Monday, July 2, 2012

Cool Water Fusion

Cool Water Fusion
2010 Wyoming NE, Suite B
Albuquerque, NM 

Have you ever shown up at a party way overdressed?  You know, you walk in with your sparkly dress, your date has on a suit, and everyone else is in jeans?  Remember how you felt?  Well, that’s pretty much the sensation you’ll get at Cool Water Fusion.  The restaurant is located in a strip mall next to a dollar store, and across the parking lot from Walmart, but the owners are reaching for an upscale experience.  You virtually must have reservations – something we were told the first time we walked in and tried to get a table.  That time the entire restaurant was empty except for one table and when we pointed that out to the waiter at the door, he simply walked away back into the kitchen and didn’t return.  That’s a lot of pretense and we were very put off.  But, armed with a Groupon deal, we decided to try again, this time WITH a reservation for 6:00 on a Saturday evening.

We arrived on time and although there were only two of us, we made the reservation for three.  We did this because the seating inside is very, very close and in order to maximize the space there are tiny tables crammed up against the far wall with bar stools.  They looked and felt like an after thought and we did not want to risk being seated there. You may frown at our under handed methods, but once you see the inside of this place, you’ll understand.  There is barely room between the tables for the wait staff to walk.  The overall feel of the place is cramped.  The front is completely plate glass windows and being there at sunset, the glare was horrible.  We aren’t sure why they didn’t at least install blinds – the view is the front of Walmart and the parking lot - nothing spectacular that would be lost with window coverings.  It was hot all evening, and being a Saturday, they had a live guitarist/singer who unfortunately failed to see how small the venue was and had his mike up too high.  The music was deafening and everyone was  either speaking loudly to hear their table's conversations or refrained from conversation, defeated by the less than wonderful entertainment.  The décor in the restaurant is eclectic; the walls are painted bright blue, orange, and red and the ceiling is unfinished and painted black.  There is a beautiful, but small built in aquarium unfortunately placed adjacent to a large TV installed on a nearby wall that ran ads for Twitter and Facebook, also encouraging people to rate the restaurant on urbanspoon and Yelp!

We were confused by the attempt to make the restaurant upscale.  There were white table cloths on the tables, but the silverware was mismatched and cheap, the salt and pepper shakers were of the lowest diner variety, and to add insult to injury, our appetizer came on a cracked plate.  Not too upscale.  The crowd was dressed mostly in T-shirts, but the wait staff was dressed well, and we noticed several of the diners had coupons like ours.

The menu was unimpressive.  Eight dinner entrees were offered of very basic fare like fried chicken (blue corn breaded) and trout, but the waiter did try to sell us the specials “that were left.” This was problematic and confusing - first thought: why would they sell us "what was left" and second thought: how could it be "what was left" when we were in the early part of the dinner crowd?  We were there at 6:00 p.m. and we wondered who ate the specials that were gone.  We ordered crab cakes for the appetizer and waited for 20 minutes until they arrived.  The service was very slow all night long in spite of there being few tables, several waiters, and many empty tables for the first part of the evening.

The crab cakes were positively the worst we’ve ever had.  There was no visible crab and they mostly consisted of very greasy bread.  The flavor was just butter and when we tried to move them from the serving plate to our individual plates, they disintegrated, falling apart all over the place.  The serving plate was cracked all the way across, which we believe is against health code rules, but we’re checking on that.  After we finished with the crab cakes, which we didn’t finish, we waited another 25 minutes for the entrées.

We both ordered the flat iron steak – one medium rare and one medium.  The menu said they came with garlic mashed potatoes and organic green beans.  The plates had ample servings on them, but both our steaks were well done - very well done.  The garlic mashed potatoes had no discernible garlic flavor, but we did see one part of a clove in one serving.  They were good, but just tasted like plain potatoes.  The green beans were absolutely drenched in butter and there was no way to taste anything but that.  The green bean flavor was completely missing.  Our waiter was MIA for most of this time, but when another server came to fill our water glasses, we informed her about the overcooked steaks and she sent the waiter over.  Unfortunately, by the time he came over and offered to make them again, we were pretty much done.  Plus, we didn't want to wait another 25 minutes for new steaks.  He offered to give us free desserts - a very nice surprise and good gesture - which we decided to order.

Flat Iron Steak, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Green Beans

We ordered Strawberry Cheesecake which the waiter said was a heavy white cake topped with strawberry jam and then covered with cheesecake.  And we ordered a Banana Split Pie, which was an ice cream pie in a pie crust with sliced bananas.

The Banana Split Pie was as described.  It was okay.  The ice cream was not premium quality and was quite icy, and the frozen bananas at the bottom tasted horrible, having been too ripe when added to the pie.  The slice was sitting in a pool of chocolate and strawberry syrup with a sliced banana.  It was average and not what we would consider gourmet by any standard.

Banana Split Pie

The Strawberry Cheesecake was nothing like the waiter’s description.  The base was some sort of nut cake – maybe almond – which was covered with strawberry jam and a very, very thin layer of cream cheese.  The top layer was the thickest and it appeared to be some sort of whipped topping, which may or may not have had some cream in it.  It was very disappointing.

Strawberry Cheesecake

Overall, our experience at Cool Water Fusion was uncomfortable due to the incredible noise level, the loud music, the hot temperature and the constant traffic of the wait staff running into each other as they tried to navigate the kitchen door and the tables.  We both had headaches by the time we left and vowed never to return. 

To really add to the horrible experience - the Groupon deal was for 2 glasses of wine or 2 beers, one appetizer, and two entrees.  We didn't order the wine/beer and the desserts were offered free to compesnate us for the steaks being cooked incorrectly.  The waiter informed us that the Groupon deal doesn't cover tax so we had to pay tax on every item we ordered including the free desserts!!!  Granted it was only about $5, but it still was more than we should have paid given that we didn't order the wine/beer and a single glass of wine would have been $7.  No other Groupon we've redeemed has required tax to be paid - draw your own conclusion....

You can see the entire menu online if you’re interested.  We’ve heard it’s a better experience for lunch, but we won’t go back to find out.  And by the way, we made the reservation online and got a confirmation text before we went.  We also got another confirmation text that woke one of us up at 3:00 a.m. the next morning, and another confirmation text the next afternoon.  You know, to remind us to go last night.

So, this place is a mess.  We don’t recommend it at all.   And apparently 28% of Urbanspooners agree with us.  Don't take our word for it - check out the reviews for yourself: Cool Water Fusion on Urbanspoon

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