If Fourth Street is part of your downtown commute, you’ve noticed the new Renaissance hotel that opened a few weeks ago. They decided on a “soft opening” while they work the kinks out, so little has been released about the hotel or the restaurant, which is named for the architect who designed the Bartlett Building, the Renaissance’s home. Yesterday I dropped in at lunch. My take on soft openings is that if a restaurant is receiving money for food, they’re open, “softly” or not. And considering that lunch for one set me back about $50 (with tip), I think it’s worth mentioning my initial impression.
The kitchen is trying, but they’ve got a ways to go. My roasted beet salad ($10.50) was comprised of red and yellow varieties with Indiana goat cheese and cilantro sprouts. The menu mentioned an aged balsamic vinegar and mascarpone cheese, both of which were conspicuously absent from the plate. A scallop entrée ($20) paired two U10 scallops with similarly sized cubes of braised pork belly over shredded Brussels sprouts and tomato vinaigrette. The scallops were cooked perfectly, but the pork belly was not as tender as it could have been, and one cube was all fat, no meat. I would have preferred the pork belly in smaller pieces, a little more tender, and seared a lot harder for additional crunch. In large form, the pork and scallop combination was just too rich, even with the acid from the tomato vinaigrette. Unfortunately, the chocolate pot de crème might mark the first time I have taken two bites of a chocolate dessert and put down my spoon, heartbroken. The loose chocolate custard that we have all come to love was nowhere in sight. In its place was a rock hard bowl of burnt tasting chocolate. A sad day indeed.
The service, while valiantly friendly, was clueless. Two different waiters fought over my table, making for an uncomfortable start. My entrée arrived less than two minutes after my salad was served and was just left on the side of the table to cool. Bread finally arrived halfway through the entrée, with the check. When I requested coffee and a dessert menu after my scallops, my waiter acted surprised and said, “I guess you’ve decided to treat yourself today.” Note to male waiters everywhere: Do not act surprised when a woman orders the big steak or a dessert in the middle of the day. Like men, many of us eat what we like. We care little for your approval. We are paying the check, after all.
Yes, it’s early days for the beautiful, Art Deco–inspired hotel decorated in muted grays and golds. The interior design of the dining room shows that attention to detail is no stranger here. But the training of the staff needs to intensify. With high-end prices come the expectation of high-end quality and service. If D. Burnham’s hopes to capture business outside of its hotel clientele, changes need to be made, and quickly.