Monday, February 21, 2011

27 Reasons to Skip Bistro 27

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating...I couldn't think of a whole 27 without nit-picking but there were a few very important things which turned me off from this restaurant.

Let's just set the mood, shall we? With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I was pretty sad to learn that Weston definitely couldn't make it down to Richmond due to work conflicts. I mean, I am kind of in love with all things pink and red and heart shaped...especially edible things (like cupcakes!!!)...I digress. Anyway, a friend of mine asked me out for dinner Saturday night so I slapped on a smile and got ready to go. I walked outside the apartment building because she was picking me up, looked left, look right - saw my boyfriend!!! He drove 10 hours just to ask me to be his Valentine. How's that for surprise. The whole day he'd been telling me about his "trip to the grocery store" and "the bank" and it was all a rouse... sneaky sneaky. But I loved it because oh how much I missed him.

I had wanted to go to Tastebuds for Valentine's Day, before I discovered he couldn't make it, but Weston always plans his surprises to a tee and had already made reservations at a place which I was not allowed to know the name of until we got there. I was super psyched when I turned the corner and saw that we'd be trying Bistro 27.

Lo and behold, Bistro 27 is about 3 blocks from my apartment. It's pretty tiny, as are most restaurants in Richmond (except Can Can) and it was packed. I was extremely start. The restaurant is set up with tables near windows and near a mid-line divider and then there are a couple teeny tables in the center of the two - right in the aisleway , basically. These table are narrower and quite awkward. Guess where they put us. Even though there were 3 other open tables in nice locations. Weston, a former waiter, made the astute observation that all the young couples, the ones who probably wouldn't be drinking or paying top dollar, were seated in the bad seats. I'm sorry, but they really were bad - by the restrooms, in the aisle way - these seats do not a romantic evening make. But we were resigned to having a good time, especially considering the crazy-high priced menu. But we'll get there.

Let's talk about service. Insert here all synonyms for "dismissive" and "condescending." We were seated with no introduction, water was plopped in front of us, the dip on the table was not mentioned or explained, and then we waited...and waited. Finally, a sullen looking waitress stopped by and threw the menus down on the table. When I asked about cocktails, she said they didn't have any specials and walked away. I think we saw her about 3 times during the entire meal. We were never asked how the food was, never offered extra utensils when we transitioned to dessert, and never smiled at when some random guy arrived with our food, set it in front of us, and - surprise, surprise - walked away without saying anything. My lasting impressions of service: I think this about sums it up. Our waiter told us at the end of the meal, "Look at yooooou, you've cleaned your plates. Now you can have dessert." Seriously? Seriously. Yes, we are young. But we're also paying customers and deserve a little respect.

Ok, food. It was good. Didn't blow me away by any means. The bread on the table was cold and hard which meant they hadn't made it in-house or it was stale - maybe both. I ordered lobster ravioli which had a good amount of stuffing and the proportion was nice: 6 ravioli. The pricing was not: $25. Weston got scallops and shrimp with saffron ink noodles. The noodles were very good, I will say. They were cold by the time we found the waitress to ask for a spoon, though. I do need to mention that although the saffron sauce had a lot of saffron threads, it didn't taste much like saffron - I think they might have been going for quantity rather than quality of that particular ingredient. Switching gears, the shrimp were cooked well, as were the scallops, and his portion was a good sized one. The orchids on the plate were a little drooping with cream sauce are not the most appetizing. Dessert was pleasant: cheesecake with a hint of rosewater. Although, they advertised it as having a layer of pound cake, which it did not. When I asked if it was served with ice cream, I was told we'd be charged an extra dessert for changing the menu so we did without.

I am sorry to say that I have found the first restaurant in Richmond that I really did not fall in love with. I wanted to, I really did. But I suppose it is a testament to how comfortable our relationship has become that Weston and I both had an amazing time anyway. Somehow the contradiction of Bistro 27's grandiose reputation and the actual experience was comical. And a special thanks to the undergraduate couple next to us for providing the entertainment for the evening: I don't think I've ever seen such ill-mannered people in a restaurant ever.

All in all, we left full but unsatisfied. The next day, we headed straight over to Tastebuds and, as usual, had an amazing meal. Oh! And they made me that Valentine's Day cocktail, compliments of the owners.


  1. Yikes. I'm sorry to hear about that experience.

    Too many times, even at the best restaurants, service gets compromised on VDay because of the volume of customers they entertain.

  2. The Husband and I are definitely on the same page here. Service at Bistro 27 is usually really good. We refuse to go out on Valentine's Day/Weekend for this exact reason. And it is unfortunate because many people choose Valentine's Day to try out a new restaurant. Though in no way am I excusing the horrible service on this romantic holiday, just calling it was it is.

  3. I have dined at Bistro 27 many times and have never had bad service or lackluster food. Its ALWAYS been stellar! Did you ask to be seated at another table by chance? Service has never been dismissive. They have always been attentive and very professional. That being said, I'm sure since this was VD they were extremely busy. Sometimes you do have to wait (especially on VD) so I would alter my expectations on VD (or during restaurant week). It's just common sense. As for the food, Chef Carlos never skimps on's always the freshest and high quality. Why so surprised to be charged for ice cream if the cheesecake did not come with it?

    Did you ever make it known to anyone that you were not happy or satisfied? Did you not give them the opportunity to correct what you felt was wrong? Probably not.

    It's sad when one does not enjoy themselves then doesn't give the restaurant to fix it. They perfer to slam a wonderful restaurant on their own blog.

    By the way, I do not work there and I'm not a personal friend of anyone who does. I do, however, eat there quite often and know you couldnt' be further from the truth with your abservations...

  4. SEW- I don't think Sheila "slammed" Bistro 27, in fact she said she had a good time. She didn't say she hated it or that it was horrible or anything like that. In fact, all she said was that she "didn't fall in love with it." Is that so bad?

    I am going to agree with The Husband and The Wife on this. Valentine's Day is hit or miss. As someone who worked in high end restaurants for several years, sometimes the biggest days of the year are the toughest because there is such a constant rush on food, so many customers coming at once, and so many demands on the wait staff. Valentine's Day can't be considered a great perspective to judge a restaurant on, and I think that Sheila's review, while not positive, wasn't all that terrible either.

    Do you expect her to give glowing reviews to every place she visits? How do you suppose she "fixes" the restaurant? I would calm down and accept that maybe she caught Chef Carlos (or maybe one of his sous chefs) on an off dish, or maybe the wait staff wasn't quite as pleasant this time around.

    Perhaps she didn't complain to the manager because she understood how busy they were and didn't want to cause them any more bother. Sheila is exceptionally polite in those circumstances from my experience. I know you love the place, SEW, but it is possible that just once Bistro 27 didn't live up to your regular expectations. And that's okay, everyone has an off night.

  5. Hello The Husband and The Wife - I am going to address your comments together, if you don't mind. You both bring up a good point - that service is sometimes compromised on Valentine's Day or any busy holiday. I was well aware of this - but I would expect that as a restaurant with such a clear following (see SEW's less-than-pleased comment), it would allow such service to be issued to potentially new, recurring customers. I know plenty of bustling restaurants in Michigan (Real Seafood and Gandy Dancer to friends back home) which continually serve top-quality food along with top-quality service: perhaps this is why I was so confused with Bistro 27. In Ann Arbor, VDay is always one of the BEST nights to go out because the menus are inspired and customers are treated so well. You live and you learn - now I'll know for next year that if I'm still in Richmond, maybe we should settle for a nice night in.

  6. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write your experience at Bistro 27, the good, bad, and the ugly. It has certainly helped me to adjust my "to-try" restaurant list.

    While I know that service and food tends to be compromised at restaurants during holidays, for me that does not excuse their service or quality issues. If a restaurant is concerned that they will be too busy to keep up their standards, then they should take less reservations that night to compensate. Just because there are seats doesn't mean they all have to be filled if their patrons' experience will suffer on such a special occasion. It's ridiculous for a restaurant to assume that people should expect crappier service or food when visiting a restaurant on a holiday. The restaurant needs to figure out how to operate their business during a peak time instead of patrons having to figure out when the best time is to go for a visit.

    And no matter how busy a restaurant is, no matter how bad of a night the kitchen is having, there is absolutely no excuse for a service that is not kind and hospitable.

    Thanks again for writing your review - I look forward to reading more of your experiences!

  7. Hi Cindy,

    I am so sorry, I just saw your response to this post. That is one of the best things I've ever received from a reader. I really try to be impartial but I'm honest, too. If I love a good pasta dish and I get one - then I am going to post about it. But if it's bad, then I'll post about it, too. I think being respectful to the restaurant is important because I know people put their life and soul into these establishments. But how would we improve if everyone kept their mouths shut? Again, thank you for your kind comments :)