It was an interesting visit to Chops Lobster House in Boca Raton, and it was not because everything was perfect and delicious, quite the opposite. Other than the General Manager who finally handled the situation in a brilliantly professional manner, each of the other stops in our visit were more sink-holes than successes.
Atmosphere – Oustanding. Almost a clone of the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in NYC. Soft lighting, and a beautifully designed interior gave the impression that you were about to experience a wonderful dining experience. Each of the staff was dressed in ties and it was a delightful throwback to the NY Steak House era. I give major points to the designer of the space and the entire decor.
Food – Basically inedible. This is one of the most expensive menus you will find with entrées hovering from $25-60 in the a la carte section, but they offer a very well-priced fixed price $49 three course menu during the week. The choices on this menu are excellent and a great option if you would like a more reasonably priced dinner with smaller portions. I ordered the fixed price with French Onion Soup, the 12-oz lamb chop with a side of Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, plus the NY Cheesecake with fresh local strawberries. The soup was presented in a tureen, topped with melted cheese and the presentation was very nice. The rendition was not. The cheese was not a nutty Gruyere that I expected but was a milder combination of other cheeses and the broth lacked any depth of flavor. It was a bland interpretation. The lamb chop was plopped on the dish. Cutting this mound of meat was next to impossible and I asked if they could assist and they returned the chop to the kitchen where it separated the meat from the bone. When it returned there was a total of 2-3 ounces of meat plus an enormous bone. I then understood why my knife was struggling, it was not designed to cut bone. The meat on the filet side was excellent but a meagerly two bites and the strip side was so tough and I could not cut it with my steak knife. The Brussels sprouts were inedible, overly salted and way too much garlic. For others at the table the news was not much better. Almost all of the steaks were overcooked and I will withhold comments on a fried lobster tail. The Cheesecake was delicious (better than the chocolate cake) and was the best part of the evening.
Services – Abysmal. As much as the server was pleasant at the beginning of the meal in taking drink orders and explaining the specials, he failed miserably thereafter. The runners delivered most of the dishes to the wrong guest and we did a carousel to place the correct dish in front of the correct guest. One order of Petite Filet (requested pink inside) was delivered as a Surf and Turf. When we mentioned this to he server he argued with us that we ordered the S&T, not once, but three times. Then he told us to move the lobster tail aside and just eat the steak. Really? He finally acquiesced and re-fired the dish. Round 2 of that order arrived well-well, but everyone else was almost finished and we wanted to salvage some form of group dinner. Two of the other filets were also overcooked and one was sent back. It was a very staggered dining experience for the table. The runners constantly rushed around our table bumping my chair, I spoke to the MOD and asked him to tell the servers to stop, they continued to bump my chair and I need to tell each of them to please stop. One on them was incredibly unprofessional after this and aggressively grabbed plates from the table and gave me “that look” and then he slammed the dirty dishes into the dirty dish bin. When the server finally returned for coffee / tea orders, he only asked the people who did not send food back for their orders, neglecting the rest of the table. I struggle remembering a worse group of servers.
Management – Other than the General Manager, they were unhelpful. The people at the hostess station and the Manger on Duty nodded a lot and did nothing. Finally the General Manager stepped in (on my third visit) and she was fantastic, finally someone who cared and understood the hospitality business. She saw how badly her staff treated us, how horribly the kitchen prepared the meals and did the appropriate course of action, removed the meals from the bill. The top of the pyramid was the sole bright spot in the staff and she was fantastic.
Overall it was a horrible visit to what is supposed to be a great restaurant. Restaurants can have off nights, I understand, and how they handle the situation is important. The serving and kitchen staffs failed miserable on numerous occasions, and the only saving grace was the General Manager who I believe was truly flabbergasted in the horrific actions of so many of her staff.