Hemingway’s hosted an event Thursday night. “Hilary Scott Tapas Dinner” it was called. It was – music, wine and company aside – not so good.
The first course was billed as “honey mustard walnuts.” What came out was a few clusters of nuts on some tired lettuce. The walnuts tasted of neither honey nor mustard.
“Nuts on a plate,” I thought. “Here we go.”
What followed was a fusillade of ineptly executed and ill-considered dishes. There were cold, rubbery scallops topped with a “balsamic foam” that looked like cat vomit and tasted like nothing. The “local mushroom ravioli” featured undercooked mushrooms and pasta that slid between the tines of my fork like runny egg whites – I’d not been aware that pasta could do this.
The “peppercorned ribeye” was served medium rare, but was flavorless, cold and swimming in a “Worcestershire reduction.” Why anyone would want to reduce Worcestershire sauce is a mystery that remains unsolved. The “onion rings” on top were paper thin and had been fried beyond recognition or flavor.
Finally, dessert, a “chocolate-chocolate chip peanut bar” so hard that chunks went skittering across the tablecloth as diners attempted to cut it with a fork. Not so much.
On the other hand, the service was speedy and jocular. Hilary Scott was great. The night is behind me. All of these are positives I take away from the experience.
I must say I take no joy from ripping Hemingway’s. I’ve met and enjoyed the company of some of the owners. We were escorted through the rain by umbrella-wielding valets. The space itself should feel comforting. Instead I mostly pick up a creepy, cliquish vibe. And the food’s not been very good. I’d like to see the place work, but it’s just not, a fact that’s been borne out by multiple visits over the past few years.
On the flip side, I have heard their brunch is very good. So there’s that.
Sigh. I guess there are places where people go for great food, and places where people go because it’s where People Like Them go. We’ve never tried Hemingway’s because everything else we’d heard about it matched up with what you’ve said here. Life is too short. For me, it joins Jack’s Gourmet, Boone Tavern, Grand Cru, and the various iterations of Domenico’s as places where we’re obviously not important enough, or good enough friends with the owners, to get good meals there.
Of course, most of those people still eat Mexican at El Maguey, too, so that is its own revenge.
cyrano – I am so happy to find another person who appreciates good food but has never experienced it at Jack’s, Boone Tavern, or Grand Cru. I always thought it was just me . . .
M, it’s not just you.
Without Chef Brian James, Hemingway’s aint Hemingway’s. The creativity of the menue just isn’t there anymore. Speaking of Brian, I miss Le Petit. No good country French food in Columbia anymore.
Chris, I’d argue that much of Sycamore’s menu IS country French food. Pates, game, sausage, etc. But you’re right, we could use more.