Food’s fine and prices in line at eight new restaurants
If you go by the simple data on openings and closings, 2010 wasn’t bad. Slightly fewer restaurants debuted than in previous years, but there wasn’t as much of a drop as I expected in the sour business climate. But there was a change in the market. The year saw the closing of more expensive places such as Il Bocaccio, Upper Manhattan, Le Saint Raphael, and Café Catalina. The newcomers generally offered meals at modest prices.
There were exceptions, of course. Some owners obviously believe the economy will turn around soon and have planned for a return of the big spenders. As it happens, the two most expensive newcomers didn’t make my list of the best of the year, one on the basis of general inconsistency and the other because they offer mediocre food with a heaping portion of hip club attitude. Neither would have made the cut even if they charged half as much.
As always when I’m evaluating new businesses, I have to take into account that the employees haven’t had time to learn everything about their new job and their co-workers, so allowances are made for slight hiccups in service. I always wait at least a month before visiting to give restaurants time to work things out, but even so I’ve had some horrendous experiences. One waitress who was dealing with a stream of incorrect orders shared her low opinion of the chef with diners. At other establishments, servers seemed surprised by the idea that they should know something about the dishes on the menu, rather than merely taking orders. Standards of service in the South Bay are still below those of Los Angeles, and the places that have staff with a professional attitude are to be applauded.