Friday, March 13, 2009

Paggi House

Paggi House
200 Lee Barton Drive
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 473-3700

Lee: I'm going to let everyone in on a deep, dark secret here at Dining in Austin. The beautiful and amazing bloggers (as well as that ruggedly handsome guest blogger) lead full and busy lives. Oh, there are far many more restaurants that have been experienced and ready to be reviewed than even the prolific postings here would have you believe. Usually if a place doesn't get written up within a couple of days, it's generally put off to the side. Personally speaking, if I can't complete a review for the ladies in a timely manner, I trash it rather than try to review the place from partial memory. Mariah and Laura are even more dedicated to that type of quality and fairness. However, there are some exceptions. There are some places in which the experience is so bad (or good) that it becomes burned into our memories and we could write about it weeks and even months later with perfect clarity. So, let's talk about Paggi House...

Mariah: Lee and I had decided to do one of our spontaneously planned weeknight dinner outings. And since it WAS Austin Restaurant Week, we decided to try someplace neither of us had been before, Paggi House. Oh and I guess I should mention that since it was a weeknight, Lee had his 6 year old son in tow. But he's really well behaved when we go out, so I never mind when he joins us for dinner.

Lee: So, after work, I gathered Austin and we zipped down to meet Mariah for our 6:30 reservations. I had never been to Paggi House before, and didn't know what to expect. I have to admit that I started off pleasantly pleased with what I initially saw. Our reservations were on the patio outside with a table right on the corner giving us an unobstructed view of downtown Austin while we dined. I loved the thought of that. Outside dining with a great view. Sounds like we were off to a good start.

Mariah: I was already running a few minutes late and was a little perturbed that they only had one valet for such a big restaurant and such a small lot. However, as some of you may know, I recently tore the meniscus in my knee and have been hobbling around all month. So, despite the line, I was more than happy to let the complementary valet do the walking (and parking) for me. But when I stepped out of the car, I noticed the parking lot was at the bottom of a hill and the restaurant was at the top and in between my car and the yummy smelling food was a very long stairway. Well crap. My doctor told me no stairs for 3 months to let my knee heal so I looked around for a handicap elevator and was relieved to discover one tucked in the corner of the parking lot. I hobbled over, pressed the buttons and waited.. Nothing happened. I pressed the buttons again. Nothing happened. The damn thing was broken! How could a newly renovated restaurant at the top of a hill not have a working handicap elevator?? But I had dinner plans and I knew I could make it to the top of the stairs, it would just take me 10 minutes to hobble up them. When I got to the top, I was pretty snippy at the hostess "You're handicap elevator is broken." Instead of saying "Oh I'm sorry" she simply said "I know." I could already tell it was going to be one of those nights.

Mariah: We had come to do restaurant week, so we went with their $35 menu. The waitstaff was incredibly friendly and agreeable (do you detect any foreshadowing here). I ordered Creamy Lobster Soup with pear, the Fillet Mignon, and an Apple Galette. I was already frazzled from my battle with the stairs, so ordered a glass of Malbec. Oh, and I was craving the raw meat that night (sorry Laura) so Lee and I decided to split an additional Tuna Tartare appetizer.

Lee: I ordered from the restaurant week menu, too. I chose the Wild Gulf Shrimp, the Fillet Mignon, and the Coffee Creme Financier. I quickly noticed that there wasn't a children's menu. That's quite disappointing to me. On the bright side, I have a standard backup plan for not having a children's menu when I bring Austin. If I can't find anything on the menu for him, we split my meal and supplement ourselves with a trip by Mickey D's on the way home. I know it's not ideal, but I'll save the rant for right now. If anyone wants to see my thoughts on the subject of children's menus at upscale restaurants, feel free to check out my own sorely neglected blog. I did make the suggestion to the waiter that they ought to consider adding such a menu for children, but I did so not expecting that to ever happen.

Mariah: My Malbec was quickly delivered by one of the servers and I took a big long swig. We enjoyed the fine cool evening and helped Austin with his homework. Its genius having the kid do his homework while we wait for food. Good job Lee. He was so cute while he read us a story, drew us a picture and composed and wrote a sentence about said picture. Why can't school always be that fun and easy??

Lee: Yeah. I'll bet that Malbec was good. It was at least delivered. I had ordered a Petite Syrah at the same time that Mariah ordered the Malbec. Minutes before Mariah's Malbec was delivered, a glass of Zinfadel arrived at the table. I explained that neither of ordered a Zin, and the server apologized taking the wine away. After Mariah's wine arrived solo, it quickly dawned on me that the Zin was a wrong order intended for me. So, I inquired about my own glass and had to wait a few minutes longer for it to show up. This little mix up raised a red flag for me, but I chose to ignore it hoping that it would be the last one we saw. Besides, Austin was telling us a story about the picture we drew, and that was more entertaining than trying to figure out the weird wine service.

Mariah: This is where things started to go horribly, horribly wrong. In the middle of Austin's story, another server showed up bearing two glasses of white wine - neither of which we'd ordered. The server explained it was part of the Restaurant Week menu. I initially got really excited. Wine and 3 courses for $35?? It was too good to be true! And it was. When we looked at the menu, we saw that the 3 courses were $35 and the additional wine pairing was $50. Now, I'm not saying that the server is an idiot, but when two people order a prix fixe menu and wine that's NOT in the additional wine pairing list, he should probably assume we don't want the paired wine. Just a hint. We were starting to get a little indignant. They'd already brought the wrong wine once then brought more wine we didn't even order!

Lee: I was starting to see a pattern develop here. As I looked around the patio, I saw that there couldn't have been more than 6 tables of people. It really wasn't very crowded at all. However, in the short amount of time it took to place our order and receiving our drinks, we had been visited by about 4 different staff members. They were starting to stumble over us. Things weren't looking good. Of course, how bad could it get, right?

Mariah: The tuna was fresh, and covered in an unimaginative smoked mayo sauce. There were also sesame crackers that the tuna was supposed to go with, but the sesame in the cracker WAY overpowered the delicate flavor of the tuna. We quickly tossed the crackers to the 6 year old who was more than happy to eat them. The tuna was much better without it. The prix fixe appetizers showed up shortly after and things started getting better. My Creamy Lobster soup was excellent and the sweetness of the pear relish was very inventive and complementary. I liked it alot.

Lee: I agree with Mariah about the tuna. The sesame crackers were completely the wrong choice for that dish. I liked my shrimp appetizer. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, and the potato croquette that came with it provided a very interesting contrast in texture. Of course, I only got one bite with that combination. Austin decided that he wasn't up for shrimp this night, and ate all of the potato croquettes leaving the shrimp by itself. As far as the flavor went, though, it was good. But, it wasn't very imaginative.

Mariah: And just when we thought things were starting to look up for Paggi house, they went right back and fucked it all up again. We were mildly satiated from our 1.5 appetizers a piece and the glasses of wine we were nursing. The kid was happy with his crackers and the shrimp. He read us another book. And we waited for our fillets. He showed me how his Nintendo DS worked. And we waited for our fillets. He played space ship with said Nintendo DS (not approved use, FYI). And we waited for our fillets.

Lee: OK, I do consider myself quite lucky that Austin is so well behaved when we go out to eat. I love that he can enjoy great food like his father does, and that he's not rowdy and doesn't have any interest in running around screaming at the top of his lungs. However, fair is fair. He's only 6. After we had waited over an hour just for entrees, I wouldn't have blamed him if he had jumped up on the table and gave us his best impression of Batman then taken down the waiter to demonstrate how to properly handle a criminal. It was starting to get pretty dang hard keeping him settled. The fact that it was getting cold didn't help matters any. My patience as a parent was certainly put to the test, but I don't blame Austin. I was blaming the restaurant at that point.

Mariah: To be honest, I was getting a little antsy too. The sun had set and the cool-ish spring afternoon had turned into a rapidly colder spring evening. I had on a pretty heavy sweater, but I was starting to get really chilly! I asked the server to bring over another heater, but 15 minutes later when neither the server nor the heater had materialized, we decided to reposition, so I could be closer to our one heat source. The server finally reappeared and apologized for not being able to find a spare heater. At this point we'd been waiting an hour and 15 minutes for two RARE fillet mignons. You throw some meat on a grill for a few minutes and serve! What was the hold up? I got kind of snippy with him. Told him to find out what was taking our food so long and then ordered some decaf coffee to warm me up a little.

Lee: The staff really was stumbling all over themselves! In fact, they were getting worse. By this point, the menagerie of people coming to our table had increased to about 6....and they were all accomplishing absolutely nothing!

Mariah: Our fillets FINALLY arrived after waiting about an hour and a half in the cold with an antsy 6 year old. That was just totally uncalled for. I was ravenous hungry at that point and downright attacked my steak. It was cooked well, the meat was of great quality and it was covered in a nice peppery crust. I enjoyed it, but then, I probably would have enjoyed paper I was so hungry and pissy.

Lee: They actually made me break my sense of decorum! I love my son and I love to hold him all of the time. However, if we're at a restaurant, I prefer to have him mind his manners and be a big boy. To me, that means that he sits in his own seat politely until we are done eating. However, it was getting cold and I could tell that he was ready to start parading around the place. So, I took him onto my lap and we bundled ourselves in our jackets. Austin and I attacked our steak as well when it got there. Mariah is completely accurate about the steaks. I agree.

Mariah: After we finished our fillets, I made my way to the bathroom and was appalled to learn that at Paggi House, the bathroom is in the covered patio outside at the bottom of even more stairs. So, if you're handicap, you have to exit the restaurant, walk around the uncovered servers sidewalk to get to the bathrooms. What if it were raining?? You'd get all wet just because you couldn't maneuver down a few stairs. I thought it was really unconscionable, but maybe I'm just appalled at my new (but temporarily) handicapped status. I'm going to start paying more attention to handicapped facilities in my future reviews.

Lee: While Mariah was trekking to Nepal to go to the bathroom, the desserts arrived. I liked the financier. The coffee creme had a deep flavor that didn't overpower the delicate pastry. However, by the time dessert came to our table, we were practically freezing. So, I wasn't thrilled that it came with ice cream as well. That pretty much got pushed to the side. I was also wanting out of there by then, too. I had originally planned a relaxed evening of having dinner with my son and our friend without having to rush to do anything afterwards. However, it was a school night, and I was suddenly forced to rush to get Austin ready for bed. It was a very good thing we did homework while we waited for food.

Mariah: I didn't care for my Apple Galette at all. It was a small square of puff pastry with some sliced apples with a caramel drizzle and some ice cream. I didn't want the ice cream because I was so damn cold, but whatever, I ate it. The pastry was really dry and tasteless. On the whole, it was really unoriginal. When the bill finally arrived, we were appalled to see they had charged us for all their wine snafus! The bill had not only the misdirected glass of zin but also had the extra price for the wine pairing. And, though I don't normally expect it, I was kind of thinking they might have comped us something. They had royally bungled the evening and I thought at least the pot of decaf I'd had to order to warm myself up would have been an appropriate comp. But no - full price for everything.

Lee: Mariah is neglecting to mention the one last zinger. After getting the check corrected and paying, we stopped at the hostess station to inquire about the handicap elevator again. Even though Mariah had asked about it when she got there several hours earlier, the hostess had no clue about the status of the elevator. Right around that time, a gentleman zipped by us and I heard him say something to the effect of, "Oh, yeah. That's right. I'll fix the elevator right now," as he walked off in the opposite direction of the elevator.

Mariah: Apparently we weren't the only bloggers to have problems. Maggie of Maggie's Concierge service had a similar experience with the inept service. I would have expected this level of incompetent service from a restaurant that had opened a few days before, but not one thats been open almost a year. Sorry Paggi House, but you picked the wrong time to have a bad night.

Bottom Line: Decent high end food, a beautiful patio, but completely incompetent service

Mariah - 4 (7.5 if you judge just the food)
Lee - 4.5
Austin - 40 (A far cry from 140000 million thousand)