Thursday, July 16, 2009
Doesn't really do it for me...
I hadn't been to a Sizzler in years, but on a wet Thursday night during the school holidays, with much prompting of the three Cookster Kids, it was time to pack up the people mover and head off to the Innaloo multiplex.
Hell, I've been hearing that guy banging on for months about how it "does it for me" so maybe I've been missing something?
It's always an odd concept waiting in line for an experience that you know is probably only going to be satisfactory at best, but wait we did. And peruse the options along the way - the cheapo salad bar experience only; salad bar with extras; or salad bar plus a plated main meal of either steak, ribs, or fried seafood.
When we get to the head of the line I opt for the barbecue ribs, Mrs Cookster the steak, the nine-year-old boy a smiley faced cheeseburger, and the other kids the salad bar (ie, spag bol and soft serve ice cream).
"Chips or mash with those meals?" We opt for chips, a standard pub grub fare that most large volume restaurants tend to get right. Right?
Next it was drinks, you do everything straight-up before you're seated at Sizzler, including drink orders. There was a big Perspex tub attached to the front counter filled with ice and their own-brand wine, so I've fished one out and said, "we'll have this too. Do I take one of these?"
"That's okay sir, I'll get you a fresh bottle from the fridge." Feeling a bit like Withnail in the cake shop I suddenly realise that it's a display. But why the ice?
"We only have chilled champagne glasses left, no wine glasses, is that okay sir?"
I agreed, although I wondered why bother to chill wine glasses at all? It's one of those folksy things I guess that creates a veneer of 'class', albeit in a suburban doesn't make any sense kinda way. I was going to mention that wine is best drunk out of a broader, deeper vessel, but then a kid screamed and threw spaghetti at his brother and I remembered where I was.
We get to the table and I decide a liberal dose of plonk is required to set the ambiance, immediately. It was then that I realised my champagne glass was covered in more than just frost - it had at least three sets of lip prints (very faded) and some other detrius attached. Mrs Cookster's glass had "chunks" on it she said, so the baby wipes came out and all that good work in the chiller was lost.
Cheesy toat was next. I seem to recall liking this once, but white bread lathered with a cheesy, butter spread and grilled on one side no longer does it for me. Pass.
To give credit where credit is due, the Sizzler salad bar was far better than my last visit and the Perspex sneeze guards quite reassuringly sturdy. I chose a selection of crisp assorted salad leaves; some Herdsman Fresh-style dolmades; pedestrian coleslaw and potato salad; cubes of beetroot and; Asian beef salad. It was all quite decent and makes the $21 salad bar deal pretty good value for money. Just leave the beef salad alone - I haven't had beef of that texture in my mouth before and don't want to again.
The younger kids both had a plate of passable spaghetti bolognaise. The pasta was al dente and the sauce quite meaty, but it needed a bit more tomato in the mix to give it a traditional bolognaise flavour. Like everyone else in Australia, the Cookster is an expert on spag bol.
The finicky older boy got his open-top cheeseburger with a smiley face made out of sauce on the meat patty. But while blobs for eyes were okay, the sauce mouth was something of a grimace, a sneer if you like - I think he'd spied the chips that had just arrived with my ribs.
Now chips aren't that hard to bugger up, even if they're mass produced fare that's cooked in oil that might have seen better days. You fry them, salt them and serve them HOT. Unfortunately my chips had been plated at least three days before they were introduced to the ribs and I could find no signs of life whatsoever. DOA.
Okay, I exaggerate. Maybe they'd been put on the plate 15 minutes before the ribs, but 15 minutes or three days who cares? They were cold, the fat had congealed and they were entirely inedible. You know those chips you find down the side of your seat when you vacuum the car? You get the picture. I would have sent them back, but that'd be like sending back your chips at a fast food place - you take your chances.
The positive side was that the ribs were tender, of generous size and covered in a sweet, smokey sauce that was quite enjoyable. Mrs Cookster's steak looked the goods as well. Given the abundance of salads, the chips weren't really missed, but it was a sore point all the same.
Desserts? Well, bowls full of soft serve, some pretty good chocolate mousse and lots of sugar-laden sprinkly bits that have the kiddies squealing with delight.
And squeal they do. Atmosphere-wise it's a bit like dining out at childcare centre where all the kids are fed sugar sachets and red cordial. This is not the place for romance, but handy if you're ducking in to catch a flick at the adjacent megaplex.
All in all, for $94 including a bottle of wine ($14.95) it's a fairly reasonable night out if you want to keep the kids happy. But major points off for the chip fiasco. Perhaps they took them out of the display cabinet by mistake?