Marking Time

Figaro Cafe keeps us waiting...and waiting

The appetizer we anticipate with earnestness--27 minutes' worth--arrives on a square plate that resembles a piece of toffee pottery. Into one corner is tossed a few cornichons. In another a shallow mound of capers rests, while still another holds a terrifying (if images of infant Pampers are permitted to intrude from the memory banks) smear of mustard. Slices of tomato are wedged along the edges; raw onions are scattered over the top. Pieces of tender, tasty--though not especially rich and savory--pâté are interspersed with crostinis. The crostinis are stale. Drink refills arrive.

8:50 p.m. We celebrate our one-hour anniversary at Figaro.

8:51 p.m. Our appetizer plates are removed. I watch a wide furry rump waddle into the tropical shrubbery across the street at the Hard Rock Café. Cat? Not unless it's fed a diet of radioactive Friskies. Dog? Maybe, but if it is, it is in dire need of a hip replacement. No, this must be a raccoon. But in the middle of Uptown?

Figaro Café's rotisserie chicken is worth the wait. Not much else is.
Tom Jenkins
Figaro Café's rotisserie chicken is worth the wait. Not much else is.

Details

French onion soup $4.95
Tomato mozzarella salad $8.95
Pâté plate $7.95
Rotisserie chicken $12.95
Steak frites $18.95
Escargot $7.50
Shrimp pizza $9.95
Figaro burger $7.95
Closed Location

9:07 p.m. Our entrées arrive. The rotisserie chicken is superb. The outside is well-seasoned and dusted with a blizzard of herbs. Inside, the flesh runs freely with juices, tender and cooked thoroughly to the bone, without any terrifying pink patches or protrusions of blood-red marrow. A side of green beans is delicious. Steak frites is much less successful. The frites are cottage fry cousins: thick, waxy wedges instead of the thin, crispy fries that most restaurants attempt to utilize. Texturally, the steak that came with the fries is good: tender and juicy, with a few parcels of steer real estate approaching silk. But the flavors are wanting. Richness was truant. This vacuum was abhorred, and raging into the void was a pronounced livery thread that seemed tightly woven through the meat.

9:30 p.m. Our check is delivered with an apology. Our drinks are comped.

Yet we return. On our second visit we park in the same lot we slipped into the night before. But this time, the Hard Rock valet stops us and says we must not park in his virtually empty lot. This is where the Hard Rock cars get funneled. So we move our car a few feet.

On this visit, a few critical questions bubble to the surface. Is Figaro's service always so lame? Have raccoons gentrified Uptown? A dead raccoon rests on the curb on Routh Street, right off the parking lot entrance. For answers to the first question, let's step inside.

The room is cool and sparsely populated (again). But there is one amusing piece of dining room energy. Phone calls appear to be handled via speakerphone. So you have this delicious atmospheric element consisting of voices screeching through a tiny speaker and a member of the Figaro staff shouting back at the thing. The service staff must have been trained in the Taco Bell pickup window brigade.

Wine is delivered on time this time. In fact, everything is delivered promptly. The plate of escargot has six divots' worth of snails, each crowned with specks of raw tomato and bedded in dark pools of butter with garlic minces. The sauce teeters woefully: too much lemon, not enough richness. Plus the escargot themselves--chewy, a little mushy--sweat off flavors.

Pizza with shrimp is dismal; a paltry application of sauce on a crust that is dry and foamy, resembling a prefab, frozen dough disc. The burger, drenched in a tangy blue cheese, is a stranger beast. We were never prompted for our desired level of doneness, so the patty arrives gray and spongy, as if it, too, was a prefab and frozen specimen.

But this isn't all bad. We got our food double-plus quick; so quick, we celebrated our one-hour Figaro Café anniversary with a hearty wave to the Hard Rock valet. 2533 McKinney Ave., 214-720-3838. Open for lunch 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Open for dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 5-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. $$-$$$

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