A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine announced to me, "I have a Landry's Gift Card for $100, and I think I've had it for some time. We need to use it, and soon." We? I get a freebish meal? Why, of course "we" do! Further discussions ensued and all we nailed down was "This Friday we will go have dinner!". Negotiations continued into where is Happy Hour? What Fertitta-based eatery is near? Cadillac Bar was mentioned, a lot. Finally, I (in my infinite wisdom) said, "Let's have dinner at LaGriglia on West Gray. Italian sounds really good today." You see, my brain was focused on the pre-buy-out LaGriglia, which was always a winner. My bad.
We went for our hour of happy and hit LaGriglia around 7:00 p.m., the dinner crowd was modest, and we were seated far, far away from the seensters. Apparently, I bear no resemblance to any of our reknowned society writers, nor do I look like a denizen of River Oaks, just guessing. We ordered a decent bottle of red and chatted about potential menu selections. The wine service was just fine, no complaints. Once we ordered, a cloud of leprosy apparently enveloped us. I had the Linguine Pescatore, for $20.95 and my friend had the Open Flame Rotisserie Maple Leaf Farms Duck (say that three times real fast) for $19.95. Less than 5 minutes later, plates were unceremoniously plopped in front of us, with a "Need anything else?" and a glimpse of vapor trail, as the waiter scuttled away. Well, I have a pasta dish, creamy pasta, oops a "Vibrant Bianco Sauce" with shrimp, crab, calamari, clams and mussels. Unfortunately, LaGriglia, an Italian-themed eatery, was apparently completely and utterly devoid of fresh or pre-grated parmesan. Totally. Out. The parmesan container was empty, the wheel reduced to a dried out rind. That, or the waiter just knew it wasn't allowed on my "diet". Leave my chubby out of this, I eat what I want. I always want cheese, it's one of my favorite food groups. The sauce (Vibrant? Bianco?) was somewhat watery and bland, in my opinion. The shrimp were mushy and small-ish and I would guess definitely pre-frozen (read, somewhat mealy in nature). The clams and mussels were almost, but, not quite, as fresh as a farmhand at dusk, during a SouthEast Texas, high-humidity, August. It was not "fresh" and we live on the "Gulf of Mexico", if you're picking up what I'm putting down.
And then there was the "duck", which I had a bite of, just to be sure. This link, right HERE speaks volumes. Fully cooked, just mash a couple buttons on the ole microblaster and "viola" a gourmet meal. That was duck? While not complely offensive, and fairly palatable (I did eat all of my nastified frozen lobster ravioli)- it did not taste like duck, it tasted like (yeah, chicken) roasted cornish game hen. The wild rice on the side, delicious, toothsome, nutty and I would definitely want that, again. The raspberry sauce, other end of the taste spectrum. Syrupy and overtly sweet for something as delicate as duck. Fruit with duck, yes, pancake syrup? Hell. No.
The Landry's Empire has seemed to follow a very successful business plan, especially if you have something monetary to gain. Reducing costs while leaving prices static is a proven means of generating profits. I would surmise that old school residents of River Oaks and some preppy seensters keep the lights on at LaGriglia. I don't believe I'll be returning, ever. Again, for the monies spent, a better meal could be had at a smaller and less chain-like establishment. Now, to caveat my bitter disappointment - I will say to anyone who listens, Pesce and Vic & Anthony's are two standouts in the Landry's Empire. They should be tried, all I have heard (because I am a Ferti-phobe) is that Pesce is over-the-top wonderful. I hear lauds for the V & A crabcakes, burgers...well, okay, anything they serve. My sister swears the best crabcake in town is at Brenner's on the Bayou (poor Sis, she knows bupkis, Haven is "where it's at"..Hello?). I resolve to try each establishment in the nex quarter, afterall, us poorfolk may need a new, stylish outfit (yo, Omar, warm up the Singer) and to save some folding money, first.
Recap: Not all of these locally-based, Landry's chain of restaurants are "bad", some are allegedly quite amazing. This one, is not amazing. This one is on my "blacklist". Poor service, poor quality food and a general and off-putting snubbishness combined to create a perfect storm of "hell no, I won't go". Well, the wine we selected was tasty....oh, right, hard to louse that up.