Tuesday, March 3, 2009
TBG Eats at: Bing Crosby's Restaurant & Piano Bar
Current Weight: 170.6 lbs.
5:00 PM - Just out of the shower, getting dressed for birthday dinner of Mrs. Bootleg's best friend. The evening's wardrobe includes jeans, Timberland boots and a long-sleeve Sean John shirt. I have no idea if any of these things are still fashionable, but the restaurant lists its dress code as "casual" and my Nike Jordan shorts don't really scream "piano bar", y'know?
5:15 PM - Mrs. Bootleg – who had already given her tepid endorsement of my attire – now tells me that I can't wear jeans. She insists the restaurant's dress code is "business casual". I call to confirm and am told the same thing.
(For a minute or two, I consider NOT changing clothes. (A) This is San Diego. White folk wear cargo shorts to church out here. (B) And, this is a perfect chance to use my new catchphrase: "In THIS economy"…a relatively high-end eating establishment wouldn't turn away revenue if it came from a dude in a unitard. (C) My son's Smokin' Hot Babysitter had just arrived, so there was no time to iron any of my usual work clothes.)
5:20 PM - I'm forced to break out the good slacks and the good shirt, as they're already pressed and starched, respectively. I had to buy a second pair of good slacks and another good shirt a few months ago when we attended weddings on consecutive weekends with essentially the same guest list.
5:25 PM - I come downstairs and the S.H. Babysitter breaks my heart when she says, "I've never seen you this dressed up before!" We've been using S.H. for almost two years. She's seen me in a suit on more than one occasion and now she acts like those evenings never existed? Is this how Mrs. Bootleg feels when I don't notice her new hairstyle? (Answer: No. My hurt is a thousand times worse.)
5:30 PM - I set the over/under on pairs of jeans we'll see worn in the restaurant at three. Mrs. Bootleg takes the "push" and won't bite on the bet.
6:00 PM - The restaurant is part of our city's sprawling Fashion Valley Mall, which is home to arguably the most elite shopping in San Diego. I say "arguably" because I'm not sure if Bloomingdale's, Coach, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany's are cancelled out by JC Penny's, Cinnabon and Sbarro's.
Bing Crosby's is also across the way from The Cheesecake Factory. I've lived in San Diego for 13 years and have NEVER seen less than a 30 minute wait to eat at Cheesecake Factory. Tonight, as usual, there's a line out the door for dessert to-go and a moderate crowd waiting to eat inside.
On the other hand, Bing Crosby's – which has only been open a few months – has 12 people inside (and, yes, I counted). The posted maximum seating capacity? 298. It was like attending an Oakland A's game indoors! Someone in our party actually made reservations and, upon our arrival, we were told to wait in the bar so our table in an almost empty restaurant could be prepared!
(And for those scoring at home: I see four guys in jeans, two in shorts and one in flip-flops.)
6:05 PM - Last summer, I'd ordered a Knob Creek Manhattan while staying at a hotel in Walnut Creek, CA. It was phenomenal. Somehow, it managed to be silky smooth going down with a kick not unlike that neon-green chemical within the weapons that Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery had to stop in The Rock.
I ordered it again here and…it was the polar opposite of phenomenal. It came in the color of black cherry Kool-Aid and managed to be three times as sweet. I've been waging a one-man war with friends who mock the Manhattan as a chick drink and if this was how they all tasted, I'd have waived the white flag and conceded defeat.
Did the Bing-tender not know it's supposed to be a 4:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth? This was so bad that I'm not even going to quote that Simpsons episode that I ALWAYS quote whenever I'm writing about Manhattans. And, if I'm passing up a cheap pop culture crutch, you know it had to be awful. Grade: -500 (out of 5)
6:30 PM - Our party of five decides to split two appetizers. My predictable wife decides on "Dungeness Crab Cakes", while someone else opts for "Trio of Ahi Tuna". By the time the tuna plate worked its way around to me, the only piece that hadn't been picked over was rubbing up against a cube of…watermelon. It was unexceptionally edible. The crab cakes, on the other hand, were crispy on the outside with the consistency of overcooked Cream of Wheat on the inside. Grade (Tuna): 2.5, (Crab Cakes): -5
6:45 PM - You know what's underrated? The wedge salad. I don't order this often enough. The version here goes a little light on the blue cheese, but is served with hot crumbled bacon and some wonderfully marinated tomatoes on the side. Is it worth $9.00? I think we both know the answer to that. Grade: 3
7:00 PM - My entrée for the evening is Porcini fettuccine with wild boar . It's served up slathered in a mildly sweet sun-dried tomato sauce. If you're looking for the best portion-size bang for your buck, here ya go. I'm a self-professed bottomless pit and I was the only one who didn't finish his meal. The boar meat wasn't as gamey as I thought it would be. If it were, it might've gone better with the sauce. This was just slightly chewy, pretentious pork. Grade: 3
7:45 PM - I only have room left for a few bites of dessert. Our table selects the Fuji apple tarte tatin and the pumpkin spice crème brulee. I've had better apple-based pastries at any of Southern California's many mom n' pop Asian-run donut shops. Not even the scoop of vanilla ice cream could save this one. The crème brulee, however, was da bomb (as Stuart Scott says and as the kids used to say). Most "pumpkin" flavored foods taste straight from the pumpkin mix can. Here the flavor was fresh, strong, but secondary to smoky crème goodness. Grade (apple tarte): 1, (crème brulee): 4.5
9:00 PM - The birthday girl's husband unexpectedly foots the entire bill and I immediately regret not ordering the 20 oz. bone-in ribeye to go. Now, what'll have for breakfast tomorrow?