Dean Clough

December 20, 2023

Portico Darwin: We'll Be Going Back to Barbès


<3 Minute Read

Are you honest when a waitperson or host at a restaurant asks how everything is and the answer should be "really not very good?"  Do you go as far as to send food back if it is not as you wish?

That was the situation Monday night at Hoboken's Barbès, a French-Moroccan brasserie in the north part of town.  It is a go-to for Ol' Purple Label when here; heck, she even took us there last week for a nightcap and this. 

They were so good I tipped $20 (true).  We pledged to return for a meal.

We did, but on Monday night, dinner there was not prepared very well.  Indeed - it was Bogus.

Those who know me probably assume I flipped my table over and screamed at a child, but in fact, the opposite was true.  I usually grin and bear it, whilst still reserving the right to whine to my friends then and later.  This was the case Monday, but with a slight twist at the end that might chart a path for both restaurants and their patrons.

Let's start with the big picture.  I think we can all agree most situations that involve public conflict or disagreement can get ugly.  Despite my disclaimer above, I have spoken up in the past, but mostly at stores and take-out food lines.  But - shocker - it usually takes a pretty bad social transgression by someone.   

Yet, in recent years, it seems like there's almost always a third party that chimes in with a Psycho Woke "You're mean!" or "Somebody has a bad life!" or "Can't you just be nice?" when I've spoken up.  Which I don't like because I'm not particularly mean, I have a great life, and I also am mostly nice (if filter-less).

And of course, in today's world, an older white man of some privilege better have a damn good reason to be negative, lest they be deemed a Ken and canceled for daring to complain, when life has already given them so much!   Indeed:  Arthur was called just that recently online for having the temerity to rightfully criticize our rental home in Cabo Pulmo.

So now I mostly avoid all of that, especially at restaurants.  Unless the wheels are coming off, I wait it out and typically just never go back.  But Monday was a bit different.

I ordered French onion soup and escargot for my starters, and we shared a rack of lamb.  I think we can agree these are standard-bearers for any place claiming to be a French restaurant

Things got off to a great start with a ridiculously inexpensive bottle of Grand Cru red Bordeaux, a 2018 from Saint-Émilion, for $60.  Since Julie was not having soup, I was concerned about the pacing of the dishes, but it was handled with aplomb.  The preparation of those dishes, however, was not.

My onion soup was way salty but when the host stopped by to check on us, I said it was "fine."  Then, the escargot.  The seasoning, a misguided attempt at stylizing a classic, did not work.  Yet again, when this time our waiter asked how I was doing, I said "Just great."

Then, the rack of lamb, which we had ordered medium rare.  The presentation was gorgeous, with a rack of 5 chops.  I sliced off two for Julie and took three for myself.  Julie indicated hers were good (as had been her shrimp starter).

Mine?  My chops were rare, bordering on raw.  But I ate quite a bit of them anyhow. 

Why?  Because my stance nowadays is that the meal is mostly already trashed.  Unless what is served seems like it could make me ill, I really don't want the hassle. 

Call the waitperson over.  Explain.  Wait while they go and do God knows what to the meal back in the kitchen.  And wait some more, while everyone else at the table feels guilty about eating and enjoying their own (properly prepared) meal.  And then the dish comes back to the table and tastes like leftovers.  Because it is.

But this time, I took a slightly different tack when the waiter returned to clear the plates and asked how everything was. 

I said "You know, I don't want you to do anything, because look, I ate quite a lot, and your service has been great - but these lamb chops weren't cooked enough.  I'm telling you so you can tell the chef, but please don't worry about it."  I was sincere.

He apologized and then soon returned with offers of free desserts and drinks, but we politely said "No thanks" and asked for our bill.  When he came back, he apologized again and told me he had taken 20% off of the entire bill. 

Not even I can ask for more than that. 

In fact, to express my gratitude, I had this worked up on the Manhattan side.  That's Hoboken Terminal off in the distance, and I sure hope our waiter sees this.



Even more thanks go out to Bob "Santa" Scarf.  He was kind enough to send me the high-res versions of the many nice photos he and his wife Anastasia Pace Scarf took at my birthday party.  Like this one.
Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


No, because we play perhaps a smidge too much ZZ Top here on KLUF.  And I am just not a big Sly Stone guy.

So instead, and with a nod to the ageless headbanger Günther Strobel, here is one song (who could stand more?) from Motörhead, aptly entitled "Eat the Rich."

About Dean Clough