A Total Cluster**** in Oregon…

15 September 2017

I woke up early the next day knowing I need to beat the terrible traffic through Portland, since I was heading south and my hotel was north of the city. Luckily I got out in time, just as it was starting to get thick. I got through and my rental jalopy was giving me issues.

I spent the morning in Salem, the state capital. Then I pushed south. By the time I got to Eugene the signs of the ugly wildfires were all over the place. The haze was terrible — and heartbreaking. But I was shocked to see farmers burning fields despite the already horrible air quality…

I got all the way down to Roseburg for the early afternoon before heading back north back to Eugene — just to be stuck in traffic in the middle of the day in the middle of nowhere…you gotta be kidding, Oregon… But I got to Eugene and I was a bit taken aback. I thought I was entering a busy college town, but I didn’t realise the students aren’t back yet! Wow, how late do they start out here? Students were already headed back when I was in Ithaca a month ago!

So I guess booking my dinner at Belly was not really necessary. I got there and it was empty…and the staff seems to treat it as so. Very relaxed, almost too relaxed…

I chilled out with a cocktail and looked over the menu. Couldn’t decide, so I just started with an order of gougères

gougères

I usually wouldn’t go with these, but the stuff I was interested in was not available… These were on the boring side to be honest, lacking in any flavour. Could have been a normal bread order really… Oh well. After one of them I needed something substantial, so I ordered the pork chop.

I had another drink and the clock just kept ticking. What’s going on, this restaurant is nearly empty, are they not prepared? Then after about 40 minutes I see the bartender having an animated discussion in the kitchen and when he came out I asked if there was a problem with my order…

Well, it seems he didn’t put the order in right and it never went through…

Oh, goody…

I did not want to reward incompetence at this point, so I cancelled the order that was never put in, took the bill, and headed out pretty pissed off. This is a joke…

Okay, Eugene, you just did yourself a huge disfavour in my book…what a disastrous Friday night…

Belly
30 East Broadway
Eugene, Oregon

*PS Of course I ended up back at my hotel and drank myself stupid, no thanks to my empty stomach… Took some food upstairs and just ate it and collapsed…a shitty way to start the weekend leading into the b’day…

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Review: Olympe

20 July 2017

I woke up a little sore…that knee. But I headed out to explore the centre this morning, still being fuelled by that wonderful dinner at Lasai. It was rather warm and sunny, so I was a bit sweaty walking around… I wandered around Campo de Santana Park quite a bit, though there were too many unsavoury folks there to really enjoy all the birds, capybaras, cats and other happy animals there. Love seeing them tho!

Then I checked out the unique Cathedral, which had a rather interesting interior too. And after a bit more wandering I headed to lunch to a popular DT spot called Benedito. A nice bobó de camarão, but pretty small. But with all the tasting menus it’s probably good to have a light lunch…plus, knowing my next two destinations…my aorta thanks this kitchen!

I wandered a bit more before I headed back towards the south on the Metro. Didn’t want to push my knee much more so I headed back and did some packing as this was my last day in Rio and Brazil. Later I headed out and made the long, long, half-hour walk (including running thru traffic) to the Lagoa district for my final dinner in Brazil, Olympe.

Now of all 3 of my 1-Michelin dinners here, this one has me most worried. I’ve read some shockingly bad reviews about this place but it’s hard to believe a place could be so bad. Well, it’s been booked, so I went with it.

I got there and was sweating thanks to the long walk. I had to fan myself with the menu… But soon I cooled down and enjoyed a drink. I looked over the menu and went with the full tasting and pairing. It’ll be my last tasting menu for a few days…

I chilled out and finished my caipirinha before they poured a local sparkling and brought the first item — which was called a “mushroom cappuccino” by the linguistically-challenged server…

01-mushroom soup

It’s deep in flavour but was crazy salty. I needed to gulp down a lot of water just to be able to drink this. Too bad because the mushroom essence is good, but what’s with the crazy seasoning? Oh well, let’s hope things move upwards.

They topped off the bubbly and I sense my evening is not going upward from the next course…

02-ricotta pickled vegetables

Ricotta and pickled vegetables, though they couldn’t really describe it in English. I got a description in Portuguese and when I asked them to repeat it, they just said it LOUDER and FASTER. Great… Not really sure about this “ricotta” but it was no better than some store-bought “cheese spread” thing… At first I thought it looked like sick, but… The pickled vegetables were actually pretty sad. Honestly this is something you’d see in a wannabe place in the middle of nowhere, not a Michelin-starred restaurant in one of the world’s great (supposedly) cities…

My worries are starting to come true, though still nowhere as bad as those reviews I read. Then with a pour of an Argentinian white the next dish arrived based on shrimp…

03-shrimp

Not of very good quality, but still not as bad as that horrible died-of-old-age one at D.O.M. a few days ago… But this was now extremely bland — or has that soup destroyed my taste buds? These were really sad. I’ve seen better quality in a Chinese delivery place back home…

Now it’s starting to really worry me. The service has been slow, and it seems the kitchen is just bringing things out when some other tables are ready for their next dish. I asked them to move things faster for me since I am by myself. Not sure if they understood, but I tried saying it in English, Portuguese, and also Spanish just hoping to get the point across…

Then oddly a beer was poured and the next item arrived…

04-something weird

…and they described it and I have no idea what the hell they said. I asked to repeat but still couldn’t get it. And they made no effort to try to explain it further, just walking away. After tasting it I remained puzzled. All I could get out of it is that it is ridiculously acidic, there some bad pickled vegetables in this sour foam (or is it the acid bubbling up?), with a terrible poached egg that was under-cooked.

I’ve seen high school home economics cooking done better than this…

This is now as bad as some of the reviews I’ve read. Utterly shocked so far by all this, and contemplating abandoning this thing. Though things moved wee faster now, the quality is just shite…pure shite…

A pour of a pink grenache and we get a fish dish, a local whitefish from what I gathered…

05-white fish

If ever a plate was to be nicknamed DEEPWATER HORIZON this is it… Boring, the fish had almost no flavour. On the other hand, the palm heart was PICKLED TO DEATH and was inedible. I’m a guy who eats lemons fresh, and I couldn’t eat this thing… I had to abandon one of my favourite things to eat, that was how bad.

This now is just a comedy of errors, a joke upon a joke. I’ve never seen such rubbish at any restaurant in my life, not to mention one that supposed to have earned a Michelin star. This makes D.O.M. look like a treat… I’m sorry, there must be graft involved in the Brazil Michelin assessment, or the assessor(s) have had their tongues removed. This is now beyond stupid…

After a bit a Chilean red was poured, and a single raviolo was presented…

06-raviolo

Again, what is with the ridiculous acid? The filling, which I think is sweet potato, is just again ridiculously acidic for NO REASON. Drizzled with honey and drief beef, this is one of the most incongruent dishes I’ve seen. It’s one thing to challenge someone’s palate with conflicting flavours, but this is like asking John Lennon to run the hurdles while clipping his nails while wearing Henry Kissinger’s glasses…

That’s it, meal abandoned. I told them that’s enough. They came with the bill and offered to drum it down to a smaller menu price, so that’s fine. I paid and just got the hell out of there.

My goodness, how in the world could they have a restaurant that have such ridiculous service? Even if no one spoke any English, why do they think if they talk louder and faster in Portuguese that I would understand the local ingredients? Just shambolic. Not even in Japan would they contemplate being so unyielding even without language ability. Poor food, crap service. Sadly, all those scary reviews I mentioned? They were dead on. I saw so many “never been to a place so bad in my life” reviews, as well as “Michelin is a joke” pieces. I won’t mention which South American chef I mentioned my experience to later on, but this person laughed…like it’s a well-known regional joke…

Oh, this is such a crappy way to end my Brazil stay. Something tells me I will not be returning here… As much as Lasai and Tuju (and Eleven Rio and especially A Casa do Porco) were excellent, there’s too many other places to go to deal with so much BS. I can’t wait to get out of here…

WORST DINNER EVER.

Olympe
Rua Custódio Serrão 62, Lagoa
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

PS: I actually ended up in a beer bar drinking off this awful dinner later on, enjoying a plate of grilled sausages.

sausage

Frankly this was the best food I had all evening…

Review: D.O.M.

17 July 2017

I was still glowing with the porcine goodness of lunch at A Casa do Porco, but we approach the final meal of my time here in São Paulo. And of course it was dedicated to D.O.M. It had to be done, and with all the accolades it should be quite a wonderful meal to end my short stay here in SP.

It was not a long walk, and mostly downhill, so I trekked my way there. A little early, so just hung out a little before they were ready. I headed in, seeing Chef Alex Atala still chilling. I was seated and they recommended a house cocktail, so I went with it.

cocktail

A nice smoky wee cocktail and they vaguely described the dinner, and I was happy to go with the wine pairing. I asked for a bit of time to enjoy my drink before the procession started, and they were happy to do that. Glass was a little too cute tho, it kept rolling away… I chilled out for a bit, and saw Chef Atala head into the kitchen. This should be fun!

I need to apologise for the bad photos as it was dark as Hades in there, and I try to take shots in the dark without the glowing screen annoying other diners, so some didn’t come out well at all… Soon the snacks appeared, starting with a cachaça candy that wasn’t bad…

01-cachaça candy_edited

…then a pepper mouse that was also good, accompanied by a shot of sake inside a pepper… Interesting. So far so good, then the next set of snacks…

03-06-starters

This was a hit-and-miss set. The oyster was was a boozy disaster, the watercress and shrimp was okay, the bottarga not bad, and the piracuru skin pretty nice. I have to say reading the menu after the fact showed the servers didn’t really know what the items are…and sadly, that’s just the start to this rapidly declining evening…

A pour of a nice white and the first larger item arrived, scampi.

07b-prawn_edited

Now for a 2-Michelin and supposed-to-be-one-of-the-best restaurants in the world, this prawn was a cry for help. I don’t think I’ve had a stringier prawn for a decade. It was borderline inedible, horrible quality. Did no one check? My goodness, this was just awful… And of course the servers had no idea what was with the poor creature that may have expired from advanced age…

Then the next course came, shockingly with the server DROPPING silverware on my table instead of placing them. Is this a 2-Michelin place or a hole-in-the-wall? Where did they find these servers?

08-scallop palm heart_edited

This scallop and palm heart dish wasn’t bad, though the herby essence was way too strong and ate way into the natural goodness of the ingredients. Careless stuff by the kitchen. Then some manioc bread that’s just that…

09-manioc

Next…then we revisit palm heart with this raviolo-like thing. Excellent, the dish of the night, lovely stuffing here.

10-palm raviolo

The service has not improved, but at least they’re not dropping silverware on my table anymore after I gave them dirty looks last time they did it… But as with the descriptions they seem to have an “just eat it” attitude when I kept asking for a description more than 3 words…

11-pirarucu

Then the next dish was the piracuru…it really didn’t work. The extremely acidic sauce just destroyed the fish. The pirarucu I had at Tordesilhas yesterday for lunch was far, far better… What in earth is this kitchen thinking? Then the next dish was shrimp and manioc.

12-shrimp

I asked the server what was in this, and he said, “shrimp”… I asked for more details, in Portuguese, and he said he didn’t know and need to ask the kitchen. FFS… I ate this with no glee…really boring. Again, very poor seafood. Is he sourcing this stuff right? The server came back with a mild explanation that didn’t explain anything at all…ain’t that great? The service cannot function in English NOR Portuguese it seems…

13b-chicken okra_edited

Next up in a meal that I’ve lost interest in was a chicken and okra dish. It seems to have various “Asian” touches but this kitchen has absolutely no clue how it works… It’s like a bad dinner at a bad wannabe fusion Asian place… I just tossed down the wines as they came…

14-palm noodle

Then the next dish was another one I wrote down in my notes, “what were they thinking” — palm noodles. These were awful. Again, what I call “faux Asian” in another dish that I would have expected from a chef who has just helmed his first kitchen, not in one with so many accolades…

Ugh…this is basically a cluster. I wasn’t even asking questions anymore as it does no good. This is just going through the motions now. The final savoury is now up — finally…

15-duck

And of course it’s overcooked, the duck… TA DA…am I surprised? No. One of the worst duck dishes I’ve had in years… I just want this to end, and then this…

16-aligot

Really, aligot? Really? A dish on a good day I find disgusting actually turned out quite good. It’s quite sad to say this was one of the best dishes of the night…on something I usually would not touch with a bargepole ala carte… Does that say it all?

17-curd mousse

Next up was curd mousse, which was quite meh…I’m just counting the numbers now…

18-banana lime ravioli_edited

Then a lime and banana “ravioli” dish in a jelly-like thing. Not bad, to be honest. This segment is turning far better than the savouries… And we finally finish with some grilled mango…

19-mango

More like pulverised…and, of course, they bring out a faulty spoon. What a perfect end to this service disaster. Even at last night’s ridiculously bad Rodeio the service was not this pathetic. They were just lazy last night. Tonight is just incompetent, and whoever runs the FoH should be totally ashamed of this. Not even worthy of an Applebee’s…

AND FINALLY, IT’S OVER…

This was just such a crappy evening it’s hard to believe how expensive it is — especially considering we’re in Brazil. This would be considered pricey in many European capitals, and it’s just obscene in a town where some make less than this a month. Sure, if the food and service was up to par, but this was not — not by a long shot. The food is mediocre, the service is piss poor. How they got 2 Michelin stars is beyond me, but it’s places like this that makes Michelin look bad. And it discredits the 50 Best Restaurants thing even more with its mutual stroke-fest attitude.

This was so utterly infuriating of an evening I didn’t even wait until my Cabify dropped me off a few minutes later before I sent a complaint email about the ridiculously bad service. My goodness, what the hell? They should all go to Tuju and learn — from the kitchen, and from the FoH there.

I thought today’s awesome lunch had saved São Paulo for me, but this just buries it. Ugh, what a waste of money and time…

Avoid this place like the PLAGUE. THE PLAGUE.

D.O.M.
Rua Barão de Capanema 549, Jardins
São Paulo, Brasil

A Brazilian Rip-Off Story: Rodeio…

16 July 2017

My knee was a little better and I headed out to wander in the early evening. It’s Sunday, and despite that pretty good lunch at Tordesilhas, most of the city’s eateries are closed for the evening. I ended up going to a place that is quite well-known for its meats, which is a great way to finish up the week — Rodeio.

I got there and it was pretty empty. Hmmm… I was seated and just my bloody luck, there was a loud table of folks speaking Chinese. I tried to ignore their loud yapping as I ordered. I chilled with some wine and then the yapping got louder, one girl pounded the table and walked out. Lol…free entertainment with my dinner…

sausage

And soon the starter arrived, what was supposed to be spicy sausage. Not very spicy, but very salty… Drank more wine before my main course arrived, sliced picanha…and it was plated…

plate with picanha

Ugh, the meat was not good. I know people like sliced picanha, but when you slice it away the table, who knows if it’s been sitting there. The meat was not good at all. The only thing that saved the day was the palm heart… I finished and waited for ages for them to serve more meat. It’s like they didn’t want to…

After the second time they did that, I started giving them an ugly look, and they started to do it faster. I asked also for a morcela, and that came quick with more beef.

plate with morcela

At this point I noticed that some of the tourists dining here were being short-changed on their meats. They did not know how much they had on the side, and when the servers went lazy they thought they were done so asked for the bill. One even left after 1 serving — 3 measly thin slices! For about 50 US dollars!

This is a blatant rip-off that’s just pathetic. Again, why does Brazil feel it needs to rip off tourists instead of making them want to come back? Just ridiculous.

One more dirty look and they gave me the rest of my meat. What an underwhelming night. Of all things the palm heart was the best thing. I ordered a fruit dessert and it was a bit lame…surprised? And to close the night I asked for an after-dinner drink list and they said they don’t have one…and gave me the cocktail list. I asked for a sazerac and they brought out this undrinkable thing…

I sent it back and they apologised and I just paid the ridiculously expensive bill and left. This place is an insult to dining — from the service to the food, from the drinks to the price. If there ever was a tourist trap in SP, I’ve found it. This is a perfect reason why I just can’t see myself coming to Brazil again…

FUCKING avoid this place. It should be shut down for fraud, incompetence, etc…

Rodeio
Rua Haddock Lobo 1498, Jardins
São Paulo, Brasil