REVIEW: Aqua Blue, Roswell, North Fulton
When we arrived at Aqua Blue, we were a few minutes ahead of our reservation but we were shown to a fantastic booth straight away. We waited for our server but it was 5-10 minutes before we had our initial contact. This was a harbinger of things to come.
The menu is fantastic! We came to find out later though, how it reminded me of one of my favorite sayings – no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. In this case, the plan was awesome, it was the execution that failed.
When our server greeted us, he asked if this was our first time visiting Aqua Blue. We replied YES, and he offered us an appetizer on the house – Tempura Green Beans. We both thought this was an awesome gesture for new patrons and we were certainly off on the right foot. They were delicious and done perfectly.
We decided to skip a salad and try the Clam Chowder soup instead. When the Clam Chowder arrived, it was thin, watery, and devoid of flavor. The bits of celery clearly outnumbered any seafood bits in the dish and Melanie saw that I left the vast majority of this soup remaining in the bowl. She tried to “doctor it up” with salt and pepper but there was no reviving this patient.
Our server returned and we placed our order. Our server discussed how we could mix and match sides to our liking and this is always a plus in our book. I chose the Tilapia (blackened), the Tomato Couscous and the Smoked Gouda Potato Cake. Melanie went with the Prosciutto Wrapped Grilled Shrimp and the Shaved Brussel Sprouts.
During the wait between our appetizers and the entrées, my drink sat empty. Our server returned and apologized, stating they were short-staffed. I told him that we were in no hurry to help put him at ease. But by the end of the meal though, my patience was gone because I realized that other tables had come and gone while we sat and sat and sat.
When our meals did arrive, Melanie’s was incorrect. Instead of the side she had asked for, she had the original side that it was paired with. Our server was no where to be found, so I flagged another server down to correct the problem.
Now, the meal enters a state of disarray. One diner has a meal in front of them, the other is still waiting. Of course Melanie told me, “go ahead and eat”. I eat quickly anyway as a result of being the youngest of three boys and four long years in the Marine Corps. I tried my best though to eat while the food was still hot , but not too much so that Melanie would not be eating alone.
My Tilapia was a bit underdone but still quite enjoyable. The blackening seasoning was used sparingly hence there wasn’t much flavor from the seasoning. I enjoyed the Tomato Couscous but Melanie didn’t like the bite that it had nor the aftertaste. The Smoked Gouda Potato Cake was nothing like I had expected. It was more like formed mashed potatoes that had been fried with a thick batter.
When Melanie’s meal arrived for the second time, disappointment once again reared its ugly head. The prosciutto was tough, as was the shrimp. It was simply overcooked. We decided to follow our own advice given in our recent article, Don’t Settle for Mediocrity at Restaurants, and informed our server. In less than a minute, the manager was there to resolve the matter. Melanie didn’t want to re-order (we wondered when it would ever arrive) so we agreed to just have it removed from the bill. Kudos to the manager who handled this properly and professionally. Problems will always occur, its how they are handled that is what matters and this was handled perfectly.
Once our meals were finished, we waited. And then we waited some more. Now, if the problem is systemic, it effects all patrons equally. We saw tables come and go in the time we sat and watched. Granted, our server may have had a large party that was taxing his time, but we came to believe this was more of a training issue than anything else. At the end of the day, we didn’t hold the poor service against the server and gave him our normal 20% tip.
The night did make for some stimulating conversation between Melanie and I. We discussed our feelings of how important training is in restaurants and that we don’t hold servers or cooks accountable. In Marine Corps leadership school, I was told its never the platoon’s fault – it’s the fault of the platoon leader. I have to say that the manager was pitching in – bussing tables, running food, etc., basically doing everything he could do. He even delivered our check to the table after it was paid.
While Aqua Blue didn’t work out for us that night, I believe that our experience was the exception rather than the rule. I think between a few tweaks in the kitchen and some training on the front end, Aqua Blue has a competitive offering in that market. We’d love to hear from other readers who are patrons of this restaurant to hear about your experiences at Aqua Blue. Guten appetit!