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Starting Off at Square One
We wouldn't tell our Saturday morning brunch guest where we were taking them, despite their prodding or relentless guessing. Our car's GPS navigation system took us across the south-east end of Hollywood, finally leaving us to search for parking alongside the imposing edifices of the Scientology center near the intersection of Fountain and Edgemont. The destination: Square One, for what we hoped would be a breakfast as tasty as it was rumored to be.
Although it was prime breakfasting time, there were a few empty tables in the bright, noisy, cheery space. The room is sparsely decorated and combines bold egg yolk yellow painted walls with streaming sunlight from the big glass window storefront to an uplifting effect. The menus sat waiting at the tables...and after some time, so did we.
It's always a shame for us to have a dining experience where the place in question drops one of the balls of the holy trinity of restaurants: great food, great service, great space. With a philosophy of elevating breakfast and lunch to the quality of three-star dinner dining, and of using the freshest and local ingredients, head Chef Robert Lee has indeed created an affordable option with an abundance of excellent menu choices. But when the "great service" ball gets dropped, you get great food served...cold.
It had been hard to narrow down our choices for breakfast, but finally we settled on one Salmon Benedict (Poached eggs atop smoked salmon, frisee and a potato pancake with Hollandaise sauce-Pictured) and the Garlic/Lemon Thyme Chicken Sausage Omlet with roasted tomato and gruyere.
"It's delicious," our guest noted. "It's just too bad that it's cold."
One bite of our Benedict revealed a similar fate. We thought for a moment to call the waitress over--where was she, again? When had we last seen her? Could it have been when our coffee cups sat empty and we had to beckon her over?--but realized with a dish of poached eggs and Hollandaise there could be no "warming" of the dish. If we sent it back it would have to be done over, and the first wait (we're guessing it was about 25-30 minutes) was unbearable enough. So we ate on. It was good--great, really--but obviously the dish had lain in wait for our sever to collect it and bring it to us. Clearly the pacing was off that morning at Square One, and the service was suffering. Had our server checked in with us to ask "how is everything?" or "can I get you something else?" while we were eating, we would have mentioned the food temp faux pas, but that opportunity never presented itself. After begging her over to bring my dining companion some jam for their dry toast, the handing over of the bill was the only exchange we were destined to have with a staff person that day. That ball had long been dropped...we could practically hear it echoing on the wood floors, bouncing off the cheerful walls and rolling out of grasp at tables around the room.
When a place like Square One has two of the three elements down, and those two are the space and the tastes, there's hope for the service to rise to the occasion. We've heard plenty of tell of fantastic service and fabulous meals in the dining room or on their inviting patio. And their food has the flavor we love in an elegant but casual meal. But like in playing ball, or in the world of criminal justice, we're sticking to "three strikes, and you're out."
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