bistro calais

2811 bammel ln b/w w. alabama & richmond

i was excited about trying out this casual french bistro in the upper kirby area. i'm a total sucker for french food and my friend who just moved across the street said she loved the place. i did some research on their website, the prices looked reasonable, the menu interesting, and the restaurant itself very charming and quiant. i wasn't expecting an awful experience, but it happened just the same.

first of all, it took 10-15 mins to be greeted at our table. when we asked if we could order a half portion of the sweetbreads entree as an appetizer, our server assured us it would be no problem. 30 mins later when the appetizer should have been hitting our table, he came back to tell us the kitchen would make us a half order but would charge us full price. so we asked to see the menu again. he disappeared and it took 10-15 mins for him to come by the table again.

since they were out of escargot which he told us the first time we ordered, i opted for the french onion soup and my friend ordered the coconut shrimp w/ peanut sauce, which was on the daily specials menu. both of these dishes were terrible. the gruyere on top of the soup was excellent -- perfectly broiled into warm and chewy goodness, with the sharp and nutty flavor of a good gruyere, but the broth was remarkably sour. i was shocked b/c even the french onion soup at bennigan's (which i recall eating 10 years ago) was better than this version. my guest's coconut shrimp ended up being 4 battered and deep fried shrimp with coconut sprinkled on top. the peanut sauce was thick and sweet. the dish was confusing and heavy.

for entrees, my rack of lamb which was supposed to be served in a mint sauce arrived in a pool of brown acid. at this point, i started wondering if my taste buds were off, but my friend, who teaches food operations at the hilton college, confirmed that i was right. it was the first time i had rack of lamb that was almost inedible. when i mentioned it to our server, he seemed annoyed and said he would take it off our bill and walked off very rudely.

my friend had the roasted duck breast which came out chewy. it was still pink in the middle, so i was confused how it could be chewy. it was obviously cooked perfectly at some point, then sliced and sat under a salamander or in an oven too long waiting come to the table.

although the waiter was surly and generally annoyed with us, he comped our wine and the lamb off our bill. we tipped him well, so we didn't have to feel bad about never coming here again. we should have gone to cafe rabalais or brasserie max and julie.

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