My wife and I recently had dinner at Terra Vista before a show in the ballroom at the casino. We were not at all impressed. The restaurant description, decor and menu position Terra Vista as a top fine dining restaurant. I’m familiar with fine dining. I’ve eaten in the best restaurants in the Seattle area as well as great ones around the country, including Michelin 3 star establishments. My poor review does not come from unfamiliarity with innovative preparations, uncommon menu items, high prices, etc. It stems solely from the complete failure of this restaurant’s execution to match its ambition and marketing. It almost feels like the management read some books and reviews about fine dining, but have never actually eaten at a top restaurant. On paper, it may seem like they’re doing the right thing, but in reality it falls far short.
First, and foremost, the food was quite lacking. My wife had the hearts of romaine salad, which is described as “similar to a Caesar” with an anchovy emulsion dressing. The dressing was nearly flavorless — I’m still confused about how you can make anchovies have so little flavor. Overall, the salad tasted more like water and lettuce than anchovies or Caesar. I ordered the “salmon ravioli” as an appetizer. The server made sure I was aware that this contains no actual pasta — the “ravioli” is salmon filled with a hollandaise sauce. Sounds fun. However, the first thing that arrived was actually a (fairly decent sized) salmon fillet with no filling (or provision therefor). I asked the waiter about it, he agreed it seemed wrong, and said he’d have a new one made. The replacement was the same sized piece of salmon, with a very small amount of hollandaise inserted into a small slit. Basically the appetizer was a salmon fillet, and not a very flavorful one at that. I’m not sure if it was prepared wrong the second time, or if that’s actually how it was intended to be. For our main courses, my wife had the salmon sous vide and I had the Delmonico steak. Both were surprisingly flavorless. The accompaniments were too salty, while the meats were under seasoned. We didn’t have dessert because we were running out of time (more on that later).
The wine list was strange, especially for a restaurant that seems to think of itself as a wine-oriented establishment (there is a wall of wine racks as you walk in). The first odd thing I noticed was that there were no vintages on the wine list. They were selling bottles for $400 (and probably more — I didn’t read the entire list) without any indication of the vintage! The wines by the glass (which I went for since I didn’t want to spend any significant money on a bottle given the peculiarity of the wine list) are in a different wine list (which you have to request), and I found the selection to be unimpressive, though that’s a personal call.
The service and ambiance were a bit off as well. Our server was very nice, and went out of his way to make sure things were satisfactory to us. That was good. However, his descriptions of the menu items were far too long — it felt as if he almost read the entire menu to us. In many cases, it seemed like the restaurant is really designed for people who aren’t familiar with fine dining, without any expectation that experienced diners might also come in. For example, they carefully explained what amuse-bouche is. I don’t really have an objection to this — I certainly don’t feel that fine dining should be an elitist experience, or that only people who know what everything is should be able to eat there. On the contrary! My point is that a skilled server should be able to read his clientele well enough to know whether they need the detailed descriptions or not. We didn’t, we could have saved some time by not hearing them, and he could have given that time to another table who may have more appreciated the guidance.
Our main courses were brought out by two young gentlemen who seemed utterly confused about which table they were going to. They briefly stopped in front of our table, looked at each other, then started walking away until our server stopped and corrected them. Another time, a different server walked by our table, said out loud (conversational volume), “Oh, I forgot the water!” and turned around. All of the staff had plastic ID badges clipped to their shirts. The manager came to each table asking (fairly loudly — we could hear him 3 tables away), “how’s everything workin’ for ya?”. These are obviously all relatively minor things. On their own, they wouldn’t even warrant a mention. But in combination, and in a restaurant that strives to reach the top tiers of dining, I think they’re indicative of a problem. Go eat at a top restaurant in New York and tell me if you see or hear anything like that happen — there’s a certain level of sophistication, effortlessness and poise that typically exists in an excellent fine dining restaurant. I found that to be utterly lacking here.
Finally, the entire operation was very slow. We weren’t having a tasting menu (not that one was offered). We weren’t even ordering a large meal — we each had one starter and one main course. Yet it still took us from 6:30 PM to almost 8 PM to finish, and we only finished then because we ate our main courses very quickly and asked the server to hurry with the check. The first courses came in a reasonable amount of time, but the re-make of mine added another 10 minutes or so. The gap between the first courses and the main courses was probably about 30-40 minutes. The restaurant was not especially busy, so I’m not sure what took so long.
In conclusion, I simply can not recommend Terra Vista at this time. The advertising, menu descriptions and pricing all suggest that they’ll provide a truly outstanding meal, but the food is nowhere near where it needs to be, and the service lags as well. Terra Vista needs to either simplify the menu and dial down their ambitions to better match the staff’s ability to execute, or bring in a crew who can meet the expectations of the caliber of diners they’re trying to attract.