Sunday, August 31, 2008

One Meal at Quince and I haven't Been Since

Evanston, IL

1625 Hinman Ave
Evanston, IL 60201

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Quick review: When I went (March 2007) it did not live up to the hype I read about in the local papers. It seemed like a pretentious faux fine dining that was trying too hard. If your food is going to be pretentious a least make it good.

Long Review: First place on my search for good eats was at Quince. There had been so much media hype about this restaurant after it was sold by former Trio owner that my family had to investigate this supposed fine dining delight of the North Shore on a very snowy and cold March evening. So we went to celebrate my sisters birthday.

The building the restaurant is housed in is a bed and breakfast and is a charming looking building, although looks can be deceiving. When I entered the building I felt I had stepped into an old money social club or perhaps some sort of esteemed Northwestern University professors lounge. The entryway has a New England feel to it. Very nice I thought.

After waiting around 10 minutes for a seat we were finally shown to our table by a young hostess. The wait was a little long considering the restaurant was virtually empty that night. The dining room was decorated in a traditional manner, a crackling fireplace made the setting seem friendly and the candles made the atmosphere relaxing though, that all changed when our server came by to set our places for us.

Our server was also young, possibly early or mid twenties; he set the plates down, and lined up the silverware meticulously. It was a bit uncomfortable and odd for a moment truthfully.

Making the situation more uncomfortable was the fact we were seated next to the window and a draft was coming in from a door that led to a courtyard outside.

We asked to be moved to another table but the server couldn’t move us for some reason and offered a shall to keep us warm.


There was barley anyone else in the restaurant. Is it so hard to move us to one of the many empty tables?

Our server came back with bread and served us pieces -no make that very thin slices of bread- with little tongs. One would be able to eat the entire half piece of bread in only one or two bites.
Maybe the entrees will be bigger?

Maybe they don’t want us filling up on bread to save room for their supposedly great food?

We ordered appetizers which were seasonal salads and they too were small. Tiny shreds of leafy greens is considered a salad? Maybe we shouldn’t have shared the salad over compensating the size.

Me and my family began to get wary that Quince wasn’t holding up to the hype and the prices seemed a bit high considering what we were getting.

We ordered our main entrees and hoped it would get better but it didn’t- it actually got worse. When our orders were laid in front of us we all wondered again, why are the portions so small? My sisters scallop dish had the scallops the size of about a quarter. All three of them. My duck was sliced into five small slices of duck- all undercooked.

My father’s beef looked like it had been zapped by a shrink ray and my mothers portions were also laughably tiny. Making matters worse was the fact that my dish was under seasoned also.

Is this a restaurant for anorexic people?

Why aren’t the portions normal sized?

Did they mix this up with someone else’s appetizer?

Is this a cooking school of Northwestern? Are they having an off day?

Trying to save money...? What's going on here!?

I was ready to turn into Gordon Rasmay, march into the kitchen and say "shut it down!"

I looked around at the other patron’s dishes. They were also very small. What’s going on here? I appreciate the way the food was presented, chic and artful, though the minimalist food didn’t go with the colonial setting or my expectations.

After we finished our food we had had just enough of Quince but since it was my sister’s birthday we decided to give the desert menu a chance. The deserts were also small, in fact my mother’s raspberry tart came with half of a raspberry.

Half a raspberry?

Why would they only serve half a raspberry, can’t they spare an entire raspberry?Is this a joke?

Unfortunately it wasn't.

We left wondering what all the hype was about and wondering if we should laugh or cry.

The service was attentive and our waiters/ waitresses were very nice though.

Just FYI we went when Quince first opened up so it’s possible the restaurant was saving money with the ridiculously small portion sizes. They were probably trying to find right fine dining mix also. Hopefully they found it by now. I’m not sure I would consider going back only if someone else is paying the hefty bill. Until they stop trying to cut corners I'm not going back.

2 (barely) out of 5 stars

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