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Entries in Service (3)


Spur, Seattle

After a solid opening month experience at The Coterie Room several months ago, I have less than exemplary thoughts about McCracken and Tough’s restaurant next door, Spur.

While the meal was ok, I’m a little more critical of service elements. Sorry, no pictures, it was too dark, so instead I've added some pics of Pike's Place Market.

I don’t like attitude and I don’t care for aloof servers and staff based upon the fact that the restaurant seems to be busy all the time. I’m glad for the success of Spur and that it is a busy establishment.

When I’m instructed by the hostess to “go across the street to the bar and come back in 45 minutes” and I obey the instructions of the hostess and return promptly in 45 minutes to the reception, “oh, I thought you weren’t coming back…something will free up soon” attitude; I should have gone somewhere else. Too bad it’s 9:30 already and my options are limited.

Which leads me to ordering at the table. The sign on the door and website say open “5pm to Close”. Which, when we finally were finally seated was roughly 9:45; we asked how long the kitchen would be open. “As late as people are here, generally”.

 My response, “So no rush?”

“No rush”, says the server.


Sounded good in theory, but practice was, he wanted us to order everything before 10pm, which is why he and the hostess came by the table 5 times in 10 minute period to ask if we were ready and if we’d like to get an order in. Perhaps they were simply being attentive, but my gut says it was motivated by a desire to close out asap.

Merguez with chickpeas and hummus (chickpeas were way too salty which I had sent back) but the merguez was good. The burger and fries were average. The fries weren’t fresh, they were cold when they arrived. The burger itself was good, and cooked medium rare as requested with the red onion jam similar to the sweet/sour flavor from Father’s Office in Santa Monica. The fries being stone cold were another indication that the kitchen really isn’t open “till Close”. I’d rather the restaurant simply state the kitchen closes at 10pm or 9:30 or has a limited menu at a certain time.

I hate that my last impression of Spur is cold French fries, when my first impression of Coterie was perfect chicharon. I guess I'm batting .500 with McCracken and Tough.

Spur Gastropub on Urbanspoon


Limon, Fresno

First impressions make a difference. My first impression of Limon was a proper welcome and a surprise; they opened the front door for me.

While we were warmly greeted at the host station, I didn’t get any sense of intimacy or warmth in the restaurant as we sat down in the cold, industrial type space. Tables and chairs are quite basic, with no butcher paper or linens adorning any tables. No booths or anything cozy, simply 2 and 4-top tables arranged efficiently as possible.

As my guest and I were having wine, lovely stemware was presented for a rather common Albarino. With my recent experience using antiquated stemware at The Ripe Tomato, the use of Schott Zwiesel stemware at Limon was a treat. Other service touches that seem to contrast the cold space; servers were attentive, helpful, regularly refreshing silverware with each course, used a splash cover when refilling our water glasses, and always refilled wine. Service was professional with the questions that we asked easily answered by our server.

To start our meal, the house special ceviche of fresh halibut, calamari and prawns marinated in rocoto, red onions, fresh lime juice, served with yam and Peruvian corn. When the dish was presented to the table, it’s exactly as I remember it from my recent trip to Arequipa, Peru in terms of overall basic ingredients, right down to the Peruvian version of corn nuts. The curing liquid had wonderfully bright acidity, but wasn’t overpowering. Where Limon differed from its Peruvian counterparts was the attention to detail with regard to how both the halibut and onions were sliced. Limon crudely and unevenly sliced both the onions and the fish. Why am I so picky about this? Thick pieces of onion are unwelcome with such a delicate dish. Onions should be cut as thinly as possible in half-moons, not some diced, some chopped, some whole rounds. Additionally, roughly, unevenly, and partially cut halibut on a fish that’s easily cut and squared off is just plain lazy prep. I’m being very tough on Limon with regard to the details here because all the elements of flavor, freshness, and presentation are there.

The second starter, Anticuchos de Carne or grilled adresso marinated beef skewers served with roasted potatoes, huacatay (green) sauce and Peruvian choclo were fabulously tender, well-seasoned, and simply made my mouth happy. The beef was cooked to order at exactly medium rare. The depth of flavor in this beef was outstanding. I might actually crawl over broken glass the find out what this “adresso marinade” is. The roasted potatoes were crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle and well salted. Great dish! I could make a meal out of 3 orders, that’s how much I liked it.

We decided on two seafood entrées, salmon and sole, which also happened to work well with the light white wine we ordered. Escabeche de Pescado, or pan-seared fresh Petrole sole marinated in an aji amarillo escabeche sauce, served over roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach. Sole can often be the wimpy fish at the table; usually under seasoned, overcooked, and homogenously prepared with salt and pepper in butter. Not so at Limon. The Petrole sole jumped off the plate with flavor and spice, but didn’t take away from the delicacy of the fish. Well thought out and executed.

Pan-seared salmon served over chimichurri roasted potatoes and topped with sautéed spaghetti squash. The standout here was a seasoned crust on the skin of the salmon, again a rarity in most restaurants in Fresno. The salmon was fully cooked through, but was not dry. Proper cooking technique is needed to achieve this crispy skin and fully cooked interior of the fish. The other garnish on the plate did not distract from the focus on the salmon. The kitchen wasn’t slammed when they served each of our fish dishes, so if anything, I’d like to see how the kitchen handles a lot of diners at once and if the same skill and attention is paid.

Overall, my experience at Limon was very good. I liked each of the dishes as they were presented, flavors were good, and technique was solid other than for the rough cut ceviche. However, the regular reminder that the space you’re eating is resembles a corporate cafeteria rather than a warm or even contemporary dining experience is troubling for long-term success in Fresno. I hope the owners can spice up their space on par with the food and service.

Go to Limon for the beauty of the presentation, the quality of the service and the excellence in food. 

Limón on Urbanspoon


Spruce, San Francisco

The highlight of the night was service. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit at the bar with a friend and dine for 4 hours and be completely at ease with the restaurant staff and pace of the evening. At no point did I feel rushed or feel obligated in any way to give up our prime real estate. This speaks volumes about a well-trained staff and the customer focus Spruce has for its guests. In addition, the bartender was able to describe each menu item we had questions about and had the foresight to split our plates for each course without our prompting. Attention to detail and anticipating a guest’s needs are the hallmarks of any great restaurant and Spruce surpassed my expectations.

Briefly about the food and drink; we started with cocktails, a Whiskey Smash and their award winning Greyhound’s Tooth. Our server and bartender explained the finer points of the Benedictine used in the Greyhound, which was critical to the award. Food highlights included a delicious second course ravioli and main course of short ribs, both were off the charts good and the cheese course intermezzo before dessert was well selected.

This was one of those nights that even if the food was off a bit, it was a distant memory.

Spruce on Urbanspoon