Beggars Can’t Be Choosers, But They Can Be Pissed And Write About It (Sutra)

This is not a restaurant review.

It’s really more of a service review. And not a particularly happy one.

Let’s say you, your partner, and four of your best pals are slightly tipsy, walking along the Embarcadero on gorgeous San Francisco night. It’s Friday after a long week, and you’re looking for some dinner. Where do you go?

Americano? (Nah, the crowd is too icky and you’d never get a table for six.)
Slanted Door? (Um, did you make a reservation five months ago? I didn’t think so.)
Ozumo? (Only if the client is paying.)

“Hey! I’ve got an idea! How ’bout Sutra? It looks swanky enough, and there always seems to be space inside. Maybe we could actually score a table.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid, dumb. It must have been the liquor talking, because normally, my Spidey Senses would have warned me: If there’s plenty o’ room on a Friday night, there’s probably a reason.

Ironically, we never actually got a table at Sutra. Mind you, there were several tables large enough to accommodate our party in the dining room, but we were seated (uncomfortably) in the lounge, so that we could hunch over our food like a pack of dingos. Now, if I was the hostess, I’d have smelled dollars on our breath when we walked in. A gregarious six-top, a few drinks in, with the drunky munchies and cash to spend. Seat us with the big kids and milk us dry, right? Nope. I watched the tables in the dining room stay empty for the entire duration of our visit.

Sitting in the lounge was like being permanently trapped in the lobby of a W Hotel. At first, you’re all, “Mmm, stylish.” Then you look closer and think, “Is there a hoochie convention in town?” Finally, you realize that it’s not 2001 anymore, and you’re really, really sick of down-tempo house and guys with thick necks and untucked striped dress shirts.

We were ravenous, though, and willing to stick it out. We ordered with abandon, including more cocktails and two bottles of wine for the table. My friend Jonathan ordered white, while my partner ordered red. When the bottle arrived, Jonathan was offered a taste of the white. Then my other friend Jonathan (aka, the only other male at the table) was offered a taste of the red. He wasn’t even drinking red, and he certainly didn’t order it. He just happened to have a Y chromosome.

I’m not even going to comment much on the food, which was all vaguely passable, but certainly not anything special. I will, however, say this. The menu was completely devoid of vegetarian entrees. Instead, it read, way down at the bottom, “Vegetarian options available upon request.” Duly, I requested. Surprise! It was a trick. Turns out, there was no vegetarian option that night. Cuz, like, why would you bother on a Friday night, right? I asked our server if the chef could make something up (which usually works like a charm), and he tried to convince me to order the fish. I wasn’t going to back down, though, and I asked, politely, if the chef could rustle up a vegetarian something. Anything. I was willing to leave my fate in his hands.

What I got was some seared tofu over japanese eggplant with black bean sauce. The tofu was nicely seared, I guess. Wheeeeee. A touch more effort would have gone a long, long way.

Of course, said tofu arrived at the very same time as every other plate we ordered, even when we’d specifically requested that the kitchen stagger our dishes. Jonathan Number One bravely asked for some of the dishes to be held back so we could make some breathing room on our ridiculously overcrowded lounge table. We were told that wasn’t possible. So we sat there, hunched over, eating as quickly as we could, trying to make space for the cavalcade of food as it was rushed from the kitchen. All or nothing, I guess.

Finally, we ordered dessert, coffee, and after-dinner drinks. My coffee was cold—a giant pet peeve of mine— and no one bothered to ask if I wanted a refill until we were getting up to leave. My partner ordered a glass of port, which arrived half full. “That’s the last of it,” our server declared, “so I’m only going to charge you half price.” Note to Sutra: The classy thing, in this instance, would be to look at our sizable tab and comp the freakin’ port. It was the last dregs, for chrissake. Not even half a glass. Two of my other friends specifically ordered a $12 dessert wine and were served (and charged for) a $17 dessert wine. To cap it all off, the half-price port was magically restored to full-price on the final tab. Ta-dah!

Sometimes, when you get crappy service in a restaurant, you sense malice from the staff. They’re angry, for whatever reason, and they’re going to make you pay. This wasn’t the case at Sutra. To me, it seemed like a case of good old fashioned incompetence.

Next time I’m hungry along the Embarcadero on a Friday, I’m ordering a pizza.

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2 Comments

Filed under Cocktails First, Mid-range Meals, Reviews

2 responses to “Beggars Can’t Be Choosers, But They Can Be Pissed And Write About It (Sutra)

  1. The same as always, your post is insightful and wonderfully written thanks. Keep up the good work I love your site! 😉

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