Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cafe Luna

Work done, we wanted to celebrate in a locally renowned dining establishment.  We had saved Cafe Luna for this occasion.  Located in one of the old buildings alongside the Raleigh City Market, it had all the charm of those old conversions.  It would be special!

The problem with expectations...

But we were full of them as we entered the tiny little door that promised so much.  The hostess in black greeted us and we were treated to a tiny little two top in the window- perfect!  When you get a window seat, it can mean you are the kind of cool people an establishment wants to showcase, to, you know, make a statement.  You could be paparazzi bait.  Like Charlie Sheen.  Like a Ferrari at the curb.  Like us.  Or your expectations may be turning into delusions.  But it was a good place to watch from, and intimate in an exhibitionist kind of way.

So the first thing we noticed was how much trouble we were to the server.  We asked for water with no ice, tap water, not cold.  He managed.  But we could see the cost in his eyes.  The second thing we noticed is that we were going deaf.  Our hearing loss since we came in the place was noticeable.  I SAID NOTICEABLE!  The dining room was half full, about 15 tables.  But the architectural coolness of the place, openness of the space contributed to a cacophony.  I SAID CACOPHONY!

With 15 tables, one would rationally have 3 servers.  After all, if you are trying to sell yourself as a high end dinner establishment, and expect wine, apps, main course and desserts to be sold, have intricate descriptions and explanations of the menu, you need to have the labor on hand to address each table with about 15 minutes of time, not to mention the food running and order entry labor.  But I digress into another realm.  The owner was on hand, and there were two hostesses on duty  to supplement.

The food on the menu made promises our hunger was willing to believe, to support our expectations.  On the plate, we saw foreboding of the heartbreak to come.   The shrimp skewer was grilled, perhaps a bit too much?  And the bed of seasonal vegetables on which it rested was 4 spears of asparagus.  In early March?  Well, it didn't say LOCAL seasonal vegetables.  Perhaps we were guilty of transference- we wanted fresh, and the presence of the ancient farm market (now a market of state capital lobbying lawyers), made us vulnerable to our desire for fresh, local harvest vegetables.  Oh well, they were green.  But the shrimps, surely they had simply made the quick drive in from the coast and were beautiful little gems of the sea?  Coulda been, but after several minutes on the flame, they were as tough, or tougher than any Red Lobster shrimp at the end of an all day Sunday Brunch buffet.

I had the Bifstek.  A fancy term for beef, steak.  With such a cool Euro name, it surely would be good, yes? No?  No.  It was about 30% waste by weight.  The trouble with that is that the waste was throughout the meat.  So cutting it away made me glad I had taken those night courses in neuro-surgery. In fact, the expectation of a good beef dinner in the Italian tradition was my own.  I should have been more perspicacious when I saw the term "bifstek".  Stay away from Euro beef and those who serve it.

Cafe Luna is an Italian place, mostly.  A staple is bread.  But this is Raleigh.  It was ciabatta.  A favorite.  But old, tough and limp.  The wine-by-the-glass program was limited to 2 red, 2 white, and the Chianti I had was decent.  A nice little glass filled to the rim.  At the end of our assignment, dessert was a must, and of due to the dearth of good choices, we went with, get ready...tiramisu.  The owners probably think that is all the customers want.  But really, it is all that is really appealing.  This one was yesterday's.  Decent, but completely sogged out.  When it got like this I expected it to have been donated in my restaurant.

Net/net, the bottom line- pass on Cafe Luna when in Raleigh.

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