Rob Moshein - The Austin Wine Guy

I am always a gracious and grateful guest, but

April 01, 2009

So gentle readers, it was time last night for the first invitation I could attend after Dad's passing. Shoreline Grill, a downtown Austin restaurant located next to the Four Seasons and having probably the best view/location in downtown had "undergone some renovations"  acquired a "hot new Chef "taking Shoreline to a new level as Austin’s seafood destination, revamping the menu with both culinary and presentation innovations. Spaces are limited, so please keep this hush hush You CAN bring a "plus one" The event is complimentary: featuring complimentary dishes and wine. taste their new menu meet their new chef." the invitation read. The stuff in italics is directly cut and pasted from the invite. The invitation also clearly said it went from 5pm to 8pm. 

I wanted to avoid the traffic, so I arrived about 5:15.  There was nobody else there.  The bar was set up, but nobody to greet anyone.  At least the barman offered me a glass of wine. Don't get your hopes up yet, There will sadly be little about wine in this blog. Read on to understand why.

I wandered inside to check out the "renovations".  Shoreline looked as it always has for the last fifteen years. It still looks exactly like my late uncle's middle class golf club restaurant located in a tiny town -except for the killer view and nice outside patio. I discussed this with every single person I spoke with at the event. Not a single person could tell what the "renovations" entailed.  I still don't know what was different nor did anyone else I spoke with.

I asked the young woman at the reservations desk where every one was. She said "You're early, it doesn't start until 5:30".  When I showed her the email invitation on my iPhone which clearly stated 5pm, she just said "oh" and looked at me like I was the rudest most repulsive lizard she had ever seen for daring to prove her wrong. NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON EMPLOYED BY SHORELINE GRILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THREE FULL  HOURS, ENGAGED ME IN CONVERSATION, I DID NOT GET EVEN A "GOOD EVENING, WELCOME TO SHORELINE."  NOT ONE PERSON WHO WORKED THERE ASKED IF I WAS ENJOYING MYSELF.  Now, I DID see the manager types, in suits, gush over long time guests. They fawned over the regulars.  They walked past me, making eye contact, yet walking past without a word.  I began to remember just why I stopped putting Shoreline on my "go to" list for dinner.  Not only did it look like a private club, they treated people that way too, in addition to mediocre food just like you would find at somebody's private club.  Clearly, yr mst hmble and obd't svnt here did not have the secret handshake or hidden signal to be treated as a welcomed guest.  I was a tolerated attendee...not much more. 

For a "hush hush" event with "limited spaces" somewhere northwards of 350 people showed up.  It was a nightmare scenario, with almost NO FOOD.  Small trays of teensy tiny bites were being "passed" but they were so small, so few and far between that any single guest was lucky to get a morsel or two.  By 7:30, I was starved and so were the few other people I actually knew at the event.  Total strangers were starting to bond over the fact that this "restaurant" had no food for their guest.  I managed to snag a few, but to be blunt, as I left for home starving and grateful I had some leftover roast beef in the fridge, I can honestly say I have NO CLUE what kind of food their "revamped menu" and "revamped presentations" had to offer.  I read the menu card by the door, but it looked like the same old tired things, even down to the truly icky "Prime Rib Enchiladas" that I remembered from 1995. The only thing I left knowing about the "revamped" Shoreline was that they seemed to offer nothing but teeny bits of not very stellar appetizers...

As for "meeting the Chef", I can only say that he hid behind the bar for the few minutes he was trotted out for the public viewing, venturing out into the crowd only to be photographed by the "faux paparazzi" hired for that sole purpose.

I could not find a wine list to peruse.  I couldn't engage ANYONE who worked there other than the wait staff (who to be fair kept up their good humor in face of disaster and tried as best they could while the restaurant failed utterly around them.) I only stayed until 8pm because I felt I needed to get SOMETHING back for the Six dollars I had to pay to park the car. Nope, they didn't even pick up parking.

I have to tell you, I was bored. BORED with the same tired look of the place. BORED by the utter and complete lack of attention by the managment throwing this "event", BORED by the fact the place did not even KNOW the starting time for the event; BORED by the lack of food, BORED by what morsels of food managed to show up; BORED by the only two wines being poured (they were fine, truly, but chosen for nothing other than lowest common denominator.) and BORED by not knowing more than six people out of over 350, and BORED by clearly being nothing more than an invited body to witness somebody else's private buddy buddy party.  The event seemed summed up by the last two things that happened.  People I have known for fifteen years (not close friends tho) walked in and stopped to say hello. They had met my parents and asked about them.  I told them about Dad.  They were appropriately polite with condolences.  Suddenly, the husband turned and said "OH, there's x, and the y's and z is here, we have to go say hello..." and they disappeared.  As I walked to the valet, one of the Shoreline managment types handed me a card, it basically urged me to come back to dinner, saying that if I committed to spend $100 on a meal, they would take $25 off the bill...I was somebody at other people's clubhouse, with expensive dues. Not welcomed or even acknowledged as their guest, unless I committed to dropping lots of money on a regular basis.  The several other wine and food bloggers I know who were also there were all in 100% agreement with me.

Don't hold your breath Shoreline. You still aren't on my "go to list". You had a chance to show me your stuff, and failed. Miserably.

I do honestly and with heartfelt wishes, THANK YOU for inviting me to your cocktail party.  I always want to be a gracious guest, even when my hosts are less than. and no, this is not some April Fools joke. I'm dead serious.  If you think I'm being petty or picky, please read my previous blogs about places who pulled it off in gracious style, earning kudos.

Rob Moshein
Austin Wine Guy

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