How Important is Service?
How often to go to some of your favorite restaurants, knowing that the service stinks, but the food is great? Or alternatively, will you eat mediocre food at a place where everybody knows your name and the bartender always has “your” drink ready when you arrive?
It’s a no-brainer that if the food and service are both lousy, we’re never going to return again. But it’s pretty rare when a restaurant’s service is so exceptional that the quality of the meal is considered a pleasant bonus.
We had such an experience on Saturday at Talula’s Garden, the Stephen Starr restaurant on Washington Square run by Aimee Olexy. When we arrived a few minutes early for our 8:15 reservation, we were asked if we would prefer to sit inside or outside. While the outside courtyard was very charming — filled with botanicals, lanterns and twinkle lights — I wasn’t adequately dressed for the cool evening breeze. So, we were promptly seated in the lovely main dining room.
The menu is described as “seasonal American food inspired by the farm and the garden.” There is a separate menu just for cheeses. Our server went through all of them and recommended her favorites. When we told her I was pregnant and couldn’t eat unpasteurized cheese, she said it would be no problem to make a substitution. We chose the Master Collection, and I opted to just skip the unpasteurized Rogue smokey blue cheese. (Matt certainly didn’t mind eating it all himself.)
After we finished the savory cheese board, we waited patiently for our appetizer. It didn’t seem like a very long time, but our server came over and apologized for the wait. A few minutes later, the manager came to apologize. He returned a few minutes later with our gnocchi, and told us it was on the house — an unexpected nice gesture. By the way, here’s what we shared: handmade potato gnocchi, dandelion greens, spring ramps, red flame grapes, and buffalo taleggio.
Our entrees were equally satisfying (sliced, roasted hanger steak, potato puree, maitake mushrooms, sweet candy onions, and bone marrow bordelaise for me; rhubarb glazed muscovy duck breast, confit leg, candied rhubarb, beluga lentils, mizuna, and duck jus for Matt).
When our dessert of ricotta doughnuts arrived, the manager also brought us a plate of assorted complimentary house-made cookies to top off the evening.
Even though we didn’t complain about the wait, didn’t announce that we were writing a blog, and are virtual “nobodies,” the staff here really went above and beyond to please us. And that’s something worth blogging about.