Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coast, Charleston, SC

A Skillful Recovery Will Bring Us Back...

On a very balmy first day of winter we decided to give the restaurant, Coast a try.  I have heard great things about it, and was excited to see if it met its hype. 

As it was described to me it is definitely “tucked away” and located in an alley behind 39 Rue du Jean.  We actually drove past it but in doing so were lucky to find a parking space on Meeting Street and walked the few blocks to the restaurant.

The restaurant itself was a nice surprise. It’s much bigger than I’d expected with a very long bar, ample seating in the bar area, and many tables.  What are also very attractive are the 30’ ceilings and the brick-lined walls.  The dining room is dimly lit and has a light tropical feel, as the booth we sat in was under what appeared to be a large, tropical hut.  The d├ęcor is otherwise not overdone with a few colorful pieces of glass and a rogue coconut here and there.

Andy, our server, immediately approached us and took our drink order.  We asked him what on the menu were some of his favorites and he quickly was able to review each section of the menu and make recommendations. We placed an order for the Crab and Avocado Ravioli, which was one of his suggestions.  Warm, fresh bread and butter were quickly brought to the table.

Crab & Avocado Ravioli
Literally in a blink of an eye our ravioli appeared.  We actually thought it might be a mistake and asked him if this order could be for another table.  He said no, and we started to dig in.  Three, over-sized ravioli circled a fresh, lightly dressed mound of greens that were topped with a few dabs of goat cheese. Other than a little heavy handed with the olive oil in the preparation, the ravioli were very good.

Since we had received our appetizer so quickly I was curious to see how long it would take to get our entrees. A short nine minutes later our entrees arrived. 

It’s odd for my husband to even eat at a seafood restaurant since he's not a big seafood fan, but after his first bit of his Grilled Spicy Adobo Shrimp the comments were, “I think I’m in love.”  His spicy shrimp sat atop perhaps what were the best tasting grits that we’ve had since we’ve lived here. I thought, “Hmm, we may be on to something.”

Grilled Spicy Adobo Shrimp
But alas, there was only to be one person at the table that was to have such a relationship. My order of the evening’s special – Grilled Escobar, Salmon, bacon wrapped jalapeno shrimp served with parmesan mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables was like a bad blind date. You know right away it’s not going to go well, but you’re at a loss as to what to do next.

My mashed potatoes and vegetables were cold. Not chilly, cold.  That’s ok, as it can be an easy fix. When Andy came to check on us I explained that they were cold and asked for two new sides, I kept my fish as I did not want it to get cold as he went for the sides. He seemed frustrated. I did not know if his frustration was with his kitchen team, with me, or a little bit of both.  Whatever the source, I completely understood his feelings.

Daily Special
The sides were out in a flash and they were great.  But then… I tried my bacon wrapped jalapeno shrimp.  There didn’t seem to be any jalapenos, which I expected so I asked Andy as he walked by.  He said that the jalapenos were infused within the bacon – not so much. The bacon just tasted like bacon.  As I unwrapped them (I’m not that big of a bacon fan), I noticed that the bacon closest to the shrimp wasn’t cooked and the shrimp was also undercooked.  I genuinely was too embarrassed to ask for anything else, but did mention it to Andy when he picked up our plates. Showing some additional frustration he said, “We’ll just take this off your check because it didn’t meet your expectation.”  We told him thank you, but he didn’t have to do that.

A short time later a very tall gentleman approached the table. We assumed it was the manager, but it was odd he didn’t introduce himself. He apologized and then started rattling off things that he could quickly bring me, “Soup, salad, anything that you’d like.” I thankfully declined.

He told us that he’d taken the dinner off of the check because things weren’t done correctly.  He said he felt bad and that “If you leave hungry, then we haven’t done our job.” This comment really made me think.
It reminded me of an experience I had many years ago opening a restaurant in Sarasota, FL. One of the things that I’ve done during my time in the industry is to design the way restaurant’s open. I’ve opened over 100 restaurants around the country. I would design practice shifts that would simulate different volumes, and increase the volume each time the restaurant practiced.  Each position in the restaurant would work through escalating degrees of difficultly. There were specific reservation sheets for “friends and family” who wanted to participate.

Inside Coast
Giving my direction to the General Manager from afar prior to my arriving on site I realized too late that my direction was poor.  Instead of “one” person per line, there were parties of four, five, six per line.  And I discovered the error much too late, we were about to start the shift.  The practice shift could have been deemed a disaster if it weren’t for the lesson we all learned that evening.

George Barton, was an iconic figure with the company and the regional manager. He could have really come down hard on us all, especially me, but he didn’t. He sat us all down at the end of the shift and talked about what happened.  He said that he was a little concerned that we did not put our best foot forward to the community.  Many of us were humbled as we shook our heads in agreement.

“But”, he said, “It’s how champions skillfully recover that will set us apart from the rest. And we’re going to be champions.”

The opening was a huge success. Come to find out that the added practice (even though rocky), helped to hone many of the skills of our new employees.  We were all feeling like champions.

To me, Coast skillfully recovered last night. I am certain that the manager would have done anything necessary to make sure I was well fed and happy. What else can you ask for?  We'll give Coast another try soon.

Coast on Urbanspoon


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More