Short review: Formerly great restaurant has sharply cut the quality in the food and service of this once great restaurant and icon of downtown Walla Walla. The chef/owner is too cocky to listen to feedback. Don't risk a $150 tab (for 2) when you have so many other great options in Walla Walla.
I've been eating at Whitehouse Crawford for more than six years and always made it a part of my visit to Walla Walla. With a well-appointed dining room with an open kitchen, this restaurant had a great energy, superb location and the culinary chops to delight the most picky eaters from San Francisco to Manhattan.
But things are different now. Visiting Walla Walla more regularly as my intensity in my passion for great wine has increased, I’ve had a harder and harder time getting friends to join me for dinner at WC. And with my last visit, I think I know why. The chef/owner has lost his touch, and my guess is because he’s suffering the same self-defeat that other artistic super-ego’s suffer.
I usually order the demi-glace Wagyu tenderloin that’s been on the menu for years, but it’s been downgraded to just an “ordinary tenderloin” – no more Wagu. Why? A “cut back”– is all I can think of. So I decided to go with the burger – which was also previously a high quality Wagyu beef with thick cut, high quality bacon, heirloom tomato – just delicious. I didn’t even check to see if this had changed and just ordered it. What arrived was a very plain, basic burger – with cheese, and some fries. No tomato. No vegetable. No bacon. Nothing to even complement the fries. This burger would have offended a McDonald’s drive through customer, for 1/8th the price. I ordered a side of bacon and asked for some aioli to dip the fries in. 10 minutes later, I had about 1 oz of dipping sauce and bacon to add to my cold burger.
Next up – the warm spinach salad with smoked trout. This salad has been a fixture on the menu for 5 years or more. Traditionally delicious – and something I look forward to eating every time I visit. I’ve come to love the creamy, soft smoked trout and bacon that is perfectly tossed into warm, still crisp spinach. This time, what came out was barely edible – the spinach was about half the volume and the trout was like hard, jerky, that was difficult to chew through. Imagine a nice spinach salad with gas station quality jerky spread across the plate.
Finally, my date ordered the Sage Pappardelle pasta. This was also, unfortunately another disappointment. The pasta itself was actually nice, as one component. But it was lacking sauce, was under seasoned, and just completely underwhelming. Even the parmesan was sparse and the attention to the dish was just saddening. We just looked at it like “what is this?” If you Google “Pappardelle pasta” and click “images”, you’ll see pages of beautiful pasta dishes, any of which this dish envies to be.
The kitchen has clearly slipped. How about the front of house? Well, let’s review. I made my reservation using Open Table thinking everything was ready to go, as it always is. Not the case. I get a call from their staff requiring me to provide a credit card to secure my table because of the anticipated busy weekend (fall wine-release weekend). While I understand the thinking, I have never seen a high end restaurant require a credit card. This is tacky. Businesses that do not trust their customers end up losing the trust of their customers. Any restaurant worth their salt has no problem filling no-shows with waitlisted customers on busy weekends.
After all of this, I decided to give some feedback to the manager. I really was sad that one of my favorite Walla Walla restaurants was having such trouble. I believe that in order for an establishment to get better, the problems need to be brought to the attention of the management, if not the ownership. I settled my tab and asked to speak with a manager. About 10 minutes later I finally was approached by the owner. I started by explaining that I have been a long time loyal customer and loved the food over the years. I began to start explaining the issue with my meal and I got about 5 words out of my mouth before he interrupted and said, I’m going to stop you right there. I said, “please, just let me finish the one point”… his next response was to turn his back and walk away. Even his manager, standing next to him rolled her eyes (at him) in embarrassment. I just gave this jerk my money, and now I’m trying to help him fix some problems, and this is how he treats his customers?
It’s not the place it used to be. And if it stays on this course, it will be gone. There are too many great restaurants in Walla Walla, now, to tolerate poor quality food, service and customer disrespect.
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