TBL visited three restaurants during the Taste of Hartford, a promotion that ended Sunday. Here are the capsule reviews:
Carbone’s: By far the best combination of food and service. The menu looked so enticing that TBL actually ordered veal for the first time in years. It says something that one of the city’s flagship restaurants actually seemed excited about serving three-course meals for $20.12.
Max Downtown: Good old Max left the impression that it couldn’t wait for Taste of Hartford to end. Though it acknowledged the promotion, our server pushed hard on serving something from the main menu, even if it were an appetizer.
Max also violated the spirit of Taste of Hartford by offering a steak with an asterisk — if you noticed the asterisk — informing diners it would cost an additional $10. That’s a Bush League move by one of the city’s classiest restaurants. The happy-hour menu at Max Fish in Glastonbury is more inspiring than Max Downtown’s tepid Taste of Hartford menu. We ended up with the salmon — overcooked, over a bed of bland chopped vegetables. At the very least, Max should do a better job of hiding its distaste for Taste of Hartford.
Hot Tomato’s: Hadn’t been to Hot Tomato’s in years and won’t be back anytime soon. Service was slow and ill-informed, two entrees in our party of six were returned to the kitchen and the otherwise top-shelf crabcake app was barely warm around the edges and cool/room temperature in the middle.
Two orders of the baked-Hake were returned to the kitchen after sensing, then seeing in the darkened corner thanks to a smartphone’s flashlight app, that the fish hadn’t been cooked through. Our server then noted that the chef had said this type of fish sometimes can appear to be undercooked. We countered by saying that these orders, indeed, were undercooked. The server took our plates, then returned moments later to tell us the chef had confirmed the fish was undercooked.
By the time the new hake, fully cooked, had arrived the other four members of our party had finished their main course. The hake wasn’t worth waiting for, either: Bland whitefish over a bed of sleepytime rice. The dessert, fresh fruit over shortcake, was quite good but Hot Tomato’s seems to have a kitchen in disarray and the vibe of a restaurant whose days might be numbered.
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