Monday, August 4, 2014

Bistro at the Square

48 Jefferson Square
DeSoto, Mo.

Wow, I'm struggling mightily with this one.
Angel said she wanted something 'fancy'. We're not fancy people. For us, 'fancy' means tablecloths, folded linen napkins and a flower on the table. That's what the Bistro offers.We'd been there before, never had anything really negative to say about it, the food was pretty good.
However, sometimes the planet spins out of control, as the great scientist Dr. Peter Venkman*, once described it: "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"
It all started out so nicely, I remember it . . . like it was just. . . a couple of hours ago. . .  (Strokes chin, glances wistfully toward brain)
The Place:
It is located in a small-mall, Jefferson Square.There's not a lot of shopping at Jefferson Square. It's attached to a hotel though, sort of a built in clientele. The non smoking section is essentially in the hallway. It is a bit upscale though, nicely finished, high ceilings, tasteful and classy tables and chairs. Linen tablecloths.
There was one other gentleman in the hallway seating area, several, maybe ten inside the smoky bar area.
We were met by 'Server'  (No real names, I'm even going to mask and confuse gender/age range. You already know what that means.)
Server told us to sit where we liked, Angel found us a table in the back. Server passed out menus and asked about drinks. Tea, tea, Coke.
Someone turned some music on, not the cheap boombox/stereo they had last time, but the sophisticated electronics assemblage at the mini stage the live musician was to perform on. That familiar name again, David Blum. I've been to several places that he was scheduled to perform, we've just never been there late enough to actually hear him.
Through his five figure system came music, country music. It was going to be a long night. I decided what I wanted, not steak. I always get steak at the Bistro and it is always good, time to mix it up a little. Server showed up with our drinks, I could tell the tea was not especially fresh just looking at the tumbler, cloudy.
Server asked if we were ready to order, yes, yes we were. So we did.
The Food:
Me: Catfish Filet served with slaw, dinner roll and a potato side. I asked about the 'Cowboy Potatoes' Server described them, I accepted.
Angel: She asked about the night's specials. Server had to run back to the signboard at the host station to see what they were. "I just started my shift." Server said and then rattled them off, barbecue pork chops or Seafood Pasta. Angel decided on the Seafood Pasta.... I'll repeat that, the Seafood Pasta. It came with a salad.
Adam surprised us by ordering roast beef and green beans. Kind of an interesting choice for a kid, but he had been working at a pizza joint all day. Maybe a traditional, homestyle meal was exactly what he was craving.
Server took off. We sipped our drinks, downloaded some apps, they had solid, five-bar WiFi. I tried not to listen to the music.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Reba McIntire
Then some songs, more recent ones I assume, with ridiculous lyrics and questionable morals and absolute, rampaging sexism. I looked one of the songs up on the Google because it was so insulting and crass. Adam saw me using old fashioned search engine technology and wowed us by opening up an app on his cellular phone that listened to a few bars of music then told you who/what it was. I was impressed. Perhaps if I listened to music I would have known about such apps, but I didn't. He mentioned the name of one of the better apps for doing that. I downloaded it.(Shazam) Awesome!
The one I was looking up was 'Big Green Tractor'  performed by Jason Aldean. I don't know who that is. However I'm certain growing up in urban Macon Georgia and attending a private school (Windsor Academy) certainly prepared him for a life of asking girls to ride his big green tractor, unless that's a euphemism.
This was followed by 'The Ride' by David Alan Coe. A silly song about a paranormal experience with Hank Williams. I suppose after all those years in prison can make you a little delusional. ". . .can you bend those gee-tar strangs?"
Then it got worse.
"Tequila Makes her Clothes Fall Off."
It's everything you imagine, and worse.
This intellectual insult and degrading ode to ignorance and sexism was, oddly enough, followed by "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson. I know my Springfield Mo., friends are probably big fans of Gretchen who made her bones singing there, but really. . .  can't we try to do better?
Then a surpising thing happened, the music stopped. I looked and David Blum was tuning and checking his instruments. An acoustic guitar, a hollow body electric and a two tier keyboard with a magic music box (drum/beat box) plugged into it. Was it possible? Were we actually going to hear David perform?
Hold it, what about the food?
I'm glad you asked. The reason I just wrote about all the songs we were forced to listen to was to make a point. During that entire time, there was no service, except for the delivery of Angel's salad. No drink refills, no followup checks, nothing.
I didn't watch the clock, but it was  taking a long time. I checked the time stamps on my photos later. Between the photo of the menu and the first photo of an entree, forty five minutes had passed. Angel's salad was delivered pretty promptly, eaten, finished and plate taken away early during that span.
The salad itself bode well for us. "The best salad I've had in a long time!" She said. Real bacon and lots of it. I tasted it. Yeah it was good. No entrees yet, but David took the stage. I knew this could go either way.
Then he knocked my socks off. He opened with a cover of 'Black Magic Woman" an old Santana hit. David did an amazing job. I was very impressed. Things were looking up.
Catfish, Cowboy potatoes.
Somewhere during his third song, the food finally arrived. My catfish, Adam's roast beef and Angel's Pork Chops. . .
Were you paying attention?
She didn't order the pork chop special, she ordered the seafood pasta special. Server was confused. My hope was that Server had picked up the wrong plate and could just go back to the line and pick up the correct one and we could dig in.
Well, that didn't happen. A couple of minutes later I saw server sitting at a table talking to another crew member. They talked for several minutes. Adam started picking at his plate, feeling awkward about eating before everyone got their meal. We raised him right. I waited, picked at one off the potatoes. Cowboy potatoes are thick sliced and fried, with onions. These were pretty good.
"You can go ahead and eat." Angel told us.
"No, no I can't." I replied. "No tartar sauce, no slaw and no roll." I added.
"Oh my." She responded.
At least ten minutes went by before Server came by saying, "Your dinner will be ready shortly. My fault, I ordered up the wrong special."
There, that's better.
"Excuse me, but I'm still waiting for my slaw, tartar sauce and roll." I scolded, that's what It sounded like, a scolding.
"Oh yes, I'm sorry."
Server scurried off and came back rather quickly, carrying the goods.
Server looked down at our empty glasses and finally asked if we'd like a refill.
From the time the meals were mis-delivered, to Angel's pasta finally showing up, fifteen minutes. Not a huge amount of time, unless you are watching your own food cool down.
My fish was pretty good. Fans will recall that I tried to order catfish the past weekend. I was in the mood for some fried, bottom feeding, river fish and this was certainly satisfactory. Crunchy, flaky, not over spiced. Adam said his food was pretty good, he ate it all.
Angel had a problem. Or two.
The toast, thick and butter-grilled was flaccid and over-buttered. I tried a piece, she wasn't kidding. It was like the bread soaked up a bunch of butter instead of just caramelizing on the outside. Like they put it on a grill that wasn't quite up to temperature. The inside was mushy, greasy.
Then there was the pasta. It looked good, it had lots of little shrimps in it.
Prepared sea creatures don't stand a chance around Angel, she will eat them all, even if she doesn't eat all the pasta they are delivered in. About halfway through though, still hosting a dozen or more small shrimp, she pushed the plate away.
"It's too salty." she said.
"That's my line." I replied.
"Try it." She challenged.
I did, she was right. This night was just not going to be any fun to write about.
At some point a more senior looking person came to our table and apologized. Nothing fancy, no overeager offer to comp part of the check or give us a coupon, I wasn't looking for that, but it was a rather weak and obligatory effort.
Server delivered the check.
Server didn't get a tip.
David did. I slipped a ten spot into his tip jar on the way out. He was the star of the evening, he wasn't forgetting songs, playing the wrong instrument. He had his head in the game. Server didn't.
I really struggled with this write up. I don't like to pen bad things about locally owned and operated eateries, I really don't.
I was especially troubled by the fact that I knew they could do better.
However, let me be very clear. Server's head just wasn't in the game. I get that, it happens. It happens to me occasionally. Something usually comes along and snaps me out of it though, or I get yelled at. That'll do it too. I'm pretty sure server got a stern talking to. As far as I'm concerned, that should do it. Oh, and the no tip thing.
Maybe server was just having a bad day. Sure there were multiple infractions, everything took too long, two out of three meals were botched. But that's all perfectly fixable. No heads need to roll, no executions or public floggings required. It was a badly botched service. Get over it, get your cart back on the tracks, and move on.
The food, specifically the pasta dish, was a disappointment. Maybe rushed because of the service error, I don't know, but this is not what we've come to expect from this normally fine place.
As far as recommendations go, sure I can do that!
Go see David Blum wherever he might be performing. He did another Santana cover, 'Evil Ways', which he also knocked out of the park, and did it again with 'Ain't no Sunshine.' Truly amazing!
He also did some more country/rockabilly stuff, and he was quite good. But you already know my opinion of that sort of music.
Seriously, I was going to tip him even if the service was good. I don't usually tip musicians, because I so rarely see them perform, but this guy was worth every nickel.
Sure, we'll be back to the Bistro, for now, we're just going to chalk this fiasco up as a fluke.

*"Ghostbusters" reference.

Bistro At The Square on Urbanspoon

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