I wanted this blog to be about all things food, including restaurant reviews, so I am long overdue for some new restaurant talk. I shouldn't only talk about new restaurants either. I should review all of them.
Today is one time I have a new restaurant to review. At the end of June a new Italian place opened up at the end of the street called Sofia's Italian Bistro. It moved into a space once occupied by a Chinese restaurant called Lum Yen.
I hated seeing Lum Yen go. It was an institution in this area for decades. It was the last of its kind. Most Chinese restaurants tend to be cheap takeout places or else they have been take over by "Asian Fusion" restaurants that cover Chinese, sushi, and Thai. Lum Yen was a full service restaurant. It was the kind of Chinese restaurant I knew growing up with its own classic "Polynesian" cocktails and several pages of dishes. It may not have been authentically Chinese, but it did a good job of keeping up the pretense in the days when none of us knew better.
This meant I went into Sofia's with a bit of prejudice. It displaced a well-loved local restaurant and it is another Italian restaurant in a region that is already saturated with Italian restaurants. Would it be able to distinguish itself and find customers? It was worth checking out.
Kevin and I didn't make reservations even though it was a Saturday night. We had no idea if we would have a table or not. We didn't make any and tried our luck.
We arrived and the hostess said she had a few reserved tables, but could find us something. We ended up in the back by the bathrooms and kitchen. It wasn't prime space, but we weren't going to complain since we had no reservation and they were doing their best to accommodate us.
It's a nice space. There are no indications that this was ever a Chinese restaurant. The space is much more open than it was in Lum Yen with clean and bright decor. It reminds me a little bit of Tarry Lodge.
The restaurant only seemed to have one waiter and one busboy working that night. The busboy was sweet and poured our water right away. The waiter took our drink orders. We received a bread basket and some basil dipping oil. Then we waited for our drinks. We waited for a while. Eventually the hostess came to us and asked us what our drinks were. We had to order again.
We eventually ordered our food. Once again it took a long time to get anything. We noticed we weren't the only ones waiting. The couple at the table next to us stormed out saying they had never had such terrible service. We started wondering if we should pay for our drinks and go elsewhere.
The hostess returned to our table. She explained that they were having issues with their ticketing system. The waitstaff was entering the orders at the computer in the front of the house, but the kitchen wasn't receiving them. It seemed to be due to a faulty WiFi. It was easy to forgive them for this. Tech issues can happen to anyone. She took our orders again and relayed them to the kitchen herself.
We were eventually served our food. Kevin ordered gnocchi with tomato sauce and mozzarella. I ordered a pork shank with risotto. It made for a better perspective of the restaurant to order a meat dish and a pasta dish and see the range of the kitchen.
Kevin loved his gnocchi. My pork shank was cooked perfectly so the kitchen gets points for execution. Unfortunately my risotto was way too salty. It was just this side of inedible. The chef didn't skimp on the saffron either. I almost never send complaints back to the kitchen, but I thought the saltiness was something that needed to be brought to the chef's attention.
During the meal our hostess brought us an antipasto plate with salami, prosciutto, and a blob of delicious, creamy burratta on the house to make up for the wait. After the meal they said the dessert would be on the house as well. We ordered zeppole. I'm not sure if this is the normal sized serving or if this huge platter was part of the apology. Either way, they were delicious as zeppole should be and came with warm Nutella for dipping.
The price point for this place is a bit high for us to come back here regularly, but we will consider coming back. I don't want to come back too soon because I want to give everyone involved a chance to work the kinks out. I think the food is good enough for another visit with the exception of the risotto. I can excuse the issues when the restaurant is brand new. If the service is still this spotty six months from now, I'm not sure the place will survive.
The experience is a lesson in customer service. Kevin and I waited around and the house noticed. They weren't embarrassed to take our orders again. They checked in with us. They were generous with comped items. Good restaurants don't always have to be about perfect food and service. They also have to know how to smooth out the kinks and acknowledge and rectify their mistakes.
I want to compare this experience to the one I had at Spice Kitchen two years ago. Spice Kitchen screwed up royally with our orders. The waitstaff paid no attention to how long we were waiting. The management made no effort to make it up to us. We never went back. The place is now out of business.
I look forward to seeing how Sofia's will succeed in the neighborhood.