I read Jen Karetnick's review of Aquaterra ("Don't Go Near the Water!" January 29). To say I was flabbergasted is putting it mildly. I have dined there on many occasions -- in groups of four and six people -- [and] everyone was unanimous in their praise of the bill of fare.
To judge any restaurant fairly, a reviewer must dine there not only once, but at least three times. (I'm sure Ruth Reichel of the New York Times does not dine at a restaurant once and then write a review.) The reason? Any restaurant (or reviewer) can have a bad night. In my estimation no other restaurant I have dined at in the Palm Beaches has such an eclectic and unusual choice of dishes as Aquaterra. I hate to be so blunt, but Karetnick's review was a hatchet job, or should I say, a kitchen cleaver job. It was unnecessarily nasty, almost as if she had a personal grudge against Mr. [Charlie] Palmer (owner) or the chefs.
Let me quote Ms. Karetnick's own words: In the opening paragraph, while she says she was waiting for her car, she says she overheard other patrons discussing their dinners. "'We sent it back twice,' one man sniffed. 'Just awful, another woman complained. 'Disappointing,' I told a dining companion, and soon we were all talking to each other about our ill-prepared meals." To begin with, the stories sound apocryphal, but I'll grant her the benefit of the doubt.
But one thing is inexcusable. No reviewer worth his salt reveals his opinion to strangers before he writes his review. Can you imagine Hal Rubenstein of New York magazine leaving a restaurant and shooting his mouth off to passers-by, "Hey, the food in this place is lousy," or words to that effect?
Another thing that seemed superfluous to the column was the fact that Karetnick was surprised to be able to secure a Saturday night reservation in midweek. Did it ever occur to her that perhaps an opening was created because someone canceled their reservation?
She also writes pejoratively: "The restaurant was busy but not packed." I suppose she prefers a restaurant that has hordes of standees cooling their heels and gritting their teeth waiting impatiently for a free table.
She then complains that "the multiple choice menu made us dizzy." Every restaurant has a multiple choice menu unless it's a prix fixe dinner where everybody is served the same dishes without exception. So, what's the beef?
I cannot respond to her derogatory comments about the side dishes or desserts, since no one at my table ordered them during our visits, and why tell the reader about the valet bringing you the wrong car? That comes out of left field, totally irrelevant.
I just want to say that I've recommended Aquaterra to many friends, and curiously, after reading this poison-dipped review, I asked them for their opinions on the restaurant. Unanimously they enjoyed the food, the table spacing, and the overall presentation. Most agreed that Aquaterra's creative dishes were a welcome relief from the tired and commonplace dishes like penne arrabiata or linguine con vongole or ersatz caesar salad.
Perhaps you will give Ms. Karetnick another opportunity to take a second look in the near future, but with an open mind this time.
West Palm Beach