Manhattan Fine Dining aspires to be a fine dining establishment. Perhaps in Lufkin, there is a different definition of fine. The food was unimpressive and the service uneven.
The restaurant is located in the basement of a downtown Lufkin office building. The entrance and elevator ride to the basement sets an expectation of Mad Men style ambiance, successfully created by the well-maintained vintage elevator and lobby. Being a fan of restoration rather than replacement, that ride was the highlight of the evening.
Our group had reservations. We were greeted and seated promptly at a table for six covered with a real white tablecloth. The lighting was low and comfortable, augmented by an aquarium of tropical fish. Our attentive waiter took the drink order and delivered a description of the specials of the evening. There was no beer listed on the menu, but they do have the standard big names. (I suggest they add some local micro brews. Texas has a few good ones.) I ordered a glass of house red; Cellar #8 Pinot Noir served in a heavy wine glass. I expected a finer goblet, but the wine was well rounded, mellow, satisfying and not expensive at $6.50.
The group ordered from the menu, main dishes running from around $12 to $24. We stuck to beef and chicken, although they had selection of veal and seafood. Everything comes with salad and breadsticks. The salad was an average lettuce mix with a savory sundried tomato house dressing. The breadstick were commercial and reaheated, the saving grace being the absence of foil wrapped butter. Real softened butter was served to the table on a small plate.The food was served, with two orders wrong. Potatoes and vegetables were served rather than the requested pasta with the chicken parmesan. A “grilled” prime rib with Oscar sauce was delivered rather than a plain grilled prime rib. The waiter apologized, and promised to make it right. After a few minutes, the owner also stopped by, and offered to make it right. He finally brought the pasta. They offered to comp the upgrade prime rib.
The Oscar sauce was what tasted like canned crab meat in a very bland grayish hollandaise sauce poured over the lightly grilled beef. The prime rib was raw inside and fatty, very tough to cut, practically inedible. This was not fine in any sense. After it was sent back, the replacement was not much better, smaller by half, and much too salty. One expects prime rib to be very beefy in flavor and reasonably tender even when rare. The idea of grilled prime rib is odd when it is actually prepared like steak. The beef is not roasted rare, but cooked like a steak. What is rare when roasted is raw when grilled.
The other dining companions found their meals to be adequate, not special. The service may have just been a bit of bad communication, but the food preparation seemed rushed and careless. The experience was disappointing, but there could be potential here. With some menu adjustments, reexamination of recipes and cooking techniques, this place could be a real find dining establishment.