Pujols 5 – El Hombre is Not Quite an MVP in the Kitchen

Pujolsrestaurant315My Dad and I dined at Pujols 5 last night.  Albert’s Westport Plaza eatery just opened a couple of weeks ago, so I’m going to cut it a little slack due to its newness (the way we’ve been cutting Reyes slack all season). Still, I have to admit I was disappointed. 

If Albert and Deidre are culinary rookies, their partner – the Hanon family – sure isn’t.  Hanon turned his previously unspectacular Patrick’s into this new sports haven.  I would say the space definitely succeeds as a first class sports bar.  There are plasma screens tucked into every corner in the front of the restaurant and bar area, and the bar food probably succeeds better than some of the fancier fare. 

As for decor, I felt the restaurant could use more memorabilia. I only saw one case of Albert’s mementos, and some large blow-up photos. The menu claims it will honor sports beyond baseball, but there’s no memorabilia from other sports either – just giant photos.  The layout is confusing, as you have to walk through a hallway of party rooms to get to another large, more formal dining room in the back.  There is also outdoor seating on the patio and the aforementioned bar area.  This diverse layout sort of symbolizes why the restaurant is sub-par right now – it’s trying to do too much, just like Albert often has to do too much to try to get a win. 

Upon sitting down, the service hiccups began.  We did not get water until probably 15 minutes into the meal, after we already had our drinks. And then the waiter simply brought a pitcher of water and plunked it on our table – he didn’t even pour it.  We never got bread, and Patrick’s bread basket had been one of their highlights. The menu was lengthy and confusing. It started logically, with starters, but then there was another section of starters further into the menu.  I was really looking forward to trying some of Deidre’s Dominican cuisine, so I was disappointed that only a couple dishes were on the menu – flautas and arroz con pollo.  The menu runs the gamut from burgers and chicken strips to seared ahi tuna and steaks. Like I said, perhaps too many choices.  I ordered the arroz con pollo and my dad ordered the meatloaf. 

We then noticed drama at a nearby table where a group of harpies from West County were sitting.  Their dinners did not come at the same time, and three of them ended up sending their food back, complaining it was not hot.  The manager attempted to appease them with free wine, but this only added to the volume coming from the table.  I really did not need to know which of them was getting a chemical peel this week and who had recently had a tummy tuck, but unfortunately our entire section was appraised of these newsflashes. 

Our salads were tasty, and we both liked our entrees, although my dad felt his could have been hotter (as in temperature, not spice).  The presentation was attractive.  The arroz con pollo was nicely spiced, if not spectacular.  For dessert, we shared a piece of carrot cake which was the highlight of the meal – moist and a big portion.  Another example of service failure – when our coffee was brought out with cream, we were not given spoons.  Because the restaurant is a winding rabbit den, it became hard to find the waiter once he left the table, and I also think the distance from the kitchen to the dining room probably led to the cold food. 

I was really excited for this restaurant, but I won’t be going back soon.  Hopefully, as it matures, it will become less generic and more "Pujols" in its decor and menu offerings.  I definitely recommend it as a place to watch sports – just focus on the awesome plasma TVs and don’t think too much about the food. 

Now when is Nelly’s restaurant opening?


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