“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a pretty good adage to apply to the restaurant industry. We see all sorts of gadgets and gizmos and doo-dahs to get the punters through the door.
Some work extremely well – like the mecca of molecular gastronomy in Chicago, Alinea. Dine on smoke and foam and puffs of scent. Dining becomes theatre as well as a destination of choice.
Others are kitschy at best and at worst it becomes a distraction. IPad as menu, dining in the dark or even rube Goldberg machines that serve your food surely make it a fun time but it begs the question – is the food any good?
Enter Papa’s Pier 17.
When I was a little boy – and this was not yesterday – it was THE destination after a concert. The Arts and Culture Centre is around the corner from Papa’s Rowan Street location. It used to be that very few restaurants were open late and when you have a carload of hungry musicians and kids – Papa’s Place (as it used to be called) was a special place to be.
I remember as a kid I could go in and be greeted as I came in through the door. It was always neat as a pin and the chairs (which I think are still used to this day) mimicked the twirly chairs we just left while sitting in the box seats of the ACC. I can’t comment on the menu as it used to be but when talking to my dad, he reckons that Papa’s was as authentic Greek as we were going to get in the city.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and things have changed a lot.
When you look in the windows of the restaurant on Rowan Street they are filled with mechanical toys, this season dressed as traditional mummers. The animatronic figures turn their heads and twirl a bit. It is possibly the most entertaining part of the experience.
We had an early reservation as we have a small child. This sort of planning ahead is not uncommon for people who like to go out to dinner. Seated in the main dining room we were in the middle of the action with the waiter and waitresses scuttling about around us.
Ordering was a simple proposition as it was two pages, neat script upon plain white paper. My wife had a shrimp appetizer and Greek cod; my daughter had fettuccine and red sauce; I endured cod tongues and Greek version of beef burgundy.
To be blunt the food as a whole was not very good.
My cod tongues were well cooked but not seasoned or finished. My pilaf of rice looked, tasted and smelled like it was a box of instant rice and flavorings. Quite insipid. The Greek version of beef burgundy was under seasoned and claggy. The side Greek Salad was served with Italian dressing – a little cultural fusion going on?
I didn’t have a chance to try my wife’s shrimp but they seemed cooked well as did the cod so there were no problems there. My father in law didn’t mention but seemed to have suffered heavily burnt bacon wrapped scallops. He liked his fish mains.
It was the pasta and red sauce that caused us the most grief.
My daughter is very young and at the age where she is a little more particular about her meal time. Her pasta and red sauce looked ugly, including the mass of melted cheese over the top of the lot. While eating it she continuously told us she didn’t like it but we encouraged her to have more and so, it is here that the review ends and my true feelings come out.
The meal that was served to my daughter made her sick. 3 hours after she ate at the restaurant she was sick from “both ends”. Quite violently in fact. We spent the entire night awake, tending to her, cleaning and sanitizing. Never mind the loads of laundry the next day – 4 sets of bed sheets, pyjamas, towels, cloths…
The food she ate was either not fresh or improperly heated. Here is the thing: of all our meals she was the only one to get sick. We all tried each other’s food (except hers) with no symptoms. She was not sick beforehand but we have been suffering ever since.
My wife called the restaurant in the light of the next day, on my recommendation, as all I wanted to do was yell and be angry.
My dutiful wife called and with all her patience mainly wanted to inform the manager of the restaurant that an incident had occurred. The restaurant’s response was along the lines of “ARE YOU SURE? HAVE YOU TAKEN YOUR KID TO THE DOCTOR? IS IT CONFIRMED?? NO ONE ELSE COMPLAINED.” Sympathy, I am afraid in the eyes of the management was to be found in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.
Sad state of affairs, but there it is.
So here are some tips to make it all better:
- Never step foot into Papa’s Pier 17 lest you get sick or verbally abused.
- Always adhere to #1
So I am afraid that Papa’s Pier 17 has spectacularly lost their One Shot. Just adhere to my rules – that’s what we will be doing from now on.