To eat or not to eat…








May is a big month for my family.

Lots of birthdays to celebrate. Dads, mine and my wife’s. And, they all fall around this time in early May. So, my sister and I decided to book a reservation at a restaurant. Good idea… uh um… we’ll see.

We wanted to stay local, since our parents are up there in years now, and also to make it easier for us all.

I was in the mood for Indian food and I know my family likes it a lot, so I picked a place that I’ve been to before that I liked a lot.

My sister agreed, but wanted to try a restaurant we had never eaten in before. The restaurant she picked was called Chakra. She said it was Indian, and I thought great! Linda is what I call a foodie, so I completly trust her. Well, this time, I was I wrong. What a big mistake.

We all met at Chakra at 6:30 for our reservation. I quickly learned it was not Indian food! Well, no biggie, it looked pretty upscale and worth a try for this auspicious birthday occasion. And, being a pricey place, I figured it should be good.

We sat down in a small, uncomfortable booth, and the room was large and loud. Acoustics were terrible. We had to shout to hear each other. Right away this is a sign that we made a mistake.

Nothing on the menu seemed to appeal to me either. Perhaps because I was hoping for Indian, but really, there was nothing that jumped out and said “order me!”.

There were some hot or cold appetizers, salads, and the main courses. All ala carte. Several dishes sounded unusual, but most were rather common.

The more unusual were asparagus soup, chili-cinnamon glazed chilean sea bass, vetearian eggplant tart, with sacred chow tofu and tomato-bell pepper coulis.

Hmm, coulis?

Everything else looked common and plain.

I ordered the hors-radish encrusted crab cake appetizer and for my main dish, Fettucini with Shrimp, Fra Diavolo.

Mom ordered the Chilean sea bass, dad ordered the surf and turf, and my wife ordered the crab cakes as her main dish. My sister ordered a salad.

It took a while for our appetizers to arrive, and we dug in. The crab cake was decent. Not the best I’ve ever had, but it was ok. Portions were small, and the food presentation was che-che fancy. Lots of effort into making the food look good on the plate. A lot of “show” but no “go”, as I say.

Next came my main dish. The plate was a large bowl, and was searing, blazing hot. So hot, you could feel the heat emanating, and the food was steaming. Too hot to eat, and I had to wait. The dish consisted of a large, heavy portion of thick, fettuccine noodles. They were way over cooked and pasty to taste, drenched in a thick, gooey tomato-paste like sauce. It was supposed to be fra diavlo spicy. There was hardly any spicy heat. I had to dig around to find the four shrimp. They were large size, certainly not jumbo, and they had the consistency of shoe leather, way overcooked. Those poor shrimp.

I was never was so disappointed with a meal in my life. I’ve had stouffers frozen fettuccine that tasted better than this mush.

The waiter stopped by and asked how our food was and let him know.

He apologized and offered to get me something else. I said I don’t think so, everyone else would be finished eating by the time my dinner arrived. He promised they would make my new dish quickly.

Another waitress brought me a menu and I ordered the salmon.

While waiting, she brought me a tiny cup of their asparagus soup. That sounds great! It was foamy, with the consistency of a beaten egg white. The taste… like a beaten egg white with a ton of salt! Yech.

The new dish arrived as they promised, shortly thereafter, but it too was a failure.

Salmon is a favorite of mine, and I know good salmon.

This salmon was nothing to write home about. It was served on a broiling, blazing hot plate, same as previous, and the fish was mostly raw on the inside, but cooking quickly on my broiling hot plate. Ok,  that should be fine,  but the taste was so disappointing. Bland is the best way to describe it. A squeeze of lemon helped save it from being a total disaster.

On the same broiling hot plate were some leafy salad greens, over drenched and soaking in a bland, vinaigrette dressing. Yup, even the vinaigrette was boring, and wilting fast on the sizzling hot plate! (duh!)

Dad hated his surf and turf. The steak was dried out, just awful, and the half lobster was so tiny it barely had enough meat in it to feed a tiny new born sparrow.

Dad complained to the waiter who seemed to care less, and if else, looked annoyed. Dad sensed this, and did not want to go through what I went through and chose just not to finish his meal.

On to the desert!

Yikes. The desert menu was the weirdest, most un-appetizing menu I had ever seen. None of the ingredients seemed to be a good match with each other. Like coconut tapioca pudding. Dad ordered it, and it had the consistency of lumpy water with yellow clump of (i think) ice cream in the middle with one of those che-che, dress-it-up, make-it look expensive, wafer’s stuck in it.


Another was some sort of strawberry rhubarb tart with (i think) asparagus ice cream. Yech.

I can’t remember the rest of items, but they also sounded awful. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like unusal, and love interesting, new flavors. But nothing sounded good on this menu.

Nothing appealing, and no safe, fall-back choices either.

Disgusted, I ordered just a coffee.

What could go wrong with a wonderful, hot cup of coffee!

Everything. The coffee was awful. It was served in a french-style coffee press, and it was dark black. I added milk… still dark black. I added more… ok… finaly getting a little lighter.

It was rot gut coffee. Bitter, way too strong, and tasted as if it was strained through a tube sock that was ripped off the foot of a hobo.

It was that bad.

Got the check, paid over $200 plus 15% tip (I should not have left any tip, but didn’t want my wife to feel embarrassed) and we left.

It was the first time I wrote a note on a check receipt

“A terrible and very disappointing meal… :-(”

I cannot recommend this restaurant.

It’s pricey, and the quality of the food is poor. The service is not much better. The atmosphere is attractive, but too dark and far too loud to enjoy a dinner with friends or family.

Ivan Boden
I'm a graphic designer and a photographer based in the New Jersey - New York vicinity. Ivan has photographed in theater and performing arts for nearly a decade and currently specializes in commercial, editorial, lifestyle, brand and corporate assignments.

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