If you travel a lot, are a foodie and do it enough, you start to have standards about what is outstanding, what is mediocre and what is half way in between and…with a whole lotta practice, you know within the first five minutes of walking into a venue.
I’ve been to Austin’s Four Seasons a number of times since many VCs and other higher end brands have had gatherings there as part of SXSW in March. The lobby area has terrific ambiance and the overall lobby-level space has great flow throughout. This past trip was the first time I had an opportunity to dine at Four Season’s restaurant Trio, which sadly, was a disappointment.
To be fair, we made a reservation and didn’t stipulate outside seating which wouldn’t have been necessary if the inside seating ambiance wasn’t so ‘off’. They had to seat six of us, so it wasn’t a four or top top understandably, but after letting them know how unhappy I was with the ambiance, and begging for outside seating (not always doable with reservations – I get that), they didn’t go out of their way to accommodate us or move us to a better location than where they seated us, which btw, was immediately on top of the napkin and glass station and the outside door on the other end.
Tucked in a corner, in fact, the only thing you could see was the glass station. For an establishment like the Four Seasons, I would have expected a l’il creativity – even Olive Garden would have stepped up to the plate on this one. Find a healthy four top and put two chairs on each side in a better location OR offer a few free appetizers because their “customers” weren’t happy with the location. Something. Customer Service and PR 101.
I even mentioned that I write about food at one point but btw, this was done for no reason other than to make a point: your dining experience is not just about the food, it’s about the service and the ambiance which I mentioned as the “holistic” picture I look at when deciding on a dining or travel experience.
Our waiter was “friendly” enough so it’s not as if he didn’t have manners, skill, a pleasant disposition or even knowledge of the menu, so in other words – he was restaurant-trained. That said, he was unaware of ‘needs’ which came up on more than a couple of occasions. Even my colleague across the table from me who isn’t nit picky about things like I am at restaurants felt ‘unheard.”
As for the wine, above average. The desserts, above average. The food for the most part was above average but it wasn’t consistent. For example, for a Four Seasons restaurant, they could have done a better presentation job with a plate of oysters and shrimp.
The “cowgirl” ribeyes were a wopping $44 (remember this is Austin), but the Rack of Lamb (rosemary, garlic and housemade mustard) and dew berry chicken were both well presented and incredibly delicious. ($34 and $27 respectfully).
Also good were the portabella mushrooms and the tuna, good, even better than good, but not outstanding.
The real disappointment outside of the “unaware” service was a simple side dish: asparagus topped with an egg. When I ordered it, I asked about the amount of butter or oil used and asked for it on the side or if they couldn’t do that, VERY VERY light, emphasizing this about as much as one would think they’d need to in a restaurant of this callibre. (twice with a raised voice for emphasis).
Back it came drenched in oil, so much so that after a bite, I had to send it back. When it came back, I couldn’t tell the difference…I’m convinced they used the same asparagus and just tried to soak up some of the oil with a paper towel because the asparagus was so soft and moist with oil that it couldn’t have been a new batch. Either that, or he didn’t get the memo for the second time. Quite honestly, it felt like a dish you’d get a greasy spoon diner than than a top notch restaurant and certainly didn’t mirror their main course quality.
This goes back to being unaware and not really paying attention to what customer’s need or anticipating those needs, which again, is something top notch training and of course experience gives you.
Note that the quality of the photos are not great because it was dimly lit and they were taken on my iPhone.