This evening I went out to the Albion River Inn with friends for dinner. The Inn is rather well known for its wine list, which is quite impressive, and the food has a reasonable reputation as well. People go there for weddings and honeymoons and so forth. It’s one of the “fancier” restaurants round these parts–I don’t eat there terribly often. During the early evening, diners can look out across a stunning view of the Albion harbor and the ocean–it being dark when we went, we had a stunning view of other diners.

I started with the Thai Style Dungeness Crabcakes, which were superb. The water chestnuts added a dimension of crunch, the ginger a fresh bite. They were rich with crab. The dipping sauce was a little heavy. I dislike this trend of heavy aioli with crabcakes. I would prefer a light sauce, perhaps a sweet chili sauce like Mae Ploy, because it would interact better with the crab, complementing it without being overwhelming. But alas, mayonnaise-like sauces appear to be the norm these days.

I followed with the creamy mushroom pasta, which was intensely rich. Too rich, in fact, given my recently decimated appetite–my companions ate most of it and I had only a few bites. It was, however, superb, although I would have preferred the pecans candied. All in all a splendid thing.

One of my companions had the quail, which I wasn’t too impressed by. It was too busy for my taste, and all the flavours overwhelmed the quail. The mashed potatoes served on the side were superb, along with the spring peas. My other companion had lime and ginger grilled prawns, which were awesome. To the point that I wish I had ordered them. The beets served with them were spectacular, the coconut rice rich and flavourful, and the prawns…delicious. They had been properly marinated so that they were suffused with flavour, and they were moist and excellent all the way through. I stole a whole one when she wasn’t looking and it was quite gratifying.

For dessert we split a raspberry chocolate affair with almond creme anglaise. It was delicious. Much lighter than I was expecting, and quite satisfying to my newly bird-like appetite.

Alas, my tea was most indifferent. A restaurant of the caliber of the Albion River Inn should be ashamed of bringing a pot of lukewarm water and a dish of bagged tea to the table. I expected at the least a teapot filled with looseleaf, and a cup with strainer. (Thank god the Bistro understands how tea should be served.)

The service was also somewhat indifferent. Our server let my plate of partially finished food sit in front of me for quite a while, even though I was obviously ready for it to be somewhere else. Every time I looked vainly over in her direction, begging her with my eyes to take the food away before I became nauseous, she found something fascinating to do at the end of the bar. The busser was atrocious–she shoved a plate of dirty dishes and silverware in my face while she crumbed the table into my lap. It sounds like the staff could use some refreshment in their service training.

We were one of the last tables in, as well, and the resentment from the staff was palpable–several of the staff sat, in uniform, at the bar looking surly, and the piano player gave up right as dessert was served, leaving us and the other remaining table in an awkward silence.

I was somewhat surprised by the state of the service, actually, given the reputation of the Albion River Inn. The food may have been good, but even the finest meal can be deeply marred by less than stellar service.