Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An Outdated Wine Menu and a Snobby Fromager

My wife and I were at the Patina restaurant again at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, and we were reasonably disappointed with the wine selections and the cheese service. (Patina was awarded Michelin 1-star and it is a member of Relais & Châteaux).

With the wine, it’s not that they don't have an expansive list. They do. In fact, their Bordeaux and Burgundy selections are in the hundreds or more. But we were in the mood for a bottle of great German Riesling to go with our light fish entrees. The German selections, consisting of only a few names, some of which are respected producers, occupy at most 1/4 of a page in their very extensive wine menu.

Our first choice was the 2004 Dr. Robert Weil Kiedricher Grafenberg Riesling, but they could not find it in the cellar. The same thing happened with our second choice, a Zeltinger Sonnenurh Riesling from a producer that I can't recall. The polite sommelier apologized and gave us a rather perplexing excuse: the German wines were selected by the previous Sommelier when they were still at the old location on Melrose Avenue, and that section has not been updated since.

Didn’t they move from the old location and into the Walt Disney Concert Hall 5 years ago? And isn’t the current Sommelier supposed to be responsible for what’s in the wine menu – and in the cellar – today?

The sommelier, however, graciously offered us a 2006 Gunderloch Kabinett as a replacement for the first two that they did not have. This wine would have been fine, but we were in the mood for something classier than Gunderloch’s bottom-of-the-line bottling. I declined the bottle.

So I chose an Alsatian Riesling by Zind-Humbretch from his Brand vineyard, instead. When the sommelier came back to the table to show me the label before uncorking the bottle, lo and behold it’s not what I have ordered! Wait a second here, I told him, I ordered Humbrecth’s Brand, not his Rangen de Thann. So again, he apologized and said the Brand was not available, too. Tired of probably sounding like a wine snob to the neighboring patrons, I told him that we’d go with this bottle. It’s a phenomenal and excellent wine by all account, but Alsatian Rieslings were never one I’d prefer with fish dishes. It’s too heavy and overwhelming with the lighter fares.

Fast forward to dessert, it was time for some of Patina’s well-regarded cheese selections. My wife and I love cheeses, but we are ones who never pay any attention to their names, types, where from, what from, etc. But we remembered one name that we liked from when we visited Patina the last time: Humbolt Fog, a California cheese.

The lady Fromager arrived at our table with her cart full of the day's cheese offerings. For some reason, we found her to be extremely snooty, as if the fact that we did not know what cheeses to choose was her license to be snobby. When we mentioned Humbolt Fog, she replied with an air of disdain that she did not carry any mass-produced cheeses. Only small production cheeses, she said. Well, she must not be the same Fromager who attended to us last time. Fine.

So I ordered 2 blue cheeses, one from Spain and the other from Italy (don’t remember the names and don’t really care), 2 soft goat cheeses and a hard French cheese. They were all delicious, despite the service.

All in all, though the foods were good, we left the restaurant feeling rather disappointed with the overall dining experience. A $400 dinner-for-two should not have felt like this. Seems like the talk out there about Patina no longer being a leading L.A. restaurant is true.


Hobbes said...

Such patience in that service from a somelier is very well done indeed.

That you tolerated the frankly rather embarrassing behaviour of the cheese course is to your testament. Honestly, it's grounds never to go there again. Snobbery in the face of your clients is the height of vulgarity. You did them a service by not walking out immediately.

Best of luck in future,


~ Phyll said...


Thank you.

A couple of people have mentioned that to me...that I should have just walked out. How does one exactly do that, though? Do you ask for the bill first, pay (maybe $0 tip), and then walk out fuming? Or do you just walk out right there and then while cursing? But won't walking out without paying first (even though done in a valid protest of their rude service) may lead to being arrested by the police?

I'm curious to know how to do it properly so that the management will run after you and beg for your return and forgiveness.