Driving through the unfinished maze of buildings, roads, trees and dirt comprising Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, we eventually arrived at the only completed building on the premises, the Courtyard by Marriott.
We wanted to check out The Bistro, advertised as the place to “Eat, Drink, Connect.”
A smallish front desk greeted us on the right of the spacious contemporary earth-toned lobby. Gray sectional seating was strewn like so many boxy boulders.
The Bistro, Marriott’s quick food restaurant provided mainly for the convenience of overnight guests, was identified by the addition of about 10 small tables, a few semi-circular banquettes by the windows and a small service counter on the left.
Omar at the desk welcomed us to enjoy table service.
We chose one of the banquettes, which felt like sitting in a little space module and included not only a round table, but also a small end table and TV monitor mounted on the extended back of the seating.
People wanting privacy for conversation would find this cozy arrangement agreeable.
The problem arose when the privacy interfered with service. It appeared as if server and counter person were the same, and she was busy with two other people at another table and a customer at the counter.
“Coming in a minute,” she called.
When the minute evolved into nearly a half hour, we requested service again and this time Omar came to our table and took our order of two glasses of Prosecco. After several minutes he returned to say he could not find any Prosecco, and so guest Lois and I ordered a glass of red and a glass of white wine.
When the wine arrived both glasses were filled with a red wine of undetermined origin. We decided it would be easier to just drink the wine than to attempt to correct the order.
Another half hour passed and our order had not been taken.
At this point, it became clear that we should have ordered at the counter. But every time we attempted it, we were told ordering from the table would be fine.
Adding to the difficulty, the menus had omitted prices and we were unable to read them above the counter — an omission that surprised staff members Omar and Ashley.
Two gentlemen arrived while we were waiting, had ordered, finished eating and left before our order was taken.
Lois’s grilled chicken quesadilla ($9.25) arrived with salsa and sour cream. She judged the appetizer adequate, and reported that her turkey BLT ($9.95 with veggie sticks and quinoa salad) was “not very toasty, but otherwise OK.”
My half-dozen wings ($8.95) with medium seasoning were small and served with a few pieces of celery and ranch dressing instead of the usual bleu cheese. An ample Southwest Cobb salad ($11.95) was composed of tiny shredded bits, most too small to be identified.
The menu promised avocado, but none was found. Ashley explained that she had personally cut up avocado in the salad but neither of us could find any evidence of its presence.
The ubiquitous ranch dressing which accompanied it was lackluster and did little to improve the salad. One-inch slivers of Jack cheese played hide and seek (mostly hide) behind flecks of lettuce.
In fairness, the Marriott Courtyard has only recently been opened. The smell of newness was both charming and unsettling. I learned years ago that it is unreasonable to review an establishment that had only recently opened.
So my inclination was to cut The Bistro a fair amount of slack. The staff was earnest and worked hard to please us. Though experience was lacking, time would most likely improve the problem.
In addition to newness, lack of communication may also have affected our experience.
While Omar told us it was fine to sit and be waited on, Teri, the front desk supervisor, explained that ordinarily folks order at the counter.
Adding to the problem was the fact that one of the two Bistro staff called in sick an hour before opening time and Ashley, new to the position, was forced to handle the situation herself.
Having waited on tables in a past life, I recognize the challenge of smiling and remaining calm under adverse circumstances. Ashley should receive an A+ for maintaining a professional and caring attitude.
Although I always consider dessert — chocolate chip cookies, lemon ice or apple cobbler in this case — Lois and I decided to forgo the three choices, but to return early in 2017 for dessert and to see how Ashley and the folks working in the lobby were doing.
The Bistro shows potential as a quick food venue, and this reviewer is unwilling to write it off too quickly.
The Bistro at the Courtyard Marriott, Mohawk River Harbor
WHERE: 240 Harborside Drive, Schenectady, NY 12305 (518) 579-6620; http://www.marriott.com/hotels.
WHEN: Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sat-Sun 7 a.m.-10-30 a.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $42.55 without tax and tip.
MORE INFO: Accessible, large lot parking, all major credit cards accepted, background music permits conversation, outside patio available in warm weather.