Monday, November 23, 2009

First Reviews of Venegas Prime Filet in Maple Lawn

No one should issue a final judgment on a restaurant from its first few days, but it's great fun to hear about the new places like Venegas Prime Filet in Fulton, which opened last Friday.

The beaujolais nouveau of restaurant reviews arrived this weekend, and Cathy & HowICook both spent real time to write their opinions -- and even snap cell phone photos.

First, HowICook reports on Venegas meal from beer to dessert. He highlighted that golden chocolate dome, which makes me file a complaint against Venegas about its lighting because the dessert photo looks more like a fuzzy UFO. Clearly, they're not lighting this place to maximize cellphone photos. It's a common failure. I can't snap a single roll
in Sushi King. How can they expect food bloggers to work in these low-light conditions? But enough about me. On to HowICook's comment about Venegas:
I took the family to Venegas Prime Filet tonight, Sunday (11/22/09). Sadly, the tree that was the trademark of Oz is gone and replaced by a modern oversized light. Being a beer guy, they have 4 drafts available with 2 from clipper city which was nice considering Ranazul (owner’s other restaurant just across the street) has none. Beware the price of a draft beer is a bit steep. They served 4 different complimentary breads with honey butter which were all good.
The menu has a nice variety of fish, meat and prime beef. The prime beef appears to be reasonably priced. We ordered the cheese plate (2 out of 3 were special) and 5 entrees (monkfish, rockfish, prime flat iron steak (wow!) with truffle butter (too subtle), citrus pasta & French short rib). All the dishes were nice presentations with nice garnishes. Additionally we ordered the reasonably priced accessories, cauliflower gratin (a really nice puree), mashed potatoes (still not serving the roasted garlic variety) and the brussel sprouts (wow
The standouts were the monkfish, flat iron steak and the short rib (actually a bit too fatty but wonderful beefy taste with nice fried shallots, and ‘to die for’ gnocchi). For dessert, we all got a taste of the unbelievable decadent golden chocolate dome. It too was ‘to die for’. The service was very good and almost too attentive. Finally, I asked the waiter about the chefs and the sous chef showed up at our table. She asked about our meal details (commented on the beef short rib dish being hers from beginning to end) and showed real interest in our comments.

This is a place where you need to savor the details. It’s not the overall great experience they’re striving for yet but if you look close, the details add up to a good experience. Trying to keep costs reasonable, we didn’t try any of the appetizers, soups or salads. Next time, I want to sit in the bar area and order these especially the interesting appetizers. They remind me of Ranazul.
Second, Cathy reports some hiccups on Saturday night at Venegas. Liked the bread. Liked the atmosphere. But nothing really grabbed her.
We tried Venegas tonight (Sat 21st.) Since I was familiar with the layout of Oz, I requested a table that was not near the kitchen on our Open Table reservation Thus, we were seated a table away from the kitchen. Perhaps Open Table does not forward our comments? It wasn't too bad, though.

They were out of an entree and side dish we wanted (chicken, and garlic mash (but they had regular mashed potatoes?) This was an early evening reservation, so not sure why they were out of these common items. Bread was good, and the honey on top of the butter was a nice touch. Atmosphere was decent, more modern casual than romantic. Staff was very pleasant, but I would have expected the owner to visit the tables on it's opening weekend. No personal touch.

Overall, it was an average experience, and there are not enough items on the menu that I personally liked, and nothing really special to make me want to go back. Still looking for a restaurant in Maple Lawn that I want to frequent!
Please do add your opinion below if you have eaten at Venegas. I love that HowChow is a place where people can exchange their views. I'll caution anyone that a restaurant changes over its first weeks and months. But it's still good to know what people are saying . . .


woodsie said...

Steak was good, but not all that. Wine was overpriced - no shock there. Service was eager, but very inept.

They were out of a lot of items we wanted, which is probably the biggest knock we had against the place. Especially considering we were there Friday night at 7:30 PM - it's not like we were there after their dinner rush!

Anonymous said...

Party of 6 dined 11/28. The same problems that ultimately doomed the Oz remain with Venegas. Wait staff and execution does not match the $$$ you pay for your meal. 2 of 6 steaks were undercooked and I mean not even close. They were comped. Overall I was underwhelmed. Will they them again in 6-8 months to see if they mature at all, but overall, first visit does not inspire confidence.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how everyone today is a food critic. It is not easy to please everyone especially being so new. They havent had a chance to work out any kinks, which every business has at the beginning. If your business is flawless then you should get a medal! Restaurants in general are hard to run and stay afloat these days no matter what you do.So try supporting them instead of bashing them becuase you had one not so fabulous experience. Oz was smart to get out when they did but lets not see another one go.

HowChow said...

@Anonymous 12/8: I'm with you on having compassion for people working out the kinks. But "supporting" a restaurant doesn't seem to include telling people that it was great if it wasn't. It's a real tension to figure out, and I think it is especially hard for restaurants that charge top prices. I haven't tried Venegas yet, but I wrote about a similar issue here:

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying to tell them it's great if its not. Feedback is always needed in that business to make it better. But stating you won't be back due to one issue or one experience is not helpful! Some people are so quick to judge and will stick to that judgement no matter what. I have been to several restaurants and had horrible experiences and I have returned to much better experiences. But in all those occasions I never felt it was neccessary to let the web know what went wrong. I am not attacking your blog, I am writing this in response to all the comments and other bloggers out there who have nothing nice to say.

Morty Abzug said...

My wife and I went to Venegas last night. Quick summary: nice atmosphere, tasty food, some problems.

There was no space for walk-ins in the main dining area, so we sat at a bar table. This turned out to be fine: it was a large, circular room with a vaulted ceiling, interestingly-shaped windows, and hanging drapes. The bar staff was solicitous. The romantic lighting and ambience pleased my wife. Before any of the food arrived, my wife already had shiny eyes and was saying that we needed to go there again.

The food was quite tasty. The fried calamari in particular was some of the best fried calamari I've ever eaten -- buttery and tender. My well-done delmonico was spiced and cooked just right. My wife enjoyed her filet, especially the spices. Our "accessories" (AKA sides) of creamy spinach and garlic mashed potatoes were less exciting but still good. The bread and honey-tipped butter were good, and my ginger beer had a nice bite.

Unfortunately, there were some problems. Our steaks took a really long time to arrive, apparently because they lost our ticket. There were also some other minor problems. They were eager to "make it right", and comped us for the entire meal.

On the whole, Venegas is already very tasty and shows a lot of promise towards fixing their issues. We are looking forward to seeing how they mature, and will be back.

VPF927 said...

I am a server at Venegas Prime Filet. And yes your right we did have kinks that we needed to work out. We have stepped up our service since the opening. We've changed our Menu a little by adding the porterhouse,hanger steak and some new accessories and appetizers. We also are are changing up the wine list a little bit as well. If you remember with-in the first two months of opening we handed out surveys which customers were very honest and truthful on. Since then we have been trying to correct our flaws and take care of the concerns our customers had with our service, knowledge, and food. P.s. Fridays and Saturdays i would recommend a reservation because we get pretty booked since were not a very large spaced restaurant. Thankyou.

Anonymous said...

I must say, these comments were made when the restaurant was JUST opening! Every restaurant has kinks, and seeing these reviews seemed to make me wanna try it out myself. It turns out, none of this was right! My wife is a food critic herself, so I wanted her to come with me and critic it herself. After consideration, she agreed happily. When we came in we were shocked by the wonderful decorations, even she said it was impressive on how much the restaurant changed and how beautiful it was. We were quickly served by a very nice, polite waiter. He was well trained and was very nice to talk to! The steak was out of this world, top notch! My wife agreed happily, and the wine was simply divine. Everything about the meal tingled out taste buds, I hope we get a chance to go back soon, they have really done a great job and I am already craving the sweet potato fries!

Fran Kunkle said...

Venegas has come a long way to perfect their service and food. The new Manager greeted us at our table, suggested a great bottle of cabernet. We had the filet mignon and the ribeye..loved it. They were out of the chicken dish that evening, so my wife tried the salmon and she was happy. I was happy to see the Jim from Jordan's Steakhouse, we will ask for him in the future. I want the recipe for the chocolate dome!

Jen Blacker said...

This is good to hear. We used to go to Jordan's for special occasions and were so sad it was gone. We want to try Vengas out in August when we can get a sitter and have a little extra cash.