Conflict Resolution at Vidalia

Prior to the commencement of Restaurant Week, I published my own Top Ten Restaurant Week picks which was based on the restaurant’s overall reputation, history of quality of food, prix fixe menu offerings, or based on my own past restaurant week experiences. Vidalia was my #1 pick due to several important factors. The restaurant has a superior reputation, including having excellent quality of food, housing James Beard Award winning chefs Jeffrey Buben and R.J. Cooper, and in February I went to lunch at Vidalia for restaurant week and had a very memorable experience ever. Since Vidalia was my top choice, I decided to dine there again during their summer promotion.

This year I decided to try Vidalia for dinner instead of lunch; however, unlike my last Restaurant Week experience at Vidalia, the most memorable part of the evening was not the food. The most notable part of my evening, unfortunately was the restaurant management’s response to my compliant about the very loud obnoxious table seated adjacent to us. Our party was seated in a small intimate alcove of the dining room alongside of the bar area, which had just four tables of four. The table next to us was being so loud that my friends and I couldn’t hear each other or the waiter when the waiter came over to take our order. After several minutes of being frustrated of not being able to hear myself think, I went over to the hostess stand to plead with them for help. I very politely explained to the hostess and the manager on duty about how loud the next table over was being and asked if he would please ask them to use their “inside voices”. The manager immediately suggested that we move to another table available. Once we were at our new table, we were very happy. There were three times as many tables in this seating area of the restaurant, yet it was much more quiet. I actually preferred the new waiter also. He seemed more refined and more polite. While we were eating, the manager returned to our table and told us that he asked the table to keep their voices down and then subsequently moved them to the bar. I was thoroughly amused.

Of course, I had reviewed Vidalia’s Restaurant Week menu beforehand. They offered two options, the usual three course tasting menu for $35.09 or a five course tasting menu for $45.09; however in order to partake of the five course menu, the entire table has to participate. Upon arriving to the restaurant and viewing their menu, there were a few changes to the menu. For example, there was a lobster course added for a $10 up-charge that wasn’t on the published menu and the menu specified the evenings steak as a New York Strip which was an additional $12 surcharge. Each person in my party ordered the three course tasting menu. When our first courses arrive, the servers apologized for having to ask who ordered what dish. Since we moved tables, they weren’t able to know which dish was ordered by whom. I ordered the Rabbit Mortadella with red mustard greens, spiced pecans, rabbit bacon, in a truffle-honey vinaigrette. I should have spent more time preparing and researching the menu options, because I was very disappointed. If I had done my due diligence beforehand, I would have learned that Mortadella gets its name from a Roman sausage flavored with myrtle in place of pepper and originates in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna. Mortadella is basically an Italian cold cut.

A friend ordered the Sweet Garlic Velouté with battered Florida frog legs, parsley emulsion, and preserved meyer lemon. I can’t recall if I have ever had frog legs before. Evidently, the velouté sauce was named one of the four “mother sauces” by Antonin Carême in the 19th century. In preparing a traditional velouté sauce, a light stock, such as chicken, is thickened with a blond roux. Ingredients of a velouté are equal parts of butter and flour to form the roux, the light stock, and salt and pepper for seasoning. Commonly the sauce produced will be referred to by the type of stock used, in this case, sweet garlic. Not to sound cliche-ish, but the frog’s legs mild flavor and texture did very much resemble chicken. It was interesting and surprisingly tasted pretty good. I am glad that I got the opportunity to try them, but pardon the pun, I was too chicken to order it myself. 

The Grilled Octopus with avocado, red rubin, heirloom cherry tomatoes, smoked chili vinaigrette seemed tough to me. Perhaps, that is just the texture of octopus. I’m not an expert on octopus. I had octopus for the first time at Ardeo just last month.  The grilled octopus did not seem much different to me. I don’t really like octopus, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t like this. I don’t think it matters how it is prepared, I don’t find it very flavorful.

For the main course, I ordered one of their signature dishes, the Shrimp and Grits which I had once before in February during the winter Restaurant Week. Compared to last winter, the Shrimp and Grits this time around was far less memorable. The grits are smooth, not firm or course, which is a texture that I prefer. The Shrimp and Grits are significantly more flavorful than Columbia Firehouse’s version; however, unfortunately the portion size is almost identical. I was disappointed overall, but I take part of the responsibility; perhaps I made poor course selections. My friend Olga Berman, who is also a fellow writer for Examiner.com said that she was disappointed also and she ordered completely different dishes than I.

There is one course that made everyone happy all around – Dessert! For the third course, each of us ordered something different, so I was able to sample almost all of the dessert offerings. I ordered the Peanut Butter Crunch Bar. It was very rich and couldn’t finish it all but it was delicious. I didn’t really like the caramelized banana compote on top but I can see how the flavors could compliment each other. I also tried the Lemon Chess Square which is a vibrant gorgeous spring yellow lemon custard, with berry compote, and sweet cream. I love lemon but I don’t think I could eat more than just a few bites – it’s just too tart. The Georgia Pecan Bar was probably my favorite of the desserts. I didn’t order it as my own because I had it last time I was at Vidalia. It’s decadent with the deliciously sweet bourbon caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Overall, I think that it was still a good experience. I tried some new things, like the frogs legs and re-visited some memorable dishes, like the Shrimp and Grits. It was soured because we had to deal with the noisy table, but that isn’t technically Vidalia’s fault. I was pleased with how they handled the situation and that counts just as much as the food. Next year, I probably won’t have it as my #1 pick, but it will still make the top ten.

 For more info: Vidalia is extending their Restaurant Week promotion one week until September 5, 2009. For their Restaurant Week Menu, see here.

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