Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tip top...

The past couple of weeks, I have decided to give the local guys a chance, and have tried two new restaurants in the MetroWest. First, “Top Shelf”.

Top Shelf opened in Framingham on Route 9, in an underutilized building the size of a shoebox, explaining why it’s underutilized. It opened a couple of months ago, with little fanfare but a few articles in the local media. It is being billed as a higher-end dining experience in the local area. After a few other bloggers whose opinions I respect posted some positive reviews, I figured it was time to “palatize” it.

Let me say at the outset that I will return, like Eisenhower to Korea, except without the photo ops...

I have to give Top Shelf high marks for food presentation, price point, portion size for salads and entrees. I have to give them low marks for appetizer price to value ratios, their inability to properly cook the Junior Palette’s burger twice, rather apathetic server attitude and poorly described “specials”. Let me explain…

Tornado ordered a burger, “medium”. Not complicated at all. The burger came out cooked all the way through, and then through again, and the bun was charred and blackened (not toasted) and essentially, inedible. Sent it back, and when the replacement burger came, it was swimming in a puddle of red “juice”. We cut into it, and while it was cooked slightly more than the O’Connell’s burger from a year ago, it was not edible, from a ten year old’s perspective. Sooooo, we returned it again. Tornado ordered a steak this time, and when they brought that out, it was barely cooked, and couldn’t even be cut, as raw meat cannot usually be cut with a regular knife. Oy. She ended up eating vegetables…

During the delivery, and subsequent return of the meals for Tornado, I was a little surprised at the server’s attitude. No apology, and every request met with a heavy sigh. I would have expected the server to look at the charred bun the first time, knowing it’s going to a ten year old, and say to the cook “hey, a kid isn’t going to eat this.” Better yet, maybe the cook should have realized that from the outset. Also, for a new restaurant, I think they’d be uber-focused on service to ensure people return for subsequent meal. Was it ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care!

The other odd observation, and one that repeated itself at a different restaurant that same week, was a poor description of the “specials”. That night, the server told us that they had “roast prime rib” served with sautéed vegetables and roasted potatoes. On the menu, they also has grilled NY sirloin, served with sautéed vegetables and roasted potatoes. While a rib eye steak is my cut of choice (really a piece of prime rib, but cooked as a steak, not roasted), since their prime rib was roasted, and I was really in the mood for something “grilled”, I opted for the sirloin.

Let me say, it was good. Unlike the Tornado’s, mine was cooked perfectly, the vegetables were crisp, and the potatoes were tasty. But, my dining companion had ordered the prime rib special, and it looked exactly like mine. In fact, I dare say that it really was a rib eye steak, and it was grilled, not roasted!!! Damn, I wanted that!

Also, a slight annoyance was that both mine, and my dining companion’s steaks were drowned in a mushroom demi-glace. Hey, I like demi-glace, or gravy, as much as the next guy, and was happy to have it (I would bathe in it if possible), but it would have been nice to have been warned. It wasn’t listed on the menu, and the waitress didn’t mention it. Had she, I would have ordered it “on the side”, so I could enjoy the grill meat in its purest form. Oh well.

All in all, while Tornado’s meals were challenging and puzzling, and gave me some pause, the other food was executed much better, and I guess they deserve another chance to impress me. Unlike O’Connell’s Pub over a year ago, where the food and the service was so utterly awful, and they made no effort to make sure things were acceptable, at least Top Shelf tried. As the Senior Palate says: it is never a shame to try and fail, just a shame to fail to try!

That’s it for now. Remember, eat well, and eat often.

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