Review: Cincos Lagos

So, we tried Cincos Lagos tonight.  It was their 3rd day in business, however, it is a reincarnation of Five Lakes Grill which was in business for 14 years.  Where do I start…I’ll try to channel my good teacher side (as opposed to my Frank Bruni side) and start with constructive criticism.  We were seated right away.  Now transition to restaurant critic. We were seated right away, in error.  There were 6 other couples waiting ahead of us…and it all goes downhill from there.

It took approximately 25 minutes for our waitress to come to our table to take our drink order.  I do not fault her, I fault the almost non-existent GM who is responsible for the floor.  Luckily, she had a pleasant personality unlike the other server who was working the tables around us.  The whole waitstaff and front of house staff was obviously stretched thin.  What’s the old adage — “don’t let them see you sweat” — this is something the staff did not take to heart.  It was extremely obvious they were over stressed — this seeped into service and left a general air of tension and unhappiness around the restaurant.  The only members of the staff who were on top of things were the bus boys (I would say bus people, but they were all male.) These kids were sharp and extremely friendly…put them in charge.

I ordered Green Chile Enchiladas, Scott ordered Carne Asada.  Enchiladas, bland. Tortillas, mushy.  The sauce on the Carne Asada was the only redeeming factor in the meal, very well done, great depth of flavor.

So, who am I to complain? Those that know me, know some of my passions center around food, cooking and dining culture.  Name a local restaurant, chances are I have dined there. Name a local farm or farmer’s market, I shop there.  Name Michelin 1-2 & 3 star restaurants, I have dined there as well. Name any book about cooking and chances are I have read it. In this particular instance, two books come to mind – The Soul of a Chef and Charcuterie.  Let me address the first — the proprietor of the restaurant, Brian Polcyn is prominently featured in Soul of a Chef.  For someone who is so passionate about cooking and who was trained at the Culinary Institute of America to let so many small details slide at such a crucial time for a restaurant is appalling.  Second, for someone who wrote a BOOK on CHARCUTERIE to not offer chorizo on the menu in a Mexican restaurant…absurd.

The website claims “Chef Brian Polcyn’s Cinco Lagos will follow the same high quality traditions as his other restaurants – fresh ingredients, great flavors, and exciting food.” First impressions are so important…for someone who has been in the restaurant industry for so long and at such a high level and for someone who has built a base of “high-end” local clientele to feel comfortable associating his name with mediocrity is disappointing.

Suggestions? Have someone dedicated to cleaning the silverware, put chorizo on the menu and convince your staff that your restaurant is their restaurant.  Do all you can to ensure passion oozes from every part of the restaurant from the kitchen to table and connect with your clientele.  This does not cost a lot of money, nor does it require Michelin stars…make your customers feel welcome and wanted…make them want to talk about you and share your passion.