Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"This place is the reason I created a Yelp account"

OK, I didn't create a Yelp account...in part because I have this here blog and in part because I worry that I'll become this. But reviewer Katie K. over there and I, we're on the same damn page about Art and Soul, because god knows I want to shout from every medium available, "don't fucking bother." I generally should have paid more attention to the Yelp reviews (the people who give it any more than 2 stars are just charmed by the celebrity chef rep and nouveau riche atmosphere) but alas, I was excited by the reviews when the restaurant first opened, bolstered by Art Smith's appearance on Top Chef Masters and sold when the restaurant appeared on an otherwise anemic list of restaurants for Restaurant Week.

First, I'd like to mention that I'm f'ing sick of restaurants that are a cutesy play on the chef's name or that are named the street number of their address. It's narcissistic and it's been done. I'm over it.

But Art and Soul's greatest offense is being a hotel restaurant. A "hotel restaurant" is not to be confused with a restaurant located in a hotel. DC, in all of its expense account loving splendor, actually has an odd tendancy to place great restaurants in hotels: Blue Duck Tavern in the Hyatt, West End Bistro in the Ritz, Urbana in the Palomar. In contrast, a hotel restaurant has fine food, but not great. It over promises, it under delivers, and it's offensively over priced. All of these things are true of Art and Soul.

If I describe each course, this post will approach the length of the Comcast post, and nothing in this world deserves as much vitriol as Comcast. Suffice it to say that the courses weren't particularly flavorful, they weren't particularly well presented and they certainly weren't particularly southern. (If you're looking for good modern southern in DC, go for Vidalia or Acadiana, I beg of you.)

I will, however, discuss the service and the company...and why I will never stay at the Liaison Hotel either. The crowd looked like an Ed Hardy convention had taken an entire sex workers conference to dinner. I can't believe my boyfriend and I had actually considered whether we were under-dressed. I overheard conversations so vapid that I've blocked them out due to emotional distress. And all of these losers crowding the bar somehow slowed down all of the service. I mean really, is there any excuse for waiting 20 minutes for a dessert menu? There's sure not.

I think my cocktail was the quintessential experience of the night, at least where food was concerned. I took a look at their specialty cocktail menu, which all sounded incredibly sweet. I often like one sweet cocktail at the beginning or end of the meal and I thought "what the hell?" and ordered a blackberry mojito. When the drink arrived 25 minutes later, it was actually surprisingly good--they'd replaced the sugar with the blackberries. I mentioned to the waiter that the drink was very good--that it could easily have been too sweet, but was not. He had strangely little reaction. I ordered another as I was finishing my appetizer. It arrived as I was finishing my entree, and it was like drinking corn syrup. Apparently the bartender had left out the sugar on the first drink. Boyfriend believes the waiter thinks I may be a honeybee.

After I had to pour table water into my cocktail in order to choke it down, we decided that the meal was over. Boyfriend flagged down our waiter for the check and I went to the ladies room, which was also the hotel lobby ladies room. There, I found three chicks standing in front of the sinks, checking themselves in the mirror and plotting how to get on The Real World (here's a tip, they're done filming in DC) and what appeared to be full stalls except the handicapped stall. I pulled on the handle to the stall and, score!, it opens...or so I thought. Upon opening the door I found some chick, bare ass in the air, clearly drunk, "squatting" over the toilet. I immediately apologized, but she had no reaction. I don't think it was the first time a stranger had seen her bare ass hoisted in the air.

Another stall emptied, I stepped in, peed, came out and the same chicks were still blocking the sinks. When an "excuse me" prompted no movement on their part and I realized they were trashed, I decided it was better not to argue, but rather to wait. While waiting, two other drunk chicks stumble in. One goes into a stall, while the other Rachel Zoe-looking one looked around confused. I gestured at the now empty stalll I'd exited, where upon she informed me that she didn't need to pee and that my dress was cute. I thanked her. But then she continued "You just need some really big earings...and a really big necklace...and oh, girl, some heels!"

I was wearing a large cocktail ring, which, for those that don't know my jewelry habits, is about as much as I'm willing to wear. And heels I love, but they're special occassion shoes to me--retipping my Stuart Weitzmans is a pain in the ass. If I were going out dancing, I would have been in heels. As I'm considering all of these things and trying to find an appropriate reaction, the chicks at the sink move and I'm finally able to wash my hands.

I move to the sink and Zoe follows me. She continues, "You have this perfect little body," and proceeds to place her hands on the sides of my breasts "like this," moves her hands to my waist "this," and finished on my hips "and these." At this point I must have registered horror on my face because she says to me, "Honey, I'm a mother of three--all girls, no boys--I'm not hitting on you, I'm just saying, you should wear tighter clothes and more jewelry and men would love you!" The seventh grader in me wanted to tell her that my very attractive boyfriend was waiting for me back at my table. The rest of me wanted to call child protective services.

When I got back to the table, the check had finally come, but the waiter hadn't taken our credit cards yet.

Thank god Bistro Bis is around the corner and the bartender makes a fabulous extra dirty martini. Try the coconut sorbet.


  1. I think your first clue should have been Restaurant Week, if it's on the list, "don't bother" has been my motto for a few years now.

  2. I see the RW point--the urge to avoid f00bs (that's food n00bs, it's my new slang, pass it on) and the annoyance at the limited menu. And this year's list was pretty lame, as opposed to years past when places like Pesce participated.

    All that said, I feel like there are a few gems on the Restaurant Week list. For my money, Dino is the best value in town, but they kick it up even a little more for a very extended RW each year. And Vidalia almost always does something nice--they offer most of the menu and last year they offered extra courses. I would say RW is a neon warning sign, but not a big, red "DO NOT ENTER."