Thursday night we met up with a group of friends for dinner at Agua Ardiente, a Spanish restaurant, the bar of which some of us used to frequent early in our Dean days. The original plan had called for extra people, a later time, and a different restaurant, so when things changed slightly late in the day, we chose from the options available at the time for a group that still numbered six.
I’m disappointed to say that this was not a stellar Restaurant Week experience. The food was fine, but not stellar. I opted for a Caesar salad for my appetizer (the other choice being shrimp), but was stumped by the entree, where I was offered salmon, chicken, or shrimp. I got by with salmon, but I had to admit to being surprised that not a single vegetarian entree was offered. It’s unusual in a large, liberal city for that to happen these days. There was no choice about dessert — fruit cocktail with vanilla sorbet arrived by default.
As I said, the food was okay, if uninspired. I think everyone felt the portions were a little on the skimpy side, but that could have been overshadowed by spectacular service. Unfortunately, with the exception of a substitution for one member of our party who asked for sorbet without fruit (and was obliged with a tasty brownie to accompany it), the service also failed to stand out. It took a long time for water to be refilled. No one ever asked if I wanted another ($4!) soda (or a refill). We had to ask three times for a second round of bread. The after-dinner drinks they asked if we wanted to accompany our desserts arrived long after most of us had finished eating. The bathrooms were passable, but certainly not someplace you wanted to linger, and the decor just felt a little tired and dingy. Clearly Agua Ardiente was not out to impress anyone as a fine dining experience and likely participated only because “everyone else was doing it.”
But good company can make an unexceptional meal still be an enjoyable evening. It was a fantastic chance for us to gather as a group, and I’m grateful for that opportunity. We practically shut the place down long after our meal was done, a sure sign that we ought not to wait six months for the next excuse to get together.
(To be continued…)