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2010-09-25 Elysian

by foodbitch 25. September 2010 19:52

What kind of business adds tips automatically? 1, Resorts where guests don’t know local customs, 2, Indian restaurants where actual Indians go and 3, places like Elysian where lounge service is so abhorrent that they’d be lucky to see a non-compulsive dime.

The extent to which the experience of 9/25/2010 differed with the past was shocking. Before, Balsan was as busy as Exit on hipster night but still handled our bigish party with the highest level of efficiency without making us feel like we were riding an assembly line. Dinner at Ria, although lonely, was one of the best Rush Street dinners in a long, long time. Service was amazing. Read. But today, the service in the lounge between the restaurant and bar was something out of Candid Camera but no one came jumping out and offering free drinks to make up for the cruel joke.

Many restaurants have silly-seeming rules that have thin operational merits but cause very fat annoyances to customers. “Close out your bar tab before you go. Sorry, we can’t transfer.” No, I’m sorry that your software can’t segregate tips from one section and another. It’s arithmetic, not nuclear physics. “We don’t serve the bar menu in the restaurant.” Then serve it in the bar and I’ll bring it to the table. It’s one business, one database of inventory and one credit-card processing account. It again is not that hard. “We’re done serving breakfast at 11 and it’s 11:15.” I’m very sorry your pots and pans are filled with lunchtime things but I really really think you might have a spare hanging around there somewhere capable of frying eggs. Why not just make me happy? I’m not asking for your kidney. In any case, the lounge was guilty of 1 and a derivative of 2.

We wanted a few drinks in the lounge and maybe one of Balsan’s delicious pizzas. Nope. See excuse #2 above. “But that table has a pizza” we complained. “That table knows the chef” was the response. Indeed, the chef was buzzing around there quite a bit. Would they make an exception for the less-connected hungry? Perhaps. She needed to check with the chef to see if he would grant her permission to carry the dish an extra 25 feet. Wrong answer. Especially when the drinks were not forthcoming.

There are lots of places that believe in what I call “cheerleader management.” This discipline hires model-types to work as hosts while completely and utterly disregarding the actual service component of the business. Walking into the lounge and seeing 4 beautiful hostesses fluttering about without a single order-taking soul in sight is exhibit A in this management philosophy. I expect this from nightclubs and virtually every business in LA but Elysian? Come on. Cheerleader management has a lot in common with communism. Both are products of minds inexperienced in worldly ways. Both cause ridiculous misallocations of resources and eventually bankrupt their believers. I see parallels between the beautiful pristine highways of East Germany (even though they had no cars with which to drive them) and an army of staff none of whom bother helping customers. Why not allocate resources into places they might actually help? Or at least help not piss people off? After the second time a party member asked to place an order we should have just gotten up and went to Luxbar or something. We eventually did BTW, just not before we learned that the wait staff gets 18% despite the depths of their ineptitude. It’s fine I guess. It’s not their fault. Scheduling is the charge of management but when staff makes their tips no matter how pissed people are, the management won’t ever change anything. Great gig while you got it. Your wall won’t crumble till you’re bankrupt.






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Ria 2010-03-20

by foodbitch 20. March 2010 20:53

The difference between the witchdoctor/rainmaker of eon past and the urban hipster of modern day is the former knew he was full of scat. How many otherwise intelligent people do you know that honestly believe they start trends and influence fashions? Although Ria never will, here’s to hoping that they do.

You’re common people. No one hides in bushes to document the minutia of your life. No one splashes it on the cover of supermarket tabloids. And no suburban housewife will ever ravage yours to fill the clichéd vacuum of hers. Except for a very few, no one really cares about what you say or do, or how you say or do it. Not even your 1000 Facebook friends. No matter the scope of your trendy genius, you simply lack a sufficient microphone to inflict any sort of influence upon the world. And not just you. Had Max Planck tossed aside a certain crazy manuscript, Einstein may have died a lowly patent clerk. Had a dead monk’s genetic studies remained lost, both Darwin’s and Mendel’s names would have likely been forgotten. It is not until someone influential takes up a cause, a thought or a style that the world gives a flying flock. Unfortunately, with the tiny numbers coming through Elysian’s doors, it is exceedingly likely that their skills will go unnoticed.

That’s a shame. Several things make Ria 4-star material. And several others ding it but these are hotel-related and not the restaurant’s fault. First, there is the service. “Excellent” does not do it justice. Ours this evening was above/beyond anything that we expected. Beyond anything this close to Rush Street. Attentive but not burdensome, conversational but not preachy, humorous but not clowning. Tru-caliber holding the theatrics. Why does so much 4-star dining think that waiters should project elitism? The diners of today want the mood of fun, not funeral.

The food. The consommé was one of the best soups I’ve ever had and for someone almost as passionate about the hot liquid course as the alcoholic one, this remark can carry weight. The special was the Guinea hen. Amazing that something can sound so tame yet unleash a torrent of delight that parallels your first illegal high. It was $40. For a bird. But I can’t describe how worth it. Worth its weight in Epoisses. Speaking of: due to drastic under-serving I stopped ordering cheese courses. I might start again. Comté was the cheese this evening and glorious was its portion. I’m not a fan of Comté but there was too much left over and that whole saying about pizza and sex applies. Besides, Brillat-Savarin said that a meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.

In closing, where on Rush Street can you still get a martini for $10? Where can you get a free round because there wasn’t enough for two glasses? Where is good wine not marked-up 5x? You’d never think it looking at the menu but Ria is affordable if you order well. Yeah, $38 for halibut and $15 for soup seems high but both would have been far more at Everest with far less fun. My great regret is that the restaurant was empty. On Saturday. Unlike genetics papers, menus don’t get prized post mortem. Instead of proper credit as the source of really good ideas, Ria may forever be the hipster who “started” skinny jeans. Or the Asian high-school kid who added to our lexicon. Or the butterfly that flapped its wings and caused the Bangladesh monsoon. Whatever, as long as it’s a monsoon of consommé.






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Balsan at the Elysian 2009-12-17

by foodbitch 18. December 2009 17:14

The Elysian made no small plans and unquestionably stirred men’s souls. Balsan elevates hotel drinking to a new level of gourmet and if they perform with their food even a fraction as well then we salute them.

We arrived at 7PM for a few drinks and appetizers. We had no reservations and would have been happy anywhere there was room for 5. In the world of trendy hotel bars, such poor planning can be treated 2 ways: Like a club or like a hotel.  The former method involves cavalier disdain or even denied entry (exhibit A: The Mondrian West Hollywood) or the latter (Sunset Tower WeHo) – two polar opposites of one another located in the same neighborhood, on the same strip and presumably competing for the same dollars. Case studies like the Mondrian are few in Chicago but not null (read: W Lakeshore) and if ever there was a hotel to capitalized on its hype and step into snooty shoes the Elysian was it. It didn’t.

The Elysian staff is there to help. Sometimes comically so. A small army of valets rushes your vehicle as you make the elaborate arc around the largest parking courtyard the city has ever seen. For $23/hour they could vacuum it too or something. There is someone waiting to intercept you at the door to help with directions. He/she is not overbearing if you seem to know where you’re going. At Balsan, the hosts sadly informed us that all the tables were, in fact, reserved (none were taken). But the bar was perhaps the better choice. Let us reserve full analysis until after the first full meal but the high-level overview is excellent.

The drinks are priced correctly for Rush Street and perhaps even underpriced. Why? Because they do love them so. I watched as each of the Night/Day Cocktails received 4-5 ingredients and an average 5 minutes of bartender attention. It was great but this certainly won’t scale. 5 more people at the bar would quickly overwhelm the bartenders. To reduce the demand price such drinks at $18 and not 12. The manager told me that they do not use mixers and even make their own tonic. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, I thought, don’t cheap out on the prep work after the first month. No one is gonna wait 10 minutes for a vodka-tonic.

Independent of my prophesies, what we had we loved. Stay tuned for the full review after we get a chance to eat here.

 






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About the author

FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me: mealschpeal@gmail.com.

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