I don't unusually partake in any of those Restaurant Week type promotions. Partly because it makes me feel like a scornful cheapskate coupon clipper, but mostly I'm just lazy. The one time we did it years back, we just ended up ordering off the regular menu anyway, the discount not making a major difference. Value is the thing, ideally you want restaurants with entrees that cost over $20 to make the $19.95 deal sweeter. (I'm still trying to figure out what Uncle Sams in Sunset Park is and how they could possibly serve three courses worth twenty bucks. Sunset Park kicks ass with Mexican and Vietnamese fare, but minus the White Castle, I'm scared of anything all-American in the neighborhood. )
I thought this would be a chance to finally try some of the new-ish acclaimed restaurants that kind of blur together in my mind with their New American flair. Applewood, Tempo, Stone Park Caf, Chestnut, all sort of wholesome and simple sounding, right? Wed actually eaten at Chestnut when it first opened, but I think there's a new chef, so thats on the list for later in the week. Stone Park was all expectedly annoying because theyve been talked up in the food press lately, that was a no go. All reviews of Applewood make mention of the owner toting around a toddler, and thats a deal breaker, kid-friendly makes me cringe. Tempo became our other reservation. Since we were looking at Friday and late in booking, are options were 6 or 10pm. I don't mind late night dining so we chose the latter.
I didnt anticipate the downside to this slot until later. It was crowded in the bar area when we arrived, not the best sign, but it wasn't as daunting as it first appeared. We ordered gin and tonics and barely got through a third of our cocktails before being seated. Luckily, we got the better spaced side room, and even though we were given a two-seater next to another table, they werent touching or close to touching like in the main dining space.
Unfortunately, we were seated next the couple giving me the heebie jeebies in the lobby. I know, I complain about the upscale bohemians in Brooklyn, but this girl was 180 degrees, young and well, kind of trashy and not in a refreshing way. Like she thought she was super sexy and all dolled up in short '90s body hugging dress, the guy seemed foreign and actually too handsome for the louche lady friend. They were kissing and groping at the bar and its not like I don't already get enough of this on the F train every day. I tried to ignore them, but its hard to when fingers are being licked and food being spooned into each others mouths. My favorite overheard line was "I want you to teach me about food." There's probably some other schooling shed benefit from first.
The P.D.A. twosome ordered right before us, the guy asked millions of questions, his way of showing off. I started getting antsy about the service, this couple was sucking all the waitstaff energy and we werent given a wine list like they were. So much time elapsed between when they ordered and when we did that their first course had already arrived by the time someone stopped at our table. I had wanted the duck pastilla roll as a starter, the same thing the gentleman next to me was tearing into. As an entre I chose the Moroccan spiced roast chicken with chickpea fries. Minutes later the waiter returned to inform me that they were out of duck. Really? Because the eurotrash next to me got the last of it?
I seriously almost lost my shit. It's one thing to blindly be told a restaurant has run out of something, but its pernicious when you can see it being devoured inches from your face, and by a diner already on your bad side. So yeah, I was irritated the rest of the meal. Dumb and petty as it is, not getting what I'd ordered when another did, struck a nerve, a nerve that happened to have a lot of alcohol swimming around it that evening. I became a little vocal and disdainful, it couldnt be helped. I wasn't mad at Tempo (the food was fine), I was incredibly pissed off at the couple having the fucking time of their life right next to us. They spoiled my meal.
This happened once before, and I wasn't the upset one, so don't brand me an isolated kook. A few years ago I took Jessica to Diner for her birthday and we wanted mussels and fries like usual, that was the deal. The table next to us full of fun loving oblivious Williamburg kids ordered the same thing right before we did. Guess who didnt get mussels and fries? It's the principle. And the context. Wed just been talking about getting older, late 20s, Jessica wondering if shed ever find anyone (she still hasnt, for the record). Meanwhile these yahoos were acting like NYC was one big juicy apple ripe for the picking. We both got ruffled, she started crying. Not getting what you want in life, even a stupid bowl of mussels, can have serious emotional repercussions.
I might return to Tempo, whos to say, but certainly not at 10pm and during prix fixe promotion. Discount dining brings out the riff raff and the worst in me.
Tempo * 256 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY