Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is The Writing On The Wall For The Rosetta Stone Cafe

I hope readers know that Accent Media and especially myself, are very Pro-Youngstown, and most definitely pro Downtown Youngstown. That being said, I have promised a review of the new Rosetta Stone Cafe that opened just half a block from our wonderful 20 Federal Plaza West building, and I have to say that is decidedly mixed. When I heard of the plan 3 years ago at a YAEDA meeting, it was originally to turn the location into a working media and computer company with an Internet Cafe added for downtown techies. I thought it was a wonderful idea, and was looking forward to the opening. I understand there was unfortunate and unforseen circumstances that caused the owner to enlist a new partner and start over again. The new vision was to still have the Internet Cafe concept, but gear it more towards a full fledged restaurant, rather than the original concept. I was actually even more happy because I obviously love to eat, and as the Sales and Marketing Director, I never want more competition in the market.

At First Night Youngstown, I took the owner of Accent Media, Chip, and our lead editor Kevin, down to check out the preview that Rosetta Stone was giving that night. We were immediately amazed at the renovations and decor that had occurred in such a short time and gave great kudos to the chef/co-owner that gave us a fantastic tour of the facility including the immaculate kitchen. We marveled at the chocolate sculptures, loved the colors and set-up, took ouur preview menu they were passing out and left, excited to come back as soon as they opened. Looking over the menu when we got back to the office, I was both impressed by the boldness of their selections, and worried that such said boldness would be appreciated and accepted by the community that currently comes downtown. To be honest, I thought they were a bit ahead of their time, but I was excited to try a lot of the dishes myself.

My first experience dining there was their second day open, when I took a potential client there for lunch. There was a decent smattering of tables seated and 6 patrons sitting at the bar. There also looked as though they were getting some take-out business at the front display case. Unfortunately on day 2 they had a few servers call off that day, and the manager was going to be our server. Although stressed a bit. the manager was in definite control, and handled our order fine. I chose the reuben sandwhich which was very tasty and served on a fantastic ciabatta bread roll, and served with an interesting and delicious mix of granola and apples. My client enjoyed the turkey sandwich and also had the granola and apples. We had water to drink and no room for appetizers or desserts, but we were very satisfied and the cafe was off to a great start in my eyes.

I then went 2 days later on Thursday evening to bring a friend and try the dinner menu. I had a late lunch that day and was not overly hungry, but my friend had brought a healthy appetite and we were ready to enjoy a nice dinner. The wine list has a very nice variety of wines available, however I thought the choices for each wine was not as imaginative and daring as they could have been. We settled on a bottle of Cabernet and it was enjoyable. We then decided to share the Roasted Artichoke and Andouille Dip, that sounded fantastic on the menu with creamy artichokes, baked with a blend of 4 cheeses, flavorful creole sausage and garden vegetables, however turned out to be very hard to manage with what I believe was poor concept. The flavor was very good, however it was served in a nice cereal bowl for lack of a better word, but you get the general idea of the shape, with pita chips surrounding it on a plate. Whether it was intentional or not, however the server never noticed if it was a mistake, the cheese had been baked into a liquid form around the sausage and vegetables. As I said, great flavor, but impossible to eat. The pita chips were not baked crisp, so they were very limp, with no way to hold either the vegetables and sausage, or the cheese, that simply drizzled and dripped off the chip. We honestly ended up eating most of it with our spoons and without the pita chips, those we simply dipped in the cheese sauce and tried not to drip on our clothes as we brought them to our mouths.

For entree's, my friend chose theRustic Alsacian Chicken, a Roasted Chicken Half with Peasant Roasted Vegetables and Angel Hair Pasta in a Rustic Buerre BlancSauce. The presentation was very well and the flavor was excellent according to him. I thought his portion was very generous, as was the entree's I saw going around the dining room that night. Since I had shared the appetizer and was still not overly hungry, I ordered the bowl of French Onion Soup and the Iceberg and Roquefort salad. Here in I believe is a major problem for this restaurant. Nothing that was on the lunch menu was available, and even though a sandwich would have been perfect for my appetite, none was available and I asked and was told they could not be served. If I bring anyone here with a small appetite at dinner, they are limited to appetizers soups and salads. While the flavor of the soup was okay, it was served in a large pasta bowl, with croutons and cheese layed on top. The bowl was too big for the cheese to cover, so the soup cooled quickly and unfortunately they did not have their soup spoons delivered yet, which I was not told. So I ate my soup with my teaspoon where the croutons would not fit and dripped everywhere from the bowl to your mouth. The salad was 3 large wedges of iceberg lettuce which was topped with the roquefort that had a nice enough taste, but only 4 slices of a roma tomato garnished the dish. It was overall very plain and not the best tasting salad ever.

We were both too full to order and enjoy dessert and left soon after finishing our meals. Definitely it was not a great experience, but as I said, my client and I had enjoyed our lunch thoroughly and it was only their fourth night, I would definitely give them another chance. I went back for my third time alone on Monday night. I have to say the food was fantastic this time, but the service was very poor indeed. I will leave that story and my recommendations for the Rosetta Stone Cafe in my next entry. I do wish this restaurant all the success, but it still has a way to go do survive in downtown Youngstown....Scott

No comments: