I first came to Loulay a few years ago with friends for a celebration dinner. We had a great time, sat in the main dining room, had a great bottle of wine, and a fun, flirty server. In July I decided to treat myself returned to Loulay hoping to relive that original experience. Sadly, it was not to be.
LouLay is one of two restaurants by Chief Thierry, the ‘Cheif in the Hat’. He is a classically trained French chef who applies that training to local ingredients offering elevated NorthWest cuisine in a typically casual Seattle style. Over the last few years, I had dreamed of their signature egg and caviar dish. While the food lived up to my memory, the service left a bad taste in my mouth.
From the moment I arrived there were issues.
It was an early seating, around 5:30pm. I noticed that there was a party of eight in the main dining room and 4 solo male diners. The rest of the main floor was empty. The hostess greeted me and informed me that they had a table in the mezzanine overlooking the dining room and escorted me upstairs. The only other diner upstairs was another solo female diner.
Next, I was given the menu and a very short wine by the glass list. The waitress was pleasant and we discussed the courses. I ordered the pork and mentioned my disappointment that none of the wines by the glass really suited the pork. I was led to believe that the initial list were the only options. I settled for a lesser chose. Later, when I was looking at the dessert menu I noticed that there was a perfect Grenache that would have paired well with the pork. The restaurant ‘pushed’ the wines they wanted to sell.
As I was waiting for my first course, I watched as couples and solo male diners were seated downstairs, yet another solo female diner was brought upstairs. I called the server over and said that this was not how female diners should be treated. It felt as if the restaurant was hiding us away.
The server returned in a few minutes and said she had spoken to the manager. They wanted to offer me a ‘very special table’. She went on to explain that this table was designed to allow the diner a view of the kitchen. She offered to move me and said I could ‘enjoy a glass of wine while watching the chef prepare my meal’ (usually code for a complementary wine yet it was never actually offered). As an experienced diner, this sounded as if I had just been offered the chef’s table and a complimentary glass of wine. I even said this to the server. “Wow, you are going to move me to the Chef’s table? I would absolutely love that!” I was very excited at the turn of events.
The server picked up my wine and walked me three tables down to a small, cramped table for one. My back was to the room, and if I scanned my neck and looked around the iron railing obstacle, I could see the tops of the heads of the chefs. The server then presented me with a guest book and encouraged me to write a note to other diners. As I scanned through the book I noticed that most of the entries were from out of town solo female diners.
I can not tell you how disappointed this entire experience left me. The food itself, apart from the bad wine pairing, was delicious. As a single diner I spent $140 for a three course meal and three glasses of wine, as much as some couples would spend. Yet I was not respected and treated in the same manner as all the single male diners that were seated in the main room.
Even though the food was delicious, I would not recommend LouLay