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Ubuntu (The first offering in the new “Eat Me” restaurant review section at Arrogant-SOB.com)

March 25, 2012

You asked for it, you GOT IT!  (No one asked for it).  In addition to the all the other nonsense that’s going on around here, I figure that restaurant reviews aren’t the worst idea in the world.  And why not?  Food is probably the one thing I seem to have an aptitude for (eating it, not cooking it), and it’s what my wife and I enjoy doing more than anything else.  Yep, anything else, even THAT (Why does your mind always go to the bedroom, you freaks?).  So we’ll jump off this cliff with a review I wrote on Tripadvisor.com from last summer, when my wife and I took a long-awaited dream trip to California, with the real heart of the trip being in Napa.   Why Napa?  Because we like getting drunk at 11 in the morning on a Tuesday.  Also, I would love to get some restaurant suggestions from you guys.  Specifically if they are within driving distance of Bergen County, NJ.  Though I am interested in all restaurants, no matter where they are, because I can spend hours reading menus online.  It’s kinda like porn to me, with less clean-up and no chance of the embarrassing “walk-in”.  Going forward, all reviews will be listed under a specific tab on the top of the home page.  The tab will be labeled “Eat Me”.  (My mother is so proud of the work I am doing.)  Anyway, here goes:

My wife and took a trip to Napa last week, and being it was our first time, we wanted to try something new and renowned. Ubuntu, the “Michelin rated” vegetarian restaurant on Main Street in Napa, California, seemed perfect. Now, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I should tell you that my wife and I are carnivores, and proud of it. We are also, however, extremely adventurous eaters and are always eager to experience new things, specifically in dining. After our meal, I was left with one lingering question:

What the Hell are all of you talking about?!?

Our meal was atrocious, from start to finish. And the only thing that kept the “food” that we were served from being the worst part of the evening was the abhorrent service, and way over-the-top pretentious atmosphere.

To be honest, the waitress, who looked like an Ani Difranco impersonator, was perfectly pleasant at the beginning of the meal. We explained to her that we were eager first-timers, and were willing to try anything on the menu that would give us a true taste of the restaurants style. She recommended the four course tasting menu, each of us ordering a different selection for each course, so that we could each try eight dishes. Sounded good to us. She recommended a great bottle of wine (Chardonnay, massican, “annia,” napa valley, 2009, if you care). No sarcasm here, the wine was, by far, the only positive part of the evening. Then the food started to arrive. I mean, I’m pretty sure it was food. The amouse bouche, a salty tomato juice concoction with a green onion foam, was as unappealing visually as the name implies, and actually found a way to taste worse. And each course got progressively worse. We have done tasting menus in a variety of different restaurants, and usually, I have a sense of excitement when I don’t know what the next course will bring. At Ubuntu, I was actually scared when I saw a server heading our way. Not a hyperbole. Actually, knot-in-my-stomach scared. From the cold cantaloupe soup, to the foul smelling bean stew, each course was unpalatable, to the point of comedy. And I understand it is a vegetarian restaurant, but in regards to the Garden Snake salad, would a little fresh salad dressing kill you? Have I been unaware all these years that a nice vinaigrette is made from the organs of a slaughtered pig or something? I don’t care how animal friendly a plate of lettuce is, it just doesn’t taste good. And adding dehydrated almonds and carrot tops to the top of the salad to give the appearance of “Dirt”, as the server explained, is not whimsical, or clever.

The service: My wife and I, although completely put-off by the food, would never think of being rude to the staff, or sharing our misgivings with other patrons in the restaurant. In fact, other than the sight of an uneaten plate of food, nobody could have possibly known how unhappy we were. We are more respectful than that. However, obviously the wait staff knew by the clearing of full plates, that we were not satisfied with our meal. And the service got worse and worse as the night went on. Not once did Ani Difranco come to the table to ask us how things were. In fact, my wife requested bread three times and got a smile and a “sure, I’ll get it right away” each time. Its been a week, and I’m still waiting for bread.
Then, as if it wasn’t bad enough, the bill came. Over $200 (In fairness, the wine was $50).. So, $150 for the food? Again, you are kidding, right? For four courses of lettuce, cantaloupe and carrots? (Oh, the carrots were “dessert”.) Now, I enjoy many things that don’t require meat. I love a nice pasta. Rice? Good stuff. How bout a creative Risotto? Sounds good to me. But we didn’t get any of that. We got lettuce. And beans. And carrots. For $150, and awful, awful service. I would have complained, but it would have been fruitless’.(Get it? “Fruit”-less?) The staff and atmosphere here were so pretentious that we would have been looked at like neanderthals, with untrained palates. Which happens to be far from the case. It’s as if the restaurant is so “cool”, that no one wants to be the one to stand up and say,” Hey wait, this food actually really sucks.” Well, excuse me as I rise from my chair. Cause I have no problem being the one to say it…Maybe Michelin should stick to making tires, and stop rating restaurants, because the best thing we ate all night was the burger we got at Norman Rose Tavern immediately after we left Ubuntu…

13 Comments
  1. nicole permalink

    Vincent’s Trattoria in Washington Township makes a zeppoli stuffed with strawberry cheese cake. Go there, eat it. And have you ever tried the Gilded Otter Brewery in New Paltz? The menu is mostly just pub type food, but their fried cheese curds (yes, FRIED BALLS OF WISCONSIN CHEDDAR) are delicious.

    I read your blog out loud to my husband all morning and you are awesome. Glad to hear you are a fellow Bergen County, NJ area resident. Keep it coming!

    • I can’t lie. I live in Passaic County, but I can see the “Welcome to Bergen County” road sign from my front door. Which means we can pretend to be cool Bergen county folks, but our taxes are a little lower…And Zeppoles stuffed with strawberry cheesecake? Holy shit. I mean…just holy shit…

      • nicole permalink

        Yeah, the zeppoles are kinda like those pillsbury toaster strudels except WAY better. I too am in the cheaper taxes Passaic County zone right on the border of Bergen County, but we are a whole few blocks from the sign.

  2. Hey Mon! permalink

    Came here from PIWTPITT. Just read this one post and I think I’m hooked. My husband and I also love to travel and try new restaurants, as well as old faves. I’m a tripadvisor.com junkie, so I can’t wait to read your reviews on “Eat Me.”

    • Full disclosure: my trip advisor reviews are a bit, umm, softer than the rest of the stuff I write. Proceed with caution…(and welcome)

  3. Hey Mon! permalink

    Oh, I’m a lot kinder on my trip advisor reviews than when I tell the truth to my friends. And really, I’m not so nice on Trip Advisor, either.

  4. Hey Mon! permalink

    My review of a New Orleans restaurant follows (it’s not as funny as yours, though)

    “Thanksgiving dinner disappointment.”
    1 of 5 stars Reviewed November 25, 2011

    Pretty place and initially friendly waiter got our hopes up. Appetizers were not bad and were served at the same time as the children’s meals. Entrees were served fairly quickly after that and that is where the disappointment began. The food was barely warm and the oyster stuffing served with the turkey was an inedible gloppy mess about the consistency of wet porridge – nothing like the oyster stuffing my grandmother used to make – although the turkey was moist and nicely cooked. The duck was dry and overcooked and the filet was fine. The children’s plates had the best food at the table. Our wine finally arrived about halfway through the entree only after an inquiry to the waiter. Then we waited and waited and waited for dessert. I ended up going to the wait station to refill my water because no one came to see if we wanted to order more drinks, ask if everything was ok, or refill water glasses. We even had to flag someone down to get our plates cleared away.

    After dessert was finally served, we again waited and waited to pay the bill. One of the 4 adults finally took the kids outside while the rest of us waited another 10 minutes or so to finally get someone’s attention (not our waiter) to pay.

    Another low point was the inconsistency even at the same table. Two of us ordered turkey and one got a generous portion served with some whole cranberries and the other got a tiny piece of turkey slapped onto the plate accompanied by a bit of sauce with not a cranberry in sight.

    Needless to say, we won’t be going back to try the regular menu.

    • Good stuff. Only one small detail you left out: The name of the restaurant. Not like thats important to a review though. Thanks for the write up. Also, is it just me, or do all restaurants suck on a holiday? We have tried going out for Thianksgiving a few times and a few Easters and no matter how good a place is normally, it seems it is terrible on a holiday, with limited price fixe menus and all.

      • Hey Mon! permalink

        Ralph’s on the Park. Which was fitting because one of the kids in our party actually ralphed on the threshold after the lovely meal.

      • Nice. Must have been the porridge…

      • Hey Mon! permalink

        Yes, almost all restaurants suck on the holidays. I’ve had a few resort experiences on Thanksgiving that are good, but usually price fixe menus suck rocks.

  5. Hey Mon! permalink

    I so wanted to put in the ralphing on the threshold factoid into my review, but husband wouldn’t let me.

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