Schwat the what?
This is the feeling we were left with after our expensive, unsatisfying, and simply mediocre evening at Schwa recently. Criticizing a meal is like criticizing a wine, it’s truly in the palate of the eater. So given I had 3 other eaters with me, it is with that comprehensive insight that I cans say our meal at Schwa just didn’t fit the $150/person bill. But, in the end it was our collective opinions, and ours alone.
After a lot of anticipation, and careful planning of our BYOB selections (Schwa is a BYOB spot which is one of the coolest things about it), we settled in for a meal to remember, or in this case easily forget. We didn’t scour the menu before-hand, wanting to be surprised by the interesting menu which we had heard about. Our server asked us about our water preference, and which wines to open first, so not knowing what to expect, we picked a Canadian White Meritage from our 5 bottles of wine we toted along. (I didn’t yelp this spot enough to know that we were expected to bring a bottle for the staff, which may have added to the service experience I suppose, but that’s for later in this post).
When rating a restaurant experience, the key criteria for me are taste, service, and experience…in that order. Some of the best food spots may not be the prettiest, but that doesn’t matter if the food is solid. At schwa, we found three assuming themes during the meal, all which didn’t suit the tastes at our table: too many florals, lots of salt, and lack of substance. I am all about heavy seasoning, but this meal left you grabbing for your water more than your wine.
After drinking up some of our wine, we were promptly introduced to a warm gelatinous bubble tea with cucumber and floral, and salt. There were a few in the group who could not even stomach a bit or sip rather, and put it down immediately. Growing up liking rose water, I got it down, actually up my straw, with a lot of effort, but didn’t really get anything truly pleasurable from the interaction or taste of the amuse.
Next up was a very similar dish, rose sorbet with cucumber, and some other things. This was exactly the same in flavor and profile, though different in texture and temperature. I liked this better, but yet again, it was not a crowd favorite.
The next dish was a white chocolate globe with fava beans, goat cheese, rhubarb and more florals. This was one of the more interesting dishes of the evening, with a very sweet chocolate shell holding a salty and floral salad. Cool, but confusing…it peaked our curiosity a bit about the rest of the meal.
A slew of bites/dishes followed, black pasta with pea sorbet, a clam with kale juice and cucumber, some smoky fish with banana/plantain and peanut sauce, all which were less than memorable, if not for me sneaking notes in my iphone (the restaurant has a no cell phone policy, though the woman next to us had hers out and it didn’t seem to matter). Alongside these, we had a little taste of breakfast, with French toast, which was sweet and tasty, but could have been a better dessert than mid-meal snack. There was a standout among these bites, which was the quail egg ravioli with truffle (eggs and truffles are not my favorite things), but we found this dish to be pretty tasty, though pretty small.
There were a few entrée style courses, I think, in the form of a chewy lamb with tatziki and tomatoes. I thought the lamb was pretty rare and didn’t love the texture, and when my server asked why I didn’t finish it, I learned it was sous-vied, which I frankly didn’t understand for a meat like lamb. The other was a ballpark-inspired fried course of small sweetbreads or scallops and mustard. This was also just ok, whereas the flavor was good, it left us wanting something more.
Finally onto dessert, first a root beer float with salty, salty parsnip ice cream. The root beer alone was delicious, though the ice cream ruined it for me (we actually dropped the scoop in and then took it out promptly after). The last course was a cheese crème brulee with melon sorbet. The sorbet was nice to taste, but the crème brulee missed the mark.
What about all our wine, you ask? Well, not knowing what was coming, or if it was sweet or salty, really made our wine tasting/pairing a moot point. We basically drank at random, and didn’t exactly love our pairings because well, they weren’t. Pretty sad for a bunch of winos excited about the meal ahead.
The final pieces of this puzzling meal are service (or lack of) and the experience, as taste was lost for us. Our servers were less than pleasant, even getting annoyed when we didn’t eat something or asked for more wines. Unfortunately, Schwa may not care about this as much, as the whole experience from first call to final dish seems to fall into this same service category, but it could have made the overall meal a bit better. Or not…
The experience at Schwa, left us guessing for sure, and we ended the meal hungry (actually picking up some fast food on the way home, very un-cool) and lacking enthusiasm about something we were really excited about. I suppose it’s similar to going to see a hyped up movie which you then think was terrible. If I had to give Schwa any true solid feedback it would be, less salt, more smiles, and a little preview to allow your guests to best anticipate/enjoy each course (even if is a chalkboard menu on a wall). You don’t have to be fancy to meet your customers’ expectations and more.
So as one meal passes, another meal is had and your palate moves on. Here’s to many more delicious experiences to come! Bon Appétit!