Saturday, February 28, 2009

Napa Valley Grille - restaurant review

We had tickets to see a show in Westwood tonight, so the husband picked Napa Valley Grille for dinner. He found it through Open Table, and I'd been there for lunch once (I think - I can't remember exactly), and when I looked at their dinner menu, I was happy to give it a try.

We arrived a little late for our reservation because of bad traffic. The husband had planned on valet parking the car anyway, but we discovered that there was a parking structure right next to the restaurant. Since valet parking was $4 and you would be expected to tip as well, the $7 price of the parking lot wasn't too bad. One warning though - the up ramp is fairly narrow, which can be a concern for larger-sized vehicles.

We were seated quickly upon our arrival at the restaurant, to a table in the back, which was actually closer to the street because of the way the restaurant was situated. We perused the menu, and after a while, our server (T) came by to introduce himself. The husband ordered sparkling water, and then the server later came back to take our orders. He seemed very friendly and personable, so it all seemed to be going well.

The busboy brought out a basket of bread, which came with olive bread and another kind of bread, and he also brought a dish of olive oil and a dish of eggplant tapenade, which was pretty good.

For a starter, the husband and I shared an order of the Grilled Pacific Calamari Bruschetta (grilled calamari with artichokes, roasted cherry tomatoes, grilled ciabatta, meyer lemon vinaigrette). When the dish was brought out, I was a bit surprised that it was called "bruschetta" because it really wasn't. Most of the ingredients were cooked together in a little bit of broth, with two pieces of toasted bread on top. It was delicious, and I enjoyed it more than I would have had it actually been bruschetta.

I should say that at first, a basket of fried calamari was brought to our table. I didn't remember the husband ordering that and didn't even see it on the menu, but since I like fried calamari, I didn't care. We'd each had a piece or two when the runner came by to say that we'd been brought the wrong item, and he gave us the dish we ordered instead and took the fried calamari away.

Now, I will say that I was disappointed that they didn't ask if we just wanted to keep the fried calamari anyway. No, I don't generally ask for stuff for free, but we'd already had a taste of it (and even if we hadn't touched it, they couldn't then serve it to whomever had actually ordered it), so they were just going to take it back to the kitchen and throw it away anyway.

For our next course, I had ordered the Organic Baby Lettuce salad (parmesan crisp, roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted walnut vinaigrette) and the husband ordered the Warm Organic Spinach Salad (crispy prosciutto, blue cheese, roasted pear, pear vinaigrette, harvest nuts). I really enjoyed my salad, which was a nice mixed "weed" salad, and I particularly liked the dressing, which was light and tangy.

For the main course, I had ordered House Made Saffron Infused Garganelli (sweet crab and black garlic, mussels and cockles and shrimp) and the husband ordered Sautéed Center Cut Aged Sirloin "Filet" (crispy weiser farm butterball potato cake, sprouting broccoli, warm cultivated mushroom vinaigrette).

We had finished with our salads and sat at the table chatting for quite some time. It seemed like a really long time that we'd been waiting for our entrees. A manager eventually came by and mentioned that he'd spoken to the chef and that our entrees would be out shortly. We're not sure if something happened with our orders or if the manager happened to notice that we'd been sitting for a while, but it was nice of him to come by to say something. We sat for a while longer, and eventually, our entrees were brought to us. The husband had made an early reservation so that we could have a leisurely dinner and still make our show in plenty of time. Our reservation was at 5:45pm, and we probably arrived and were sat around 6pm. Yes, we had a starter and salad, but our entree still didn't arrive until about 7:10pm. OK, fine, we can still enjoy the entree, and I would forego any idea of dessert that I might have been entertaining. We figured that while we were enjoying our entree, when the server came by, the husband would ask for the check to get that settled so that we could leave as soon as we were done.

The husband very much enjoyed his dinner and particularly liked the sauce that accompanied the dish. I also really liked my dish, which came with a lot of broth that was very tasty, so I kind of wish I'd had a spoon to be able to enjoy all of it. I just contented myself with using the shellfish shells to scoop up some of the liquid. The pasta was pretty good, nice firmness and texture, though just a tad on the large side to comfortably pick up with a fork without worrying about dropping it in the broth and splattering. The crab legs and shrimp and mussels were good. While I have an idea what cockles are (mollusk family, I presumed), I wasn't entirely sure what they looked like. The only other seafood item in my dish was pretty much just clams - clams of the variety that are pretty common. They were still good, so I figured maybe they had a problem getting cockles or something.

So the husband finished his entree first. And he sat there. And as I continued to finish my entree, he continued to sit there. And not once did the server come by to check on us. I then realized that he'd NEVER come back EVEN ONCE to check on us after any of our dishes were delivered to us. We saw him at the other nearby tables talking to them and helping them, and he never once looked in our direction or bothered to stop by. Never once asked us how the food was or if we needed anything. And then he disappeared for a while. He finally returned to an adjacent table, and the husband finally managed to get his attention to ask for the check. At that point, I got up to use the ladies' room and told the husband I'd meet him out front.

Given the kind of restaurant Napa Valley Grille is, I do not expect to be completely ignored by the server. Heck, forget that it was an upscale restaurant - I would not be happy with being that ignored at Chili's or Olive Garden or Mimi's or Denny's. I *might* have given him a pass if, when the husband asked for the check, he apologized for not coming by sooner, asking if we might want some dessert, anything to acknowledge his complete non-service to us.

The food was quite good, but the absolutely atrocious service really turned me off, especially since the delay in getting our entrees and then not being to get the server's attention made us almost late for our show. We arrived just minutes before the show started.

I would not refuse to go back to the restaurant if someone else really wanted to go, but it would certainly not be on my list of places I'd choose to return to nor could I really recommend it to anyone else.

Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Avenue, Suite 100
Los Angeles, CA 90024

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