Saturday evening, June 26th. I’m down from Chicago visiting my parents over a long weekend in my hometown area of South Florida. I was searching online for a new restaurant to try, and came across Wild Olives (www.wildolives.com) by Todd English (www.toddenglish.com). Todd has been on the scene receiving numerous culinary awards over the last 20 years and his restaurants enjoy a reputation for high quality fine dining. Needless to say, I was excited to dine at one of his places and had above average expectations.
I called at 1:45pm to make a reservation for 3 people at 6:00pm. This took 5 minutes to accomplish (a little long for a party of 3, don’t you think). One of the Chefs answered the phone. I give him my reservation request and he says “Ok, hang on. Give me a second, I just need to minimize the screen I’m on and pull up the reservations screen.” He gets the screen up and then asks for the details again. He then says that he should be able to take our reservation, but has to get the general manager to “make sure.” Then the GM gets on the phone and asks for the THIRD TIME about the details for the reservation. This was the first bad sign for me. Timeliness on the phone with direct clear answers is very important.
We arrive at the restaurant at 6pm and there is ONE table of diners. The rest of the place is EMPTY. I’m thinking “really, it was that difficult to take my reservation for 3 guests and the dining room is empty.” However, the hostess was very polite and professional and the decor was very impressive. My high hopes returned. We were sat in a very comfortable booth and all was good…. so far.
Our server for the evening was very courteous and professional, and he seemed to be very knowledgeable about the food. After a few minutes with the menus and our water, a runner brought us some bread. The plate had 3 dipping sauces on it. Before we even noticed there were three different sauces, the guy who brought out the bread was gone with no explanation of what they were. My mom has an allergy to nuts and we were concerned about the ingredients. I motioned over a nearby server who was polishing her table’s stemware and she explained the sauces. Yep, one of them was an almond based sauce! If you’re going to bring something out to the table that was NOT ordered, you need to explain what it is. When our server came back we then informed him of my mom’s allergy to nuts so we can avoid them for the rest of the meal.
We started out with the anti-pasti. Very nice presentation, nice selection of fresh meats and cheeses, but what’s on the chopping block?? NUTS! Are you kidding me? This place isn’t even busy yet!
Now to the wine service. I ordered a bottle of Erath “Dundee Hills” Estate Pinot Noir 2008. I have never had this bottle before, but with all the hype on Oregon’s 2008 vintage I thought it would be fun to try. The server brings out the wine and presents it, I see Erath 2008 Pinot Noir and tell him ok. He opens the wine, I sampled, accepted, and then he poured for us. Wine service was fine… however, when he left the table I started looking at the bottle some more. I noticed the appellation designate for this wine was simply “Oregon.” Now I knew Erath made a simple entry-level Pinot and I started to question that they brought me the right wine (which was in the $50’s on their list). The “regular” Erath would probably be in the $30’s on a restaurant list, or maybe low $40’s. I pulled up Erath’s website on my i-phone (www.erath.com) and found the “Dundee-Hills” bottling that was on Todd’s wine list. The label was completely different then the wine they brought out. I called over the manager and explained the situation. He removed the wine and we ordered a MORE EXPENSIVE Hitching Post Pinot Noir which was delicious. I wonder how many other people ordered this Erath Pinot and got the lower-end Oregon bottling instead of the Estate for a HUGE mark-up. I’m sure the restaurant didn’t know they were doing this, but it was another huge disappointment that was unexpected at a Todd English establishment. My guess is the whole-sale distributor of Erath sent out the wrong wine for delivery and someone at the restaurant accepted it who wasn’t familiar with appellation designate wines. It was then binned and voila… out for sale! Yikes! Perhaps hiring a Certified Sommelier would solve some of these issues Chef?
Finally dinner came out. We’re fans of seasoned food, but holy salt batman!! This food was REALLY over salted… it’s all that you could taste!! Not worth sending back so they can have another crack at it… we’ve already had enough! That was the last straw for us. It’s too bad that this is my first Todd English experience because it’s going to be very difficult to get me to try another one of his places unless I know that he is there personally in the kitchen!
The moral of the story is don’t assume that because there’s a famous chef’s name on the marquis that it’s going to be any good!
Check out the video of this dining experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F4cSUggzeM