Saturday, January 21, 2012

Restaurant Week SC - Dianne's on Devine

We've been celebrating Restaurant Week here in Columbia since January 12.  So far, I've hit up two different places, with a third on tap for tonight.  I'll be recapping everywhere I've been (obviously), but I wanted to start with last night's meal at Dianne's on Devine.  No pictures, since the lighting was rather dim, and I wasn't going to use an overly bright flash to get good quality shots.

I met A at Dianne's, where we were greeted by a few extremely personable staff members, including Dianne.  We were shown immediately to our table in the glassed-in porch area.  We were kind of tucked away in a corner, which is nice for bloggers who are trying to surreptitiously review food.  Our server came over almost right away, answered my questions about the restaurant week menu, and we ordered.  A really nice touch with Dianne's RW menu is the complimentary glass of wine.  We were offered a choice of style - Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, or Cabernet.  I'm a Cab girl, so that's what I went with, and A decided on the same.

Our appetizers arrived shortly after we ordered, and we dug in.  A started with the Lobster Ravioli, which consisted of three lobster-filled ravioli in a beurre blanc sauce and topped with more lobster.  It was rich, creamy, and flavorful.  The lobster on top was a little bit overcooked, but it hardly mattered.  I decided to try the Italian eggroll.  I wasn't sure what an Italian eggroll was, so I had asked beforehand.  It was Italian sausage, spinach, and cheese, stuffed in an eggroll and topped with marinara sauce and more cheese.  It was awesome.  It was also huge.  Normally, I don't consider that to be a problem, but I also tend to talk a lot, so it took me awhile to finish it, which led to the last few bites being cold.  Lesson learned: talk less, eat more.

Shortly after our appetizers were cleared, our entrees were served.  A elected to get the Bacon Wrapped Petit Filet Mignon.  He ordered it cooked medium, which is a little too done for my tastes, but he liked it, though I think he would have preferred it a little more medium rare and a little less medium.  It was served with mashed potatoes and pan-fried cauliflower in a beurre blanc sauce.  I tried some of the cauliflower and it was phenomenal.  It was still a little crunchy on the inside, which is how I like my veggies, plus it was impeccably seasoned.  Delicious.

I ordered the Grouper Da Vinci.  Again, I wasn't quite sure what the "Da Vinci" entailed, so I asked.  Turns out that it means pan-fried grouper served on a bed of spinach, with artichoke hearts and lump crab meat, in a beurre blanc sauce.  Um...Yes please.  I'm not a huge spinach eater.  I like it raw, but I find that it tends to be a bit over done when cooked.  This was the perfect balance.  The artichoke hearts were crunchy and added a nice salty flavor to the rest of the dish.  When I say it was topped with crab meat, I mean that there was almost as much crab as there was grouper.  I don't think I could have made a better decision for an entree.

For dessert, A and I both ordered the cheesecake.  It was served with strawberries and a strawberry syrup.  It also tasted like there were some citrus elements involved, but I'm not sure where exactly they were in the dish.  It was a nice way to close out the meal.  After we paid our bill, we weren't quite ready to head out, so we made our way to Dianne's bar, and had another drink.  It was a nice end to a pretty good evening.

There was just one issue.  When we were first seated, our server was very attentive, but shortly after he brought our entrees out, he seemed to forget we existed.  Which was especially problematic since he was fawning over the table of four next to us.  I had finished my glass of wine about halfway through my entree, and wanted to order another, but unfortunately, I couldn't get his attention.  When he finally did come back over (I had about three bites of my fish left), I asked him about a Cab/Merlot blend that I had seen on the wine list.  I couldn't remember the name of the vineyard, so I asked.  He rattled off a couple things and then said, "But I think what you've been drinking will be fine for you," in the sort of condescending tone that I only associate with my accounting professor from last semester.  I was a little stunned, so I just kind of nodded, and he walked away.  I looked at A, he looked at me, and we tried to dissect what had just happened.  We were both just shocked at how rude and condescending he had been.  I'm still not sure why.  I'm not a particularly demanding diner, nor did I do anything to offend him.  I don't know if he made some kind of assumption about me because I was ordering off the RW menu, or because I'm young, or hell, even because I'm female.  He was distant and almost surly for the (mercifully) short time we remained at our table.  It was almost like he didn't think A & I warranted his attention after the four older people sat down at the table next to us.  It offends me that someone dismissed me so out of hand.  And unfortunately, it ruined an otherwise wonderful dining experience.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but in comparison to everyone else on the staff who we encountered, our server, who started out polite and friendly, just fell flat. And at a restaurant of Dianne's caliber, I expect more.  The food was wonderful, the atmosphere was incredible (they even had live music), but I could have done without our server.  As good as the food was, this just ruined the whole experience for me.

Final Rating

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  1. NJ here!!!! Pssst, we are working on the date for pig-day 2.January 22, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Nope.....i have waited tables for years. I am sure that you can find tables that could tell you I was a dick to them, but what that waiter said to you is completely not cool. If i ran a place that person would be looking for a job.

  2. I agree that the food was good, but I'd have to drop Dianne's all the way down to 3 stars based entirely on our waiter. You are not overreacting. If anything, you are underreacting. As soon as we ordered off of the RW menu, our waiter’s tone shifted. I also think his nose elevated 15 degrees. It was as if we weren't worth his time. In his mind, we were the peasants who were using a coupon to see how the other half live. He added the automatic 18% gratuity, and wrote us off. Preferring to spend his time on the table of 4 next to us. He openly insulted you with his comment that the house wine “will be good enough for you.” Apparently ordering off the special menu indicates that we do not have a discerning taste for fine foods. And let’s not forget that he added an automatic 18% tip on a table of two. I’m an attorney, so I make my living reading the small print. Nothing on the RW menu indicated an automatic gratuity. I have also eaten at a lot of restaurants – a lot of nice restaurants. I have NEVER been charged an automatic gratuity on a 2 person meal. I think our waiter did it intentionally, assuming that he would not be well compensated for his minimal efforts. This was an astute read on his part. He would not have received a good tip. However, his tip would have reflected the quality of his service. Not the quality of the patron. Our waiter’s service was insulting, and I don’t know when (or IF) I will ever return to Dianne’s because of it.

    Here’s some free advice for the restaurant owners in South Carolina: The entire point of RW is to draw new customers through local restaurant doors. If your staff is not going to welcome these new customers like their favorite regulars, don’t bother participating in RW. You will only hurt your brand and drive off business. Dianne, you should probably explain this to our waiter. The rest of your staff understood this, and they were friendly and welcoming (your bartender, Shirley was particularly delightful).

  3. The food at Dianne's sounds wonderful. Too bad about the waiter. You should email Dianne. I'm sure she would want to know about your experience. Restaurant Week is a way for restaurants to bring in new customers. If the new customers are treated poorly, they will not (and should not) return.

  4. Yes, please call Dianne she will be here Tonight 1/24 after 5:50 p.m. and would very much like to talk with you about your experience. 254-3535. This is our Third Year participating in Restaurant Week and have found it a great way to have new people experience the restaurant for the 1st time, as well as established customers to take advantage of the special!

  5. I would really like to talk to Dianne, but I have an event from 5 - 8:30 tonight. Will she be in tomorrow evening, or should I just call after 8:30 tonight? Thanks! -Laura

  6. i have been at diannes every year for rest. week gratuity has been included is not the server they do that during rest. week most bloggers are very sensitive and tend to have negative reaction towards servers as people in a distinctive dialect when approaching a table. Especially in a place like Diannes. Even not in restaurant week, I have interacted with every single server at Diannes, every which one was handpicked by Dianne. Every single one has been professional and friendly.

  7. Like I said, everyone we encountered was wonderful. Even our server was at first. It was just about halfway through that he pulled a complete 180. The added gratuity wasn't that big a deal for me, though I am opposed to them in general, but I suspected it was a RW thing.

    As for being overly sensitive to servers, I don't think that expecting attentiveness is overly sensitive. I'd say that's pretty common. And since good service is a huge component of a diner's experience, I don't think it's asking too much for a server to be polite, friendly, and attentive.

    As it was, I spoke to Dianne this morning, and we talked through everything. Like 99% of everyone I encountered at her restaurant, she is extremely polite and friendly, and was exceptionally apologetic. I feel good about going to Dianne's again (and let's be dinner was so good that I'd be hard pressed to stay away from the food), especially knowing that the owner is so concerned about the dining experience.