(I didn't know dinner was free until I asked for the bill. My dining companion had been tipped off by a lady in the ladies' room. She chose not to tell me lest I get suspicious. I've stumbled into these situations before. Sometimes a free meal is just a free meal. Like other diners, I filled out a comments slip, answering a few questions about the food and service.)
The Bite officially opened today. Guess what? The menus look vaguely Mediterannean. Here's what we can purchase at breakfast, lunch and dinner:
Grapefruit brulee (two halves, with caramelized sugar); gingerbread French toast; pigs in a quilt, limencello-cured salmon on a bagel; a Barcelona omelet (chorizo sausage, Manchego cheese, olives, peppers and salsa); an all-American eggs-meat-potatoes breakfast, and steak and eggs. Prices: $6-$17.
Lunch and dinner menus are similar, but differ in portions, prices and steaks. Entrees include a half-pound burger; shaved Reuben sandwich; crab ravioli, grilled chicken breast; grilled tofu; meatloaf; soups and salads. Prices: $6-$20 lunch, $6-$32 dinner.
Had I known Tuesday night's trial-run/server-training dinner was going to be free, I would have ordered the $18 meat-and-cheese board -- your choice of four items (meats: Salumi salami, mole salami, fennel salami and red-pepper salami, and prosciutto di Parma). That's a dear price to pay for two selections of meat and two selections of cheese (or four cheeses, or three meats and one cheese..._). For that kind of money, I want Armandino Batalli to personally slice my salami and kiss me on the cheek.
Service, however, looked like it was off to a good start. It was solicitous (I've never had my water topped off so many times) without being obsequious. Even though the meal was free, I left a tip equal to 20 percent of the price of the food I ate.
The Bite has a casual and stylish air -- a bit spare, a bit hotelly and a bit antiseptic, but comfortable and well-lit. Some of the furniture -- and especially those white plastic chairs -- scream Ikea. But I love the tile-walled bar, which accommodates solo diners at breakfast and lunch.
While a sign noted that The Bite is a work in progress, I suggest that Hotel Murano do a lot more work on the Bicentennial Pavilion plaza outside the restaurant's fourth-floor door -- the one that's easily accessible from the easy street parking on Market Street, where this local and his local dining companion parked. The plaza needs a good power-washing and some plants.
The Bite at Hotel Murano: 1320 Broadway, Tacoma; 253-572-3200