Trailing the King of Diamonds
I argue that the spring roll is a little fishy, and the Inspector lets me in on a trick so we can tell for sure. "Drink a few sips of water after you swallow," he instructs. I'm not thirsty but I drink some anyway, and can still come up with a hint of sardines.
The Inspector scribbles a note. He doesn't disagree, but says that when it comes to the rating forms he will have to stay up late to complete, "taste really isn't a big part of the deal."
"Well, it's pretty subjective, isn't it?" he says. "Our goal is to focus more on the objective parts of your meal. For instance, the presentation."
The Inspector is delighted, again and again, with the way the Green Room decorates its food. There are vegetable and potato spirals, and edible pictures painted with dots and pools of sauce.
"Will you look at that plate?" he exclaims. His caramel dessert squats in a clearing between rings of raspberry butterflies and birds.
We sip it skeptically, but our after-dessert coffee passes its test, and the Inspector tells a story about coffee in another hotel restaurant he once rated. "Something about the taste or aroma just didn't seem right," he says. "Turned out there was a nest of cockroaches in the grinder. They were grinding roaches along with the coffee."
As far as I'm concerned, it's time to get the bill.
It is midmorning in the lobby of the duPont, and the Inspector and I are ready for Phase Two of Operation Inspection: scoping out rooms. We've seen and eaten all we can on the sly, and now the Inspector steps up to the desk to disclose his mission and ask for the manager. "Hi, I'm from AAA . . ."
Buzzers blare, and there is the sound of distant shouting and running footsteps. No, not really. Actually, there is no sign of panic at all. In about a minute, a natty, French-accented general manager appears.
The Inspector sits him down and goes over our experience since check-in, while the manager and one of his assistants jot down notes. They nod when things have been good, cringe when they haven't. "Your reservation clerk answered on the first ring," praises the Inspector. "When I called to leave myself a message, I, um, got that message. Let's see . . . good small talk by the concierge, nothing too personal, and in the restaurant, the table was de-crumbed, not after the appetizer -- that would have been nice -- but following the entree."
After a half-hour of this, it's time for our tour.
Not one but six rooms are unlocked, and although each looks sparkling clean to me, the Inspector pushes me out of the way so he can check out closets, flip couch cushions and snake his hand into the recesses of drawers.
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