We stayed at the Harborside Hilton in San Diego for a course and discovered that it was a part of a beautiful Convention Center development. There is a spacious promenade that includes three huge hotels, a high-end marina, a park for dogs, kids, and couples to frolic in, countless little shops, and dozens of places to eat. We picked Roy's Fusion Cuisine, a popular, fairly expensive chain restaurant.
When we made reservations earlier in the day, we asked for a window table and were told it wouldn't be a problem. I was prepared to sit at the bar and wait since it was peak dinner hour but we were whisked right to the best table in the place.
Many people like to sit outside since it is right on the harbor by a marina full of super expensive boats. But remember, friends, this is San Diego where a lovely cool breeze is required by law. Don't be too quick to pay so much money for a setting that will chill your food very efficiently. (although if you're into sushi, sashimi, and so on, go for it)
Ask for the window and wait for the one that sits just below the mezzanine rail. We tucked the table a little tighter into the window and had a setting with railings on two sides that gave us unobstructed elbow room and a lovely view.
Fusion Cuisine was a concept started in California decades ago by a hippie chick named Alice Waters out of Berkely. It was called California Cuisine back then and the focus is the best of organic produce and international cooking. Roy's is Hawaiian, Japanese, and West Coast American (among others).
They start everyone off with a plate of marinated Edemame and without looking or thinking, I popped a whole one into my mouth. It's the peas in the pod, not the pod you want. Look before you eat. I'm not a fan of foods that require a plate for the rejected elements so if I get pods, I want the kind that are chewed and swallowed. Still, the marinade (an Italian herbed flavor) was tasty as we wiggled the peas out of their serving containers but mangled garbage on a bread plate is not a pretty sight. Just saying...
Hubby and Son had wonderful dishes; seared scallops-truly sweet and tender, delicately seasoned and Thai flavor chicken breast with a wonderful creamy sauce. I ordered a dish advertised as a Roy's specialty; lobster pot pie.
For the price of these dishes and for the reputation of having great cuisine, I figured that they really must do something exceptional. What I got, well, it wasn't even good, never mind great.
A searing hot casserole carried on a plate lined with a heavy napkin made for audible bubbling. It was large and rectangular leading me to think that it might be far more than I could finish in one sitting. The topping was flaky puff pastry. I couldn't wait to dig in.
So you know where I'm going here. Upset expectations. I tried piercing the pastry on top but it turned out to be this huge one piece multilayered cardboard affair that was impervious to the tines of an ordinary fork.
I tried dismantling it by a knife and fork approach with a great deal of elbow grease into the mix... no good. I finally set the pastry off to the side and got down to eating the lobster filling. No good. No lobster in the filling.
At first I thought I must be missing the taste of lobster meat because the chunks that looked like meat were too hot to actually taste. I separated some likely looking lumps onto a bread plate and waited until it was a safe temperature. They turned out to be baby potatoes. That's what the whole dish turned out to be... vegetables in a vaguely seafood flavored casserole that had been cooked so long all the sauce had been absorbed by the potatoes creating a very dry and mushy dish.
There were peas and I think there were carrots also but they were so over cooked that they had turned into paste. It looked very much like the sort of dish you find at an all you can eat seafood buffet at the end of the night... where you dump it in the garbage and turn out the lights.
My table mates were nearly finished by the time I had realized mine was inedible. And if high calorie food isn't delicious, what's the point? So I summoned our waitress, a pleasant and efficient gal, and asked her to take it back.
I've been eating at high end restaurants for decades and I've had to send my share of unsatisfactory dishes back to the kitchen, so I know what can happen. At a dumb place it's returned and the end. At a smart place it's ALL HANDS ON DECK!
The look on her face almost made me want to grab the dish back and finish it prontissimo. She apologized again and again. She immediately offered to RUN back to the kitchen and get anything on the menu for a priority prep. Since I couldn't very well sit there eating my next entree while my son and husband stared into space, I politely refused and assured her that I appreciated her efforts to make amends. She also insisted that we order whatever we wanted for dessert on the house. OKAY! Good deal! Off went the offending dish to the garbage where it belonged.
But before she coud even get the dessert to the table, a young Hawaiian looking man in a tuxedo popped up at my elbow. I thought he would commit ritual hari kari right there. A thousand apologies... we feel awful... if there's anything we can do... He did say something I thought was quite interesting. "We HAVE to make this dish..."
And that's the difficulty of a chain restaurant. This is a beautiful place with efficient, motivated, knowledgeable people in a great location. But if the suits say cook this dish, they cook that dish. Corporate headquarters can be quite ignorant about the needs of individual locations and particular clientele. They don't WANT to do anything that jeopardizes success but they just can't see everything, everywhere.
And that's why we have Trip Advisor. Due Diligence, People! Roy's Fusion Cuisine Lobster Pot Pie... leave it in the pot.