Usually when I go to restaurants to eat and review, I never think about the review side of the equation because the atmosphere and the food either live up to my expectations or shatter them. That’s what makes these so wonderful to write, because they seem so effortless. Food can take me into nonexistent worlds where the only thing that matters is filling yourself with meals so good that you don’t care if you can’t make it to the car with a full belly. Well, what a rude awakening for me today. Le Salbuen, you actually made me feel like I was doing my job and reviewing a restaurant—the worst feeling ever when you’re just focused on sinking your teeth into a dish and spilling food all over your pants.
I could be really Yelp-ish with this review, but then again, it would take the fun out of it—if I can even remember having any fun here. In Le Salbuen’s defense, I went alone, and I usually don’t go alone to eat, so all of the negligible factors in creating this rich eating environment were amplified, times ten.
It all started with the weather. It was extremely sticky. “Thanks, New Jersey,” I said to myself. “Shoot! I need a great light source but outside is too humid and it is only 10 in the morning. Maybe sitting inside will suffice for today.”
As I walked into Le Salbuen, there were two black fans. I’m talking black fans that are used as backup when your air conditioner is not kicking up. I knew it was going to be a sweaty disaster, so I opted for the lesser evil and went outside. At least I was going to get some good lighting and peace of mind, right?
Wrong. As I stepped outside and seated myself, I was sandwiched between two groups: a mother and daughter tag-team and two aging men. The mother and daughter combo gave me turbulent recollections of Lifetime movies. The mother talked her daughter’s head off about eliminating meat from her diet, while eating a steak and complaining about “floating objects” in her coffee, which she demanded be replaced. Her daughter could only nod with positivity and murmur “mhmm” every now and then. The older men’s conversation was a bit more tolerable, as they discussed knee replacement and how “everyone must have one.” That and arthritis.
When I saw my server, I was relieved, but only for a moment. She asked what I would like to drink and I told her apple juice. She went back into the kitchen to fetch the apple juice and came out with a fresh-pressed apple drink. Let’s call it a puree. She also placed a cup of ice next to it. Interesting. Then, I told her I wanted the Stone Ground Pancakes, which contained red corn, wheat, buttermilk, berries and whipped cream. Well, I thought that was what it contained. When the order came out, there were walnuts on it and hardly any sign of red corn. Oh, and I nearly struggled to survive the meal because in the paragraph mentioned above, there is no sign of the most important thing during a meal: water.
The walnuts were infused into the pancakes with no emotion, as if Squidward made them. The pancakes were substandard, saved only by the Pure Pennsylvania Maple Syrup that accompanied them. The syrup was rich and pure, giving the lifeless pancakes some “oomph.” Because I didn’t get water until the end of my meal, I was quickly reminded why I would not be returning here.
Settling for the apple puree was a pure mistake. I want to say it was made in a Magic Bullet, rather than a G-series Vitamix. Maybe I should have taken lessons from the crabby mother and demanded a new one.
Le Salbuen is located at 7 Walnut St. Montclair, NJ 07042