Short Orders: Terranova Cafe

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Terranova Cafe
(Doubletree Hotel)
2015 Market Center Blvd.

With the exception of, say, The Mansion or Nana, most hotel restaurants are a difficult sell. They are the purview of unimaginative old folks, frumpy business travelers and the occasional troubled loner. Maybe that's why someone--I think on Doubletree's end--called me to talk up their dining room.

Dragonfly in the Hotel ZaZa has that poolside patio. The French Room (Adolphus) offers downtown sophistication. And Terranova Cafe?

Well, this place reaches down your throat and rips out your soul--not in one painfully swift motion, mind you, but slowly, so you feel it every step of the way. Everything about the dining room, from the bulky fixtures to the constant  'ding-dong' of a lobby motion sensor, makes you want to appear on the 9 o'clock news at the end of a homicidal maniac story.

Then there's the muzak--audible enough to dull your spirits, but not to blank out conversation, which carries across the room. The loner woman sitting at a neighboring table can hear all your juvenile tales. That anal sex joke you've been dying to tell you're very prim dining companion? Right out.

By the time the appetizer arrives, you're a sallow, bitter person. And then things get worse.

Their chicken-cilantro soup is either an attempt to southwesternize grandma's recipe by dumping in a generous handful of tortilla strips or, equally likely, to mock Dean Fearing by taking his tortilla soup recipe and doing everything just a little bit wrong. Their pecan-crusted fish is identifiable as a packaged filet. And a 12-ounce New York strip...um, on my first bite I had to ask my fried to turn away.

You know, so I could discretely spit out a spoon-sized hunk of gristle.

That they cover the steak in seasoned butter should tip you off as to its grade. Although the kitchen manages to hit within a notch or two of perfectly rare, the cut just doesn't have the marbling and texture to pull off a cool red center. This steak begs to be ground up and served in burger form...except the gristle might damage the blades.

Clinging to sanity under these conditions wasn't easy. I started mentally listing the things I'd rather be doing: watching a documentary on the comedic legacy of Carrottop, ghostwriting a book entitled "Glenn Beck's America," listening to the world marbles champion recount his or her winning strategies, appearing on the 9 o'clock news...

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