Thursday, August 28, 2008

Excuse me please, if I may...

Last night, we treated ourselves to dinner at L'Espalier. Still feeling the tightness in our belts after many delicious meals during Restaurant Week(s), we would normally have waited; BUT, this is actually the last week in their Back Bay location before they move to their new digs in the Mandarin, and we wanted to experience L'Espalier in this historic location while we still could.
It was our first time, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. When we walked through the gorgeous entryway, we were greeted by two nice hostesses. Our reservation was verified, and we were asked to wait for the maître d', who then took us to our table. We were sat in the smaller back room at a table in the rear bay window on a cushioned window seat. It was comfortable--although perhaps a little far away from the table. We were greeted immediately by our server, who made a fun comment about my tie. I thought this was a nice way to start, but then he immediately asked whether we'd like some champagne or other apéritif. I wasn't prepared to make such decisions and was a little flustered, honestly, at this immediate request to perform. (Yes, it felt like a performance since no one in the entire small and intimate room was talking, and you could feel all eyes on you as he awaited our response.) We just asked for the wine list, and he said he would bring one when one was available. He left, and we felt slightly awkward. My point in mentioning this is to say that at L'Espalier, whatever you ask for, they will bring...I just think we were not prepared to ask for what we wanted. I should have just said, "Bring me a Hendrick's martini garnished with a pickle!" and have been done with it. (Because, yes, that's what I really wanted.) When you go, you should be ready to ask for whatever you want and not worry about what is on the menu. It is obvious that they want their customers to have a perfect experience.

The food was absolutely delicious--

Wait--before I get to that, I want to mention something else about the service. I don't mean at all when I describe last night's experience that the service was anything less than impeccable...but I think that's where I am struggling. As wonderful as the service was, it seemed forced, and it was so to the point of being distracting. I mean, honestly, did the sweet girl that was bringing our bread, refilling our waters, and clearing our spent plates REALLY have to say "Excuse me, please, if I may." EVERY SINGLE TIME she came to the table? No. The first time, that's fine, but we felt like after three hours of visiting us every 10 minutes-or-so that we should be familiar enough with each other to dispense with at least some of those Excuse-me-please-if-I-may's. As I said before, one can see the effort made in every aspect to ensure the highest-quality meal possible; but, seriously?! She made us chuckle.

As I was about to say, the food was absolutely delicious. We chose the "Farewell Dégustation" created in honor of their last week in the Gloucester Street location. It was, as our server described it, made up of some of their most popular items. I want to give it justice when I describe it and not forget a thing, so I went to their website to get the menu. Unfortunately, what's posted on their site is not the updated menu, so I've asked them to send it to me. I'm still waiting on that, so--excuse me, please, if I may--I'm going to post this in installments....

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