waiter shows up with the amusette, you know, the little “free” offering before the meal that’s designed to show you how generous the chef is in a restaurant where entrees go up to $39. O.K., fine, it’s an amusing and tasty little thing, salmon, I think, but still we have no wine, and when the waiter clears the plates I say, “Could we get the wine soon?”
“Of course, sir, the manager is looking for it.”
Looking for it? This does not bode well.
More minutes churn their way into oblivion, and when the waiter shows up this time to change some silverware, I say, “We’d really like to have the wine.”
“Yes sir, of course, but — ” and here he lowers his voice a trifle ” — the manager is very busy right now.”
Very busy right now! In a restaurant where only three tables are occupied? LL and I gaze at each other with wild surmise, and large thought balloons bearing the words “What The Fuck??!!” appear over our heads. This is completely a new one on me.
“But,” the waiter continues — and he really is a nice and polite young man and none of this is his fault — “I know he’ll get the wine in just a minute.”
What happens in just a minute is that the waiter returns with the appetizers, sets them in front of us and rather furtively hurries away, trying to maintain his dignity. We sit there with arms folded. At this point THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL that we’re going to take one bite of food without the wine. Then a man, the manager, practically runs into the room and leaps in front of our table. “Ah,” he says gaily, “you want the wine!”
“Yes,” I say, “we would like the wine very much!”
“Of course,” the manager says, “I will be right back.” And off he scurries, and indeed returns in a few seconds with the wine under his arm. As he opens it he explains that he had to search for the wine upstairs, that it was the last bottle and difficult to find and so on, none of which explains WHY IT TOOK HALF AN HOUR TO GET THE DAMNED BOTTLE OF WINE.
Which, thank Bacchus and all his pards, turned out to be absolutely lovely.