Sunday, May 7, 2017

I was expecting better from Pier 51...

Every once in awhile, I run across a restaurant in the Stuttgart area that gets talked about a lot.  I had heard a lot about Pier 51, a restaurant that is part of the same group that owns Cube, an expensive and highly regarded restaurant downtown.  Bill and I dined at Cube in January and had a good experience.  I kept hearing how great Pier 51 is.  Yesterday, I decided to book it, thinking we were going to have a fancy night out.

Well... tonight was definitely memorable.  We didn't have a horrible experience, but it definitely could have been better than it was.  Some of what happened was beyond the staff's control, but I found the service to be a bit off tonight.  I was also feeling a bit tired and out of sorts, which didn't help matters.

We arrived at the restaurant at about 6:00pm, which is when we made our reservation using Pier 51's online system.  There are several parking spots behind the restaurant as well as a garage.  We got there early enough that there were plenty of spots in the lot behind the restaurant.  For those who prefer public transportation, there's a U-Bahn stop right across the street.  So kudos to Pier 51 for that.


Wilkommen...



Pier 51 is convenient to the U-bahn.

We walked into the restaurant and I immediately smelled truffles.  Bill was excited because he was looking forward to trying their truffle fries.  I avoid all things fungal, so I wasn't as excited.  I noticed all the signs in English and they reminded me a lot of 80s era "Please wait to be seated" signs I might see in a Shoney's.  The hostess/manager first tried to seat us at a two top next to a large party when there were several two tops open.  I think she caught the look on my face and offered us what appeared to be a good table by a window.  A family of four was seated near us-- a couple and their two young, adorable kids, a girl of about four and her little brother, who appeared to be about two.

A waitress came over to take our drink order after dropping off a menu.  Bill ordered mineral water with gas.  She left before we ordered wine.  Her male colleague dealt with us for most of the rest of the evening, but it took him awhile to get to us.  Consequently, we had time to observe the family sitting near us... actually, we had time to listen to their kids shriek.  Apologies to all of the parents of very young kids who might be reading this review.  Bear in mind that I'm almost 45 and don't have kids, so I'm not used to hearing them do a lot of yelling.  I like kids fine and I understand that they are not really in control of their behavior when they are as young as these two were.  But you know, very young kids have shrill voices that can cut right to your heart and jangle the nerves.  These kids were doing a lot of squealing throughout our meal and their high pitched vocals were anything but adding to the ambiance.

Anyway, the waiter finally came over and we put in our order.  Bill got a Caesar salad.  I got salmon tartar.  We also got surf and turf for two.  We also ordered bearnaise and pepper sauce and sides of truffle fries and macaroni and cheese, all of which cost extra.  The surf and turf is charged based on weight.  We got the smallest portions available.  That proved to be a good plan, since the portion sizes weren't too huge.


Obligatory shot of Bill before my temper got too short.

The waiter brought out fresh bread and raw vegetables.  There was butter for the bread and two kinds of dip for the veggies.  One of the dips tasted like a sweet pepper relish of some kind.  The other was a very tasty basil garlic cream creation.  


I didn't want to load up too much on the bread and veggies, though...

The table with the little kids must have arrived just before we did because they got their food just before we did.  The food sort of kept the tykes quiet, although the little boy (who probably should have been in a highchair) kept standing on his chair.  I cringed as I watched him reach for one of the plates the waiter was delivering.  I used to wait tables myself and one thing you NEVER want to do is try to reach for something the server is balancing.  Fortunately, a disaster was averted and the food was delivered without incident.  However, neither mom nor dad did anything to correct the boy.

Meanwhile, our wine was delivered.  After pouring some for us, the waiter took the bottle and set it on the bar, probably because we were at a small table.  At finer restaurants, it's customary for the wait staff to pour the wine.  I don't necessarily mind this practice as long as the wait staff is attentive.  Otherwise, the wine ends up being held hostage... and boy, did I need wine to get through our meal and dull the squawks from the little kids sitting near us.  Bless their hearts.  It was probably way past their bedtimes.

As we sipped wine, I noticed that the window I was sitting right next to offered a view of the outdoor ashtray.  Several people loitered outside finishing their cigarettes and checking their iPhones.  I might not have noticed this if I wasn't already in a bit of a mood.  Our server came back and brought us the appropriate silverware for the rest of our meal.


My salmon tartar.  This was citrus cured salmon topped with a thick layer of creme fraiche, avocado, and roe with bits of endive.  The green pearls were avocado creme.  This was a pricy starter, but pleasant enough.  


Bill had a standard issue Caesar salad.

The manager cleared our dishes after we assured her the food tasted good.  We just didn't want to get overloaded with food before our main course arrived.  


A close up of the surf and turf.  We got a petit filet and split a lobster, which came with drawn butter.  The bearnaise sauce was extra.


I had a side of macaroni and cheese, which tasted like it was made of Gruyere cheese.  It wasn't bad, although I like my mac and cheese made with slightly more pedestrian cheese.  I finished about half.


Bill's dish looked the same, except for the truffle fries topped with Parmesan cheese.

While we were eating, the tykes at the table near us got up and started running around the restaurant.  Their mother half-heartedly tried to corral them at the table.  Dad, who had a rather prodigious gut with a correspondingly flat posterior that didn't hold up his jeans, stepped outside for a smoke.  He stood in front of the window next to our table and hitched up his pants after rearranging some "stuff".  Bill laughed at the faces I made, since it was unavoidable for me not to see what he was doing.  His ass was basically flush with the window.  If we ever dine at Pier 51 again, I think I will ask for a table further away from the front windows and not take the one right next to the front door.

Dad came back into the restaurant.  I noticed his wife was dressed in a pretty red dress and heels.  He was dressed much more casually.  Actually, although Bill and I looked nicer than usual, Pier 51 appeared to be a fairly casual place.  Dad's wardrobe was fine.  Mom was looking like she was hoping for a date.  Dad was looking like he just wanted to satisfy his hunger.  I watched as two parties got up to leave.  Both had kids as young as the ones sitting near us, although the other kids never made a peep.  As the adults with the young kids passed, I noticed as they gave the family a disapproving side eye.  I don't think we were the only ones who were weary of all of the screeching.

Around this time, our wine glasses were empty.  Our waiter had fallen into the dreaded weeds and kind of forgot about us.  After awhile listening to more shrieks from the kids, I was really wanting wine.  It took some time before anyone noticed we were finished eating and wanting more vino.  Another waiter cleared our plates and asked us if we wanted another drink.  I said we had some wine.  He thought we wanted to order more wine and I had to point out our half full wine bottle sitting on the bar.  I had briefly considered getting up and rescuing it from the hostage situation it was in.  

Finally, the manager clued in and came over with the bottle and poured the wine for us.  Then, for some reason, she took the last bit of it and set it back on the bar.  I noticed her go over and say something to our waiter, who eventually came over and apologized. 

The family with the kids finally paid and left.  Our waiter offered us espresso on the house, which we gratefully accepted.  The espresso came with little brownies, which was enough dessert for me.  When the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, I said I just wanted to finish the wine.  Then, I watched in amazement as the waiter walked right past the bottle to another part of the restaurant.  He eventually came back and found our bottle for us.  He poured the last bit and we finished it.

Then we sat several more minutes before we could get the waiter's attention and ask for the bill.  When he brought us the bill, Bill checked it over, noting that it was under 100 euros.  We sure weren't expecting a check that low, so we flagged the waiter down again.  Sure enough, he'd brought us the wrong bill.  Our dinners came to just over 200 euros.  Bill paid with a credit card and slipped our waiter a tip in cash.

Look... I know parents with young kids want to go out to eat, too.  And kids should go out to eat because that's how they learn how to behave in public.  These kids might have been tired and I give the parents props for at least showing up at the restaurant fairly early.  However, when you're paying several hundred euros for a meal, it kind of sucks to listen to high pitched banshee sounds.  We were only in the restaurant for two hours, but it seemed like we were there a lot longer.  I was definitely ready to go.

That all being said... the food was good.  I wasn't totally blown away by the surf and turf, but the food was attractively presented and tasted fine.  It was rather expensive for what it was, although it's not so easy to find lobster in these parts.  About a year ago, Bill and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the now defunct Ocean's First in Holzgerlingen and I had a whole lobster there that was better than what we had tonight.  But it's not easy to get a lobster fix in these parts.  I noticed that Pier 51 had lots of attractive looking steaks available, as well as a few other choices for non meat eaters and a couple of fish dishes.  They also have a cheeseburger that was tempting, though it's hard to justify spending 23 euros on a burger, especially in Germany.


I visited the ladies room before we left and was perplexed to see this portrait in the stall...  

Anyway, I'd probably give Pier 51 another chance, although I think I'd go a little later in the evening. And I would definitely ask for a table away from the bar area, even though the bar was attractive.  I did enjoy the 70s era soul music they were playing, especially after the little tykes were no longer screeching along.  They also get points for having show jumping on the TV monitors.


My curiosity is now satisfied.

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