Flee for your lives!

2007.Aug.12 Sunday · 0 comments

in Restaurants

 I have wandered about for weeks without encountering a single decent meal. With precious few exceptions, the hotels of America all cook alike – and what they offer is hard to distinguish from what is offered on railway dining-cars.”

– H.L. Mencken, Writer, Journalist

Buenos Aires – You know, I know that it’s hard to find a decent restaurant in a hotel, pretty much anywhere. There are exceptions, to be sure, but it’s the exceptions that prove the rule, no? Then again, perhaps I could be excused for not realizing that we were heading to a hotel restaurant. I did realize it upon arrival, especially when entering the lobby, and noting that scattered amongst the white cloth topped tables, china, flatware, and wine glasses, were a dozen or so folk with backpacks, small suitcases, etc. – all sort of lolling about on sofas waiting for a tour bus. Yes, the “restaurant” is actually in the lobby of the hotel, not a separate room mind you, simply smack dab in the middle of the lobby, check-in desk a mere couple of paces away from you. I’ve got to stop doing the “well, we’re already here…” thing. We simply should have turned and walked out, no harm, no foul, “just looking, thanks…”

But, we seated ourselves at a window table at Aura… okay, they’re all pretty much window tables, it’s a big glass lobby, in the Blue Tree Hotel, Laprida 1910, in Recoleta, one of a chain of Brazilian hotels, two of which are now located in Argentina. Our waitress promptly poured a half liter of water over dining my companion – she sort of fumbled with her tray, the bottle fell over… but did she react? No, she simply let it pour out, then tilted her tray to the side as if to make sure each and every last drop landed upon him, and then disappeared, to return with one, count it, one, napkin to help him mop up – we were already grabbing napkins from neighboring tables. The bartender wandered over and suggested that perhaps we’d be best off moving to a different table, since this one was wet… which we did, though, I note, we actually stayed in this place… it’s our own fault. [This place has closed and the hotel has changed hands.]

Blue Tree Hotel - chicken cordon bleu

We even had yet another opportunity, when we opened the menus, to find that the selection of food consisted of “continental dining” from, as Craig Claiborne once put it, “a continent yet to be determined.” And we stayed… whereupon we were subjected to a couple of bowls of soup, roughly the consistency and flavor of dishwater – one a squash soup, the other a vegetable soup – the only difference between them a faint yellowish color to the former. Each was accompanied by a small toast schmeared with blue cheese, which had no particular business being there, certainly not being of any use to the soups… and the plates decorated with zigzags of some sort of unidentified brown sauce…under the soup bowls…

For no apparent reason, we moved on to our main courses… oh, yes, in a moment of insanity we’d actually ordered plates of grilled salmon with peach sauce and a chicken cordon bleu, the former cooked to just bordering on the consistency of a sponge and its only flavor, as best my friend was able to determine, coming from the peaches, accompanied by a bit of woody broccoli and little else; the latter easily usable as drywall, and encased in a durable crust that I wasn’t actually able to cut with a steak knife, nor chew with my molars, and I’ve got good teeth – stuffed with poor quality ham and cheese that most neighborhood sandwich shops would have rejected, and also accompanied by a stack of semi-raw potatoes and a dish of icy cold marinated red peppers.

We apparently did regain our senses sufficiently to not order dessert, despite the entreaties of the bartender – who had taken over serving our table, the young waitress who first served us apparently having decided that a disappearing act was her best recourse. Other than a single “lo siento” from her, no one else offered an apology, nor anything else… on the other hand, I’m not clear whether they owed us one for the water bath or what they’re passing off as food…

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