August 2006 Archives

Asena, Alameda, California


If you want to pay too much for Mediterranean food, Asena is the place for you. We went there last night, and while the wine we got was very nice, the food left a lot to be desired. Not to mention the service: we were seated in a table right by the kitchen when there were several other two-seat tables in the place AND our table wasn't even set yet. It took five minutes to get menus. Our water was not refilled until the main course arrived, even though the glasses had been empty for much of the appetizer course. We sat with clean plates in front of us for twenty minutes before the waiter noticed. Ten minutes to get the bill. Come on, people.

And the food. It was as if a French-trained chef was trying to do Italian, and utterly failing. My olives/fresh mozzarella/tomato/basil "mezze" (can we just call it an appetizer and get over ourselves) needed more balance to keep the mozzarella from being totally dominated by the olives, and you would think that in California, in August, they could have found some good tomatoes to put on the plate. Noel's cumin bread had just too damned much cumin. The four-cheese ravioli in tomato/basil sauce was utterly ruined by probably four times as much black pepper as any tomato sauce ever needs; the chef clearly did not understand how stewing changes spices.

I will grant that they understood both butter and salt, which is rare, and the toasted sesame seeds made a real difference for Noel's chicken in phyllo, but quite frankly, that's not enough for the prices they were charging. For a few dollars more, we could have had an infinitely better meal at Chez Panisse, and been treated politely. We will not be going back.

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