Voice wail: A guy I referred to as a "gutless wonder" (Mouthing Off, January 1) for not leaving his name when he called to complain about my review of Maharaja, at 233 East Colfax ("A Tale of Two Eateries," December 11), turns out to have guts after all. Brian Wills left another message on my voicemail, this time calling me a gutless wonder because I didn't introduce myself to the owners when I came in to review their restaurant. "You hide behind your newspaper and don't have the guts to tell people who you are when you come in to review their food," he says. Gee, Brian, wouldn't that kind of defeat the whole purpose of restaurant reviewing? See, here's how it works: I go in anonymously so that I get the same food you get, along with the same service and no freebies. It's called ethics, Brian. Get it?
Another message about the same review--this one from a woman who sounded suspiciously like an acquaintance of two other women who have called, because they all made the exact same points and in the same order--questioned the amount of food I ate. "They say you didn't really try very many dishes," she said. Well, if ten entrees and two appetizers on one visit and the whole lunch buffet on another visit don't qualify as enough dishes, then I don't know what would. In fact, I can't think of many places where I've tried ten dishes, since I usually visit eateries twice with parties of no more than four. The three women all went on to say that they think Maharaja is great because "at least the Indian waiters don't sexually harass women the way they do in every other Indian restaurant in town." Huh? I've had some of the best service ever at Indian restaurants, and I've never witnessed any sexual harassment. But if I'm wrong about that, feel free to tell me (not that any of these callers waited for an invitation).
General harassment of customers does seem to be on the rise, though, judging from the numerous phone calls I've received this month from people detailing the horrible things restaurateurs and waitstaff have done to them. Although I won't reveal the names of the establishments--since I wasn't there, I can't prove whether these things actually happened--I'll summarize the horror stories, which sound all too believable. One man claimed he was referred to as "female genitalia" by the owner of a well-known Italian eatery after the diner mentioned a problem with his meal; three women said servers at three different places yelled at them when they tried to send their food back; another woman, who had many problems at a Golden restaurant, felt her complaints fell on deaf ears as the manager stood by and watched her hash it out with the server (at least the restaurant later sent her a gift certificate as an apology); and--my personal favorite--a man witnessed a server grabbing a piece of food from his plate on the way to the table. "I said to the guy, 'I saw you do that,'" reported the caller. "And he said, 'I don't know what you're talking about.' So I told the manager, who told me that I must be mistaken, that his employees would never do anything like that. And I saw it with my own eyes!"
A deal you have to see to believe: The Bent Noodle, at 3055 South Parker Road in Aurora, is once again offering its "Two Dine for $9.99" special on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. from now until January 28. For $9.99, you get your choice of any two entrees on the menu; additional items such as desserts and drinks are extra. A deal no more is Speedy Gourmet, 1430 Arapahoe, which used to have a great $5 menu ("Out to Lunch," October 23). Prices recently went up to $6 and $7 on many items, including pastas, pizzas and some of the sandwiches, which puts Speedy in line with just about everybody else offering fast lunches. I knew it was too good to last. Breakfast is still a bargain, though.
Mark your calendars: The Year of the Tiger is ready to roar. Chinese New Year, which falls on January 28 this year, is a great time to visit your favorite Asian restaurants, because they usually put out special spreads. And the celebration is already under way at Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant (431 South Broadway) and its sister eatery, Palace Chinese Restaurant (6265 East Evans Avenue), which are offering classic four-course Chinese dinners every night through February 12. In addition, Palace will feature a traditional Chinese folk dance at 6 p.m. January 30, as well as a lion dance ceremony the same time the following night. Kung hey fat choy.
Totally tubular is the potato dinner at the Normandy, 1515 Madison, on January 28. The six-course, heavy-on-the-spuds meal includes a palate cleanser of potato vodka from Idaho and ostrich filet with buttermilk whipped taters, along with a variety of pinot noirs. The tab is $55 per person; call 321-3311 for reservations.
Georgetown is hosting its first Snow Ball on January 31, which promises to be quite a romantic event. Couples, who are encouraged to wear Forties-era attire, will dance to the Gordon Dooley Orchestra and eat from a lavish dinner buffet; proceeds (it's $150 for two) benefit Historic Georgetown and the Silver Plume Historic Landmark District. Call 674-2625 for reservations.
Valentine's Day is the next big Hallmark holiday; if you plan to celebrate, check out the special at the Westin Hotel Tabor Center, at 1672 Lawrence. For $137, a couple can get a room, a bottle of champagne and an excellent Sunday brunch at the Augusta. Of course, the offer is good the night of February 14 only. Call 572-9100 for reservations.
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A week and a half later, on February 24, the 16th annual Great Chefs of the West fundraiser for the National Kidney Foundation at the Marriott City Center (1701 California Street) will feature donated food from thirty restaurants. The event, which costs $75 per person, starts at 6:30 p.m., with a cash bar at 5:30. For tickets, call 713-1523, ext. 14.
Many restaurateurs give back to the communities they serve, and sometimes they're even recognized for it. Bourbon Street Pizzabar & Grill, which has locations at 5117 South Yosemite Street and 10158 South Parker Road in Parker, was recently lauded with a "Local Hero" award from the Colorado Department of Transportation for an anti-drunk-driving program implemented by owners Michael and Laura Brody. Last year the Brodys started BARS, Being an Alcohol Responsible Server, which educates restaurants and their employees about drinking and offers a reward-based, self-governing system to encourage servers to ID patrons and spot trouble. The Brodys have garnered national attention for the program, the first of its kind in the U.S., and have been invited to share the idea with other states' liquor enforcement divisions.
I'll drink to that.