Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dinner at Le Yaca: A Cautionary Tale About Food Service ...or maybe our bad luck with waitstaff whose names begin with K

Last night we ate at Le Yaca in Williamsburg. This traditional French restaurant has been around for years. We dined on superb cuisine. The pureed onion soup, divine. The beef filet perfectly cooked to a medium rare with a peppercorn and cognac sauce, yum. A crab cake piled high with succulent lump crab meat and drizzled with a light butter sauce, mmm. The apple tart, sublime. The molten lava cake mixed dark chocolate with a cake approaching a souffle consistency, masterful. A glass of an Oregon Pinot Gris to start and a delightful Bordeaux for the main course.

Yes we loved the food. Usually, the food spurs our conversation with expressions of delight and how talented the kitchen is. What happened last night? All we talked about was our waiter. And unfortunately his name began with a K. Here in Richmond we had multiple bad experiences with a waiter whose name began with a K at Amuse. This K was abrupt and not customer-focused, perhaps a bit arrogant. We avoided Amuse until we were sure this person no longer worked there. Thankfully, he has left and we frequent Amuse regularly - all of the other wait staff at Amuse have been delightful (so go enjoy lunch or brunch or dinner or cocktails).

So our K from Le Yaca was not rude or arrogant. Just slightly inept and ungraceful. We kept trying to move past the foible only to encounter another one. Basically, a series of unfortunate incidents.

As we were seated K began clearing dishes from another table and it sounded like they were dropped in a bin, a dissonant clash to the quiet and cozy atmosphere. This clash repeated itself whenever K cleared tables.

Per usual we discussed what to drink and eat. We were asked about cocktails. We weren't sure. We were told about the wines by the glass menu and we ordered a Pinot Gris. We only discovered a cocktail list when we left. If K had offered us the list, we probably would have selected a cocktail with a higher price point than the glass of wine.  No big deal. The Pinot Gris was a classic expression of the Oregon style and very enjoyable.

We ordered the meal and a bottle of wine. K was attentive in keeping our glasses filled through the life of the bottle of Bordeaux (something most restaurants here in Richmond could take note of), but when opening and pouring he was a bit fast leading to a drip on the pristine white tablecloth (no big deal, this happens all the time) and a big drip on our dish of butter for our French bread. No apologies and no offer to return with a new dish of butter.

As we finished our soup and the bowls were being cleared K also cleared our white wine glasses. Hubby had finished his; I had not. When I objected he placed it back and then realized he had placed his fingers inside the glass. He apologized and plucked a napkin from a neighboring table to wipe the glass. Really? Am I in a French restaurant?

We get through our entree and still had a glass of wine to enjoy from our bottle of Bordeaux. While we had finished out entree our plates had not been cleared and dessert arrived. Is this really a French restaurant?

With our wine still to drink and desserts cooling, K asked us if we wanted coffee. Hubby just looked at him and at our glasses of wine and looked at him again and said "Not yet." K finally got that we still had wine to drink.

We finished our wine and enjoyed dessert. As we took our last bites K presented us with the bill. No opportunity to order coffee (we ended up going to Starbucks across the street). So no after dinner coffee at a FRENCH restaurant.

And then I realized we were at a French restaurant in an American TOURIST town. We were herded like tourists, not treated as patrons or customers. What a shame. I did not skimp on K's tip. Maybe he had a bad night, but he did miss a couple of opportunities to earn more. And Le Yaca missed an opportunity for me to wax poetically on their food alone.

For all of the hard-working servers in the RVA area. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for allowing me to focus on the food and the lovely dining experience. Thank you for allowing hubby and I to take our time to decide upon what to drink and eat and to have coffee after dinner and dessert if we wish. And if your name begins with K, please prove my theory wrong that K waiters may not be up to snuff.

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