It’s so strange how an experience can be pleasant for 99.9% of the time, but the last 0.1% can make you second-guess the entire event. We decided to try the Oxalis pop-up in LES last night. The $95 price tag for a 6-course tasting menu seemed like it might be a good value, and for most of the meal, it was.
We started with “potato and leek” which tasted like a fancy potato chip with even fancier french onion dip – a great start. The “grilled beets, bone marrow, watercress” was cooked in a way that gave it a tasty meaty texture and smoky flavor. The salad was similar to one of our favorites from One Eared Stag in Atlanta, the dumpster salad – nice crispy bits of fried herbs along with peppery nasturtiums and mixed greens, dressing on the side through which to drudge the greenery. [I lost my menu after writing the first part of this post, and can’t remember the rest.] It was rounded out by a beef dish, one more plate, and a frozen dessert, but unfortunately, I don’t recall the details. Each glass of wine was interesting and paired well with the accompanying dish.
All in all, it was a pleasant experience – a deal for a tasting menu with pairings in NYC. Since we had paid for the dinner online ahead of time, I wondered aloud how the dinner would end. Maybe they would bring little pastries like a lot of the tasting-only restaurants. Instead, several minutes after our last dish, someone came over to ask about our meal and thank us for coming. Still good. We were getting ready to leave, when I heard the host tell the table next to us that they were leaving a check for $0.10 so they could tip the waitstaff with a credit card. A bit later, the host brought our check with the same message. I wonder what would have happened if we had unknowingly left before they brought our unexpected bill. The staff shouldn’t have to suffer for the restaurant’s strategy and execution.
I know it is not a big deal to go from $200 to $240 for a good meal, but the unexpected addition changed our whole outlook on the experience. We then began to second guess the value of the meal. We questioned their commitment to the staff, since it is likely that some diners just said “no”. My husband determined that the total amount of wine and other spirits served was probably not much more than a $25 retail bottle of wine between the two of us. While the flavors were definitely flavorful, we began to ask ourselves if they were really any better than a normal meal at somewhere like Caffe Dante or Atoboy or Wildair that comes out to little more than half the cost of this meal. My advice to Oxalis – go ahead and charge the $95 + 20% to take care of your staff, and then diners can make an informed decision. We probably would have still decided to go and would have left thinking it was a lovely experience, but now, we won’t be going back or recommending it to others. A small but crucial misstep on their part.
Photo courtesy of: https://www.easytogrowbulbs.com/products/oxalis-iron-cross-good-luck-plant?variant=42687270860
Update: I found my menu, and the other dishes were “lettuces with anchovy”, “sunchokes, walnut, mushroom, comte”, “beef, black garlic, endive, horseradish”, and “citrus, osmanthus, white chocolate.”