Friday, July 20, 2012


It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to write about this.  Sawtooth is a Vietnamese restaurant on Randolph St.  Because of this, there is an expectation of quality and style that comes with the location.  What I had seen of the restaurant as I was biking by bolstered that impression.  It has a nice outdoor lounge located beside and in front of the restaurant.  The restaurant itself is antique brick with a glass wall between the lounge and the bar inside and there is a stylized S (with sawteeth) above the entrance.  When I entered the restaurant, I was met quickly and asked whether I wanted to sit indoors or out.  As it was a nice day, I decided it would be a good day to sit outside so that is where I sat.  The problems began almost immediately.  While I was seated quickly and I had a nice seat, I didn't receive water or a menu for a few minutes.  I looked at the menu, and while they had some interesting cocktails, I thought a beer would be safer.  They had a Sawtooth Ale so I decided to have that.  Unfortunately, they didn't have it.  My next choice was a local beer, Three Floyds Pride & Joy.  With this one, I was told it was replaced by Domaine Dupage.  While I didn't say it at the time, it did bother me a little, the way the bartender stated it sounded like Domaine Dupage was a 3 Floyds beer.  It is not, it is a Two Brothers beer which is another big local brewery.  I decided to avoid all of that and went with a New Holland Mad Hatter which arrived relatively quickly.  I had to wait a little while again before someone showed up to ask if I wanted anything to eat.  I made my order and waited...  Another waiter eventually came out with my appetizer and it looked really good.  I had Bo Bia which were essentially Vietnamese spring rolls.  They had grilled pork and chicken sausage, a strip of scrambled eggs, jicama, lettuce, and carrots that was all wrapped in rice paper.  It was served with a peanut and red pepper sauce on the side.  The rolls were crisp and very fresh tasting and were an explosion of flavor.  I really enjoyed this and brushed off the wait that it took for me to receive them.
 My table was cleared relatively quickly but then the wait began again.  For the main course, I actually ordered two separate dishes, the entree and a separate vegetable dish.  I would have been fine if the dishes arrived separately but they brought them together.  For my vegetable dish, I ordered what they called Basil Tofu which had the tofu, broccoli, red peppers, baby corn, and pea pods in a dark soy sauce.  I am generally not a huge fan of tofu but I like basil, broccoli, and soy sauce, so I thought I would try it out.  It was amazing!  The tofu had been fried crispy and the flavor of fresh basil suffused through the dish.  The vegetables had been stir-fried and the soy sauce was also very good.

My entree was Seafood Glass Noodles which had shrimp and crab stir-fried with glass noodles and mixed vegetables which included broccoli, carrots, celery, red pepper.  This was also very good and much drier than were the vegetables.  It did take a little mixing to get everything mixed together well but I didn't mind.  I will admit that while I am not an expert with chopsticks, when they are offered to me, I will try to use them. Using them with the Bo Bia was easy but other than with the crispy tofu, I didn't really try with the vegetable dish.  With this dish, it was easy.  I just wound a bite up with the glass noodles and had my way with it.  The crab was shredded, the shrimp were small, and the vegetables were firm and bite-sized.  It tasted good and was fun to eat.

While I had the vegetables and the seafood dish at the table at the same time and I did try both (I didn't eat them separately), I did finish the vegetables first.  After I finished the vegetables and while I was eating the noodles, my waiter came close and while he was waiting on the table next to me, he picked up my vegetable plate and my menu.  After I finished the noodles though, the plate sat at my table for about ten minutes and after it was picked up, it took a few minutes for the waiter to come to ask if I was interested in dessert.  It would have been convenient to have the menu at this time because the dessert menu was also on the main menu.  The waiter did remember what was on the dessert list and I ordered a Passionfruit Torte which was served with fresh fruit and topped with mint.  While this wasn't bad, it was probably the least successful dish of the meal.  It tasted good and the fresh fruit (except for the cantaloupe) was nice but it wasn't spectacular.  I finished my dish and again waited for my bill.

 By this time, I was a bit irritated and did actually think about leaving without paying.  I did have a discount coupon that they already had in their possession but it wouldn't have covered the entire bill.  While I was irritated and felt ignored, I did stick around for my bill.  While they did not overtly acknowledge their lack of service overtly, when I received my bill, the only thing that I had to pay was tax because everything else was covered.  Up until this point, there was no way that I was going to return to this restaurant despite the fact that I really liked the food and the decor.  The bill seemed to me to be a tacit acknowledgement that they screwed up.  With this, I would definitely consider coming again but they would have a very short leash.  If I again received the level of service that I had received, I would walk and not return.

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