Pros: Nice atmosphere, good desserts
Cons: Overrated, sloppy inconsistent service
This is a review of the RC in Fairfax, Virginia. I went with a friend.
I had been so excited about going. The reviews on epinions.com are almost uniformly excellent so I was looking forward to fine dining.
I thought that we'd have to dress up nicely, so I was worried that jeans and a shirt (sweater for me) might be a little too casual. But my worries turned out to be foolish because there were several groups in the restaurant dressed equally, if not less, formally than we were.
It was a Monday night at 7:15 pm, so the restaurant was only moderately busy.
I was impressed by the dark wood decor and the muted lighting. The staff were appropriately dressed; the host was brooding or snobby, I couldn't tell. Actually, I recognized him as someone I went to high school with.
After we were seated, the waiter came up and asked us if we would care for wine, spring water or mineral water. He did not offer plain water and I got the distinct impression that, while affable, our waiter would look down on us if I requested plain water. So I accepted the first choice of "still" water he offered - I figured that since I so seldom eat out at such an upscale restaurant that I should soak it all in.
The busgirl with him showed us the bottle, popped the lid, and poured the water for us. After that, my friend tried to order, but the waiter stopped him, and said that he would be back to tell us the specials in a moment.
So we waited.
After a few minutes, our waiter came back and did his spiel about the specials. None of it appealed to me since it was all seafood. We each ordered the caesar salad, the T-Bone done medium well, one order of au Gratin potatoes, and the bread pudding with whiskey sauce (the waiter, with a raised eyebrow, asked us if it was to share). The waiter said that he'd hold off on the bread pudding and confirm with us after we had eaten our meal.
At this point, the busgirl came by to refill our glasses of water. But she filled it from the pitcher of ice water instead of from our bottle of "Acqua Panna" from Tuscany.
True, I was unable to tell the difference between the two, but it was the principle of the thing. If I am coerced into buying a $9 bottle of *water*, I want to at least know that I am getting my money's worth.
She apologized and ran to the kitchen with our bottle and came back with a new bottle.
Only it wasn't.
We were both sure it was the same bottle, and she had just filled it under the tap, especially since she didn't pop the top in front of us. The best part was when the bill came, the waiter assured me the second bottle was "on the house" because of the mistake. Yeah, thanks for the free tap water! Or as we called it: "Acqua Municipal del Fairfax County."
I guess I should not complain. That was the only time beside the initial pouring that we had our water served to us. The rest of the time, we poured our own water. Not that I would normally mind, but again, it was a $9 bottle of *water*, and I think it should have come with at least some service.
The leaves of lettuce were whole, and each were slightly coated with dressing. Presented on a square plate with three cherry tomato halves along the bottom. It was a novel experience having to cut the lettuce as I ate. Overall, it looked and tasted quite nice. Recommended.
T-Bone Steak, Medium Well:
Both our steaks came out sizzling on the 500 degree plate, and remained hot and juicy to the end of the meal. These were massive portions of meat and smelled great with the butter on it. My friend's steak was perfectly prepared - pink all the way to the bone. Mine was slightly off: the thinner, outer parts were pink, but halfway to the bone, the meat was dark pink, and finally the meat around the bone was red. The parts that I did eat were quite good, however. Mixed bag.
Au Gratin Potato
Diced, not sliced. And covered with a molten mess of cheese instead of a cheese sauce. I thought it was trashy and tacky but my friend liked it. Mixed bag.
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce:
Ah, the highlight of the meal. While the waiter had originally told us he'd confirm this order with us after we ate our meat, he finally just assumed we wanted it and informed us it was on our way. We had actually decided after our meal to forgo dessert (the service having been rather slow), but since it was already prepared, we decided to try it. And I'm glad I did! The pudding was moist and soft, and the sweet whiskey sauce was divine! Highly recommended.
After we finished the bread pudding, there was a long wait of about 10 minutes before the waiter brought us our bill. These long periods of waiting were common throughout the meal; my friend suggested that it was intentional, to allow people to conduct business or enjoy conversation without constant interruption. I can see that point, but then again, lots of restaurants have staff who are able to check up on diners without interrupting them too much.
The meal for two came out to $135.50 for a bottle of water, two caesar salads, two T-Bone steaks, potatoes au gratin, and the whiskey bread pudding. I paid with a $100 gift card and put the balance on my credit card. My friend said that the waiter eyed the cards as he left, but to my relief, gave me no snide look. When he came back, he thanked us and walked away slowly.
The bill on my credit card came out to $35.50 (after the application of a $100 gift card), but I tipped for the entire balance of course. I usually tip 15-18%, and last night was no exception, even though my friend thought 18% was entirely too much for the non-service we received. True, but I feel bad tipping poorly, even for poor service.
After we left, we saw the waiter gallop for our check; I was moderately insulted - I felt like the waiter assumed that I only tipped on the $35.50 charged to me, and wanted to find out right away. My friend also told me also that when I was back at the table calculating the tip, the waiter was staring quite intently at me, the whole time I was filling out the receipt.
So I went into Ruth's Chris Steakhouse with high expectations of fine dining, excellent service, and in general, a taste of the good life. It was exciting going in and just being in the ambiance of a fine restaurant. But the food and service left something to be desired. Much to be desired.
Maybe I'll try Morton's next time?