June 22, 2006

Local Restaurant Review

The Anaheim White House (887 S. Anaheim Blvd., $$$$): we went here for Shelby's birthday. Listening to local buzz, it was supposed to be one of the three go-to places for ultra-fine dining in Anaheim, the other two being the Napa Rose and Mr. Stox. Our overall verdict: meh.

I should have known that this place was trouble right from the start after looking at their menu and wine list online. The wine list was undistinguished; we brought a Siduri Pinot of our own. Individual menu items are either named after personalities (the "Gwen Stefani" ravioli; the "Sophia Loren" caviar) or luxury brands (the "Dolce Gabbana" sand dabs; the "Coco Chanel" Pacific ahi). I think that the desired effect here is "classy", but it reminded me more of the apocryphal welfare mother who chooses to name her twin girls "Lexus" and "Infiniti".

Our waiter was pretty smarmy. As we ordered, he asked us if we'd like a Grand Marnier souffle; we needed to get our order in at the beginning of the meal, as they took thirty minutes to make. Shelby said no; he persisted, asking "but have you ever tried a Grand Marnier souffle before?" Well, no, but she'd had souffles before, thanks, and she didn't like the taste of Grand Marnier. This became a favorite pattern of his throughout the evening; he'd offer x, we'd decline x, and then he'd ask "but have you ever tried x before?" It's interesting that one of the review quotes showcased on the front page of the White House's web site is "a Fancy Restaurant that doesn't make you feel like a hick", because our waiter was certainly acting like we'd staggered out of a Shoney's or Cracker Barrel, put on some nice clothes, and somehow stumbled into the White House, determined to try some of thet there fancy food like them rich people done et fer a change.

Once the waiter took our order, service became near-nonexistent. It took a long time before someone noticed that our water glasses needed to be refilled, or that we'd eaten our bread, and needed another roll (rolls were doled out individually, like they were some kind of precious commodity ... for a bill over $100, you can't leave a bread basket at our table??)

We needed a lot of rolls — and should have ordered separate appetizers, instead of splitting one — because it took a long, long time for our entrees to arrive. When they did, they were good, and the portions were surprisingly generous (Shelby had a filet mignon, I had short ribs) ... but the food wasn't at that next-level plateau that I'd expect from the class of establishment that the White House purports to be.

Positive note: at the end, they came out with a surprise happy-birthday dessert for Shelby. And they forgot to charge us for corkage.

Final verdict: while I'd love to have a top-class restaurant just blocks away from our house, the White House isn't it; for what you get, this is far from a bargain, and by the end of our meal, we were itching to leave. If you've got a special occasion to celebrate or out-of-town guests to impress, there are better places to do it at than here.

Posted by Kevin at June 22, 2006 09:58 AM

i live in orange and am regularly reminded of the dearth of truly great dining options in our part of oc.

the rupee room was a short lived breath of fresh air with a truly inventive chef.. alas he sold the place after just a few months. the new owners kept the name but serve middle of the road indian food. meh indeed.

have you been to napa rose?

Posted by: el serracho at June 27, 2006 11:16 AM

We have been to Napa Rose -- while the food was excellent and the ambience was good (we were slotted away in an alcove next to a stone fireplace), service left something to be desired. Our waiter was very capable and tried his best, but he was clearly working too large of a territory to be able to give individual tables much attention.

However, we went on the night before Thanksgiving (for our anniversary, which actually fell on the day itself). Given the number of times I've read raves about the Napa Rose's service, I'm guessing that they were suffering from holiday-related short-staffing issues. We liked it enough that we resolved to go back and give it another try on some night that's far away from a major holiday.

(We've been to Mr. Stox, too, which was excellent all the way through.)

Posted by: Kevin at June 27, 2006 03:50 PM

Have you been to Riviera at the Fireside in Westminster? (http://www.rivierarestaurant.net)

The website and the restaurant exterior are nothing impressive but the food, service and quiet atmosphere are excellent. It's old school continental cuisine done right.

I've driven by that restaurant on the 405 for as long as I can remember and never knew it was that good.

Posted by: thai at July 7, 2006 09:16 AM

that's funny thai. i grew up down the street from that place.. and as a kid was kind of creeped out the only time we went there. it was very dark with red velvet and leather everywhere. quite scary for a kid.

Posted by: el serracho at July 7, 2006 01:48 PM
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