As much as we say we go to restaurants for the food, the Accidental Locavore doesn't think that's the entire story. While I've always said you can't eat the dￃﾩcor, there are things besides the cooking that make or break an evening. We always think that food is the most important, but how you are treated, before, during and after you eat that food, plays a huge role in how the meal is enjoyed.
Case in point: Maison, a French bistro in Midtown. It's the kind of place you know you can always go and get an enjoyable meal. My husband became a regular there because they made a great latte. That, a really good omelet and a daily "bonjour" made him a regular. Now he knows most of the staff and is good friends with Alex and Rￃﾩmy, the managers. When either of us, or our friends, come in we're warmly welcomed and well fed. Recently, Rￃﾩmy went way out of his way to give me the perfect Valentine's day gift for Frank which will help him realize a long-term goal (since Valentine's Day isn't till Thursday, I can't divulge the secret, but if you ask in the comments, I will then). So a warm welcome, good food and feeling like you're eating with friends will always be my first choice for dining out.
Contrast that to a recent dinner at Aureole, where we went with a friend during Restaurant Week. The section of the restaurant that was devoted to the Restaurant Week customers had a decibel level similar to the subway as trains race by. My husband threw (financial) caution to the wind and asked to be seated in the regular dining room. There it's still a three course prix-fixe, but at close to three times the price.
Since this is more about service and experience than food, let me just say that the food was good, but it wasn't $89-a-person-spectacular. The surprise that night was that the level of service was just awful! When we sat down, we were handed dessert menus. I have to give the captain credit, he must have trained in Paris; I haven't been that studiously avoided since my student days hanging out in the cafￃﾩs there. Catching his eye didn't work, so I had to ask him to come over. He did so reluctantly and replaced the menus, without apologizing for the mistake. Later, when my water glass remained totally empty for so long it started to dry out, he once again had to be asked for water (mostly because trying to flag down two bus boys and our waiter didn't have any results). In a restaurant where the average check is well over a hundred dollars a person, that's inexcusable!
So let me think for a nano-second. Where am I going to go when I want to eat well in a welcoming ambiance? Maison, mais oui!
The photo of Maison is from their website-thanks once again!