…At Least I Got A Good Deal…(and chronicled another burger experience)

Player’s Chophouse –

While everyone was watching the Canada Day parade and partaking in the various Canada Day activities around Canada Place, my family and I were at the other end of downtown Vancouver having our dinner at Player’s Chophouse. Player’s Chophouse is located right in from of B.C. Place Stadium, an area so devoid of people on the evening of July 1, 2012 that it felt like a ghost town. There were no special events and celebrations going on in or around B.C. Place, so naturally there were no crowds in the area.

Surprisingly, there was a huge crowd inside the restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant, the employee of the restaurant that took us to our table – who doubled as the host as well as a server- informed me that the restaurant was fully booked for the night. I had no idea that the restaurant was so popular even on a night when there were no events at either B.C. Place or Roger’s Arena. In addition, none of the local professional sports teams were playing away games. And it was actually a pretty quite sports night in general. Euro 2012 had just ended a few hours ago, and with this being Canada Day, I would think that this would be one of the days that local sport addicts would have other activities planned.

I could tell that the people at the restaurant did not go there for watching any sort of sporting event by the programming that the wall-hung screens in the restaurant was showing: A poker competition and a sports highlight show. Judging by the interior of the restaurant, they were also certainly not here for its dining environment. The interior felt a bit run-down, like an ungracefully aged 30-year-old (hard) working professional already in need of a facelift.

No, my fellow diners and I did not visit the restaurant to watch any type of sporting event. We did not visit the restaurant because there was any hype surrounding the restaurant in the foodie blogsphere.  And I am certain that no one in the restaurant today visited it for its appealing dining atmosphere.

Like myself, every single diner at every single table in the section where my table was located in the restaurant visited because they had bought a groupon for dining at the restaurant. How could I be so sure, you ask? I am sure because I overheard the same questions I asked our server after I first sat down being asked by every single table around mine once the diners sat down at their tables.

“Can I use my groupon today?”

“What items can I not order if I’m using the groupon? Are there any restrictions?”

“So, do we only get one appetizer and one dessert?”

First of all, Wow! Every single table in my section was using a Groupon. Not only did this demonstrate the enormous popularity and consequent power of Groupon, this also showed that the restaurant would be practically empty on a non-game day without their groupon offer.

Secondly, I can understand the confusion. The groupon stated that it was good for one appetizer, two main courses, and one dessert, but it did not make clear what the restrictions were. It seemed like we could order anything (other than the chateaubriand, which was lone restriction mentioned).

Our server confirmed that we could, in fact, ordering anything that we wanted. We didn’t even have to adhere to the 1 appy, two mains, and one dessert formula. He said that the groupon was good for $101 of food, no matter what we ordered. The only restrictions were that alcoholic beverages were not included, as well as gratuities and taxes.

After hearing this, I decided to see if I could construct a meal for the four of us using the groupon deal that was meant for two. It actually turned out to be really simple. In the end, I ordered way more food than the four of us could eat, and I came within $1.50 of the budget. Other that the taxes and gratuities, $1.50 was the subtotal for my bill.

Here are the items that totaled $102.50, but only cost me $45 because of the groupon deal.

  1. French Onion Soup The onion soup was not very flavourful. The beef stock tasted a little bland, and I felt that the soup wasn’t salty enough. I also did not get a lot of the usually sweet flavours that came from the onions. There was also very little cheese, which prevented the soup from having one of the most basic flavour components of the classic French onion soup. The bread, however, was quite flavourful. But it wasn’t supposed to be. The bread’s purpose in the French onion soup is to add substance and to add a another textural component. It was not there to scream its flavours out to the diner like the bread in my onion soup today.                                                                                              The French onion soup would be totally unremarkable if not for its one unique and mysterious characteristic: the smoke (steam?) coming out of it. Smoke/Steam came rising out of the soup from my very first sip to my daughter’s very last sip. This would be quite normal if the soup was pipping hot, but it wasn’t. The soup was lukewarm. I wouldn’t even consider it hot. But the smoke/steam…it just kept rising up from the bowl and from the spoon which contained the soup. I thought that I was imagining things so I asked both my wife and daughter to try the soup to see if I was hallucinating. I wasn’t. They both confirmed my observation that smoke/steam kept coming out of the lukewarm soup.
  2. Chicken WingsThe wings were pretty decent. The skin was crispy crunchy without being too greasy and the meat was not too dry. The wings had enough salt and pepper that I didn’t feel the need to sprinkle even more salt and pepper on them. The hot sauce that accompanied the salt and pepper wings also tasted like a proper buffalo sauce. I did not have any complaints about this dish
  3. 12 ounce New York Strip and friesThe steak was pretty good considering that it was grilled at a moderate temperature one side at a time instead of being broiled in an ultra-high heat oven. It was cooked to the perfect medium temperature in accordance with our request. The steak was thick enough to be juicy and tender. It also had the distinct flavours of grain-fed cattle. I did not detect any of the intensely beefy flavours that usually come with dry aged beef, so my assumption was that the beef was not dry aged for any period of time. But for the price, quality of meat, and the limitations that came with an open-top grill, the steak was quite tasty. I would say that it was the best dish of the night.
  4. Steak and cheese pizzza We ordered the steak pizza because it was the only pizza that they offered that came with meat, not because we particularly liked steak on a pizza. Come to think of it, this was probably the first steak pizza that I’ve had. I thought that the pizza tasted pretty bad. I didn’t like the overcooked and stiff steak on the pizza. I didn’t like the flavourless cheese. I didn’t like the sweet mayo they drizzled on the pizza. I didn’t like the bland and undercooked crust, and I totally could not get used to the lack of tomato sauce. My feelings on the pizza was shared by both my wife and my daughter. My daughter stessed that “the pizza taste(d) bad!”, and she told me to quote her on it.
  5. HamburgerThe hamburger was odd. The bread was ok, and so were the lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. The burger patty was the oddball of the bunch. It was dense and hard, similar to a rock. It was like they tried to pack as much meat as possible into a patty this size. The patty was so dense that each bite was extremely hard to chew through. Each bite was also extremely hard to bite off because the burger was so overcooked that it was THE HARDEST burger that I have ever bitten with my teeth. What was even more frustrating was that the toughness of the burger was accentuated by the bits of chewy tendon (or was it overcooked fat??) that were evenly distributed throughout the patty. Tough and chewy, chewy and tough; that was my entire experience with the burger.                                                                                       Compared to the hamburger, the fries were much more enjoyable. They were crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside. They were neither too thick nor too thin. They provided me with a nice consolation amidst the frustration and disappointment that I was experiencing with the burger patty.
  6. Apple PieI would not even call this dish an apple pie. It was basically a thin layer of  phyllo on top of wet, cinammon flavoured sliced apples. The apples and the phyllo felt like two entirely different items that did not belong together. The phyllo was thin, airy, and crispy. I felt that it did not go well with the moist and pipping hot apple slices. Maybe the unifying element was the vanilla ice cream, but I was not able to try any of the ice cream because my son hogged all of it. I wasn’t able to get to any of the ice cream before it completely melted.
  7. 2 adult soft drinks and two kid-servings of milk. No photos needed here. We got two glasses of diet coke (or was it diet pepsi??) and two glasses of milk exactly as we ordered.

The meal we had today gave us more negatives than positives. As such, it was in line with most other groupon meals I’ve had. But I wasn’t complaining. I couldn’t possibly complain. I was still pretty psyched from the fact that we ordered 2 appetizers, 3 main courses, and 1 dessert for a mere $1.50 extra over my expected 1 appetizer, 2 mains, and 1 dessert for the groupon offer. The food sucks, but so what? I only paid $1.50 more than what the groupon cost me, and I got a filling meal for four out of it…but then, for the same price, I probably could’ve gotten an even more satisfying meal for four at an Asian restaurant.

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