Posts Tagged ‘mussles’




I went to Vermilion, 10 W. Hubbard, a while back and have to let you all know about the horrible experience I had there as the bitter taste still lingers on (from the night I tried to make her stay. Bob Dylan, “If you see her say hello”, Blood on the Tracks, 1975).


The fact that the vermilion is a highly toxic red dye is really the only thing the people behind the restaurant got correct as my experience there was emotionally toxic. I have yet, to this date, experienced such a poorly run restaurant that served such bland and uninspiring food. Excitement was running high as the concept of fusing Indian and Latin cuisine seems like a homerun to me. Both use similar fruits, coriander, tamarind, chilis, and whatnot. There has to be a ton of possibilities when blending these two, but Vermilion didn’t really fuse anything. It was mostly Indian food, that is, poorly spiced Indian food, with the rare cameo from the chipotle. It wasn’t just the poor attempt at a hip new fusion, Vermilion failed to deliver on all aspects of restaurant dining.


I was with a party of 13 (yeah, I know, the “lucky” number that the superstitious would claim is the reason for my poor experience) for an 8pm reservation on a Friday night. We walked in and I couldn’t believe how boring the interior was. When I think of Indian and Latin cultures I think of vibrant colors and sensuality. Well, they sort of covered the sensuality with some photos of hot women on the walls, but everything was white! White walls, white tablecloths. There were black accents with red napkins and candles. That’s it, no other colors. To me it just looked like your typical minimalist upscale restaurant wannabe hip club. I never got the sense from the décor that this was a spicy place.



The restaurant was pretty full in the dining area while the bar was relatively empty. We went up to the host who said that our table wasn’t quite ready, just a few minutes. Ok, no big deal. Restaurants run behind sometimes, it happens. Might as well grab a cocktail while waiting. Little did I know at the time that later in the evening the cocktail I would want in hand is a Molotov ready to be tossed into that poor excuse of a host’s britches. On top of that, their “specialty” cocktails were mostly putrid! Some of those Indian spices used in cooking should stay in the sauté pan and stay out of the martini glass.



A half hour goes by and it doesn’t look like there’s any table even remotely close to leaving for us to sit down. I go to the host to see what the story is. “It’ll be just a little bit longer, I’m very sorry.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s obvious to me at this point that Vermilion has no idea how to book its seatings. 15 minutes late, it happens. 20 minutes late, I can understand some people eat a little slower. Once you hit 30 minutes late on a reservation there’s something wrong. I’m starting to get pissed now. We wait a little longer and order another round of drinks.



15 more minutes go by and no table ready. Now, if you have a reservation and you don’t get seated for 45 minutes it’s up to the manager to come out and smooth the situation over. Buy us a round of drinks, send us a few bites to tide us over….something! Not a thing. The manager didn’t even have the balls to walk his horrible checkered tie wearing self over to us and explain what the problem was. Instead, he kept his lowly host in the line of fire. Poor host. He had no idea the likes of who he was dealing with.



So, now an hour has gone by. I go back to the host and am noticeably upset with him. He tells me, “We’re very busy tonight, we’ll get you a table as soon as we can.” WOW! Did he really just tell this to a customer with a reservation. I know you guys are busy on a Friday night, that’s why we made a RESERVATION! You know, that thing that holds a table for us. I felt like I was in a Seinfeld episode. Furthermore, I’ve worked downtown in busy restaurants, I know what a busy restaurant looks like. A busy restaurant is 3-4 people deep at the bar with people who don’t have reservations waiting for tables. Vermilion didn’t even have a full bar, so there were no walk-ins to contend with. This was just pure and simple bad restaurant management.



I was ready to start yelling out “THERE’S A RAT, THERE’S A RAT”, get out of there and head over to Bin36 where I know I’ll get a seat, good food, and good wine, but everyone else I was with wanted to stay and try what was supposed to be interesting food. 1 to 12, yeah, I’m clearly outnumbered. Since dinner was a business expense and I’m Jewish (Free food baby!) I sucked it up.



Finally, an hour and a half after our reservation time we finally get seated. We’ve already had plenty of time to digest the menu (which would digest much better than the food did) so we were ready to go. We’re sitting, waiting, waiting, waiting. It took another 15 minutes after we sat down for our server to even come by and greet us. This is just ridiculous! He says hi, takes our drink order, and walks away before we can order our food. GET BACK HERE YOU SON OF A BITCH! He comes back and we order our food. We thought it’d be fun to share a bunch of small plates so we could each try a bunch of new flavors. I gotta be honest, I don’t know why they call their small plates Tapas. That’s a pet peeve of mine, when restaurants serve small plates and automatically call them Tapas. Tapas are Spanish appetizers meant to be eaten with drinks at a bar. I have no problem with Tapas restaurants branching out beyond that, but if it’s not Spanish cuisine then don’t call them Tapas! Call them small plates! And don’t give me that whole tapasya BS which in Sanskrit means heat or spiritual suffering. Although, come to think of it, my experience at Vermilion was a spiritual suffering of sorts, so maybe it is accurate after all.



With our orders in we wait some more for our food and drink to show up. About 20 minutes later some of the plates start arriving, but still no drinks. We ordered a bunch of sangria (again, what is it with the Spanish theme here, I thought it was Indian and Latin, not Spanish…and no, the conquistadors pillaging and plundering of Latin America doesn’t make it right) that should take no more than a few minutes to prepare and send out. Furthermore, in fine dining you always serve drinks first. If there are no drinks on the table yet you don’t serve the food.



Here we are with overcooked, rubbery shrimp with mung bean (a southeast Asian ingredient, not Indian or Latin) and daikon (a Japanese ingredient). Mussels in a coconut chili broth that tasted just like Mussels in a coconut broth at any restaurant and was nothing exciting or creative. Artichoke Pakoras, they say it’s Spain’s favorite (again with Spain), that were already starting to discolor due to the lentil batter not covering the entire artichoke (artichokes discolor if left out in open air for too long, how fresh were these artichokes?). Duck Vindaloo that was cooked like chicken and not medium rare like duck should be. Etc, etc, etc.



There was not one saving grace for this meal. The flavors were not fusion at all! The dishes tasted like half-assed Indian food. There was a lot more Spanish influence than Latin. Why can’t people understand the difference between Spanish and Latin? Just because they both speak Spanish doesn’t make them the same. Extremely disappointing.



If I didn’t have a conscience I would have dined and ditched. The fact that we never once got an apology or a comped drink from the manager compounded with the lack of flavor and creativity of the food with some lacksadaisical service thrown in for good measure ensures that I will never ever ever come back to this sorry excuse for an establishment. I wouldn’t even come back for free food! You could pay me to come back, but that’s only because I can be bought.



I can’t comment on dessert because at that point we were all so upset with this place that everyone finally decided to listen to me. We went to Bin36 for dessert and wine, so the entire evening was not all loss.



All in all, I couldn’t wait to process all of those tasteless morsels and pass them through my intestines and into Chicago’s sewer systems, exactly where Vermilion belongs.




(cartoon courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner)



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