Sorry, I forgot that I had started something here . . .
Having a bit of an insight as to the history of Decoy and the Lake San Marcos Lakehouse Resort area, which have all taken a significant upward swing since around 2014, I have come to realize another meaning of the American translation of the word “mediocre”. This was such a good entertaining time, I just had to get this one out.
Behind the Lakehouse Resort, and also kinda located behind the Lakehouse hotel entrance, you make a left there. Signage was lacking but understood for a fresh opener. Anyway, also a couple years maybe, behind the opening of the hotel/resort which I had earlier written about, Decoy opened its doors only three weeks ago and had me guessing if I should go by for a visit yet, since I have rarely found a good restaurant that has things ironed out by that amount of earliness into its business. This Friday night had Decoy with no exception. The wife described it as a “sh*t show”. I heard that phrase several times that night through various forms, having been first engaged by an eager customer in the restroom just moments after we had been seated in the up-stairs/scale direct competitor of Vintana. Vintana is located within the same geographic dining area as Decoy, as is Stone World Bistro and Garden; so the idea of adding another 4-star restaurant here seemed like a good idea.
This eager bathroom customer starts talking at someone while at the urinal. I assume it was me as this guy comes in and hollers over the urinal divide, “What do you think about it?” He continues as we wash our hands from the very nicely decore’d men’s room, ” . . . but standby for a long wait for your drinks” he says, as we walk out the men’s-room door. I had not little to say back to this guy.
I sit at the head of one end of a very large table, and I notice the bathroom guy sits along the side of his end of the long family-sized table. Kinda caught me off guard. I had a pretty good view of things going on that night being able to see the bar, the server POS station and a vast remaining area of the dining room . . . all nicely decorated . . . very nice. And this guy.
As we sat and waited . . . and waited . . . you get the picture, nearly 20 minutes (I say it was closer to 12 minutes) wondering why our table has not yet been approached by a server, or even a water boy. It did not throw me off yet because the other end of the table had yet to see their server (but they had drinks) the whole time I was waiting . . . and watching. I finally get up to be a “dick”, and attempt to locate a manager staring at their cell phone . . . or something . . . a greeter table . . . anything.
I head to the bar area and ask a bartender for the General Manager. He “roger’s” up and turns into the kitchen and another 5 minutes goes by. The bartender had already come back out of the kitchen and resummed his duties. And I waited. Some manager finally shows up ‘from another restaurant this company owns’ and gently taps my shoulder . . . and I mean quite timidly . . . perhaps afraid. I turn to him and explain my circumstance of not being initially contacted at the end of our table, buy anyone. He “roger’d” up (sorry, military term) and I still waited another 5 minutes before Trevor comes to our end of the table to save the day. Trevor (he is now known as) is now our server . . . well they sent the right server for our end of the table. Trevor did provide the best customer experience he could; actually he was marginally annoying, but I understand being now three balls down upon taking the mound, he couldn’t have had a worse server experience ever. This was not going to be a good night for Trevor as every time he came to the table, members of our table would point out yet another thing that was part of the “sh*t show”. Trevor did come by now every 4 minutes or so. Like Trevor immediately noticed we didn’t have drinks (these were admittedly comp’d upon his arrival). He said he would get someone over here with water while the drinks are being prepared . . . and this is the good part . . . the water guy shows up with a pitcher eager to refill our glasses and sees that we don’t have glasses and turns away claiming to have someone swiftly bring them.
In the mean time, NOW . . . about twenty minutes into our seated dinner service, a complimentary (you’re gonna hear that one often tonight) two loaves of bread and a very small amount of butter were brought by Trevor to carry us over . . . remember there are no drinks . . . or water yet . . . and we haven’t ordered our entre’s yet . . . and we had already shared three appetizers downstairs at the Dock Bar.
Ok, now our drinks show up, then our water moments later. Trevor now shows back up with more waters . . . and kinda stands there as our Charcuterie platter shows up behind him and we don’t have any napkins or utensils. Trevor keeps apologizing and has heard “the sh*t show” a couple of times already tonight. Their Charcuterie platter was priced quite high ($23) compared to Cave’s ($20) or Temecula’s Gourmet Italia ($21). Although it was not skimpy . . . like Cave’s, it certainly was nothing to compare to Gourmet Italia’s in Temecula. Either way, we began picking with our fingers and only two napkins amongst the 5 of us.
Luckily for Trevor we were still hungry, after already eating another loaf of bread, yet still curious enough to order from the menu, we tell Trevor that we are ready to order our entrée’s now. It’s a “sh*t show” now again while Trevor has to go take the waters back so he can write our order down. Perhaps a server station nearby needs to learn this one. That takes yet another 3 minutes. We order the Duck Carbonara, Short Rib, Salmon and a side of green beans as I am now explaining to Trevor that he had best be on top of his game as to not delay our meal any longer. Yeah, we all had become quite the dicks this evening by this time.
Plates began to appear out of nowhere (I’m just using that expression) as the expediter managed to send all entrees out at once, but I didn’t know from which side of my body to expect it. I think they sent four runners for the four entrées ordered (say that one fast), which is also fine. Everything was being scrutinized by my team (table) by this time and everything that had come out was not a pleasurable experience as our table had begun to question the doneness of the vegetables on each plate (mostly, they were all quite undercooked), except for the green beans, which started the rampage. They were marginally acceptable but definitely on the al dente side. And the pasta was definitely undercooked to the point of toughness. I think the intent for al dente cooking is there but perhaps they are not tasting their food from the kitchen as everything was also just slightly under seasoned and had no wow factor. The plating was fine but lacked an essential first impression upon arrival that seemingly missed color or depth . . . or just the creativity. I don’t know what it was but everything was very mediocre . . . and unskilled for such a high price . . . and I think their overall price point is priced much higher than Vintana for half of the experience the customer is paying for. Service at Decoy is well below that of Vintana. Currently, Decoy’s service level is far off the mark for someone to not be watching the overall picture (as a General Manager should, and not stuck in the kitchen). This level of service and food can begin to really hurt them if the very large crowds this place is beginning to draw becomes stagnant as to Decoy’s direction . . . they need to take action quick.
I liked the American portion sizes they served as the Short Rib was one of the largest I have encountered, yet lacking the silkiness of a fine braising and lacked something of appeal, because I noticed the leftovers were now in my fridge. The other portions were adequate but not overly satiable. The doneness of everything was off for the most part as had been played out into the parking lot after the meal as another customer, whom my wife had somehow encountered, was complaining that his steak was over-cooked. All of their conversation was heard by a server that was on a break or just getting off looking for a dropped twenty of his. I noticed the server and spoke at him briefly saying, “I hope you are hearing some information you can take back”, and wishing him forward direction with his life and the restaurant.
Before we had departed though Trevor was asked by my eldest son if “so and so” was working; I guess he’s one of the managers. Trevor’s response was, “yes I’ll check if he’s available”. Moments later Trevor returns with our bill explaining yet another comp of the Charcuterie platter but minus a very busy manager that was stuck in the back.
Decoy and Dock Bar (I think they should call it “Dockside” and leave it at that) is a pretty neat place though. We started below at Dock Bar ordering some drinks and three appetizers while waiting for our table up top. I likened it to a marina bar I had visited once in San Pedro many years ago with a setting similar overlooking quiet boat docks. The inside decors are really well done in the hunting cabin theme. The grounds are quite spectacular to just meander through along the boardwalk that seeming went on forever. The lighting inside complimented the décor and the outside lighting very much complimented the character of a very nice resort style feel and upscale eatery, but the eatery portion needs some help to attempt a parallel to Vintana. The target market for this place should be the same target market as Vintana that is located above a Lexus dealer. In other words . . . if you drive a Lexus, then you eat at Vintana. Unlike the current observed customer age down here at Dock Bar was mostly well above 55 . . . and I mean well above. This is now 7pm.
While downstairs at Dock Bar, we ordered some pretty basic (taste as well) appetizers of Poke, Steamed Clams and Dockside Nachos. Although the timing of the (I think there is, but I didn’t think to really look) downstairs kitchen was having an anti-clam night, the other apps showed up just about on time and the clams must have been started once they realized they were missing from the table along with the other two apps. Perhaps an expediter is needed downstairs as well. The Nachos were ok as was the Poke. The clams actually stood out as being a competitor to my own. Very good . . . but late.
That earlier crowd of Lake San Marcos residents began to dissipate from the Dock Bar sometime around 8pm, as we ourselves transitioned to the dining room upstairs. I think the Lake San Marcos residents were following us upstairs and the crowd downstairs was now being replaced with more of those Lexus owners.
Just like us . . . (I guess I cant hide it anymore), the Lake San Marcos residents were now pretty much all that was remaining with full bellies in the dining room. They had lingered around for another hour-and-a-half or so, and before we had realized it, we had been at the facility either upstairs or downstairs now past 10pm and the customers inside had pretty much turned to Lexus owners and less greyhound busses. But the place had pretty much tapered off to a closing by that point upstairs. I didn’t witness many customers arrive after us (8pm upstairs) being seated. I did watch tables to be lazily cleared as customers would depart and the tables remained without a reseating. It seemed as though there were servers and bussers everywhere just kind of meandering, standing, pointing, and talking, but without purpose. Like no one had a clue as to what to do next.
Another thing that bothered me was the inaudible sound system that played seemingly everywhere at just the right volume. Even with speakers just above my head, and they are everywhere, I could not figure out what was ever playing, or the genre of the music. The sound system had base tones that were just audible enough for you to hear but the sound-system was without clarity above the particularly kinda loud, yet very comfortable atmospheres of both the topside dining and bottom deck venues.
Well anyway, you see the night was not good but full of entertaining value. The facility is really nice and ready for a standout restaurant . . . but I don’t think this is going to be it with the current staffing and unfocused managerial view.
You see, Trevor, our server never caught that we hadn’t yet had a table set when we first met him and ordered our drinks . . . including the f’in napkin rolls before the food comes out. I still gave him a very fair tip, cause we worked him hard this night. Not because . . . but because. The restaurant’s training program must not be obviously working.
I give Decoy only two decoys tonight, and that’s because of location and the beautiful redecorating. I hope they don’t fool anyone.
Or maybe one ugly Flounder.