Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food Field Trip Cape Cod: PB--Painfully Bad?

As readers know, I don't have the patience for new places--reviewed as groundbreaking--that end up having either unremarkable food or poor service. This is especially true on vacation, in which time always goes by too quickly and opportunities to dine are finite. So, before I leave on any trip, I carefully map out dining options, relying heavily on blogs, Chowhound, and Washington Post reviews. An August 13th piece in the Sunday Travel section a few weeks back, prompted a visit to PB Boulangerie when we were on the Cape last week.

I was so excited that I called PB immediately upon reading the story to make a reservation at what sounded like a little slice of Paris in Wellfleet, only twenty minutes from where B and I were staying. The night started off well, with a warm greeting by the French chef, and the buttery smell of baking croissants. The decor was French country meets Cape kitsch.

Then it all went downhill. It felt like PB Boulangerie rushed to open without training any of their staff. Our waitress tried hard, but nervously giggled the entire time, knew nothing about the food, and laughed when stating the chef recommends the steak medium rare. Why? I have no idea. She also kept calling me dear, which seemed so off, as she was only about twenty two years old. And when we needed additional spices/condiments to flavor the food (which was often) we had to work to flag her down. A request for silverware for our desserts was greeted with a whatever glance followed by a long pause before we had anything to eat with. We had to ask three times to get the homemade bread--a staple in a French bistro.

The open kitchen was a frightening chaotic scene, lacking any sign of the finesse of French bistros like Central or Le Nord. I know these are high standards, but the food was priced similarly, so one would expect something close in terms of kitchen showmanship. Instead, the server attempting to slice the prosciutto appeared to have absolutely no idea what he was doing; the woman baking the lemon cookies that accompanied the check kept banging the tins loudly on the counter, trying desperately to remove the treats.

While the presentation of the dishes was decent, the food was not, with the exception of a rich, roasted corn chowder. All other options--from a $14 heirloom tomato salad to the poached cod over fingerling potatoes in littleneck clam jus, to the steak frites--were quite frankly terrible and had about as much flavor as one would expect from nursing home fare. Good thing there are a fair share of them on the Outer Cape.  And the steak frites did not include frites at all--limp potato chips accompanied the just OK cut of steak--and the promised herb butter, sat almost frozen on top of the meat.

Then there was a facilities issue. Apparently, the woman's restroom was broken, but with no sign posted on the door, it appeared as though someone was in there for a very long time since the door was locked. When I finally asked the hostess, who saw me waiting, she giggled and noted: "Oh, it's broken!" What? Have you heard of a sign or informing guests waiting outside the door? (The woman before me just walked into the men's room and I think she had the right idea.)

After this meal, which really put a damper on my night, we left with croissants for the next morning and a baguette for lunch, both from the bakery. While the flavor of the baguette was close to those that one fines in France, the texture of the crust was not. The only saving grace to this institution were the delectable croissants. The bakery is open at 7 each morning Wednesday to Sunday, but I have been told that there is often a long wait.

Vacations are too short to waste on lackluster food or service. And the price for this pleasure was $150--and that was with only one glass of wine each! No thank you!

If PB Boulangerie is to survive they need quite a bit of work and to figure out what they are.  A bakery?  A bistro?  An oyster bar?  Pick one and do it well.

As for me, I will not be returning. There are too many other fabulous Cape Cod restaurants and more such reviews are coming later this week.

PB Boulangerie on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. You should try it again. It is excellent.