Whatever the season, it's hard to beat the view from Reflections restaurant in downtown Toledo's Wyndham Hotel on the west bank of the Maumee River.
On a typical winter's evening, nothing is cozier than watching fat snowflakes falling softly on the icebound Maumee, lit only by the moon and candlelight flickering off the big bay windows. Come summer, the same windows look out on fishermen and pedestrians trolling the banks, sailboats and powerboats passing by, and bright sun creating diamond sparkles on the water.
It's a dreamy view - reason enough, I suppose, for nabbing a window table for a drink or a bite to eat on a given day or night. But sustenance isn't for the eyes alone: the food gets first priority, and in that regard, Reflections' kitchen staff has its work cut out.
We've said it before: Hotels face challenges that other restaurants don't, such as the transient nature of clientele who come and go at all hours, as well as the need to please not only travelers and conventioneers but local residents looking for a good meal morning, noon, and night.
But if some hotel eateries can excel in the face of such challenges, why can't others? In our recent lunch and dinner forays at the Wyndham, we found a few dishes worth touting, while several others left us wanting.
On the plus side, the $8.95 salad bar at lunch is a deal, with soup, greens, and a long table loaded with toppings, dressings, and various tuna salad and egg salad sides.
Furthermore, the $7.95 pasta bar costs only $1 more on weekdays if combined with the salad bar. On a "pre-order slip," diners pencil in their own choice of pastas, sauces, toppings, meats, seafood, and condiments for delivery to the table.
Cups of potato bisque and celery bisque were hearty enough despite the lack of crackers, bread, and butter, and the Wyndham cheeseburger ($7.95), accompanied by crisp lemon-pepper parmesan fries, was juicy with a good char-grilled taste.
Dinner, however, was another matter, starting with slow service - a lone server for the several occupied tables in the large, tiered dining room. Caesar salad ($2) was good even without bacon or, again, any bread and butter. But the shrimp cocktail appetizer ($7.95) was shameful: Four pathetically small, tough shrimp were waterlogged from recent defrosting, and no amount of cocktail sauce could rescue them.
The entrees weren't much better - badly presented and sorely in need of a steak knife. The rib-eye steak ($21.95) and grilled pork porterhouse ($17.95) were both carelessly tossed atop tepid mashed potatoes and half-cooked mixed vegetables. They also were dry, lacking both juiciness and sufficient sauce.
At least the server had the decency to apologize for the slow service on our way out.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org