This weekend we attended a friend’s birthday party at a French colonial Vietnamese restaurant called “Le Colonial” in San Francisco. I didn’t really expect too much, I had heard good and bad things about it. The reality is that this is an excellent dining experience even with a party of 12.
Its not a place for a very casual dinner, the price is on the order of $30 for entrees and $12 for appetizers, but the service is first rate and the food is different yet familiar enough to please even the most particular guests. I suppose thats where the term “California Fusion” comes from.
There was a huge variety of food at the party but I had the Lemongrass-seared halibut with sauteed asparagus. The halibut was cooked perfectly and the taste of lemongrass was really well done. Not too much and not too strong. It came on a bed of thinly sliced asparagus and it was covered with a mild white-wine sauce. Really an amazing dish.
A really remarkable feat was the fact that with 12 people and a wide variety of food, everyone was talking about which plate was the best and there wasn’t any mention of anyone dislinking anything.
Probably the most dissappointing part was the poor customer service from the wine director. It was our friend’s 40th birthday and we brought along three bottles that were special for one reason or another – 1996 Opus One and two bottles of 1999 Silver Oak. The house rules were that there was a limit of 2 corkage bottles and no drinking anything they had on the wine list. Did they have three bottles of wine that were sentimental to my buddy on the wine list? Special to him on his 40th birthday? Of course not. They decided that we were “lucky” (thats a quote) to be able to drink stuff they had on the wine list but he would not relax the three bottle rule. Ever hear of customer service? We are a table of 12 people buy tons of food and this is a crowd of wine drinkers so even three bottles was not going to cover us on this night of celebration. Bad call. So that took some of the polish off the place. If there were two of us on a regular occasion, sure we’d abide by the rules. But to relax the one rule and then limit a table of 12 to two bottles pretty much lost them quite a bit of wine business that night and lost them some return customers (some people were irritated enough to suggest never coming back).
Personally, I thought that was part of the “aura” that wine needs to get away from and that customer satisfaction should be a little higher priority than making an extra $100 on wine.
Anyway, the food was excellent and the wine list was repectable but not earth shattering. I would give this restuarant a 7 out of 10 with points deducted to price and poor customer service from the wine director. But the food was excellent, the wait staff was responsive, and the ambience is really interesting and different.
Enjoy the wine life!