Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Érinn go Bistro!

Bistro Cassis storefrontFor St Patrick's Day, I was invited to a NYFOS concert program, Songs of the Irish Poets, an evening of hard-drinking, hard-living high art. And where did we dine beforehand, you ask? An Irish pub, per chance? Corned beef and cabbage at home first? No. I found myself at yet another French bistro. In my defense, I didn't pick the restaurant, but probably would have ended up there on my own, so I am clearly an accidental traitor to the Irish everywhere.
Bistro Cassis interiorBistro Cassis is on the bohemian Upper West Side with a clientele to match. Lots of tweeds, earth tone knits and earnest social consciousness. Libs, I guess you'd say. I wanted desperately to like this place, but a series of unfortunate events blocked the way. Standing at the bar awaiting my concert date, I had to listen to the bartender and a server slander another diner who was foolish enough to complain about the volume of the music. I'm old school enough to think that those sorts of conversations ought to be conducted beyond the earshot of patrons. It's totally unprofessional and leaves a terrible first impression. Not unlike witnessing drunk, uniformed FDNY officers throwing up in trash cans at Grand Central Terminal after the St Paddy's Day Parade.

At the table, our server cluelessly interrupted our conversation to ask if we wanted tap or bottled water and then proceeded to pour - not spill - water from a pretty, but obviously cumbersome pewter jug, all over the place, and perilously close to my $400 camera. I didn't detect a lot of remorse in his demeanor afterwards and immediately began an internal blog narrative demonstrative of my displeasure.
Poulet JambonFricassé de Poulet aux Cêpes
The menus were these silly and poorly thought out paper foldouts wrapped around napkins. Clumsy and dumb. I asked our waiter if I could keep mine for later perusal. He assented, and not 15 seconds later whisked it from the table, probably out of habit, but then he wasn't really listening to me, was he.
The food was standard café fare, which is fine. One doesn't go to a bistro looking for haute cuisine. I inadvertently ordered the cheese-stuffed chicken breast for the second time in about a month, and so convinced my dining partner to swap his chicken fricassee for mine. Both dishes were competently prepared with strong sauces, but iffy vegetables. I had already made up my mind about Bistro Cassis, so it was going to take something truly extraordinary from the kitchen to wipe the slate clean. It was never realized.
Bistro Cassis is part of the Reststar Hospitality Group (turn off the volume), which explains it's middle-of-the-road competency and deficiency in luster. I guess regular theatre goers habitually put up with this sort of efficient assembly line dining, but one wonders why.
Leaving you with something upbeat
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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