Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hooray! A restaurant review!

It was a late lunch, and there were people sitting and eating in the place so I took this as a good sign.  I’ve had some really great meals in Stillwater, so I tried my luck with a place I hadn’t been yet. There are three major aspects to a dining experience; ambiance, service and the food. Marx failed on all three, to a degree that has shocked me into having to write a review on this site. So let's go down the list.

The decor dazzles in a way that only a color-blind, manic schizoid choose. Of the dozen or so tables there was not more than a pair that matched in size shape or height. White Christmas lights, loosely wrapped in thin white fabric zig-zag over the main dining area. Bright orange Chihuly-esque lamps hang in a row, mirroring the arc of the crescent shaped bar. There are neon lights embedded in the surface of the bar that pulse in an oozing modulation while shifting through the shades of a simple rainbow. The walls are overcrowded with an array of massive, "modern art," so loud the obvious intent behind the scheme is to drown out or blind what the employees of Marx Fusion Bistro will subjugate upon the accidental customer.

Upon seating, a drink list/ book was provided and water offered. The water arrived with menus and the server left. A few minutes later, the server reappeared (having avoided the one other occupied table in that section) and daily specials were read off. The order was taken at that time, yet the point-of-sale computer was overlooked for several more minutes after that. Some odd-sized chunks of bread surrounding a ceramic cup of olive oil, complete with a floater of a garlic clove and a single blade of rosemary arrived with side plates next. The bottle of balsamic was remembered soon after. At this point, I was growing nervous… so I took the initiative and flagged down the server since the menus were now gone and it was clear now I was not going to be offered the option to get a glass of wine. Some time later, the sole course arrived neatly arranged on a plate that had obviously been left to die under a heat lamp for a long time, as my exploratory touch (yes, I was warned) singed my calloused finger. When the silverware was dropped off, I was able to use the napkin to slide my plate over 7 or 8 inches so that it was now in front of me. Later, once I had had enough, I was asked if I would like a to-go container to which I declined. A little Styrofoam clamshell container showed up anyway. The process of paying the bill went off without incident, oddly, and that was that. On a final note here, my server’s attitude and demeanor as well as physical appearance were all quite pleasant, but a few years experience at a Denny’s plus a bit of training from whomever is in charge of the front of house would greatly improve one’s ability to the tasks of one’s job in the correct order.

And then, there was the food. Starting with the menu, there were three sections; Salads, Pizza’s, and Pasta. I was struggling to see the “fusion” aspect of American Bistro idea Modern/ Food Network Italian. Sure, some of the cocktails have fusion like quirkiness to the flavor combinations, but the chef usually doesn't create those – that’s what you pay the bartender for. My dining companion ordered the beet/ bacon/ blue cheese salad. I had just had a salad for my previous meal, and I wasn't too jazzed about the pizza/ pasta dichotomy, but upon hearing the fish heavy specials such as a Fruits de Mer, some Scallop concoction, and a Asian themed Mahi Mahi something something, my interest was piqued. So, I opted for that last one, to witch my server replied, "That one's my favorite." Armed with an $11 glass of Chardonnay, I sipped slowly in anticipation.  I was only told twice that my food would be out shortly. Then the big moment came. My scorching hot plate arrived. Off-center of the round, two little fillets overlapped each other, moored upon a mass of garlic mashed potatoes, under a hat of Asian slaw, and sauced with a thick translucent brown and speckled goo. Creeping around the rest of the plate was a series of vegetable piles; the first a stack of a half-dozen green beans, next a dollop of something orange, a single floret of broccoli, finally a fan of five snow peas. There was a lot going on on this plate that looked as if it was still listening to G&R while teasing the bangs of its mullet. Well, I stick a fork in it and OMG, it's well done. Not a little over, not even close - it's cat food. My server never asked for a temp, which I didn't think much of because who in their right mind would cook Mahi past medium rare for even the most squeamish diner? The sauce, not faring much better; basically a thinned out hoisin with a little ginger and some sesame seeds. The garlic mash… just okay. The veggies; raw but with some darkness at the tips of the floret, and no seasoning - blanched for a whole five seconds and finished via heat lamp, delicious! Not. Asian slaw was really just coleslaw with sesame oil instead of mayo with the addition of a hint of ginger and a sprig of cilantro for a garnish. My company's salad was almost the opposite. Zero attention to plating, the greens, beets, bacon, blue and dressing all mixed homogeneously and then dumped onto the plate. Granted it was a bit of a mess to eat as everything but the whole leaves of greens was small dice size. The candied pecan halves were by far the biggest bits tossed in there, also the best texture - the beets and cheese had the same. Finally, it's hard to mess up such a bulletproof flavor combination of blue cheese, bacon, and candied pecans… with a hint of balsamic vinaigrette.  

When it comes to the folks at Marx, it is a tasteless (visual and culinary) philosophy of function follows form. 

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