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?


Big Show said...

Do people really think the Manhattan is a chick drink? Is it just b/c of the cherry? I'd think that most girls would opt out of whiskey/bourbon/rye right off the bat, even if it did have a hit of vermouth and a cherry.

I think you just got a crap bartender. I'd also recommend to try one with an Irish whiskey like Black Bush. Mmmm.

SHough610 said...

I'm partial to a 7 and 7 or a Maker's neat. Also, most bars won't serve this but try mixing (clear) rum and root beer. I'm not a fan of either but the combination seems to cut the harshness of both.

Make sure the Bingster doesn't see your review or you might get beaten with a sack of sweet Valencia oranges.

The place looked like a Maggianos.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Show - The cherry doesn't help, nor does the traditional martini glass serving style. Never mind, that I order them on the rocks w/o the cherry.

And, I've heard the Irish whiskey Manhattan recommendation, too. It sounds like my liver will be filtering something new!

SHough - Maker's is my nectar of choice and the only whiskey that I *always* keep in the house.

And, before Mrs. Bootleg gave birth, 7 n 7 was her cocktail of choice. Now, she makes me buy her $8 glasses of wine, just so she can have two sips.


SHough610 said...

How come we haven't seen any pictures of SHBS?

What's the food like in San Diego? I'm in Philadelphia and on the plus side we have some of the best food in the world and some of the best sports fans in the world (I'm biased). On the other it was -1 today with wind.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Yeah, the babysitter pics have been my own "Moby Dick" - if Moby were approx. 106 lbs. of of delicious brunette. Been trying to capture a picture for awhile, but the babysitter is 23 and already working towards her PHD.

I'm pretty sure she's smart enough to know that I've got *LUST* in my eyes, right there.

SD Food? Great seafood, as you can imagine. Some pretty good steak places. For some reason *ahem* our Mexican food is phenomenal. Best places are off the beaten path, but sometimes it's hard to find 'em. Restaurants open and close out here like crazy.

Today's forecast: 66...and mostly cloudy?! C'mon, Mother Nature!

Marco from Houston said...

lolz @ "S.H. Babysitter"!

keep us updated on the pics!