Food Review: Trader Vic’s Palo Alto

Last night, one of Jen’s volleyball folks had a birthday bash at Trader Vic’s, and we attended. Considering the culinary experience, I have to say that the decor was nice.

To begin with, if one is going to slap a 20% automatic gratuity on a party of 20, one ought to assign said party more staff than one waiter and a busboy. The service was extremely slow and moderately inept; I was unimpressed.

We began with drinks. Jen ordered a Mai Tai ($8.50), figuring Trader Vic’s would be the place for a good Mai Tai; while the glass was large, it was mostly filled with ice and an lime half. According to the waiter, it was made with “lemon juice, lime juice, Mai Tai mix, and rum”. Maybe it’s just me, but I am dubious of destination drinks made with mixes. I had a glass of Firestone Riesling ($6); that’ll teach me to buy wine from a tire company.

Both of us ordered salad: Jen took the house salad, while I opted for the caesar. I can’t evaluate the house salad, because it never came. At least they didn’t charge us for it. The caesar ($8) had three serious flaws. First, the croutons were bland and stale. Second, they went a little nuts with the lettuce; they used the outer leaves of Romaine and tried unsuccessfully to cut them into bite-sized pieces; as a result, most of the salad was a mess of limp, perforated leaves. Finally, the dressing was watery; I can only imagine they didn’t drain the lettuce before dressing.

For the main course, I had the grilled king salmon ($25); Jen had the seafood taro nest ($23). The salmon itself was fine, if unexciting. It came with dry, leathery fingerling potatoes, and some grilled zucchini and eggplant that I couldn’t bring myself to eat. The whole dish sat on a pool of what was probably beurre blanc, though at the time it struck me more like bechamel. So not disastrous, but I’ve had a lot better food for twenty-five bucks. Jen’s seafood taro nest was a stir fry of overcooked marine life and canned vegetables. It looked pretty dismal. She picked out the seafood and called it a night. The taro nest also came with a side of rice, which I asked if I could take a bit of, as I wanted a palate cleanser after my buttered salmon. It takes some talent to screw up rice, but they managed it. I’ve had better rice in cafeterias.

So, when all was said and done, with the food, drinks, and aforementioned automatic gratuity, the bill was $96 for an evening of insipid 50s-style Polynesian fusion cuisine for two.

I suspect I won’t be going back.

Originally published on LiveJournal