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Date: May 27, 2006
Location: 1650 Soscol Avenue, Napa
Corkage: ??
Cost: ??
Phone: 707.224.2330

Restaurant Cuvee has just been opened for two weeks, took over the space vacated by what was the gem of Napa Valley, Restaurant Budo. After the closing of Budo, owner Roger Roessler is now attempting to take a different approach to make this beautiful property become the hot spot for Napa. Judging from the crowd last night, it's off to a good start, but with lots of kinks to be worked out.

I was joined by ttepper and Erin, had the reservation for 8:30pm. Checked in with the hostess, was told it would be 10-15 minutes before our table clears. No big deal and understandable on a busy Friday night. I then asked if I could hand off the bottle of wine to her for dinner, the response I got back was, "better keep it yourself so we don't loose track of the wine." Strike one.

About 15 minutes later, after a drink in the lounge, we were taken to our table. The setup of the main dining room has changed quite a bit. The amount of seats has at least doubled compare to when it was Budo. Gone is the long center island that housed stems and decanters with usually a big huge floral arrangement. Inserted in it's place are five four-tops that's sandwiched in a bit too tight. Through out the dinner, the three of us must of been bumped a good 30 times by the wait staff, not exaggerating here.

Scoured the wine list, fairly priced with good selections. Decided on a bottle of white to start off, 2003 Vieux Télégraph Chateneauf-du-Pape Blanc at $70 off the list. Told our waiter what we wanted, he quickly said the wine may be out of stock but will double check. Brian, I believe is his name, came back and said the CdP Blanc is indeed not available, but the sommelier suggested a White Burgundy, which is comparable. Strike two, not so much for out of stock, but by suggesting a CdP blanc is comparable to White Burg for the sake of selling wine? There is a much better way to do that, and this certainly wasn't one of them.
We decided on a bottle of 2004 Swanson Pinot Gris for replacement. When the wine was brought by the sommelier, it turned out to be a 2005 instead, no big deal but just make you want to shake your head.

After the white wine issue is settled, we ordered an appetizer and entree each. Erin went with Dungeness Crab Salad and Spice Rubbed Skirt Steak[/i]. ttepper selected Tuna Tartare and House Cured Pork Chop. I decided on Chipotle and Honey BBQ Ribs followed by Portuguese Style Clams.
The appetizers arrived promptly, my BBQ Ribs was just about perfect, nice kick with the chipotle is what made the dish for me, I am usually not a fan of bbq ribs. Had a bite of Erin's crab salad, not a fan, while fresh but lack seasoning. Passed on ttepper's tuna tartare, as Anthony Bourdain would say, "the single most overdone item on restaurant menu these days", but that's a different topic.

Our entrees took a bit longer than expected to show up, likely due to the near capacity crowd at the restaurant. Three entrees with three different serving temperature, with mine probably sat on the serving stand the longest.
The flavor for my clam dish was very good, but the cold temperature brought the dish as a whole down a notch. The clams' quality was also a bit questionable, fresh yes, but the variance in size is too much. Better restaurants often make sure their clams and mussels dish like these are the same size, not quite there.
Our waiter came by and asked about the food, "aren't the clams great?" My reply to him was, "actually, no." He responded by laughing and walking away, left the three of us with puzzling face looking at each other. 10 minutes later AFTER I finished the dish, our waiter brought the shell bowl and sat it down at the table. Strike three.

At this point, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief, thinking that I am done with this place. ttepper then decided to call our waiter over and explain to him what took place during our dinner and as one would expect, he tried to brush it off as misunderstanding.

Over the next few minutes, Erin walked pass the manager and our waiter, overheard the conversation about our dinner experience with mostly the waiter trying to defend himself. The dessert menu came up next, at this point, it's not going to happen. Our waiter then brought over the check and said the manager had took all three of our entrees off the bill, which is absolutely not necessary in our view.
ttepper asked to speak to the manager, Aaron came over to our tableside on first notice. Aaron was very courteous and professional during the entire time, even when I took some unnecessary shots at the restaurant, particular aimed at the image presented by our waiter. A+ on his effort as the manager.

First impression is very important when I dine at a restaurant. While the food at Cuvee is fine and could use improvement in the execution area, other aspects like seating arrangement and wait staff training needs a lot of help. I would always go back to a restaurant if the service is great but lacking in food, the other way around of good food and bad service is a no go for me. The manager Aaron did as much as he can to make up for what transpired during our dinner and his effort is much appreciated.
With that said, would I voluntarily go back to Cuvee? Probably not. Would I return if someone invites me? Possibly. Is Cuvee a place I would recommend to others? No, at least not at this point.
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