January 26, 2004

Restaurant review - Cascal

Cascal, a new restaurant in Mountain View, is where we ate dinner on Christmas Eve thanks to Sean's keen eye in spotting it when our first choice turned out to be closed. This review is pretty much on-target. You can't help but appreciate the decor and the food is excellent, but they do need help in the help department.

The night we were there, the hostess asked us, "Do you have a reservation?" in a rather overly haughty manner (under the circumstances) as we came up to her desk. We replied in the negative, rather surprised as we peered past her at the three-quarters empty seating area. It was prime dinner time on a holiday and if people weren't there by then they weren't really going to be flocking in any time soon. She then proceeded to lead us to the very, very back of the restaurant, where apparently all the non-reservation people were getting seated, regardless of whether someone in your party was walking quite slowly with a cane and there were 20 tables closer to the door! It did go uphill from there, however...for us, at least. A quite attractive and well-dressed couple came in and got the same go-to-the-back-of-the-room treatment after we had been there for about a half-hour. They sat down and no waiter appeared. They perused the menu and still no waiter. I don't know if it was his no-show or the menu, but they abandoned their table and left, with no one on the waitstaff being any the wiser.

I don't think we had a single dish that got mentioned in the review except for the tortilla espaƱola; though it was not bad, I agree that it was not stellar and (on a personal, highly biased note) mine is better! However, we thoroughly enjoyed everything we ordered. Do make sure you get the foccacia early on -- it's delicious and the chimichurri for dipping is fantastic -- though we didn't have any problem with that and got more right away when we asked. The first visit by our waiter was delayed a bit, but because there were so many choices to pore over on the menu, we really didn't mind too much. After that, we had help around constantly, though the waiter himself never came back to ask how things were. Beverages were refilled promptly and dishes were cleared right away. Getting the check and getting it paid wasn't speedy and that was because of the waiter. Good thing it was a holiday and we were in a relatively good mood, or his tip would have suffered a bit.

I definitely look forward to going back, because I want to try the paella and, overall, I really enjoyed the experience of eating there. I think that, next time, I'll make a reservation and see if that smooths the way at all.