Do you use those discount offers from Groupon or Blackboard Eats when dining at a restaurant? I do every once in a while, but I always wonder if a discount is going to be taken on the quality of the meal. If the food ends up bad, is it because the restaurant sucks and needs Groupon to get customers in the door, or is it because they think you’re a cheap-ass with a coupon who won’t be back anyway? What came first, Groupon or bad food?
This happened to me a few months ago at Delmonico’s. When David used to work on Wall Street, he would go to Delmonico’s all the time for business dinners. When he’d get home, he’d always tell me how good the food had been and how we needed to go. So when I saw a Groupon for Delmonico’s online ($100 for a four course dinner for two), I thought, why not? Well, somehow, things went awry and I’m still pondering why.
Dinner started with salad for both us. I had the Delmonico’s Salad, which was a basic chopped salad, and David ordered the Burrata Maplebrook Farm Salad (pictured above) with sun-dried tomatoes, La Quercia prosciutto, wild arugula, and 25 year old balsamic. His was better, but it was very sparing of the burrata. Still, nothing horrendous yet.
The entree is where things went left. I ordered the 1876 Lobster Newburg, one of Delmonico’s signature dishes, and it looked tasty enough when it came to the table with a bit of caviar on top, but when I took a bite it was cold. Not lukewarm, but cold enough I thought it had to be on purpose. So I kept eating. Cold lobster with cream sauce, it was edible, but not something I would ever order again, especially considering the menu price of $49. When the waiter came by midway into the meal to ask if I needed more wine, I casually asked if the lobster was supposed to be cold. He said no. How wonderful. He then offered to take my half-eaten lobster to heat up, but the last thing I needed was overcooked, rubbery lobster so I refused. I decided I had enough.
David’s Delmonico Steak was much, much better. It was buttery, well-salted, and cooked perfectly with a good crust. Most importantly, hot! I’m not sure if my unhappiness with my entree affected David’s opinion, but he kept saying the steak wasn’t as good as it used to be.
The sides were good too. We ordered spaetzle and mushrooms and the spaetzle was bouncy with some nice browning, and the mushrooms were rich and buttery. David, however, didn’t like that there were so many shiitake mushrooms in the mushroom medley. He’s not a fan of shiitake mushrooms and said they were skimping on the chanterelles by adding shiitakes. According to him, he’s never had the mushroom side at Delmonico’s with shiitakes before.
For dessert, David had the Hazelnut Praline Chocolate Cake with Valrhona chocolate sauce, and Tahitian vanilla ice cream. I thought it was fine. It was your typical restaurant chocolate dessert.
I ordered another one of Delmonico’s signature dishes, the Baked Alaska, walnut cake with apricot jam, banana gelato, and meringue. In this case, it worked out better. The meringue was toasted properly, and I liked the apricot jam with the cake. It was very old-school, and probably very safe, but you don’t expect otherwise at a steakhouse.
If I had just ordered a steak and a baked Alaska at Delmonico’s, I probably would have left thinking the $100 Groupon was money well-spent. However, that didn’t happen, and now I’m just left wondering. Feeling a bit of remorse and a bit of a fool.