No, nothing personal, just an unsettling experience in one of my favourite downtown eateries. One of the better Italian places to have lunch. Lavazza coffee, a nice snacky lunch special. Just right for when you’re not up to a full on feed. Well that’s what I thought.
We haven’t been going downtown so much recently, but the other day the opportunity presented itself so we pounced on it. I immediately went for the fresh made tomato bisque and a sandwich. Oh. The sandwich was fine, but the soup was disappointingly vapid, nothing like the superb little number we’d dined on before. So when the waiter came round with their customary “How are the first few bites” routine, instead of my usual thumbs up, I was moved to look up at him and say; “The sandwich is great, but the soup’s a bit disappointing.” And it was. What had on previous occasions been a warming, rich and mildly spicy dish had been turned into a distinctly underwhelming offering. A woefully damp wodge of Parmesan standing duty for the wonderful hit of well seasoned fresh Basil we’d previously come to know and love. I mentioned this salient omission and the waiter told me that ‘Head office’ had dictated the removal of half the salt and most of the Basil.
This baffled me somewhat. The Tomato Bisques previous incarnation had been superb, now it had become simply ‘Meh’, even for my jaded palate. A requested pinch of salt helped, but somehow it just wasn’t the same. What did ‘Head office’ think they were playing at? They’d converted the almost sublime into, well, not quite dross, but certainly a pale shadow of its former glory. A Manager type person approached and apologised for the condition of the soup. I politely told him how I perceived the change, and how I felt the recipe had been diminished. He suggested that I request extra fresh Basil and extra salt as a ‘side’ in future. “Hmm.” I found myself thinking. “If your standards are falling maybe there won’t be another time.”
Which is a shame because this little place had previously been one of my favourite downtown lunch spots. Now an infection by the doctrinaire had diminished what I had long considered their signature dish. Perhaps some dozy item at ‘Head office’ had decided that we schlubs, mere customers, needed our diet regulated by their diktat. Or some city bureaucrat who can’t cook to save their lives had demanded that all the downtown restaurants cut the salt content of their culinary offerings. I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s made me feel less than enthusiastic about returning. Other diners who share my like of the previous recipe may well feel the same. All I know is that eventually yet another downtown eatery will end up closed as diners follow their palates.
Which is a crying shame. There are already far too many empty storefronts in downtown Victoria.