So I went to a restaurant in Edmonton some time ago. It is a virally popular restaurant that I won’t name. I’m just not sure what to do with my experience, which is so totally at odds with what seems to be the overwhelming consensus of the #yegfood cognoscenti.
I went at lunch on a rare day I had time on my own. The place was packed. I placed my order – too go – and struggled to find a place to sit and wait. I ordered what is essentially a sandwich of an ethnic variety. It arrived in a styrofoam clamshell with a lidded plastic cup of sauce in due course. All that quite comfortable.
But, the service was indifferent. I don’t mean that the service was unremarkable – I mean the service exuded indifference. There seemed to be no concern about the experience of an individual customer – there was another right behind in the line up. Even at Taco Bell there’s a superficial effort to smile and say “Hi!”
And the food. My sandwich was virtually inedible. It wasn’t that it tasted bad or off – it was physically almost inedible because of the bread, which was a flavourless thing with the texture of an excessively crumbly cake. It could not be held without falling to pieces back into the stryofoam clamshell, onto my shirt and pants, and into the streets of Edmonton. The soggy bits of meat were also without flavour, which is remarkable as the restaurant represented itself as serving a national cuisine noted for being highly flavoured. Perhaps the cup of watery sauce would have added flavour, but the crumbly bread would have become a strange gruel in my hands at a single touch of whatever that liquid was.
It’s been a long time, more than a year, maybe two, since I went that one time to that restaurant. People still rave about it. I sometimes think about giving it another chance, but, to be honest, I gag a little at the thought. Why should I give it another chance? There are lots of other places in Edmonton to get “authentic” (and physically edible) examples of that national cuisine. If I were to go back, would I not be just submitting to peer pressure and contagious fashion, like a 70s teenager hating “Saturday Night” on first listen but running out to buy cropped tartan slacks and The Bay City Rollers the next day? How many of us as adults continue to follow the crowd to the latest fashion, whatever our honest opinion would be if we considered the thing? How many of us support local uncritically and thereby support mediocrity? I fear too many do.
So, I went to an Edmonton restaurant that everybody raves about, and frankly, I hated everything about it. It was a starkly naked emperor surrounded by a sycophantic hoard of loyal fans of the imperial threads. Why would I want to give such an imperial birthday suit another chance?
Has anybody else had an experience like this? Have you tried the restaurant that everyone hails as the greatest thing since the discovery of bacon, only to find that there’s better and more “authentic” cuisine of its type at the 7-11 or the freezer section of the supermarket?
Why not share that experience in the comments section?