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Euro Bistro – Herndon, Virginia – Thursday, June 18, 2009 June 20, 2009

Posted by hslu in Restaurants.
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Euro Bistro – Herndon, Virginia – Thursday, June 18, 2009

Euro Bistro on Elden Street in the heart of Herndon has been a favorite of us since it first opened about 9 years ago. We spotted the restaurant shortly after it opened its door and visited it a couple of times before it was on anybody’s radar screen. The combination of small space of less than 10 tables, cozy atmosphere, personable services, good crowd, affordable wines, and outstanding food made this restaurant a pleasant place to have a quick lunch or a homey dinner of mostly Northern European food. Back then, the tall chef took time to greet his customers whenever he had a chance to get out of the kitchen. He would ask his guests whether they like the food or the wine. He would then dash into the kitchen and back to his job.

We then saw the restaurant received great praises on local newspapers and magazines. Many food critics piled on and recommended the restaurant. It was always busy when we visited the place and the quality of the food stayed pretty consistent over the years. Then the situation went down hill and hit the bottom yesterday when Maria and I went for a quick lunch.

About 4 or 5 years ago, Euro Bistro took over the space next door. The new space added about two times of its original seats. Ever since then, the restaurant wasn’t as busy as before. Service became hit or miss because, I think, it wasn’t staffed with qualified personnel. The quality of the food also decreased, albeit slowly. And we stopped going all together because Euro Bistro has lost its edge and there were many other new restaurants opening up in Reston Town Center and Fairfax.

Maria was off yesterday (Thursday, June 17, 2009) and I didn’t have to work either. I fasted since midnight Wednesday for a blood sample at 11:00 AM as a follow-up of my previous visit to doctor’s office three months ago. Coming out of the doctor’s office, we went to the bank and took care of business for our restaurant. By then, it was about 11:35 AM and I haven’t taken Percocet for 28 hours. I felt good and we were pretty hungry too.

We first drove around the K-Mart Shopping Center in Herndon trying to find a decent place. We were shocked to find out that there were up to 10 stores closed for good: a Japanese restaurant, a Salvadorian restaurant, a big Thai restaurant, a vacuum store, Gold Gym, Hard Time café, an Indian place, and a few others. We came up to Euro Bistro and decided to give it another chance since we haven’t been here for a long time.

The parking spaces in front of the restaurant were quite empty. There were only a few tables inside of the restaurant, a far cry from the hay days of the past we remembered. We walked into the restaurant and found out that it was practically empty about 20 minutes before noon: three or four tables of 2 tops among 40 tables or so in two dinning rooms. Where was the lunch crowd? The restaurant was supposed to be bustling with customers and waitress at this time. There was no office workers dressed in shirt and tie or skirt and high heels. All we had was some locals quietly having their lunch in a quiet restaurant. Well, Panera just opened a big restaurant in the shopping center. Five Guys has been there for about a year and half. We also have McDonald’s, a Chinese buffet, a Vietnamese Pho place, a Chinese restaurant, Virginia Kitchen, an Italian restaurant, and a pizza place, a place called Russian Gourmet, Popeye Chicken, Subway, and a few Latino restaurants. There were too many choices within the walking distance not to mention all the restaurants (at least 15 if not 20) in the Reston Town center about 3 miles away. Well, time is tough and it is not easy to get noticed in time of economic stress.

The female manager casually pointed to a 2-top against the wall not far from the entrance and signaled us to sit there. She then disappeared into the back station and worked on whatever she was about to do before we came in. No warm welcome! No customary greeting of something like “How are you today?” or “Is this okay with you?” or “I will be right with you.” It wasn’t that the restaurant was busy and they were short-handed and, if it was me, I would try my best to give my customers any seat they want in the house and make them welcomed and comfortable. Nope, we didn’t get any of that. We got a half-hearted showing of her arm which was like “take your seat and I would be there later when I got around to it.”

Well, I didn’t like that table. It was a 2-top against the wall in an empty dinning room. I happened to like to sit side-by-side with Maria when we have lunch or dinner. I walked to the inside dinning room where other customers were. I picked a 4-top and sit ourselves with our back facing the window because it was bright outside. She came back with menu and asked us what we like to drink. Maria asked for an iced tea and I said that I haven’t decided yet. She asked me if I wanted to see the wine list. I said yes. But it never came and I wasn’t sure what went wrong there. I asked for a glass of water instead.

By this time, I wasn’t very happy with my choice of restaurant but decided to stick around. We also decided not to order a lot of food like we used to in many restaurants we went to. No wine. No appetizers. No desserts. Just two dishes from the lunch menu and try our luck.

Three more customers showed up. They were old ladies in their 50’s. The busy girl showed them to their table close to ours. A food-runner also showed up whose primary job was apparently delivering food to the customers. The waitress/manager came back soon and asked for our orders. What, so fast? I barely had time to finish the lunch menu and there was another sheet of paper with about 20 to 25 dishes that I haven’t gotten around to yet. She was apparently trying to rush her customers, or maybe just us, out and getting ready for a busy lunch crowd later. But what was the hurry? I wanted to take my time and the restaurant wasn’t busy at all. By now, there were 9 customers including us.

We finally decided to order the following:

  1. An Austria or German dish of pork loin with ham, red pepper, onion, and mushrooms in Paprika Sauce for $11.45. Egg noodle in the shape of small dumplings (kind like garbanzo beans) called Spätzle came with the dish. I decided to try this dish because the Paprika sauce intrigued me.
  2. California Pizza with roasted bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, olives and mozzarella cheese for $8.95.

Some bread came first with whipped butter. I counted 4 small, thin slices in a bread basket. The whipped butter was full of flavor and easy to spread but the bread wasn’t good enough that you wanted to fight for the last piece in the bread basket. It was only slightly warm to the touch.

The Pork loin dish came first. Two slices of pork loin about 3” x 4” were first pounded into thin layer of about ¼” thick. It was then sautéed with other ingredients in a reddish sauce. The pork loin was good but the sauce wasn’t very special: bland, not spicy, tasted kind like light tomato sauce. Maria gave me a few bites while I was waiting for my pizza to come. Spätzle was warm, chewy but had little taste by itself. It would be good with the sauce though.

Well, the pizza finally came: at least 5 minutes late. This was a big no-no for any restaurant. It showed the lack of paying attention to the detail by the kitchen staff. I wasn’t sure what went on in the kitchen in the back but the dinning room manager should have noticed this too. But she was busy with the ladies.

The pizza looked very good: colorful, plenty of cheese, inviting and quite large for lunch; about 10”. I took a wedge and gave it a big bite. Wow! What kind of pizza dough was the crust made from? It was the worst pizza crust that I had ever had: it tasted like card board box, it had no holes; it was hard; it crumbled into chunks of dry flour in the mouth and it had no taste at all. I bet that the chef forgot to add baking soda or baking powder and salt when he made the dough. It could be even worse: he probably put some flour in the mixer, added some water and egg and made the dough after I placed the order! That was probably why it came out late. I gave up eating the pizza after one slice and lost any appetite for anything else.

By the time we finished paying for our lunches, the restaurant had a total of 13 customers at 12:20 PM. Our bill came to $23.27 and I gave a tip of $3.50.

What a huge disappointment! A great small restaurant ended up like this? I believed that it was on its last days unless something is done to change its image. For me, I would never go back to it again.

Bye-bye, Euro Bistro! You should have stayed small. Your rent would be more manageable. Your customers would have the image of a busy and cozy place. They would come back if they had to wait in line for a seat. The chef would not spread himself too thin. And most of all, it should replace the manager for sure.

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