26. June 2010 19:47
Duchamp was a mid-level disappointment. If not for the Yelp Prix Fixe pricing, it would have been a bitter one. The Duchamps of the world should take note that we are all sick of predatorily-priced mediocrity. That’s why its dining room was half-empty on a Saturday.
Great deals are to be had with the Yelp Prix Fixe menu. Like the genius of Miami Spice where one could sample a 4-star kitchen for $35 even though normal pricing would run 5x, Yelp went one step further and mandated $25 for a three-course meal. At Duchamp, said pricing bought you a small-plate (normally priced from 7.95 to 12.95), large plate (13.95-23.95) and a sampling of 3 deserts normally priced $8. Pretty decent. Price, that is. The quality of the meal was anything but. The only good that evening came in the form of white flatbread pizza which was different enough to be good, not great. The “deconstructed” tuna nicoise was unacceptably bland and used the cheapest cuts of the cheapest tuna (tail/ahi). 12 bucks for 4 razor-slices of that with whatever other reconstruction they dribbled on the plate was a giant miss.
The often-photographed Havarti cheeseburger looks pretty, thick and juicy. It very well might be. IF, that is, they didn’t fry it straight to the ninth circle of hell. I specifically ordered rare (rather than medium-rare) knowing that such thickness tends to overcook quite often. The waiter assured me that they know how to do medium-rare perfectly. I should have ordered raw because I was punished with a well-done patty. When something 2.5 inches thick is cooked through, it really really sucks. You and I know this. Why doesn’t the kitchen? Why not send it back? I was hungry and the waiter vanished. Not cool. But the cheese was good. Havarti always is. Is there a less healthy cheese that isn’t triple-cream? I hope not.
On to the final charge in what could be a multi-count indictment: alcohol. Done are the days of charging limbs for martinis. It is absolutely inexcusable. $12.25 is resort-pricing – not that of a mid-range restaurant. And the sly little trick you pulled in pricing was worthy of mention and warning to the unsuspecting. Kettle One costs $1 less than Belvedere on the Duchamp pricing scale. I ordered Kettle One. You were out of Kettle. You offered me Belvedere. I accepted. My first martini cost $11.25 as Kettle does. The next two cost 12.25 as Belvedere does. Not cool again. When a restaurant is out-of-stock the substitute needs to reflect the lowest price, not the highest. Especially when the price is already ridiculous.
Based on Saturday’s experience, Duchamp would be doing Bucktown a favor if, like the eponymous artist, it retired and did something scholarly instead. I hear “endgame” was a fun pursuit for dear Marcel. Duchamp Restaurant should start thinking of one.
19. June 2010 23:10
“No, we don’t have any ketchup” said the waitress and with it kicked off one of the most bizarre dining experiences ever recorded in the cumulative 130 years that any of her 4 patrons have been eating solid food.
Before the bad, we discuss the wonderful: The Bloody Maries. They are excellent. Spicy, not too thick (Twisted Spoke), not too watered (Wishbone) but just right. Perfect if you like seizure-inducing spice but supposedly available with a more palatable quantity of capsaicin. The salsa with the complementary chips is similarly grand (and hot) and the guacamole is pretty decent although doesn’t hold a scent-free candle to the likes of Adobo’s. But today, no quantity of good could diffuse the strange. It was as though somewhere in the kitchen-to-the-customer supply chain was a drug-induced short circuit that sparked and burned and fused some information bits together.
In David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly, a scientist’s teleportation vessel can’t figure out what to do with two separate organisms in the chamber and decides to splice the two of them together. Something similar happened today at Angels and Mariachis when someone on the staff fused orders for a veggie omelet and a breakfast burrito without meat and decided to make a veggie omelet and put it inside a tortilla. However, whereas the former was exhibit A in logical efficiency, the latter was exhibit A through Z against a day of food-serving while wasted off one’s buttocks. Luckily for the guilty party, the diners were equally hung-over and made no great effort to underline the gaffe.
Table after table sat in receipt of food and drink while we sat with glazing eyes and watering mouths waiting for correction. In a rare display of chivalry, your author ate not a single mouthful during the entire process. Then, without warning, all staff vanished. Into their breach came the famous cute blonde girl with crack-smoke mom in tow selling Aldi candy packs at 8,000,000% mark-up. One party member who has more cash than comprehension of extinction on behavior immediately offered to buy 2 packs for a total mark-up too large for alcoholic brains. Where was the staff? Were they in on it? Seems so. If their cut is a few million percentage points of mark-up it might be worth it but I doubt it. A restaurant should take care not to let their temporary monopoly on their patron’s wallets open up to street competition no matter how cute the sales agent or how high her mom.
In any case, in the half-hour following order-fusion, one of the diners changed her order to a cheese quesadilla. Thought it might be easier. It was. After it and the corrected veggie omelet arrived and all sat happily working down the hangover, another quesadilla was delivered to the table! Perhaps the kitchen decided to rectify the earlier case of fusion with one of fission! Shoot a neutron into a veggie omelet tortilla and you get TWO cheese quesadillas people! Surely there is science to prove it. Maybe the Large Hadron Collider is being tested out right here in the kitchen of meek and mild-mannered Angels & Mariachis! Go there and find out for yourselves.
P.S.: The waitress did say she would discount the food. She did to the tune of a whopping $4.80. Considering that the fused then fissile meal cost $67.20 (before tax and tip), the discount was a very gracious 7.14%. Gotta love a place that loses whole bytes of information but can still do floating-point multiplication. Drink up!
8. June 2010 18:34
The dining experience at a place like Hub 51 would be perfectly acceptable if it were consistently better than average. It’s a bar. But they’ve been striving for 4-stars and serving up anywhere from 1 to 3. Today was 3.
Many patrons would agree that unless the price of dinner is about a Subway value meal, consistency is a greater prize than roller-coaster, no matter how high the lumber soars. And Hub 51 has been the ultimate in service bipolarity. One day you might get the best that a bar can offer and another you’ll have to stand up and pound your chest to get attention. One day you’ll get a delightful chicken breast thick and juicy and tomorrow something grade-C edible. I know that there are growing pains. Restaurants, like teenagers, go through a best-forgotten awkward phase where the limbs don’t seem to fit the torso, the voice cracks and the occasional facial blemish escapes the cover-up. This is true of all F&B, especially a space of Hub 51’s size. Only I would have expected the progeny of Melman’s clan to keep the awkward to a minimum. They didn’t. Did sonny shrug off his Dad’s immortal coil to prove he was his own man? If so, we have a classic exhibit in the triumph of pride over experience. One can only wonder how many times Daddy tried to say that service staff’s abilities are NOT inversely proportional to skirt-length.
But whatdoiknow. The place seems to be packed most evenings and even most afternoons at lunchtime. Its price-point is adequate for its location and its food is better (mostly) than Rockit, Howl or Rock Bottom. I only wish they’d have distilled 30 years of daddy’s know-how since they so clearly make mistakes that even Food Life has long ago corrected. If you’re going to be Einstein’s kid, either take advice or go do patent-clerking. You’ll never stand outside the shadow so you might as well be shrewd about it.