Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Restaurant Review: Tuli Bistro (thumbs down)

Tuli Bistro (Wednesday 1/4/12 @ 7:30pm)
1 Star = Will not return & will actively encourage others not to go

We were seated promptly at a 2-top near the bar. Our main server, Claudia, took our drink order as we started to peruse the menu. Once our drink order was placed, however, the arrival of Mr. E's beer and my glass of wine was less than speedy. Strike one.

Claudia then took our food order and communicated my garlic/onion issues to the kitchen, which led to a brief negotiation about a substitution for the risotto but concluded with assurances that another satisfactory item could be used in the dish under the scallops. Then the wait began. I noticed that a couple at the end of the bar who had arrived after we placed our order received two dishes before any part of our order appeared. During this time, Claudia continually returned to chat with a trio of diners at the end of the bar near us, but she didn't actively check in with our table. I signaled her to inquire about the status of our order, and we heard her ask the chef for the ETA on our food, to which the chef replied, "I'm just about to fire it." Excuse me? You're just now about to prepare an order that was placed at least 20 minutes ago and well before that other couple arrived who are already enjoying their food? Strike two.

Despite the fact that we could hear this interaction, Claudia did not return to update us for a few minutes, at which time she assured us our order would be ready in 2-3 minutes. Mr. E set his watch. Almost 5 minutes later, my scallops arrived along with another plate from some other table's order - not the correct entree for Mr. E! Strike three.

Food Quality
When we did finally get our correct order, we enjoyed the small portions (not unexpected) on our plates. My original entree was supposed to be scallops over beet-infused risotto with beet greens, but apparently the base of the risotto contains some garlic. The substitution provided was sauteed spinach and yukon gold potatoes. Relatively tasty, but as Mr. E pointed out, not really much more than breakfast potatoes that you can find almost anywhere. Mr. E's steak was fine but nothing special.

Our total dinner with two drinks, two entrees, and tip was $70. That's the equivalent of about three orders from Ma Jong, most of which lead to leftovers for additional meals. I understand and appreciate that using local and seasonal foods can be more costly, and I'm willing to pay more to support this type of fare and establishment, but I want something special to result from the preparation and presentation. Tuli fell far short of this expectation.

As a sharp contrast, the previous weekend Mr. E had grilled some tri-tip for himself and some fresh scallops from Taylor's Market for me, and both items turned out beautifully. Cost of 4 scallops at Taylor's = $10. Cost of 3 scallops at Tuli's = $18. The scallops at Tuli truly weren't any better than what Mr. E had prepared, so what's the point of paying double?

Menu Options
Since I have some food allergies and limitations, two important factors for me when rating a restaurant are the variety of options available to me on the menu and how flexible the kitchen is about making accommodations. I was very excited about Tuli initially since a note at the bottom of the menu indicated "Substitutions welcome," which is not a common message to diners. Unfortunately, the actual substitutions used in my dish were lacking in creativity.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Lacking good service


Mr. E!

4:05 PM  

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