The Belle of Ballast Point and I have dined at Datz on numerous occasions. We usually are very satisfied with the food and the service. Our last visit was yesterday evening to celebrate my bride’s birthday, and I am thinking that the emphasis for that experience should be on “last visit.”
I had made early evening reservations and when we arrived the gods of parking smiled down on us and we pulled into an empty space right in front. We were greeted at the hostess station and guided to an awaiting table. Our server for the evening, Maggie, presented us with menus and took our adult beverage orders. So far, everything was going swimmingly.
When asked if we desired appetizers we chose the intriguing sounding Skinny Dippin’ Chicken Skins, lightly battered chicken skins that had been deep-fried to crispy goodness and served with a sweet chili-curry dipping sauce. Each morsel resembled fried pork chicharones, and while lighter in taste than pork, these skins were so very…holy crap, raw! The batter was crispy and the first few we tried were good, but then we hit the raw skins that generated a severe gag reflex in my bride. The night came close to being very messy.
We washed away that memory with a couple sips of a very good Shooting Star Pinot Noir, and then our entrees arrived. I am not going to ramble on about how simply amazing everything was, but just cut to the chase and say that the braised pork shank that my bride ordered was flavorful but dry. My rib eye steak was…holy crap, raw! I had requested medium-rare and there was nothing medium-rare or rare about that steak. It was flat out raw in the middle. Maggie was quick to return it to the kitchen and 20 or so minutes later, it came back as originally requested. That was a delicious steak, but I took most of it home since my dining partner had pretty much given up on her meal.
Besides which, she wanted to save room for dessert and for dessert it was suggested that the chocolate Oreo cupcake would be a perfect choice. What was presented was an unbelievably dense chocolate wad that was almost impossible to cut into. It was topped with a creamy looking glop with the texture of Play-Doh…a sweet Play-Doh, but still. The accompanying ice cream was the only edible part of that dessert.
I have no photos documenting our Datz misadventure. Since I had already reviewed Datz twice, I didn’t bring a camera. I had not intended to do a third review. This was just meant to be a pleasant and relaxing birthday dinner for my bride. Additionally, review after review after review of the same restaurant is more than slightly monotonous and might lead readers to question the credibility of that reviewer.
We are still shaking our heads in wonderment over how the most talked about and reviewed restaurant in Tampa could have such a poor showing. It can only be hoped that this was just a really off-night. We are in no hurry to return and test this theory.
Editor's update 7/18/2014: I was pleasantly surprised to get the following email from Deborah of Datz:
Deborah B. has left a new comment on your post "Datz: Dining Misadventure":
"TRIPLE YIKES. Sounds just awful. But we don't want you and your bride to
go away angry with a "bad taste" in your mouths (pardon the pun),
particularly when this was such a special night for the two of you.
Please email at [sic] me ****, and let's arrange for a do-over.
I look forward to hearing form [sic] you!!"
I consider a response of any kind from a restaurateur, like Deborah of Datz, as a sign that they really care how their restaurant is perceived, and that they are willing to do whatever to make sure their customers are happy.
From experience the Oracle is aware that there are far too many bay area dining venues that really don't give a rat's patoot whether their customers are happy or not. That Datz does seem to care sets them far above many others. Datz is to be commended.
Since it is the Oracle's policy to dine anonymously and not exchange reviews for free anything, we will not arrange for a do-over. The gesture is very much appreciated though, and has been frequently offered to other diners, not just us. My bride and I will probably wander in to Datz once again someday and dine incognito...with sunglasses, fedoras, and trench coats hiding our identities.