The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 10 October 2005

La Cascade on Stirling Hwy, Claremont

For her birthday, we took my mother-in-law (MIL) to the French restaurant, La Cascade which is not far from UWA. Rob and myself have been to this quaint little place maybe twice in the past three years, and we really enjoyed ourselves. It is one of the places on our list for special occasions, however it shall unfortunately be removed from the list after our last encounter.

We first ate at La Cascade about three years ago at Honey's recommendations. At that time, La Cascade offered a grand 4 course French meal for the price of $38. This was rather pricey for us as we were still uni students, but we found this place to be a rather nice indulgent treat. We visited the restaurant again earlier this year and found it acceptable that the price had increased to $43 for the 4 course meal. Rob had the wonderful opportunity to try escargot, which he absolutely loved.

Last night, we sat down and discovered that the price had increased to $49 for a 3 course meal. The menu was very much the same except that the vegetables that used to come as a complimentary accompaniment to the main meal is now charged at $6.50 per person. And we had a rather unpleasant surprise later while paying the bill that there is a *compulsory* corkage charge for every customer of $2.00 per person regardless of whether you did bring your own drink or not. Hm. We think that the place may have changed management because we did not see the usual hostess whom we'd assumed to be the owner.

However, determined not to let the price increases and additional costs sour the birthday celebration, we proceeded to consider the menu offerings. I had unfortunately developed a stomach problem prior to dinner, so I decided that I would not be able to take full advantage of the 3 course meal and chose to go for the a-la-carte option. (I still had trouble with finishing my soup and main course so there was no way I could have enjoyed dessert as well).

I did take out my camera and placed it next to me so I could take photos of the food, but I didn't remember to take photos of our entrees until Rob and his mum were already finishing off their respective entrees (I was halfway through my soup, but soups aren't terribly exciting to take a shot of). Not to fret, I did take shots of our main courses and dessert before tucking in. As to be expected of a French restaurant, the presentation of the food was impeccable.

Obviously I cannot remember the dishes' names in French, so I shall only give a description of each of them. For entree, my MIL chose a chicken dish wrapped in puff pastry. It looked delicious (you have to take my word for it). She chose lamb cutlets for her main course, and it came out sizzling on a hotplate. I had a tiny taste of it, and it was nice, considering that I don't have much preference for red meat (especially lamb).

Rob chose a scallops dish for entree, served with bechemel sauce and cheese. The scallops were juicy and were done very nicely (had Rob's tick of approval for not overcooking the scallops). The sauce complimented the scallops perfectly. For main course, Rob chose young chicken in a spicy sauce. This was really yummy. The sauce was only a little bit spicy, and it went really well with the chicken.

I had a creamy vegetable soup, which seemed like the safest thing to go for in consideration of my (annoying) digestive system. It was surprisingly very nice (surprising because it sounded so plain and boring) and had a delicious and somewhat familiar taste which we could not quite identify. For my main course, I had pork wrapped in filo pastry with prune sauce. It was delicious, but both Rob and I agreed that when we ate the chicken dish after the pork dish, the chicken one was nicer in comparison.

For dessert, Rob and his mum both chose Bavarian chocolate with orange sauce. I had a tiny taste of it, and sure enough, it was far too rich for me to enjoy (what is wrong with me?!). I had another taste and it was already bordering on the overload so I stopped there. The orange sauce went really well with the mousse/pudding/? (we could not figure out what it was meant to be).

I'm going to go on a bit of a rant here, so stop here if you want to have leave with a good impression of La Cascade.

The three of us chit-chatted and had a really good time. When we decided it was good time to leave, we stood at the counter by the door for a good 10 minutes before someone attended to us. In all of that 10 minutes, I was so tempted to just walk out the door (and I think we would've gotten away with it). I could not understand why no one could have taken a mere couple of minute just to attend to our payment. That was just the beginning of it.

The chef finally came out (probably did not trust either of the waiters to deal with the payments) to show me the bill. I noticed he charged me as having had the 3 course meal instead of a-la-carte which would work out to be a bit more than $10 extra. I asked for explanation, and was actually considering not kicking too much of a fuss and just pay the said amount for my MIL's sake on her birthday celebration. However, the chef made an offhand remark to my MIL and Rob "All Asians do this to me - have to check everything" when I asked for an explanation.

I took offense at that rather racist remark and decided I was gonna stand my ground. I still cannot see how he could not comprehend his mistake. It was so logical, but probably blinded by his prejudice against my race, he kept insisting that if he charged me a-la-carte, it would only work out to be a mere $1 cheaper rather than the $12 I claimed he was overcharging. Basically his error was double-charging corkage (which should not be there in the first place), vegetables and drinks. He was rather arrogant - he wasn't even willing to hear me out. After about 5 minutes of this, he said that all he wants is for me to pay the said amount, and I could take the bill home to figure it out. Eheh, I don't think so, mister. The chef served other customers settling their payment at the counter whilst we explained the situation to Rob's mum. We all agreed that I was correct and the chef was wrong, and my MIL advised that I pay what I think is correct. One of the customers pointed out a mistake on their bill as well, so that must have gotten the chef thinking that maybe I was correct because when my MIL took the bill and told him that I was right, he readily said, "Ok, let's work it out". Either that, or he was willing to listen to a non-Asian. Or that he was really trying to confuse us into paying more (which he would have succeeded at if he hadn't made that racist remark). Whatever it was, he came to the exact same figure that I'd arrived at much earlier. He was so much more agreeable and civil as well, but he was mainly talking to MIL. Gotta make you wonder.

Anyway, that's my story, and if you do choose to go to La Cascade, make sure you check the bill and be prepared for disagreements. Rob said to me afterwards "The chef should have known better than to argue with an engineer, a scientist and an accountant on maths".

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