|Image via CrunchBase|
We battled rain, cautious drivers, faded lane markings and missing road signs on Friday as we tried to make a 6:30 dinner reservation at Maritime Parc, the expensive seafood restaurant in Jersey City.
I was afraid the restaurant would give away our table if we were late, so I asked my wife to call from the car at 6:15 and tell them we would be delayed. But when we got there, the restaurant was nearly empty.
I had a $65 promotional voucher from Travelzoo, which said it would purchase dinner for two with a total value of "up to $130."
Based on this experience and another voucher I bought from Travelzoo -- then cancelled -- the Internet publisher of travel, entertainment and local deals exaggerates the total value of its vouchers and omits important details.
Our dinner from a special fixed-price menu included two starters ($32 value), two entrees ($48 value), two desserts (up to $9 each), two glasses of wine (up to $12 each) and two coffees or teas ($8 value).
No menu prices
The menu we got listed wines, appetizers and entrees without prices, but included raw-bar items and side dishes for additional charges ranging from $3 to $98. There is no mention of this on the voucher.
The voucher says no additional payment beyond tax and gratuity is required, but in capital letters urges the purchaser to "PLEASE TIP ON THE FULL VALUE OF THE CHECK."
But Maritime Parc's Travelzoo menu specifies that a 20% gratuity is recommended on the full price of $130. That's $26.
Although portions were small, we loved the food and would have been happy with an appetizer and entree, plus wine and coffee or tea.
My wife asked for her dessert -- Coconut Bread Pudding -- to go and I asked the waitress to serve me only sorbet, instead of the ice cream and sorbet listed on a separate menu.
We also were served complimentary pickled cauliflower with cheese cubes, along with a small bread basket, and we were offered and took seconds on the pickled dish.
Our biggest disappointment was the amount of wine we received. My wife asked for the white wine listed on the menu (Teddy Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2009) and I chose the red (Castillo De Monseran Garnache 2010).
The wine glasses were only one-third full -- about two fingers. When I asked, the waitress insisted that was the amount of wine poured when any customer asks for a single glass.
One-third of a glass of wine for each of us isn't what I expected from the voucher's description of "2 glasses of wine (up to $12 each)."
My wife started with a Baby Spinach Salad, Spiced Pine Nuts, Marinated Figs and Crispy Salmon Skin and I had Grilled Octopus a la Plancha, Crispy Potatoes and Leek Puree (hold the Pork Belly).
Our entrees were Black Bass, Sauteed Apples, Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Brown Butter Vinaigrette (for her) and Black Cod with Lobster Hash (for me).
The waitress suggested we order a side dish to complement the main dishes, so we selected Five Spice, Ginger Glazed Winter Carrot Ragout ($7).
This hearty dish was a perfect foil for the blustery conditions outside, but we couldn't finish it.
I asked for lemon wedges for my fish, which was under-seasoned. The bits of lobster in the lobster hash were tough, in contrast to my appetizer's octopus, which was unusually tender.
My wife's skin-on fillet was smaller than mine -- I'd guess it weighed only about 3 ounces -- both both fish entrees were moist and beautifully cooked.
I wanted to leave a smaller tip than the restaurant's recommended 20%, but my wife said I shouldn't penalize the wait staff for how little wine we received.
Somehow, greedy restaurant owners have put the burden on the customer for providing a decent salary to their servers, most of whom are paid the minimum wage.
I resent being placed in a position of having to tip well to supplement what amounts to slave wages.
When I asked for the check, there was lots of confusion, and I was given a charge slip for $89 from another table.
Finally, I got the right one. I paid $38.04, including that $26 tip, $7 for the side dish and $5.04 in tax. Add that to the $65 I paid for the voucher and my total was $98.04 for two.
We won't return
This was more food that we usually eat out and it cost more than we usually spend.
We won't be returning to Maritime Parc. It is in Liberty State Park, overlooking a marina and facing Liberty House Restaurant across a parking lot -- basically in the middle of nowhere.
I especially didn't like the rough cobblestone road we had to drive over to get there.