Thursday, June 26, 2008

Norma's, New York New York

I wanted to like this restaurant......I don't go to restaurants I don't want to like. The food was excellent and the coffee was undoubtedly some of the best I have ever had in refillable form at a restaurant. Why 2 stars? A horrible atmosphere, excessive prices, the pretense to demand a credit card for reservations, temperature and humidity that was appauling, and the absolute worst service I've ever received at a restaurant that is considered highly regarded. Honestly, I've gotten far better service at Denny's, Waffle House, and Roadside diners on the interstate.

We arrived on time and were seated promptly. Menus were given, water was filled by the water boy and a complimentary amuse of a banana/pineapple/berry smoothie was served. The smoothie was alright, but after this we did not receive any attention for 15 minutes. Yes, the place was busy, but not every table was filled.

Eventually our waiter showed up (to be honest, I'm still unsure if this individual was male or female....kinda looked like Pat from SNL) and took our orders. An order of Banana Nut Bread, a PB&C Waffle'wich with Toffee, a Waz-za, and two coffees please.

Approximately 10 minutes passed and a delectable warm banana nut bread was served along with a steamy french press pot of coffee. These were set on the table and our waiter scurried off without pouring a cup. As previously noted, the coffee was stellar with a very rich body and moderate acidity plus thick mouth feel.....alas I had to ask another server for sweetener since our waiter left none. Thank goodness we received a press pot because I imagine refills would have required an act of God. Similar to the coffee, the banana bread was some of the best I've had and arrived with sweet cream cheese, smooth butter, and two compotes; one apricot and one blueberry, that were divine both alone and on the bread. At $5 the bread was the best deal at Normas for sure.

After ~20 minutes and multiple other people who arrived after us being served, our breakfast/desserts were served. While I'd heard rumors of excessive portions, this wasn't close to Griddle Cafe or Doughboys in LA. Not small, but not "large" and at the fantastic LA breakfast spots four people can eat for the price of 2 at Norma's.
Admittedly the Waz-za was excellent. A crisp yet fluffy waffle loaded with a very ripe banana, brulee Strawberry cream yogurt, and a pile of blueberries the dish dazzled to the eye and mouth. Feeling gluttonous I added a sizeable amount of 100% maple syrup and the flavors were brought to a tantalizing head.

My sister's Wafflewich.....sweet Jesus......outside of the previously mentioned LA options I've never had something so tasty pretending to be breakfast. Two crunchy chocolate waffles sandwiching a composition of smooth peanut butter and crunchy toffee, topped with whipped cream and white cream sauce.....the dish was ALMOST too rich to consume. While my sister is a small lady, she did manage the dish, but not without significant time and sighs/smiles as she endulged.....and my assistance. The addition of syrup to this one was definitely too much - we tried.

After the meal our plates were collected and we braved asking for more coffee......10 minutes later a fresh pot was brought......again no sister actually got up and walked to the kitchen to request some. When our waiter eventually sauntered back to ask if we needed anything else and I requested the check it took (no exaggeration) 18 minutes for it to be delivered and another 15 for him to collect the credit card. On leaving we realized the meal had taken nearly 90 minutes....obsurd. No tip was left, but instead a napkin with tips on how to be a better server.
Admittedly the food was excellent, but at $56 for two at breakfast it could have been better. Having been to other highly rated breakfast joints I can definitely say there is no "east coast bias" in me.....out west they do it better, bigger, sweeter, and more friendly.

As a final slap to Norma's, on returning home and browsing my online credit card statement 3 days later I noted a charge of $70+ for the breakfast......exactly 18% more than the bill (which I'd thankfully kept.) They actually had the audacity to ADD a tip! Disgusted I called Bank of America who remedied the situation.

Norma, as good as your food is, you are overpriced and full of yourself. I will not be back.


Matthew said...

Hey, question from a young foodie who is being forced into a norma's breakfast for a family event. Glaring service and other flaws aside.(Meaning based solely on food quality) What would you recommend based on what you've seen/heard? Thanks alot

uhockey said...

Depends if you like sweet or savory - as you see, we did the sweet. The meal was a while ago, but I'd suggest DEFINITELY getting the bread basket, regardless of what else you get. Let me know how it goes - the food was quite good despite the service gaffs. Cheers and happy eating.

Matthew said...

Definitely sweet, your reviews of the bongo room and griddle cafe are like something out of a dream for me lol. I'm contesting my love of all things pancake v.s the sheer audacity of the waffle options.