Thursday, July 27, 2006

1 North Belmont - Four Star Food, One Star Service

It was the best for food; it was the worst for service. And thus begins my husband’s birthday dinner saga. We stopped at CanCan for pre-dinner Kir Royales. Refreshing, fruity, yummy. We then strolled over to 1 North Belmont. We had dined there a couple of years ago and had a delightful time. We started with a glass of wine – a 2003 Cotes du Rhone for him, a 2002 Cotes du Ventoux for me. Both very lovely as we poured over both the menu and the wine list. We lingered over our choices imagining wine and food pairings in our heads. At last consensus was achieved. For the wine we selected a 2002 Chateau Terrey-Gros-Cailloux Cru Bourgeois Saint-Julien. A bit shy at first, very reluctant to show off her considerable flavor and earthiness; but she made up for it after airing out a bit. As appetizers I chose a Vichyssoise de Cresson (watercress) served with Crème Fraiche and Crabmeat. This soup was true to tradition and served cold. I’ve discovered that I’m not a fan of cold soups. I think the flavors would have been more intense if heated and giving the crème fraiche an opportunity to meld with the liquid (but this is just my opinion and many diners enjoy cold soup). My spouse ordered Saumon Roulade Bellevue - Salmon, hot smoked right here in Urbanna, Virginia with Crème Fraiche Rolled in a Chive Crepe with Quail Egg & American Farm-raised Sturgeon Caviar. He truly admired the presentation. Unfortunately, he had to admire it for many minutes before tasting it. Alas, he was served the salmon and my soup was no where to be seen. It took our waiter many minutes to even notice. When I finally received it, no apology was forthcoming. It may have been at this point that the waiter decided to give up on good service at our table. We will never know. We do know that as the food increasingly became more delicious, the service increasingly became non-existent. For our main course we both selected the Entrecôte au Poivre Peppercorn-Crusted New York Strip with Pommes Frites & Cognac, Green Pepper Cream Sauce. Served medium rare and very tender. In fact, no steak knife required. The sauce was perfectly balanced. And the pairing with the wine, sublime! We reveled in our good fortune. But, after a few precious bites my husband ran out of wine and the waiter did not return for at least 10 minutes. The food began to cool and when our waiter finally did arrive, he did not even notice the empty glass. We needed to remind him. My husband’s glass emptied again, and, unthinkably, the same thing happened (except this time our waiter had another waiter pour for us).

At this point I need to elaborate on a little quirk of 1 North Belmont. This unusual behavior can have a stunning effect on the dining experience or it can totally ruin the meal. If a bottle of wine is ordered, the waiter opens the bottle and pours it for the table. The bottle is then whisked away to a buffet table at the back of the restaurant. This should ensure that the waiter pays greater attention to the table. The norm is that the wine consumer should not have an empty glass during the meal unless the bottle is empty. Let me say that we took part of our wine home with us (extremely unusual) due to the abysmal service.

As we pondered upon whether we should have gotten up from our meal and retrieved our bottle, we waxed philosophic on meal service. If an establishment has good food (but maybe not spectacular), great service will make up for the difference. Unfortunately, great food will not make up for poor service (especially at 1 North Belmont prices).

6 comments:

ET said...

Did you say anything to Frits, the owner? He's usually pretty good about fixing stuff like that.

pjpink said...

Hi ET! Yes, I did email Frits and he promptly apologized, which was nice. And I believe he will bring this to the attention of his waitstaff. Unfortunately, the bottom line still remains the same. The service is not consistent and at this point I could not recommend the place - especially at the current menu prices.

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Anonymous said...

i have to say that i just came across this - i was looking for reviews on 1 north belmont - i just ate there probably two weeks ago. - have been there several times in hopes that things will look up- the service is never good. I am a young female that happens to be a foodie- i grew up in fine dining. My mother owned three restaurants till i was 19. i am also slightly alternative in style and dress. i tip well and eat well - yet get treated at 1 north belmont as if i am gum under someones shoe. I will not return.

Anonymous said...

i tried to eat at 1 north belmont several times. grew up as a foodie-been to several very posh restaurants all over the world. i ( because of my alternative style) was treated like gum underneath someone's shoe. i will not return- nor would i recommend it to any one else.