Not too long ago there was an article in the Douglasville paper about the local Red Lobster restaurant (hereafter RL), and how it's manager had received a prestigious award from the parent company, Darden Restaurants. I read the article with interest, as RL used to be one of our very favorite restaurants when we lived on the west side of St. Louis, in St. Charles county. The RL in St. Charles, MO, was, and perhaps still remains, the absolute BEST RL we have ever eaten at. It was amazing, and consistently so. I can truthfully say I never had a bad bite of food there. Their gumbo was to die for, and we would often go for just gumbo, a salad, and some of those awesome garlic cheese biscuits.
After moving to Long Island, NY, in 2010, we were at least 25 miles or more from the nearest RL, and only once did we visit that one. I remember it was a cold and blustery day, and we both thought a steaming hot bowl of gumbo would be SO good. So we stopped at the one in Smithtown and went in. When the waitress came to get our order we said gumbo. She said no. We don't have gumbo. WHAT??? No gumbo?!? Can't remember what we ordered, but it was mediocre at best, and that was the last time we went. RL is not the cheapest eats, and although I don't mind paying more for exceptional food, I don't like to pay that for mediocre.
Tonight, on our anniversary, we decided to pay a visit to the local RL, being fairly certain that we would get at least equal quality with the one in St. Charles....after all, this restaurant won an award, and the article didn't mention St. Charles, so, hey, this one may be even BETTER!!! Wrong assumption. What it turned out to be was, well, disappointing. And they don't have gumbo either. Maybe none of them do, and that's a loss.
First, the positives: I have never seen a cleaner, nicer, or more beautiful RL. It is huge, and it appeared to be spotless. The staff was very, very friendly, and our waitress couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. So kudos to D'Ville RL for that! However, as much as I really like spotlessly clean restaurants and very friendly staff, what I really go for is excellent food. I will forgive a lot of other things in exchange for fabulous food, and that is where the disappointment came in spades.
When our waitress came over to take our drink orders, she brought a basket with the garlic cheese biscuits--and my oh, my, they were fabulous! Piping hot, crusty and crunchy on the outside and soft as a pillow on the inside. Absolutely scrumptious. I thought, Yes! this RL is going to be like the one in St. Charles! But I'm here to tell you, folks, biscuits can be misleading: They were the best thing we ate.
After perusing the menu for awhile (after all, it had been a couple of years since we ate at a RL, and the menus do change), my husband decided on the 'Salmon New Orleans', and after seeing the picture of a delicious looking pumpkin layered dessert that comes in a mason jar, I made the decision to have a house salad and a bowl of some yummy looking "Lobster & Corn Chowder", after which I would try the dessert.
I asked our waitress to go ahead and bring my chowder when she brought the salads, as husband eats at lightening speed, and I eat slowly. I figured this way we'd finish up at about the same time. So she brought the chowder. It looked good, but the first thing I noticed was that there appeared to be one (1) very small chunk of lobster, and no more. There was even very little corn in there. But there were potatoes....LOTS and LOTS of chunks of potatoes. In essence, it was simply potato soup with one small chunk of lobster and a token bit of corn tossed in. I was not impressed. I don't like potato soup...never have. So, for me, this was going to be a trial to even eat. At first, I thought, well, I'll just eat around the potatoes...then, I realized that there was nothing else in there BUT potatoes! So I did something I very rarely do, I asked her to take it back. I then ordered a $25+ menu item: a platter that contained a rock lobster, one rack of snow crabs, and a dish of shrimp scampi--along with 2 sides.
Of course my husband's food arrived first, and it looked good. The salmon portion was much smaller than it used to be, but I guess that's inflation for you. It was probably a true 'portion' size, but we Americans have gotten so used to these gigantic portion sizes that we no longer recognize the real thing, but, I digress. His steamed veggies also looked good, and he had a Caesar salad. I did notice an odd thing: he used his knife to cut the salmon, which was certainly out of the ordinary, as salmon usually flakes off easily with a fork, but I got distracted and forgot to question him about it.
Before I proceed, let me put in a disclaimer: my husband eats nearly anything., good or bad. So just because he eats something has absolutely no bearing as to the culinary delight of such item. I, on the other hand, am a cook of Southern cuisine, and possibly one of the 'pickiest' people on the planet. Even so, I rarely send an item back. I just honestly rate them on Trip Advisor. I personally go to TripAdvisor to read everyone else's ratings of restaurants before I go to them, and I try to return the favor by reviewing each place we dine.
So, while I seldom send an item back, this time I did. Maybe because it was because the chowder wasn't just an appetizer. I had ordered it as my main entree, so I sent it back and I remarked truthfully that it probably should be called 'Potato Soup with lobster & corn", which would be a more correct name, that would make people to understand what it was and what it was not. I don't even remember potatoes mentioned in the chowder description, but I guess it could've been....I know I didn't read that!
Anyway, after she took the chowder back, I ordered a $25+ entree instead, consisting of a Rock Lobster tail, Shrimp Scampe, and a rack of snow crab legs. I also ordered a baked potato, as I remember the ones in MO were wonderful. This one tended to be very dry and the outside hard enough as to be inedible. The salad I already had (which was mediocre, at best, and not at all as I remembered a RL house salad) was my other 'side'.
It didn't take very long (even though husband was almost through with his) before mine arrived. It looked lovely, and the first bite was of the scampe...Mmmm, it was pretty good. Then I took the little lobster fork and started to tear off a piece of the rock lobster tail...and boy did that prove to be difficult. I was beginning to re-think the term 'rock' lobster, as It was tough. Very tough. In other words, it was so overcooked as to be rubbery and leathery. It had a lovely taste (what lobster doesn't???) but it was like chewing a rubber band. Bummer. I love lobster. Big Bummer. I hate paying for overcooked lobster. But, I'd already sent the chowder back, and I simply didn't want to seem like a whiner who couldn't be pleased, so I remained silent. After all, it wasn't HER fault, and the complaint would've have to fall on her.
The snow crab legs were delish, and steamed perfectly...but I had to ask for a crab cracker--which usually comes on the platter. And ask for the hand wipes...which usually come on the platter. Now, don't get me wrong. It isn't a 'problem' to have to ask for these things--and our waitress was so sweet and accommodating--but we really shouldn't have to. We were there around 4:30 or 5 p.m. and they were not very busy. Had it been during a busy period, things might have been different. She would've had to make 2 extra trips (which would not have been fair to her) and we would've had to have gotten her attention both times. While she didn't act annoyed in the least (although she may well have been annoyed at the cooks who didn't put them on the platter, and at the one who ladled up a bowl of chowder with one tiny token of lobster) it was something she felt she had to apologize for, which she did, but, she shouldn't have had to.
We decided to go ahead and try the dessert, and it was just okay. While the 'whipped cream' part was excellent, we both found the filling to be overly sweet and the pumpkin puree a tad bitter. The pecans on top were wonderful, though. So, while the dessert was not something I would ever order again, it wasn't 'bad', it just wasn't 'wonderful'. And I guess I was expecting 'wonderful'.
Now, as I stated, my husband will eat anything, and seldom complains about any food. This time, to my surprise (and without my asking), he said, 'well, I'll tell you one thing, my salmon was NOT good. It was 'blackened' all right....it was so tough I could barely cut it. I said, yes, I meant to ask you was it so tough that you had to use your knife? He said yes, it was terribly overcooked.
So, D'Ville Red Lobster, we really wanted to love you, but we were really very disappointed. We walked out paying a tab of over $60 (including a generous tip for a lovely waitress) and the sad part is that we were honestly wishing we'd just gone to Chik Fil A instead.
On the bright side, our little dog thought the rock lobster was fabulous :-)
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