Friday, June 15, 2012

Restaurant NIT: le Cellier vs. Olive Garden

If you've listened to our last couple of shows, you know that I did not have the most positive experience at le Cellier.  This was really too bad, because le Cellier may have been my most anticipated meal while in the World.  The fact that le Cellier is so loved, and I was so displeased, made me want to justify my opinion.  Then, I remembered how we do things at MMOM: with lots of bravado and competition.

Might Men of Mouse: If it's not a sports analogy, we want nothing to do with it.
So I decided to express my opinion in terms of how le Cellier stacks up against that venerable Italian eatery: The Olive Garden.  On Wednesday, I ate at Olive Garden for the first time in about four years.  I stayed away because the idea of mass-produced Italian food kinda offends me.  But a confluence of factors, including a gift card I found behind my couch, forced my hand.  Here is my analysis.

Atmosphere: Tie

Le Cellier is nestled in the cave-like underbelly of the facade of French-Canadian-looking castle.  The Olive Garden at which I dined is next to the old Circuit City at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  Point: le Cellier.  As for the view, Olive Garden offered us a table by the window with a lovely view of our car and the Bass Pro Shops on the other side of the parking lot.  Le Cellier had no view because it is a basement (or, a "le cellier," in French).  Ok, that one's kind of a tie.

The general ambiance, however, is where the Olive Garden stands above.  Where le Cellier was infested with noisy children literally climbing the walls and playing their Game Boys, Olive Garden was relatively quiet and relaxed.  Even le Cellier's adult patrons took from the experience.  On one side of us, we had a family who wouldn't stop whining loudly about what the dining plan did and did not pay for, then wanted to pay for the balance in seashells or something.  On the other side, we sat quite close to a lady who was wearing a generous amount of lemon-scented bug spray (or bug spray-scented Lemon Pledge, we're not sure which).  This made Dr. Springfield nauseated.

Food: le Cellier

Dr. Springfield will disagree, but I give the edge to le Cellier.  The cheese soup and pretzel bread were excellent.  Where most cheese soups I've had are basically mouth-scalding cauldrons of runny cheddar, the soup at le Cellier had a depth and spiciness I really appreciated.  However, Dr. Springfield did not enjoy it so much.  I was disappointed that le Cellier does not offer a porterhouse, so I opted for the bone-in ribeye.  The steak was perfect. 

The downside here is that there are few good alternatives to steak.  "But Kip," you may ask, "why go to a steak house if you don't want steak?  Are you unamerican??"  Well, anonymous reader I just made up, you go when you have to make your reservations 6 months in advance.  Also, stop interrupting.  Dr. Springfield ordered the lobster mac and cheese side dish as an entree, and we split the creamed spinach.  The spinach was good, but the mac and cheese was a bit too greasy.

The Olive Garden did beat expectations.  I had their current special of grilled sausage tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli and orecchiette pasta in garlic butter sauce.  Excellent and unexpected.  The side dish of "bruschetta alfredo" was a disappointment--as it was just half-cooked toasted with alfredo sauce on it.  Dr. Springfield's lasagna looked fine.

Service: Olive Garden

Our waitress at the Olive Garden was considerably more knowledgeable and friendly.  She actually knew the menu, and could make suggests based on our tastes (e.g., the peach-raspberry iced tea was a nice touch).  By comparison, our le Cellier waitress was rather curt--I felt like I was imposing just being there.  Also, her suggestions were useless (because, amazingly, when I think "French-Canadian steakhouse," I do not automatically think "diver scallops").  Both meals took 45 minutes, but I felt quite rushed at le Cellier.  Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but when I'm paying $40+ for a steak, I want to sit and savour. 

Value: Olive Garden

Note: value does NOT equal "which is cheapest."   But consider this:
Total price of meal at le Cellier: $128.51. 
Total price of meal at Olive Garden: $18.00

That is 7.14x more expensive!  I cannot say that they offered 7.14 times more quality.

WINNER: Olive Garden

When asked the question, "which country do you like least, Italy or France?"  does anyone ever say Italy?

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