Tonight, I drove Dan over to Santana Row. Yes, I know, that's a ridiculous name. It's the big new hoity toity shopping center that San José built in a stupid part of town instead of downtown where it would actually be easily accessible and do some social good. I couldn't believe me eyes, but we drove past a Gucci, a Ferragamo, and a Tiffany just to get to the garage. Our destination was Straits Restaurant, a Bay Area Singaporean restaurant that had recently opened a third location at Santana Row. I'd made reservations weeks in advance for 7 PM, and we showed up at about 6.45. Sure, they said, they were kinda busy, but it should only be ten minutes or so. We waited at the bar for thirty minutes instead. All that time, cocktail waitresses and the bartender ignored us, which kinda sucked. They had Sancerre for $8 a glass, pricey, sure, but I really wanted me some good wine tonight, and I'd been saving up for a nice V-day splurge with the marmot tonight.
Finally, we were shown to our table over by the kitchen, and a very, very inexperienced waitron came to take our order. I pointed to the wine I wanted on the wine list, I said its name twice, and she still needed to make a mark on the wine list itself to get it right. Having always wanted to try a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I figured what the heck, why not splurge? Yeah, it's French, and $42 a bottle, but you only live once. Well... at least we got the order in.
Appetizers showed up fifteen minutes later: a tiny spinach salad for $9 [seriously, folks, about two mouthfuls] with a few cold shrimp. Not very impressive. There was also a stuffed bread thing that was actually really, really tasty. But I was getting a little bit antsy. After all, where the hell was my expensive French wine? Oh, that's right, after the waitron cleared the dirty dishes [but then put our dirty cutlery back on the new, clean plates], she disappeared again, and then someone, possibly the maître d', showed up with an ice bucket and started talking about how they had a late delivery, and how they'd just chilled it down for us, yada yada yada. He eventually got the cork out of the bottle [believe me, this was another why can't they all use Stelvin moment for me], and poured me a tiny, tiny bit to taste. It was... good, I guess, but warm. Not even a little bit cool. We're talking too warm even for red wine. Bleah. So I said, uh, okay, well, don't pour it, just put it in the ice bucket.
Then, a few minutes later, the entrées arrived*, and you know what? I decided this sucked. I wanted wine now, dammit, and I wanted it chilled. Why should I have to put up with warm wine at $42 a bottle, warm wine that would take half an hour to cool down and which would mean I'd be stuck hanging around a restaurant for half an hour just so I could enjoy expensive wine with no food? Fuck that shit. So I got the manager back over and gently explained that it was frankly pretty unfair to serve the wine after the appetizers, and to serve it warm. It would have been fine if they'd just been up front about it - I would have had a nice chilled Kiwi sauvignon blanc and saved a few bucks - but damn. So he took away the CdP and came back with two glasses of Sancerre, which was really pretty good. But you know, sometimes ist die Stimmung halt im Eimer, as the Germans say. I'd finished my meal just about when the chilled wine arrived, and I wasn't in any mood to spend $9 on a tiny cup of mango FroYo™, so I just asked for the check. They were kind enough to knock the entire bill down to $24 or so including tax, so I left $40 and the restaurant. Sure, the waitron sucked, but I feel a moral obligation to at least pay her for doing her job, however incompetently. [I also really hate it when they stack dirty plates up on the table in front of you instead of removing the plates from the table and doing the stack trick out of sight, but I digress.]
So, yeah, not the best V-day repast, but at least it cost less than I'd budgeted. Even so, it's a little bit maddening. I could have had a meal fit for a king at Hunan Taste for the same amount of money. Sometimes I think it's just not possible to have a "nice meal" in the Bay Area - it all seems incompetent on some level or another, or, worse yet, a complete ripoff. [Check out the $500+ markup on some wines at Gary Danko in The City, for example.]
So now I'm at home with my marmot having a fine $5.49 bottle of Freixenet Cordon Negro [thanks to Safeway]. I may still be hungry, but at least I'm happy now.
* Well, three out of the four of them that we ordered. Inexplicably, they forgot to bring the rendang beef. Of the three they did bring, the Indian curry with fish was lukewarm and unpleasant, the sambal green beans had strange unidentifiable crunchy bits [burnt tofu?], and the nonya pork was OK but really tasted of nothing but a lot of ketjap manis with very little else in the sauce. Very disappointing.