Thursday, February 26, 2015

Level 257 -- Restaurant Review

I was a "beta tester"
Level 257 is a new Pacman themed restaurant that soft-launched this week, opening for evening dining by reservation only. They promoted this a "beta-testing" and gave each guest a pretty card on a lanyard.  Like many things in this restaurant design, it was for show only.  There was actually no specific effort to get feedback from us about our dining experience. So I guess I will just share it here.

Overall I would describe dining at Level 257 as slightly quirky but surprisingly conventional.  To begin with I had to work out the restaurant was up the unsignposted stairs.  Later I saw a chilled staff member posted at the bottom to help people figure this out.

The menu is fairly  limited with many upscale elements and priced to match. My chicken carbonara came with a raw egg broken on top, and a waiter with a block of cheese to grate over it and a pepper grinder. It did not however come with very much chicken or bacon.  This mixed high end/cheap end message pretty much carried through the entire dining experience which ended with a nicely made latte that was barely tepid.  The bill for two people (two dinners, one dessert, one glass of wine, two coffees) came to $68 without tip. Which is more than average but less than outrageous.

The decor is a mismatch of odd elements. Studded leather chairs, colorful banners over bowling lanes, stuffed moose head on the wall. Individually rolled cloth hand towels were provided in the bathroom to dry your hands. All around the dining area are areas to play games, which the wait staff barely mentioned although they provided generally very attentive and affable service. I left not knowing whether they function as a normal bowling alley or this is available only to those coming for fine dining. The extensive game playing areas were not occupied other than one couple who had found a vintage game of battleships in the far corner and were putting it to use.

My best guess is that they are aiming for higher income people who either remember Pacman nostalgically or are drawn to it for the ironic kitch-cool factor. Nevertheless most of the tables around me included at least one boy in the 7-10 age group.  So it seems early adopters are expecting this to be a good place to bring children, which on balance it really is not. Stem ware perched on the edge of tables (one was broken while I was there), food is of the normal types but leans pretentious (green tea ice cream etc), there are lots of steps and levels, and most of the games are either mounted at adult height or vintage and clearly mean to be handled gently.  Not to diss any particular 7-year-old boy, but in general I don't think this environment was made with that demographic in mind.

In the end we had a somewhat pleasant but far from perfect conventional dinner, and wandered around the 40,000 square foot space without engaging with any of its game-play features. On the way out we browsed a small, gift store store staffed by two very under-occupied people.  Here I discovered that my lanyard retails for five dollars.  Which symbolizes as well as anything the gap I feel exists between this restaurants premium-priced expectations in contrast to the quality of the experience they are actually providing.

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