Quartet: Smoke and Mirrors


So this is ultimately a story of Onstad's cowardice?
Like Ten 01 all over again, then.
@RB: The bartender at Ten01 (Kelly, if I remember correctly) was amazing. I'd hang out there at night and discuss cocktails and taste liquors and junk. I don't know if I ever ate the food there.
@ Graham:

Cowardice? Why, because he didn't want to embarrass the man on his big night in front of everybody and possibly start a scene? A silent handshake followed by a bad review is harsh enough. It wasn't 'cowardice'; it was 'consideration'. (Or at least as considerate as a food critic poised to write a negative review can possibly be...)
@HIT: Onstad implicitly admits to cowardice:
"She was too polite to tell the truth, and said it was nice. I couldn't speak, and merely shook his hand. It seemed rude to tell the emperor he had no clothes."

Part of soft openings and media days for new restaurants is to get feedback on the quality of the product so that you don't send slop to paying customers (admittedly, I've only been in the opening of two restaurants; so maybe other people do it differently). However, the type of customer in Portland that will go this kind of place isn't the hedonistic type that hangs out with the actual kitchen staff like Onstad or many of the Merc's readers. So maybe this place is hitting the market they want and we're just not it. I mean, how many of us ever really go to El Gaucho if we're paying the bill? In the $80/plate range, I can get 7 course prix fixe from Naomi at Beast and it'll be the best meal I eat all year. But Nike execs aren't going to do a power lunch there, are they?
@ Graham:

I still don't see the cowardice thing, implicitly or not. I don't think he was scared or too weak-kneed to say anything to the guy's face, he just didn't want to be an asshole (rude), which he explicitly admits with that last line you quoted.
@HIT: Earlier in the piece Onstad also says:
"I feel like something should be said, if only so that at least one person is honest with the management."

So he thinks that this needs to be said to the management, but he doesn't want to have to actually tell them. He wants to avoid the confrontation and actual honesty that would result from answering the question that he was asked.
Sounds like the meal sucked, but perhaps speaking up in the moment--at the right time and place--would have been more considerate than publishing it here, before a business even has a chance to open. Just sayin'...
I know it's hip to write scathing food reviews and hope they go viral (and I guess that mission was semi-accomplished as I was linked here from Food Dude) but it seems like you unnecessarily put the scalpel to Quartet. Why not just send management, who you want to be honest with, an email?

You say your policy is generally to wait until a place has been open two months before reviewing, but you excuse this policy "for reasons listed below" -- but your reasons just seem so fickle. Blueberries rolling on the plate? Salad in a bread bowl? I was expecting far greater atrocities than this.
Yes, Chris could have and really should have said something at the time, have you considered he felt sorry for them and did not want to deflate them? He didnt kiss their asses unlike the rest of the douchebag "foodie" critics in the room? Good for you Onstad for being honest. As for the rest of you I would bet most of you are the typical passive aggresive portlander's and would not have said shit
Right or wrong, it's an interesting read at the very least! Thanks, Onstad!
Graham: I started going to Ten 01's happy hour after the initial press blitzkrieg. Like a year later. The food was pretty damn good, and I'm sort of amazed it couldn't make it at that location. Unless you really honestly can be done in immediately by an early review like this one, and in a town as restaurant-heavy as this one is, maybe you can.
It seems to me that if you invite a member of the press to your press preview dinner, you ought to assume that they might write about it. In the press. Why shouldn't they? Is a restaurant critic's first loyalty to the restaurant? or to readers?

On the other hand, Chris, although I enjoyed this, I don't know why you bothered (going, and also writing about it).
As is par for the course, everyone is slightly wrong here. The only parsing we need to accomplish really, is who is expecting you to exchange dollar bills for their mistakes. I regularly question the ambient IQ around these parts, but even this crowd can see where I am going here.

Sure, if Chris wanted to be confrontational( I certainly wish people in general in this town would start doing more of) he would have told the manager the myriad of flaws. What is to be gained by that in the moment? Really? Trust me I have stood there and had a guest tell me every tiny flaw to their meal. It's uncomfortable and largely aimed at getting the bill comped. How much freer could this free meal have gotten?

As an Employee of The Merc, charged with reviewing restaurants, I would say Chris did exactly what was/is asked of him. A Critics duty is to the reader, not the restaurant.

As to the food described herein......LOL. Now that we have decided that a restaurant zero people that read the Merc would ever contemplate going to sucks, perhaps we can get back to OMGing over the latest sandwich shop that opened with a pork belly banh mi for $9 and Fernet on tap(revolutionary!!)
My first instinct is to say, "too soon."

But then I look at the menu and see they are going for "Upscale Resort in Phoenix" and I realize even if it did get better, it will never be good.

I can't wait for Portland to finally embrace dining that is both strikingly beautiful and strikingly delicious. Misfires like this set our whole city back.
Yeah, for as many times as we might kill off a place with potential more abruptly than we might, there's still lots of them out there that are serving up bullshit food at ridiculous prices, and no one says a damn thing. Again, in a town with this many choices, why would anyone bother with expensive mediocrity?
It's called the Pearl District. Lots of money, little taste.
This shouldn't surprise you. The owner, partner, management (can't recall) is from Portland Prime. The food at Portland Prime is very average. I've purchased a couple of the Groupons for Portland Prime and it's not worth eating there at 1/2 price.
I should add, every place I can think of to have a steak is better than Portland Prime.