Restaurant Reviews

Dispiriting Service

Chefs and restaurateurs tend to prepare for Saturday nights as carefully as brides primp for their weddings. They check and double-check food deliveries for quantity and quality. They prep the hostess on who and what to expect. They make sure the best servers are on shift for that evening. On that proverbially busiest night of the week -- or, for the bride, stressful night of her life -- slip-ups, boo-boos, and oopsies simply cannot be tolerated.

Thus, if Rainer Wohrle, Sonia Therrien, and chef Per Jacobsen, proprietors of the six-month-old Bones & Spirits steak house, were brides, they'd find themselves getting married by an Elvis impersonator at a Las Vegas drive-through chapel.

In other words, it seemed on a recent Saturday evening that no detailed preparation had taken place. The steak house, which looks more like a Tuscan eatery with its brick ovens and slanting dark-wood ceiling, didn't have several menu items in stock, including lobsters, oysters, filet mignon (!), and asparagus. The place was relatively empty, but still the hostess wanted to know if we had a reservation instead of just gratefully seating us. And the server we were assigned was probably one of the worst I've had in the ten years I've been doing this job: He abruptly left the table three times while we were giving our order, and he had a terrible habit of looking over our heads when he was there, a mental absence that resulted in his somehow neglecting to hear nearly our entire appetizer order. So three out of four appetizers, including an intriguing-sounding churrasco skewer with chimichurri and a smoked salmon platter with goat cheese, simply never appeared. As for the La Crema chardonnay ($31) we'd ordered, it was brought in a bucket and propped on an empty chair, which was then pulled up to our table as if we were waiting for Elijah.

Given that Per Jacobsen owns the highly respected Vienna Café and Wine Bar in Davie, I'd expected a little more wine savvy, or at least some basic business sense. But it looks as if these folks don't even know where their restaurant is located. An advertisement bills the place as "Weston's Premier Steakhouse." The sign that precedes the Indian Trace shopping center in which the eatery is located reads "Welcome to Davie." The address on the business card? "Sunrise." No wonder our server was so confused. He probably thinks he's working in South Beach. (Note: That would explain a lot.)

In fact, Miami must be where he went to get our bread (which the Bones & Spirits Website highlights as "crusty fresh-baked bread [that] comes directly from our ovens to your table"), since it took him 45 minutes to bring it. The Website, incidentally, lists the restaurant's address as Weston.

The menu, as one might expect, features steaks, chops, and fillets of fish, but the dishes are perhaps more inventive than you might guess from the name of the establishment. A crab-cake appetizer -- the only one our server managed to remember -- came as a "stack," interspersed with a guacamole-like medley of chopped onions, peppers, and avocado. It was hard to find the crab, but the entire concoction was certainly tasty.

Entrées come with a choice of salad or soup of the day, along with a pick of the starches available. When we realized our server wasn't going to ask whether we wanted greens or potage, let alone salad dressing, we tried to be proactive about it and offer the info ourselves -- as in, "And I'll have a fully loaded baked potato with that rack of lamb, thanks." The result, however, was that we knew what we wanted but he didn't, so all our salads, including an uninspired Caesar and a pretty house salad with an array of greens, arrived at separate times. The soup of the day, a nicely balanced seafood bisque featuring lump crabmeat, finally made an appearance toward the end of the course. Potatoes were served naked, but hey, at least they'd been in the oven. Along with, apparently, the side dish of creamed spinach, which was distinguished by dried-out, crusty peaks.

We'd been at the restaurant nearly two hours at this point and had plowed through a bottle of Sequoia cabernet sauvignon ($49) as well as the La Crema; you'd think that the waiter might have recognized an easy sell when he saw one. Indeed, the fact that we'd already racked up $80 in wine alone should have warranted us some tip-guarding. But service did not improve, as we had to request water, utensils, and accompanying condiments and sauces, such as the béarnaise and cognac (each $1) that are available with meat cuts, throughout the meal.

Still, we might have been in a decent-enough humor if main courses lived up to expectations. Not that we had any at this point, other than what the menu promised: A small box at the bottom of the page offered three or four cuts of prime USDA beef. But if the tough and chewy strip sirloin we received was prime -- for $23, no less -- then I'm revising my opinion of the American beef industry. I'd say a "choice" label would be more appropriate here, if not "select."

I didn't have a problem with the quality of the rack of lamb, but I did have some concerns as to how it was presented. A block of lamb chops had been crusted with crumbs and burned in places, with no visible place to make a cut. The entire main dish was just plain awkward eating, though the lamb was pleasantly flavored with mustard and herbs. A prime rib proved the finest meat option of the evening, the slab of pink-red beef lightly trimmed with moistening fat, but again, a lack of planning was plain: Horseradish sauce, available by request (make that several requests when it came to our server), was not a sauce but a pile of grated white horseradish, seemingly scooped directly out of a jar. Chicken Florentine also demonstrated miserly attention to detail. The chicken breast, though succulent and juicy, was supposed to have been stuffed with spinach and cheese, then sliced and served over black-and-white pasta. Instead, cheese was not in evidence, and black pasta was a complete no-show, while the regular fettuccine over which the chicken was served was overcooked.

I have to admit I'm usually the one who wants to forgo sweets at the end of the meal. I'm not overly fond of dessert (and I am overly fond of wine), so by the time this course comes around, I'm usually ready to go. This time, though, it was my guests who were rolling their eyes, yawning, and saying things like, "We don't have to have dessert here, do we?" Our waiter didn't care whether we ordered anything or not -- he didn't even offer, instead apologizing for forgetting two-thirds of our starters after we'd paid the bill and started to walk out. But I'm not surprised that even an apology was an afterthought here in this Weston/Davie/Sunrise steak house, where the bones are bare and, as a result, the spirits poor.

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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick