|Location:||1911 Central Avenue|
|Dress:||casual to maybe a little spruced up for dinner|
|Rating:||1 out of 5 spoons|
To preface, I’m not one of those food people who has to hate everything to feel like my taste is “discerning” enough. I don’t think I’ve given a single negative review yet, in fact. And since I’d heard such great things about Lulu, and since I was shelling out lots of money for my meal, I was prepared to be impressed! Really! But unfortunately, dear readers, I was very disappointed with my Lulu experience.
The beginning of our meal went well. Lulu is located in a quaint little house on Central Avenue decorated impeccably with beautiful furnishings I’d love in my own home. We were seated as they were lighting the candles on all the tables, making for a charming atmosphere. After perusing the appetizers, we ordered The Movie Star to start our meal. It’s described on the menu as “gingered calamari, spiced slaw, and Asian love sauce.” While the presentation could’ve been more colorful, the calamari did, indeed, taste like quite a loving experience (and for only $9). The calamari was cooked perfectly, lightly breaded, and had a fantastic tangy flavor from the ginger and “love sauce.” We were sure at this point that the rest of the meal would be amazing!
Lulu’s The Movie Star
Unfortunately, that’s where things went downhill. To begin with, our server seemed unable to care less about our presence in the restaurant. Apart from drinks that went unfilled (I’m thirstyyy!), when I asked what his favorite entrée was, I received a gruff and somewhat exasperated, “Well, depends on what you like.” Uh, okay. He then quickly jabbed at 3 or 4 items on the menu to appease me. I chalked it up to bad people skills and chose the Make Your Bones, a “braised lamb shank, hazlenut gremolata, pumpkin polenta, [and] tomato fennel ragout.” Sounds fancy, huh? And for $20, I was definitely hoping for something fancy. The dish set before me did look and smell beautiful, and the lamb shank was quite tender and juicy, but beyond that, I was disappointed. With hazelnut, pumpkin, tomatoes, and fennel, I would’ve expected a delicious fall flavor, but the dish was quite bland. No flavor whatsoever stood out to me, and with every bite I grew more disappointed. In addition, there simply wasn’t much food. When I’m still hungry after eating a $20 entrée, something just isn’t right.
Lulu’s Make Your Bones
I hoped Mike would fare better. He ordered Shrimp & Grits, a dish that’s easy to make delicious. It’s described on the menu as “jumbo shrimp, country ham, shrimp ‘gravy,’ and logan turnpike grits.” Unfortunately he ran into similar problems; that is, the gravy was rather bland and the $21 dish was simply unremarkable. Adding to Mike’s frustration was one of our biggest pet peeves: the shrimp were still in their shells. Don’t give me any of that “it adds to the flavor” nonsense, either! No one on this planet wants to hunt through their gravy and grits with their fingers to unpeel their dinner. Can I get an “AMEN”?! Mike’s constant refrain is, “I’m paying them to prepare my dinner, and yet I’m stuck doing part of the preparation.” Chefs of Charlotte, please peel those shrimp. Thanks.
Lulu’s Shrimp & Grits
At this point, fed up with the service (still thirsty!) and the lousy meal, we decided not to even bother trying dessert (I think I just heard a gasp from the regular ‘Spoon readers). We paid our $60+ bill and left. After hearing so many recommendations to try Lulu and having such a poor experience, I almost feel like we must’ve been in the wrong restaurant!
I posted about my Lulu experience on a Charlotte Observer blog awhile back and Helen Schwab, whose reviews I always enjoy, suggested I give it another try. While I understand her point — after all, I’ve heard from so many Charlotteans who love Lulu, and perhaps we picked the only two unimpressive dishes on the menu? I guess? — I simply don’t have the budget to throw $60 away and “give it another shot.” There are so many delicious restaurants that are less expensive, and even so many expensive restaurants that are worth the prices they charge, that I wouldn’t feel justified wasting another dinner out at Lulu’s.
So there you have it, Charlotte. My first negative review.
Have you eaten at Lulu’s? Did you have a better experience than me? Tell us what dishes you liked, how your service was, etc., to give readers a balanced view. Should I try again? Share your comments by clicking on the “Comments” link below!