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Away From Home

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Restaurant Week at the Oval Room

It's Restaurant Week in DC! Many (most? all? I don't know) of the top restaurants run specials, where you can get a three-course meal for $30 instead of the usual $50+.

I went with Joe and some of his friends to the Oval Room last night. It's about one block from the White House, so it's a favorite restaurant of both Andrew Card and former President Bush. Given its high-profile clientele, it must have been good, right? Right?!


First off, let me say that the room is not oval in the least. I have no idea why they chose that name.

For my first course, I chose the grilled shrimp. Not a bad appetizer, eh? When it came out, I just stared at it in disbelief. It was 3 shrimp, arranged in a little circle pattern in the middle of a large plate.

The girl next to me remarked "Careful, don't spoil your dinner."

Oh don't worry, no danger in that.

The only appetizer with any substance was the Caesar salad, which should have been labeled "Some assembly required." The lettuce leaves were completely whole. I'm talking 4-5 inches long here. And rather than including usable cheese, they just slapped a couple whole slices on it.

Surely the main course will be better.

I had the chicken (surprise surprise), with some sort of a mushroom sauce on it, and the same dwarfism disorder that plagued my appetizer. It was literally gone within 5 minutes, and only served to wake my stomach up.

"Whoa, we're eating now? Keep it coming! FEED ME!"

One chance to redeem themselves -- the dessert course. I chose chocolate mousse with strawberries. Of course, it was tiny. It was as if the chef had taken an ordinary tablespoon and placed one big scoop on my plate.

Everything tasted good, but not spectacular. Certainly not the best I've ever had.

The service was also minimal. (Maybe it was a theme?) The only times we saw our waiter were when he was taking our orders and bringing us food. He never introduced himself to us, and never even remotely appeared as if he cared.

So we left 10%. A bit of a stiff, I know, but he did the bare minimum for us, why should he expect more than the bare minimum in return?

Turned out that he did expect more.

On our way out, some of the group stopped by the restroom. While the rest of us were waiting, the waiter came up with the check and said "You know gratuity isn't already included, right?"

I couldn't believe it.

It's one thing to expect good tips for mediocre service. It's quite another thing to ask for more money. Being conflict-averse, we gave him more, but I felt dirty doing it.

All in all, a very disappointing outing. I'm not convinced that these upper-class restaurants offer anything more than the restaurants I'm used to. In fact, this one offered much less.

I do not recommend the Oval Room.


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