The Cellar used to my my mom and dad's favorite restaurant for special occasions. I had never been there before, but as this was a special birthday for my dad, a group of eight of us went there for dinner.
We had a lovely time, but that was due to the group and occasion. The restaurant itself was disappointing on many levels. They have a lot of work to do to justify their status and prices.
Arriving there can be a challenge as the restaurant is inside the courtyard of a building and down the stairs. Once inside the courtyard, we joined the several groups of dinners searching for the entrance way.
Once there, we were seated promptly and courteously. We needed access to an elevator and they provided that graciously (in the back for deliveries, takes you through the kitchen).
We ordered drinks and then dinner. As there were a variety of tastes at the table, for dinner drinks, several of us ordered wines by the glass. These wines had a very high mark-up for their quality ($12-$15/glass for a wine that retails at $15 bottle), and these wines were uniformly disappointing. I expect that if the restaurant is choosing a limited selection of wines by the glass, they will choose good ones, not just cost-efficient ones. The waiter graciously exchanged two of our wines (they were pretty awful), but the replacements weren't much better.
When ordering, several of us just want a main course (hoping to keep room for dessert). When we order our dish, the waiter immediately followed it with "would you like soup or salad with that?". This is phrasing that one uses in a restaurant where soup or salad is a included with the main. At the Cellar, the soups and salads are not include and quite pricey. This practice seemed somewhat pushy and maybe a bit misleading to me. I have never seen it done this way at a fine dining restaurant.
The bread was the first to arrive, and was shockingly mediocre. Top restaurants today are baking their own fine breads in great variety, or have access to a local first-class bakery. With the French influence on the Cellar, I expected top quality. The bread that we got was a plain white bread, sort of in a baguette form. The bread inside was of a dry, overly even texture and the crust soft and tasteless. If you went to Safeway or Albertsons and bought their store brand Italian loaf, you would get something similar.
Appetizers were uneven. Among our group, we ordered two different soups orders, and two different salads. The soup were held in high regard by everyone while the salads were uninspired.
I had salmon for my main and it was nicely cooked. However it was an average piece of farm-raised salmon (the mild taste and fattiness are a clear clue), not the quality of fish that I would expect for the establishment (and the price). The steaks were cooked to the proper temperature, but again the quality of the meat was supermarket at best. They were missing both the tenderness, marbling, and depth of taste that I would expect from a prime grade that should be standard in such a restaurant. My partner's steak was just bland.
For desserts, we ordered the soufflé, a house specialty. Again, when ordering, the waiter was overly pushy. They have two sizes and my partner and I wanted only a small dessert so decided to share the single size. The waiter objected saying how small it was, showing a quite tiny size with his hand. At this point, were were a little dubious, so stuck with our choice. It turned our to be completely reasonable size and definitely bigger than he gestured. It turned out to be a very mild taste with no clear chocolate punch. If you're a chocolate fan (as is my partner), you'll come away disappointed.
The rest of the dessert menu were easy way outs for the kitchen (clearly no pastry chef around) such as crème brûlée or mousse. Very old school and no flashes of creativity.
Overall, this restaurant is stuck in an earlier decade, needs to buy better product, and needs to take a lower key approach to the customer. There are so many creative new chefs committed to fine preparation and technique, and the best (and locally sourced) ingredients. The Cellar is due for a makeover.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.