Old Jan 18, 19, 8:29 am
  #437  
phltraveler
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: New York
Programs: UA Silver, Marriott LTP, Hertz President's Club
Posts: 928
So with a Monday afternoon flight and being worried about potential security screening time impacts with the government shutdowns (due to TSA Sick-outs), I decided I'd head to the airport early and eat at classified time permitting (a reservation is required, but I've checked before and figured that I would be able to make a reservation once I was in the sterile area). Sure enough, the Precheck line was well staffed and reservations were widely open.

I went to Saison (classified is in the back) - no usual hosts at the front to seat people or to take to the back for classified. So I just went into Saison and found someone on the right hand side (kitchen) who came out and seated me in the back.

Service was...noticeably different from my last visit. I wouldn't say necessarily good or bad.

Upkeep: Proper and clean (hygienically and appearance). I like the aesthetic in classified, the view out to the terminal is there. It's a lot less crowded than other restaurants at the terminal or the United Clubs. Even at lunchtime it wasn't that busy - it was me and one other person at one point (different table), by the time I left there were about 6 people total (including me) spread throughout various tables.

Being seated: Seated quickly, the server came back quickly with a hot towel (reminded me of sitting up-cabin!) in a small dish and a shot glass of some butternut squash soup compliments of the chef (everyone received it, but I still appreciated it). Due to food allergies and being served it before I could give the allergy spiel, I ultimately did not eat it. No complimentary sparkling this time - but last time I put on the reservation that I was celebrating a recent birthday of a family member (the other guest) and this time I put no special occasion, so I didn't expect that.

Menu: Doesn't seem to have changed much, but my options are limited due to food allergies, so I ordered the same item as I had the last time (dry-aged burger). Due to an egg allergy the brioche bun and burger sauce were omitted - I requested a lettuce wrap, but just received the burger on the plate with a single piece of lettuce on the side, and due to a seafood allergy (common fryers) the french fries were substituted with a side salad. Both were good - the burger was properly cooked to medium rare and very flavorful, the salad was a basic side salad but with a good vinaigrette.

Alcohol: Still a good set of beers, wines, and spirits. Saison has a larger number of drafts compared to many other restaurants in the terminal. The rare spirits selection seems to have taken a dive, and the pricing is just downright confusing - some of the spirits ($42/oz for The Boss Hog IV: The Black Prince), but others contained prices with no unit of measure (Old Rip Van Winkle 12 Year Special Reserve displayed no price until the + (Add) button was picked, at which point it brought you to your basket or whatever you want to call it and it was $500 with no unit listed (bottle? 4oz? who knows? I assume bottle given that price). The rare drink cart that I saw in my previous visit was gone.

Tablets: OTG almost got away unscathed from me on this for once, but things fell flat. Classified is one of the restaurants at EWR Terminal C eligible for the 20% MileagePlus visa, if you scan your boarding pass and are the primary cardholder. I did so and ordering and such were fluid, and I barely had to babysit it. All was well until towards the end of the visit, I decided to have a second beer - the existing tab couldn't be updated, and it asked me to close it. When I did, the discount listed was far below 20% (approx $2.20 on $45). I flagged an employee over and they adjusted the receipt manually and printed it out. The second beer went on a separate tab, which despite proudly displaying the banner when I scanned the boarding pass that I would get 20% off, the Cardholder discount field when closing the tab read $0.00 - again requiring me to flag down an employee. I had to get over to another area of terminal C for my boarding, so I wasn't thrilled to be waiting for the receipt.

Other than that, the only minor upkeep problem is one of the credit card readers on a tablet on the other table would beep randomly (with no one sitting there) every 90 seconds or so. It wasn't loud or disruptive of a noise to be worth complaining about.

General attentiveness: Underwhelming compared to my last visit. My last visit I was with one other guest and for most of the visit we were the only ones there. The server was friendly and talked to us for a few minutes about different things (travel, etc.) and then left us to our own devices for a while. Even if he didn't come up while we dined every time to check in, I saw him popping in and out to look over - see if anyone was looking for a server, if any glasses or plates were empty, etc. I was checked in by a manager more than once to make sure I was happy, offered a newspaper after my meal, etc..

In contrast, service beyond the seating felt minimal. I didn't see the server serving in Saison at that time (Saison was not terribly crowded) but I get the impression that the server for Classified was probably serving Saison as I would not see her for minutes at a time. As Classified had more people in it during my visit, I felt that I saw less and less of my server. I get that the tablets are supposed to replace some of this, but when I was ready to order, it took several minutes after I had decided (and used the Call server button on the tablet) to get a re-visit. When I was trying to get the check to leave (due to the issue where the emailed receipt was not accurate and I wanted to make sure I got the discount), it took about 10 minutes. Not ideal in an airport terminal with many domestic travelers/flights.

Overall: I'd eat at Classified again alone, but the speed of service makes me hesitant to do it unless I have a lot of time. I'd consider eating there with a guest for the privacy and the ability to have a conversation somewhere with full bar, good food, quiet area, etc. but the service was a lot less impressive. The first time I went, the way the staff were attentive made my guest (someone who flies once or twice a year, if that) feel like I was a rock star or some other VIP, he still talks about that visit and wanting to go back the next time he flies out of Newark. This time I felt the service level was acceptable - not great.

The last time I went, I felt like I went to a totally different restaurant that happened to share a kitchen with Saison.

This time I felt like I went to a private room of Saison itself. A nice room that I'd eat in again, but not an experience that was noticeably better from a service perspective.
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