Cabana Boy and the $16 Scallop

Cabana Boy and I had an interesting dining experience last week, and he beat me to the punch with his blog “The $16 Scallop.” Not to be outdone, I’ve decided to write my own version!

Cabana Boy starts: Every once in a while we are served bullshit.”

Yes that about sums up the entire experience. However, I will expand for the sake of you dear reader!

One evening last week Cabana Boy and I decided we were still quite ravenous even after polishing off a plate of potato chips and a couple of pints at the Lucky Lab, so we wandered down to Carlye for more sustenance.

Carlye is very unpretentious on the outside (located under an overpass in the Pearl District of Portland), but you soon realize when you walk through the door that you have just arrived in the land of $10 cocktails and food that’s more fancy than filling.

The waitress came over, introduced herself and rattled off the evening’s specials which included an appetizer of pan seared scallops. Cabana Boy knows I love the pan seared scallops and insisted I order that for an appetizer. As he readily points out in his blog he was paying, so order the $16 scallops I did. I also asked for an order of bread, yes an “order” of bread. Three dollars for bread and butter! Strike one.

We also ordered a salad of butter lettuce with some fancy dressing, and an entrée of roasted chicken to share. We asked for the scallops and salad to be brought out first as the appetizer, but all three dishes arrived at the same time. Strike two.

When the “scallops” arrived I thought there was a mistake. As Cabana Boy put it in his blog, “One lonely pan-seared mollusk sat in a sea of white china; a small flower by its side.” It’s true. One scallop and what looked like an edible flower, with some fancy drizzle of something occupying the rest of the real estate. I can just hear the chef giggling to himself as he instructs his assistant, “Just drizzle this brown stuff in a fancy pattern in the white space and it will look like a meal!”

Actual size of scallop:


I was waiting for a second plate to come out. Maybe they split the order. We did make it clear we were splitting everything. But no second plate appeared.

I looked at Cabana Boy and said, “Didn’t she say ‘scallops’ as in more than one?”

Even if she didn’t say “scallops” we both decided that $16 was just highway robbery for one scallop, so Cabana Boy called the waitress over.

Cabana Boy describes it this way, “Cabana Boy swung into action with all the frenzy of a cocktail blender.” A cocktail blender? More like the Tasmanian Devil dear! With visible steam coming out of his ears, he asked, “Excuse me, but we ordered the pan seared scallops. That’s scallops plural, and there only seems to be one on the plate. Sixteen dollars is a little steep for a single scallop, don’t you think?”

“I only do as I’m told,” the waitress replied.

Are you kidding me? What kind of response is that? Are you a Stepford Wife or a waitress?

“I’d like to talk to the chef please,” Cabana Boy asked with all the calm he could muster. The waitress disappeared and was soon replaced with a tall thin man in a suit who was most definitely NOT the chef.

“What seems to be the problem sir?” the suit asked with all the authority of a wet blanket.

I could see the Tasmanian Devil was about to resurface in Cabana Boy, but was thankfully replaced by a slightly continental British accent only reserved for situations such as this.

“Well, the waitress described the appetizer special as pan seared scallops not pan seared scallop, so we’re a bit disappointed in tonight’s catch. Do you regularly charge $16 per scallop?” CB said, testing the waters.

“Sir, the chef sets the prices. He has been basically giving away the store lately so we have adjusted the prices,” the suit said, passing the buck. Strike three.

No one wanted to take responsibility for the fact that someone thought they could get away with charging $16 for a single scallop and a flower. The thin man in the suit did offer to take the lonely scallop off the bill, which to his credit was the best he could do at that point.

Cabana Boy ends his blog with a simple moral of the story: “Perhaps the lesson is that when it comes to bullshit be aware of its innumerable disguises and never ever be afraid to address it by its real name.”

Its real name is Carlye! The website says:

Carlyle, for many, is an oasis. Located within the ever-expanding Pearl and warehouse districts of Northwest Portland, its intimate cherry wood bar and tailored urban appointments invite an evening of quiet luxury, impeccable service, and rarefied culinary adventure

Yep. It’s a culinary adventure all right, or rather an adventure in culinary BS.

Now on a happy note, there are two restaurants I CAN recommend.

I can whole heartedly recommend the food at Paley’s Place on NW 21st. Sit at the bar and enjoy the company of the two bartenders Chris and John, while eating the homemade spicy potato chips.

And, the Cabana Boy and I just had a fabulous meal at Paragon last night. Not only was the food wonderful, but the waitress knew her wine and brought out three wines for me to taste before I made my choice. She was attentive but unobtrusive. The perfect combination as far as I’m concerned.

Happy dining!

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