We assumed everything was a weird perception on our part and the four of us settled in for a magnificent dining experience. Having been regaled with stories of how Chef Cultleader enjoys the challenge of tweaking a recipe, we asked if something might be substituted­ for the cilantro in one of the dishes. "Cilantro," began the aghast waiter, "is like salt. It is an ingredient. What," the waiter pulled himself together enough to ask, "would you have the chef use instead?" "I don't know," I replied. "I thought that might be his job." Things were beginning to slide dangerously toward the surly.

But we braved another request: Could we get a salad between the first and second courses? "I don't know," the waiter sniffed. "The salads are made fresh, and it is a matter of timing." Yes. Well. And it is difficult, too, to pull out a stick shoved up one's, uh, nose.

When the meal came, the waiter brought me a dish that neither I nor anyone else at our table had ordered. He never did bring a salad, between courses or at any other time, then blamed the kitchen for forgetting it. The hard, bland scallops in a tablemate's dish tasted, as he put it, "like an eraser." The truffle risotto was topped, stingily, with a couple of shards of aromaless black truffles.

Meanwhile, the waiter disappeared. A different waiter took his place. "What happened to our waiter?" we asked. "Oh," the new one answered, "he had to leave."

He had to leave? As in, he had a family emergency? Or as in, he wanted to go have a smoke? Or as in, "Hey guys, I'm pooped. I think I'll pack it in early tonight"?

The new waiter brought some port or wine or beer or who knows what. By then, the evening had become a computer crash.