When I look back at my dinner at La Petite Maison, my heart races just a little. Not because the memory of the food and experience excites me. Nah. Mostly because I can’t forget the exaggerated and dizzying sense of urgency the staff exhibited from beginning to end. Every single person distractingly hustled at 100 mph the entire night. Dare I say it, unjustifiably so. I felt rushed and couldn’t help but also feel terrible for the pressure they must have sensed to behave this way.
But let’s rewind. Cue the Jeopardy countdown jingle in the background.
“Thank you for confirming your reservation. We will see you tonight for dinner from 7 to 9.” Wait. What? What do you mean until 9? “Well, yes, we limit tables to two-hour time frames.”
It took me a while to think of where I’d heard that before. I then remembered Zuma has the same rules. I wasn’t too worried. I’ve never felt timed at Zuma as a party of two, four, or even six. What would have happened at LPM had my party remained a reservation for four, as initially requested? I understand the wish to turn tables on busy nights, especially for smaller restaurants. Although two-hours is usually more than enough time for a party of two, the idea of leisure dinner “on the clock” is a huge turn-off. When I drive almost an hour to Miami (from Broward) to enjoy a highly-HIGHLY- priced dinner with a couple of bottles of wine, appetizers, entrees, dessert, and probably even coffee service. . . I don’t wish to feel rushed.
Excited about finally visiting Maison, I arrived on a weekend night to find a packed house. Not a big deal, it’s Miami and business as usual. While following the hostess to our table, I dodged staff of all types who carried trays, pulled out chairs, and zoomed by as if they were involved in a speed-walking contest. It wasn’t until I finally sat and took a moment to slowly look around that I noticed it wasn’t just a fun, electric, palpable energy around me. The captain (leader, manager, gate-keeper, or whoever he was), paced around the restaurant all night, hovered over diners, and directed staff continually with the grace of a caged lion about to strike. The intimidation (or something like it) showed everyone’s faces, albeit hidden behind crooked smiles and attempts at offering excellent service. My seat had a direct view of the kitchen. I noticed even the chef behaved erratically.
Our server welcomed us enthusiastically. He spoke about the menu as if he created it himself and assured us that, basically, all of it would be the “best we will ever have.” Cringe. Wow. I’ll cut to the end; it was not. He also confirmed this restaurant belongs to the same Zuma group and “was affiliated with Coya and Tamarina.” Blank stare. “The two now-closed restaurants?” Is it just me? I mean, I wouldn’t lead with that.
During dinner, he hurriedly popped in here and there while looking over his shoulder and rushing to his next table. Sometimes he left mid-sentence.
The back of my husband’s chair neared a prep station of sorts. Suited-staff convened there to discuss, x, y, and z all the while bumping into his chair repeatedly. I suppose we could have requested a seat change, but I didn’t want to inconvenience a seemingly already “inconvenienced” personnel. From where I sat, the theatrical chaos couldn’t be missed. I couldn’t look away. A party of four requesting a seat change meant no less than four staffers attacked the table within seconds to reset it as quickly as possible. Go, go, go! I’ve never seen anything like it.
What I tried:
Dishes came out separately, often overlapping each other, despite being reassured they would not. At one point, while deep in conversation, out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of my plates moving away from me. No. Stop! What is going on? Were they really removing my plate without asking? No. I am not done eating. FFS, pardon my French, this is just too stressful. By the time coffee arrived (and I dared sit past the 9pm curfew),
I was about to turn into a pumpkin the predictable men-in-suits started circling my table like sharks at feeding time. “Is everything OK?” ” Can we offer you anything else?” Yes, as a matter of fact, I would like to drink my darn coffee in peace. Please and thank you.
I would have mentioned something to our waiter, but I never got the chance. I didn’t see him much towards the end of the night either. La Petite Maison talks the talk but, based on that experience, stumbles when trying to walk the walk. For the cost of this dinner ($356.27 to be exact), I could have dined at San Francisco’s Gary Danko and marveled at the professionalism and gracefulness of the (almost 1 to 1 ratio of guests per) barely noticeable staff.
But Bren, the food, was it good? “Good,” but not great. Nothing was “good” enough to hurry back for seconds and endure that. And most certainly, nothing places as the “best I’ve ever had.” I am disappointed I did not get to try the Orange Glaze Duck Legs or the Whole Roast Heritage Chicken, for which they are known. Honestly, I cannot bring myself to make a second reservation. At least, not just yet. This is the sole reason I chose to write the review now instead of holding off as I typically would.
As I walked out, I repeated the same song and dance I performed upon walking in. Duck. Sway. Right. Left. Squeeze. Pause. Go. Phew. Is it just a see and be seen spot? Does La Petite Maison have what it takes to ride Miami out for the long-term? Cue the Jeopardy countdown jingle once more. Time will tell.