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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Slow, Confusing Dinner at Victory 44

I wanted to take my husband out for date night, and we chose Victory 44 because it wasn't far from home. And, we are big fans of Travail, so one of our friends told us the food and experience were similar, and some of the chefs had previously worked at Victory 44. It seemed like a place we should try.

We were seated right away, which was nice, but it was early and a weeknight. We received water, a wine and beer list, and a brief explanation of how ordering works. So far, so good. Then, the wait begins...

The hostess noticed no one had stopped by our table, and graciously offered to get our wine ordered. A few minutes later, the server appeared at our table with glasses and our bottle of wine. She asked if we had questions about the menu, so I asked about the chicken liver pate they had available. The server didn't appear to know very much about it, which was, unfortunately, to become the theme for our evening. She said she had not tried it, but the other servers had told her it was "like candy". It was served with a kind of a cracker, by her explanation. I hesitated a bit, and she told me the portion was quite small, so we could easily get two starters.

So, I ordered the pate, and Ray ordered the "Devils on Horseback". Then, we waited over half an hour before we heard back from the server. She assured us our selections were on the way, and they appeared about 5 minutes later.

The Devils on Horseback were blue cheese stuffed dates, wrapped in bacon, and served with a blue cheese "cheese whiz" and some sort of brown gel that the server struggled to describe. We still don't know what it was, exactly. And some candied marcona almonds. The dates themselves were well prepared, and the blue cheese whiz was really amazing, but if you took a bite of everything together, it was cloyingly sweet.

The chicken liver pate was sublime. Well, the pate part of the dish, was sublime. The rest of it was a little disjointed, at best. The "cracker" the server described was actually a piece of puff pastry, that was crumbly and difficult to eat with the pate. It was served with compressed rhubarb, an asparagus gelee that had no flavor at all, a walnut gastrique that was more of a gel, and a walnut brittle. It was difficult to get a bite of all the components together.

In retrospect, we should have ordered our entrees at the same time as our starters, but we ordered those when we received the starters, not knowing the delays that awaited us. It was over 45 minutes before we even saw the server again, who wanted us to know the kitchen was very small, and "slammed", and she was doing what she could to get our entrees out as soon as possible. Ten minutes later, she said she was standing behind the chef, asking where our dishes were, and apologized. Good thing we had ordered a bottle of wine...

When our entrees arrived, they were, well, confusing. The server didn't know the names of all of the components on the dishes, so we were guessing at some of them. Ray ordered a pork tenderloin, which had compressed potatoes, compressed rhubarb, a charcoal vinaigrette, and some other sauce and powder on the plate, we weren't sure what they were. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly (as you would expect from a restaurant with photos of pigs all over), but overall it wasn't anything exciting.

I ordered the turkey meatloaf, which the server described as, well, a meatloaf. It had compressed nettles (there was a lot of compression going on in the kitchen that evening), white asparagus, a truffle sauce (she couldn't remember what kind of sauce), and some microgreens. Oh, and a piece of something she described as "ham, only kind of like bacon." There was another sauce on the plate as well, which she failed to explain, along with some lovely sauteed morels. The meatloaf had an odd texture, and after a few bites, we could only determine that it had some organ meats ground up in the mix. It would have been nice to have that in the description. It was sorely under seasoned, as were the nettles, and the ham/bacon-like meat was extremely salty. If you put all of the ingredients together in one bite, it still had an odd flavor and texture.

We asked, when our meal was delivered, if we should order dessert now, because of the long wait, and the server assured us that the dessert station wasn't nearly as backed up as the dinner, so we could take our time. That was a mistake. We finished our dinner, and waited another 15 minutes before our server came to take our dessert order. And another 25 minutes for the dessert to arrive...the wine was already gone at this point.

The dessert we chose was movie theatre snacks, which consisted of two balls of frozen creme brulee coated in caramel corn, salted popcorn with hollandaise sauce, chocolate crunch balls, and a Twizzler soda. The frozen creme brulee tasted more like just a frozen custard, and the caramel corn could have use more caramel, and salt, to play up the sweet and salty contrast they were going for. The popcorn and hollandaise was just odd. We did like the crunchy balls, and the vote was split on the Twizzler soda. Ray liked it, I thought it tasted like a medicine I remembered as a child.

All in all, with the delays in service, lack of explanation regarding what was on our plates, and hit and miss food, it was a less than satisfying dining experience.

And I wanted to love it, I just didn't. But the wine was really, really good.


  1. Nice review - too bad the server seemed short on experience. Thanks for taking the time for such a thorough review.

  2. What the hell happened to their "chef as servers" concept? Seems to have gone by the way-side. Been there many, many times and have yet to receive good service. Mostly it's their baristas pulling Cliff notes from their apron reading descriptions of menu items. Awful. Truly awful.

  3. I'm sad you had such a bad experience at V44. I do love them. They're in my neighborhood. But I think I had your same server last time I was there. Major major disappointment. She didn't have a clue. But fortunately, we didn't have the delays you had. Actually I'm surprised by that. Things have always come out quickly when I've been there. I'm hoping they will get their staff a little more informed in the future.

  4. She had notes in her pocket, but even then, it seemed everything she described was "compressed". I might try it again if I thought the server situation would be better, because I think the food might be interesting, but I like to know what I am eating!

  5. I went there a few months ago for the Sampling Menu/Date Night thing (on Tuesdays, I think) and I had the same experience. I think it took us about 2.5 to 3 hrs from start to finish and had to wait about 25 minutes between courses. I wanted to like it too, but, after being in there for 3 hrs, I just couldn't. Fair review tho.

  6. First off... the 'chefs as servers' thing was born by the guys at Trevail and when they left Victory 44, so did the concept and great food. Before the Trevail boys came in and saved Victory 44 it was a failing restaurant. They turned things around and put the place on the map for foodies Chef Eric Harcey was never there during that time, and let those boys make the decisions. He is present more now, but does have to divide his time between Kitchen (which is abysmal at best) and Victory 44. It is only natural that things have changed since the Trevail boys went and opened their wildly successful restaurant concept. Now at Victory 44, the chef's rarely bring food out to the table and you have a designated server. Chef Harcey apparently wasn't able to pull off the concept as well as Chef Wineberg of Trevail. Servers have trouble with the menu because it is changes almost weekly and the turn over rate is VERY high. The servers you do get... most of them are unhappy with where they work. They aren't making very much for tips since it's split with everyone who works there and as such they don't care as much about the food they serve. If I worked 80 hours in two weeks and was paid a total of 800$, I would be apathetic too. Great service usually equals great tips for those in the service industry and when you take that away you take away their drive to excel in their position. Ultimately they know that no matter the type of service that they give you... they are going to make the exact same as the person running food, or the person who only has one table, etc.
    Another thing about this place: they constantly bad mouth the guys from Trevail. I've heard the owner say some very rude things about Trevail as a restaurant and the guys who own it. Maybe they are jealous? Perhaps bitter? Probably a combination of both. Still, overall a turn off. It's a pretty rotten thing to do- talk shit about other people's success because they are doing better than you (in every area).
    I won't be back.

  7. I still left the server a pretty decent tip in spite of the poor service. Having been in the industry before, I certainly can sympathize that not everything is in your control. But I agree, never badmouth another restaurant. And poor service really just means lower tips and fewer repeat customers.