Monday, February 23, 2009

Stuff I've Learned: Never Try A Restaurant For The First Time The Week Before It Closes

I've done this before. Before the Palm Court at the Plaza closed for renovations, I had afternoon tea in the space beloved by Eloise. I was disappointed. Any tea connoisseur knows a hotel tea should never feature tea bags, much less sugar packets. Ugh.

This time, City Guy and I went to Fleur de Sel for Valentine's Day--a week before it closed. To our credit, the announcement of the well-reviewed French restaurant had not been made at the time City Guy made our reservation.

The short of it is the food was "eh." Not bad, but not mind-blowing, which is what you expect for $200 a head. After finishing our five-course tasting menu, I left still hungry - and I'm not a hungry hungry hippo, fyi. The service was unexceptional. The restaurant was packed that night, and the servers were peremptory and neglectful.

So, this is the thing. A lot of restaurants are closing these days. And while your instinct may be to make a final reservations at that once celebrated institution....Don't. By the time they've decided to close, there's a good reason. What motivation do a bunch of people on the verge of unemployment have to do their best work? In this recession, the sad truth is that we're seeing natural selection at work in the food world--if you're mediocre, if your glory days are behind you, your days may be numbered. As much as I have a sentimental attachment to recently closed restaurants, they weren't that good.

To Fleur de Sel's credit, the space was beautiful. Made me sad to know in a month's time, the space would be stripped of all its charms. And the crumb cakes they gave us as parting gifts were really tasty.

But by far the most superb thing about my evening there was the company--my love of food always pales in comparison to my love of City Guy. Hope your V-day was a happy one. Fleur del Sel, how I wish I'd known you in your heyday.

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