My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

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My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Adam M » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:39 pm

I don't often publicly report unpleasant experiences at restaurants. But the experience that my wife and I had this past Monday night at the new Jezebel restaurant in the Soho neighborhood of New York was, I think, bizarre enough to justify a special exception.

It was our 15th wedding anniversary, and we had been longing to make our first visit to Jezebel - and now had the perfect opportunity. We made reservations the week before, which were confirmed to me by email. I noted in the reservation that it was a very special night for us, which Jezebel acknowledged in-kind. I also heard that they had an elaborate wine list which included non-mevushal wines, which particularly was intriguing to me (see the attached cover note to their wine list).

Our Initial Impressions
We made an early 6pm reservation. Upon arrival, we immediately noticed that the place was about 15% full, which was cool with us (after all it was very early for dinner by NY standards). The decor is ultra hip and trendy, perhaps more so that any other kosher restaurant in NYC, with the possible exception of Prime Ko, though the place is much smaller and cramped than Prime Ko.

There were many interesting observations that one could make about the décor, although I will refrain from digressing too much. We were taken to a table that had a bench style chair with a cozy cushion. The setting was very nice, although it was facing a wall that had a projector shining a very bright white light on it with blacked-out images of herds of people walking in the same direction. It probably would have become a serious annoyance if we had actually stayed for dinner. One other aspect of the décor that I can’t resist mentioning is that, inside one the bathrooms, there is a large photograph right above the toilet of a Jewish woman wearing her freshly donned Shabbat clothes standing in front of Shabbat candles and waving her hands in the air around her head as if she is reciting the blessing over the candle lighting. The picture stared me right in the face as I looked up while in the process of taking care of my “business.” Now, my level of religious observance is by no means strict, and this even bugged me out. The idea of placing a picture of one of the holiest moments in Judaism on the wall of a tiny bathroom right above a toilet is totally beyond me.

Our Valiant Attempt to Have a Spectacular Dining Experience
My wife and I were poised to thoroughly experience what Jezebel had to offer. The menu is quite short, which is perfectly fine, and we decided to spare no expense and ordered 4 appetizers and a main meal for each of us. We order some kale chips, some "Jewish Italian Wedding Soup" (which had chicken-balls in it), roasted bone marrow and a dish featuring red snapper. We then each ordered a lamb burger. While we were waiting, some ordinary rolls were served with some pureed carrots that tasted like they had just been spooned out of a freshly popped jar of Gerber baby food. We also ordered two glasses of the Hagafen Cabernet Franc, which was sold by the glass, reasonably priced and very good (went well with the earthiness of the pureed carrots; which, as will be told, was the extent of my food and wine pairing for the evening!).

The Big Chill
About 10 minutes into our experience, my wife started shivering by reason of the fact that our table was positioned such that we were facing a wall that had 3 large a/c vents directed right at us. She tried her best to be a good sport, but finally succumbed to the discomfort; so I asked that we be seated in a place with a more comfortable climate. We were taken to a table on the other side of the second floor that was large enough for just about two dinner plates. It was the tiniest dinner table that I have ever seen in my life. Oompa loopas would have trouble dining comfortably at this table! The four appetizers that we had just ordered would have had to have been stacked on top of each other. Observing that only about 15% of the place was occupied, and wanting very much to have a comfortable seating arrangement for our special day, I took my wife's hand and walked over to a larger, unoccupied table and sat us down. Then, one of the hosts, named Bruce, came dashing over to us and nearly physically removed us from the table. It was such an urgent thing for him that we not sit there. At this point, with hardly anyone in the place, I started to get really annoyed. He then shepherded us to a table back where we were initially seated, only larger and out of the direct line of fire of the a/c vents. I was ok with the table, but then he insisted that I sit in a chair that was squeezed into a corner on top of one of the drapes. I told him that I much preferred to sit on other side of the table so I wouldn't be so cramped. He, however, was very concerned that I would be interfering with a party that would "soon" be gathered at a much larger adjacent table. I somehow managed to talk him into moving our table a little so I would not be interfering with the "soon to arrive" guests and sitting where I wanted. We sat down, and at this point, everyone (which was all of about 4 or 5 couples) were staring at us, which, for about 5 seconds, made us feel uncomfortable. But we quickly got over it. We were in the process of calming down and then - like a bird, like a plane - a person named Mark Roth came running over to us, and, with a very uptight shaking tone of voice said that (notwithstanding what we had just been through with Bruce), we must immediately leave the table b/c it had been reserved for "soon to arrive guests." He insisted that we go back to our very initial table that was squarely in front of the vent. He kept saying, "I'm sure that you can understand that we cannot give you a table that has been reserved for another guest."

Mark insisted that we would have a fantastic evening and that he would "see what he could do" about normalizing the climate. So we indulged him and returned to our original seats. We waited and waited and, not only did the food not come out, but the a/c vents did not stop blowing. We had no choice but to stand up out of that cozy cushioned bench and walk out of the restaurant.

I made sure that Mark knew that we were leaving and that we were really disappointed that our pre-planned special occasion had been foiled by the failure to provide a normal climate with comfortable seating. To which Mark robotically responded, "Well, I'm sure you can understand that I cannot possibly give you a table that someone else has reserved."

It seems as though Mark and Bruce were more concerned (I would argue obsessed) with accommodating "future" guests than guests that were already there. (Btw, none of the “future” guests had arrived by time that we walked out.)

We unfortunately didn’t get a chance to taste the food on the menu, and there were plenty of items that looked delicious, and odds are that they are indeed delicious. Anyone dining for two would be well-advised to specifically request a table (i) other than the really tiny ones on the east side of the second floor and (ii) out of the direct line of fire of the a/c vents.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby David Raccah » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:57 pm

I cannot speak for the folks or the stewards at Jezebel, but first and fore most - Mazel Tov! Many wishes for a long and happy life with each other. as of to the experience, I am sorry that happened to you, and I am truly impressed with how you handled it - ultimately walking out. In the end, the loss of course is always the restaurant when they do not make a patron happy. It sends a bad message to the community and a creates a bad emissary rather than a more complimentary one.

Their loss and of course your loss, but in the end, they clearly lost the most - best wishes!
David
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Andrew B » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:00 pm

So where did you end up going?
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Gabriel Geller » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:37 pm

Yes, Mazel Tov Adam! I wish you lots of happiness and nachas with your wife for the rest of your life together!

I second David's comments and would have walked out as well had I been the victim of such disgraceful service. I know of a fellow forumite having a reservation at Jezebel for next week, now reconsidering...

Best,

GG
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Michael P » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:54 pm

Adam M wrote: Observing that only about 15% of the place was occupied, and wanting very much to have a comfortable seating arrangement for our special day, I took my wife's hand and walked over to a larger, unoccupied table and sat us down. Then, one of the hosts, named Bruce, came dashing over to us and nearly physically removed us from the table.


Happy Anniversary Adam.

Not to take away from your horrible story - but why not go over to the host or manager before getting up and moving yourself? I've never seen a restaurant staff (particularly an upscale one) respond favorably to patrons who re-seat themselves, no matter how empty/crowded the establishment.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Adam M » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:36 pm

Andrew Breskin wrote:So where did you end up going?


Hi andrew - We had pizza, beer, and a movie. A blissful indulgence that we have officially codified as a anniversary tradition from here on out!
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Elie Poltorak » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:48 am

Happy anniversary Adam! Many more...
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Yehoshua Werth » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:16 pm

Mazal Tov on 15 Years may the only struggle you ever have together now be DONE.

Have a great infinity together :)
A Gut Shabbos
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Adam M » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:53 pm

Many thanks to Yehoshua and everyone for the well-wishes! Totally unnecessary, but very kind indeed!
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby ChaimShraga » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:25 pm

Mazal Tov, Adam.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Craig Winchell » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:27 pm

Yes, Mazel Tov, and many more happy anniversaries, from one with almost twice as many under his belt. Jezebel, as the name suggests, was trying to be a bit bad. Evidently, it succeeded. Personally, I would never eat at a place named after such a person, but I am still sorry the service was lousy. From what I have read on Chowhound, the food may be uninspired and uninspiring to some, but the big problem seems to be service.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:18 pm

May I join the chorus of Mazel Tovs? May you enjoy many more! The Jezebel experience sounded awful, but I admire the way you handled it.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Jonathan K » Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:55 pm

Craig Winchell wrote:Yes, Mazel Tov, and many more happy anniversaries, from one with almost twice as many under his belt. Jezebel, as the name suggests, was trying to be a bit bad. Evidently, it succeeded. Personally, I would never eat at a place named after such a person, but I am still sorry the service was lousy. From what I have read on Chowhound, the food may be uninspired and uninspiring to some, but the big problem seems to be service.


Bad service? At a kosher restaurant? How would you be able to tell?

And Mazel Tov Adam!!
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Isaac Chavel » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:00 pm

Bad service? At a kosher restaurant? How would you be able to tell?


Either that's a bit too snarky or times are a changing. Recently, I ate at the same kosher restaurant, twice, in NYC, and the service was excellent both times. The food was good, and prices not outrageous. What more does one want?
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Pinchas L » Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:24 pm

Isaac Chavel wrote:
Bad service? At a kosher restaurant? How would you be able to tell?


Either that's a bit too snarky or times are a changing. Recently, I ate at the same kosher restaurant, twice, in NYC, and the service was excellent both times. The food was good, and prices not outrageous. What more does one want?


Hi Isaac,

Those of limiting ourselves to kosher restaurants, have a narrow perspective. Jonathan, has had broader experiences and hence his criticism. While many of my dining experiences in kosher restaurants are reasonably enjoyable, after having had two special experiences I was made aware of the gap between what is available in the kosher scene and what is available elsewhere.

In the summer of 2004 I visited Stockholm and dined for several days at the Hilton Slosson. Their upscale restaurant is not kosher, but they had an arrangement with the local Rabbi, instituting procedures that allowed for kosher dining, meeting his standards. The fact that many orthodox Jews might not be comfortable, to say the least, with that arrangement is besides the point. The attentiveness of the staff and the dining experience they offered were leaps and bounds beyond anything I've had at any kosher restaurant. And I'll provide several examples, attesting to their level of excellence. Knowing expressly the number of days in our stay at the hotel, they made sure to vary our sitting arrangement each and every day we were there, even remembering to afford us the opportunity to dine, at least once, on their special table that is placed on a raised platform, overlooking the water, with a view of one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. The professional manners and etiquette they exhibited, while overly formal, was nonetheless very pleasant and truly an experience. Just to note how they set the table, poured water in the glass, took a position neither too close, as to be intrusive to our conversation, neither too far, as not to be able to service us in an instance, was a marvel to behold. The waitstaff and chef remembered the dishes we've ordered each and every day, and even though they had quite a limited supply of kosher products, went out of their way to suggest dishes with enough variation so as not to be redundant.

Then in the summer of 2006, my wife and I visited Alaska, staying in the Alyeska resort for several days. The chef spend time before our arrival to brush up on his knowledge of Kashrut, offering to use new pots and pans expressly for us, explaining that it is not a big deal, since as a resort they are always putting new equipment into use. Never mind that the food was exceptional, the dining experience was special because the waitstaff was professionally trained, and in addition found the gestures to show their delight in making our experience special, causing me to feel pampered. Again, this was an experience unmatched by any kosher establishment.

The point I'm making, is that even though some kosher restaurants have invested in hiring well trained chefs, very few, if any, have gone through the professional training of the hospitality trade. The lack of training is most noticeable in the lack of planning that would enable a truly special dining experience, and in the lack of professionalism on the part of the waitstaff.

Best,
-> Pinchas
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Gabriel Geller » Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:44 pm

Pinchas L wrote:The point I'm making, is that even though some kosher restaurants have invested in hiring well trained chefs, very few, if any, have gone through the professional training of the hospitality trade. The lack of training is most noticeable in the lack of planning that would enable a truly special dining experience, and in the lack of professionalism on the part of the waitstaff.


Having worked for a year at one of the very best and most luxurious hotels in the world, I can't but only agree with Pinchas's words. I've had some good to very good service experiences in a few kosher restaurants with the best probably at Le Telegraphe in Paris which was, in my opinion, the very best (and likely also the most expensive, my 3-course meal cost back then 140 Euros, about $180 wine NOT included! Fortunately enough, the food was to die for) kosher restaurant in the world. The restaurant still exists but with new owners and is no longer kosher. While the wait staff at Le Telegraphe was extremely professional and were well-spoken and mannered, wearing neat and perfectly fitted uniforms, the downside simply was that they were parisians, that is to say neither warm nor especially talkative/caring. Now the good news: The Vatel International Hospitality Management School of very high reputation has opened a branch in Tel Aviv partnering up with The David Intercontinental Hotel and will start its first intake this coming fall. The students will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Hotel Management and will be trained especially to become the future managers of kosher hotels and restaurants. Let's just hope that this will indeed help raising up the bar at least in Israel.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:56 pm

My one experience with truly great service and an amazing dining experience was at the Box Tree--a top-notch treif restaurant that went kosher for a brief period before closing down. I must agree that the service was in a different league from what we're used to in the kosher world.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Adam M » Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:40 pm

I don't know if one can really make the case there is a real distinction in service across between kosher and non-kosher restaurants. However, sometimes I feel like a member of a captive audience in a kosher restaurant. The staff sometimes just don't have that same aim to please.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Jonathan K » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:58 pm

Isaac Chavel wrote:
Bad service? At a kosher restaurant? How would you be able to tell?


Either that's a bit too snarky or times are a changing. Recently, I ate at the same kosher restaurant, twice, in NYC, and the service was excellent both times. The food was good, and prices not outrageous. What more does one want?


I certainly meant no offense and thought my post might just get a few knowing laughs. I have definitely had reasonable service at a kosher restaurant before, but a crazy number of just bizarre service encounters that I have just never seen anywhere else, including:
1. Being browbeaten for not ordering a more expensive entree- "NOBODY WANTS THE STEAK??!!??"
2. Going to a Shwarma shop, ordering a shwarma, being told they were out. Then ordering a falafel and being told they were out. Then asking "Well-what do you have today?" The reply- "EVERYTHING!!!"
3. Ordering a turkey sandwich, being brought a tuna sandwich. Saying- "I ordered turkey." The reply- "We're out of turkey, you'll like this!!"
4. Other examples of sides being substituted without asking.
5. Very long waits for food brought cold- one time when I was the only one in the restaurant.
6. Printed menus that describe dishes that are nothing like what is actually made there.

I could go on but when I saw Adam's post it just inspired me to make a comment about much of the service I have had at kosher restaurants. Usually, I grin and bear it because I am just glad to have a kosher restaurant to take my family to, especially away from home.
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Re: My Horrible 15th Wedding Anniv. @ Jezebel in Soho NYC

Postby Gabriel Geller » Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:52 am

Jonathan K wrote:1. Being browbeaten for not ordering a more expensive entree- "NOBODY WANTS THE STEAK??!!??"
2. Going to a Shwarma shop, ordering a shwarma, being told they were out. Then ordering a falafel and being told they were out. Then asking "Well-what do you have today?" The reply- "EVERYTHING!!!"
3. Ordering a turkey sandwich, being brought a tuna sandwich. Saying- "I ordered turkey." The reply- "We're out of turkey, you'll like this!!"
4. Other examples of sides being substituted without asking.
5. Very long waits for food brought cold- one time when I was the only one in the restaurant.
6. Printed menus that describe dishes that are nothing like what is actually made there.

:lol: :lol:
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