Monday, November 30, 2009

Comments About The Gas Station Tacos, Donna's And Some Ideas For Good Deli

Sometimes, the news isn't all good on HowChow. The Minx wrote about her disappointing dinner at Bangkok Delight, a Thai restaurant that I once thought was the best around but that has disappointed me in the last few visits as well.

One of the reasons that I highlight comments is so that people don't rely on my opinion alone. I like finding new food in Howard County, but the comments are full of other news. For example, a bunch of folks talked up coffee shops in Howard County, and the Baltimore Beer Guy and msleibo wrote up their meals at the new Trattoria Montese in Waverly Woods -- counter service with good pasta. If nothing else, check out the comments on my "Best of Howard County" post -- Dave on Aida Bistro, Kristi on Kloby's hush puppies, Morty Abzug on Akbar's saffron rice, and more.

Of course, if you have the time, check out the detailed submissions like Trip Klaus' comment on a post about Vegegas Prime Filet. He started with a report about the Venegas opening, but then wrote about Bistro Blanc and Azul 17:
Second, in relation to the late Jordan's you mentioned the fact that many of the staff have been hired by Bistro Blanc. In theory this was to rectify the many service complaints reported both here and elsewhere. However, given the time the new staff will explain this to you and explain how much better they are. My main problem with Jordan's was it's pretentiousness over performance. These new waiters only bring that impression to Bistro Blanc. . . . I've said before that Bistro Blanc's food is my favorite in the county but I don't know that this is such an improvement.

Third, I visited the Azul 17 the other day and I have to say how underwhelmed I was. While the decor is appalling I was hopeful for the food and drinks. I love the movement to using agave nectar and fresh lime juice in margaritas vs. that premade sour mix garbage but Agave and Diablita are both doing this in the city at $2-$3 less. I resent being charged $4 for indiffernt chips and salsa at lunch plus $2 more to taste the habanero salsa that seems to have come out of an El Yucatan bottle. . . .
And on to some other comments:
And finally a review from Lisa, who sent me an email about Donna's in Columbia. I have no insights because Mrs. HowChow eats at Donna's in the city almost every week. It has been her nearest lunch place for the better part of 10 years. So she doesn't want more when she comes home. Sounds like Lisa doesn't want much more either.
We just returned from a meal at Donna's (on Snowden River Parkway, in the same shopping center as Victoria Gastro Pub), and I just had to e-mail you. I haven't seen too many reviews for Donna's on your blog, so I was wondering if you had any insights that we aren't aware of. Anyway, here it is:

Donna's -- our final assessment is... WOW (but not in a good way).

We had only been to Donna's twice in the last 4 years prior to today. Each of those times, we had either drinks or dessert and coffee (all of which we weren't too enamored of, since it seemed we were paying way too much for what we were getting, quantity- and quality-wise). Today, we decided we should try Donna's for lunch to make sure our previous judgments hadn't been to hasty.

We arrived around 12:30 PM and were presented with a brunch menu and a specials list that had more brunch items and two sandwiches (fish and veggie). My husband was disappointed, since he had hoped for more sandwich options. I ended up ordering the "Omelet with Portobello Mushrooms" (included sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese in the omelet, with a side of roasted potatoes). It sounded delicious and looked decent, but the plate was a complete disaster. The omelet was very dry, and not moist like you would expect an omelet to be. It tasted like it had layers -- like someone had made a fried egg, folded it in half, and thrown pre-cooked veggies inside with some cheese.. The mushrooms were overcooked. The sun-dried tomatoes were sort of chewy (like the kind you have to "rehydrate" instead of the kind stored in a jar of oil). The potatoes were even worse -- they looked good, like they had been roasted for a while. But when I bit into them, they were dry and rubbery, like they had been pre-roasted hours (days?) ago and then microwaved to put on my plate. A quick toss in the deep fryer would have made them taste a lot better.

My husband ordered the breakfast pizza, which was... weird. It was layered as well. On the bottom: pizza crust (no sauce, as far as we knew). Then, a layer of onions and rounds of sliced tomatoes, topped with fried egg(s) covered with mozzarella cheese. The taste was just okay, but it didn't seem like a pizza due to the layering business -- mix it all up, why don'tcha?

It appears that the chef has good ideas on what flavors go well together, but the execution was sorely lacking. I did say something to the waitress about my dry dish, and was credited about 50% of the entree on our check. Unfortunately, we won't be returning, as we haven't been too impressed the three times we went. Hard to believe that place has been there for so long with the food they serve.


kam said...

I enjoy the Snowden Donna's for dinner, but I've never been all that impressed with their brunch and drinks. I think they're so busy during brunch hours that they don't pay as much attention to the food. Also, I tend to eat earlier dinners there, so again, busier kitchen possible later on.

Jim said...

Not sure if this is the case at Donna's or not, but Anthony Bordain in his book always said to avoid brunch, especially Sunday brunch because usually the best chefs in the restaurant aren't working then.

Jim said...

Forgot to mention, I like Donna's Snowden. Never had a bad meal there yet (but I have never been for brunch.) I especially like the fact they have a resonable priced child's menu. I hate going to a place and paying large amounts of money for buttered pasta.

Lisa said...

Thanks for posting my review. Reading it over again, it did sound a bit harsh, but I guess it accurately captured our disappointment after our meal.

And for clarification, we went for lunch on a Saturday at 12:30, and were quite surprised and disappointed that the menu was all brunch. We would definitely not have ordered breakfast-y entrees had there been more lunch choices on the menu.

Mary said...

I know this is an old post, but I've been musing over my experiences at Donna's, and knew I'd read mixed reviews here.

I've come to the conclusion that if Donna is there, it's a nice restaurant. If she's not, you're at risk of a bad meal. Donna is there on Saturday nights, and the tasting menu can be delightful. The regular menu is presented well, and the staff are reasonably attentive. I also like the jazz. The last time we went for lunch on the weekend, my meal was not what was described on the menu, and barely edible. There's a useful feedback form on Donna's website, and she offered me a free lunch when I complained. Still, I think I'll avoid the place except when I know she'll be overseeing things. Maybe if more people left feedback, good and bad, Donna would be more attentive to ensuring supervision when she can't be there personally.

They usually have both a brunch and lunch menu on weekends, but if the staff is too careless to give you both, you wouldn't know. Or maybe they've now switched to a buffet for brunch and menu for lunch. It's been while.