Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wolfgang Puck's Bar and Grill

It's difficult these days for anyone not to have heard of Wolfgang Puck. He has been through several shows on Food Network, has several lines of food products, and has been said by many to be the Chef of the Stars. If the rumors are true, Wolfy might as well have invented California Cuisine. One might consider any of these a good reason for one to visit one of his many restaurants, especially if one hasn't before. Our reason was much simpler: it seemed to be the only one in our hotel that we could afford.

To tell you the truth, I have been wanting to try out Wolfy's food first-hand for some time. The man is a legend in his field. But by the time I got to his place, I was almost willing to McEat at the first McCheap place I could McFind. I was tired, I was hungry, I was thirsty and I was getting cranky. Fortunately, the menu posted outside Chez Wolfy looked to be in my price range.

The dishes were, well, kind of disappointing. Truffle potato chips with bleu cheese? What's that all about? Eventually, I decided that the only thing that looked worthwhile was a burger. My wife ordered some kind of "farmer's ravioli", which seemed to be complete with a balsamic reduction. I don't know how many farmers keep a balsamic reduction in their pantry, but I suppose Wolfy is older, wiser and better travelled than myself.

Now, the burger I ordered was pretty good. And why not? They used enough of the cow to make it that it couldn't all be bad. It came with a cute little bottle of ketchup and a cute little bottle of mustard. Sadly, the mustard was decicedly Dijon, and I prefer Big Yellow. Since they are apparently too good for Big Yellow, I got them to bring me more ketchup.

Speaking of "them", I should tell you about our waiter. I'm sure he was a nice enough guy, but he didn't spend enough time with us for us to know. After we were seated, he popped over just long enough to drop off menus and let us know that he'd be right back with us. Several minutes later he was, and we were just ready to order. Eventually, he came back to check on us, and then we saw him not at our table again until the end of the meal, except for a couple of times when he came back to fill our water, making sure to stand behind me where I couldn't see him. Actually, it was usually the bus boy that filled our water.

Now, our hotel had given us a $25 credit to use on food at any of its restaurants. Wolfy's was one of these. The way they do this is interesting. When you check in, you can give them your credit card number to have extras charged to your room. I opted not to give them my card. As it turns out, to use the $25 credit, you have to charge your meal to your room, and no, they can't set up your card at the restaurant. So we had to pay the full price, and then go back and have the front desk scan my card so that we can attempt to get our $25 credit later. Our waiter explain this to us, and expressed that it happens all the time and that he thought they should be a little clearer about it. This was the most discussion we'd had with him, and it turns out he was a pretty nice guy. Too bad we didn't see more of him.

Back to the food. My wife loved her ravioli. She told me that it was just the right size, and whereas certain restaurants back in Utah seem to like overusing balsamic, these people had it just right. I told her that they were using a balsamic reduction, which is one of my favorite things to play with. My burger, however, was not what you'd call just the right size. It was huge! It had to be a good half to three quarters of a pound! I'm sure that the cheese on it was "Vermont Cheddar", as advertised, but I didn't see whatever that relish was that the menu talked about. It looked mostly like a big hunk of medium-well beef (I had ordered medium) with a piece of cheese on it, served on a huge toasted, buttered bun. Fortunately, it came with a massive leaf of lettuce, a couple of tomato slices and a couple of pickle slices. I'm glad Wolfy has figured out the burger.

So that was our experience with Wolfgang Puck's Bar and Grill. It's actually not bad, but when you hear so much about a chef and then it turns out to be little more than your neighborhood Applebees, well, it's just a little disappointing.

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