Laja is a unique restaurant. It is much closer to Highway 3 than is Corazon de Tierra, so access is easy [although I inadvertently passed it on my recent visit and had to double back]. I like the crunch and the shallow dip of the gravel driveway as one enters the grounds at Laja. All is peace and quiet as I exit my parked car and gaze to the distant horizon. Then I hear it: even though I am over one hundred feet from the restaurant, I hear the incessant wailing of a baby. The sounds get louder and louder as I approach the building, and when I open the front door, the blare literally blows me off my feet. The baby is with a group of five who are seated at the first table by the door. I take my seat at my usual table in the far corner. No one in the group takes the baby outside as it continues to wail; They are too busy eating and drinking wine to bother. I chose the eight course meal, and the portions seem more generous than my last visit---I could not even finish the pasta "a la guitarra" The glass of wine for each course [I chose a wine pairing option, although the wine list is excellent if you want to go with a bottle] was promptly brought to the table by the kind and pleasant owner, Andres Blanco. I always enjoy chatting with Andres, about what he is doing at Laja, about Ensenada politics or about his visits to California. The dining room is all dark woods and white-washed walls, which creates a simple and serene environment. When I was in the middle of my meal, a group of 12 Americans came in, with children of various ages in tow. The women and girls all sported a garland of flowers encircling their forehead, and the men had bulky long lens cameras hanging from their neck. I called them the "Flower Children". The Flower Children proceeded to treat the space like a personal venue for a cocktail party---moving about with wine glasses in hand, the children running around in and out "to see the turkeys---gobble, gobble", one of the women exclaimed. Their food would be placed on the table and they would sit for a moment, then it was up again to move to and fro at their little private cocktail affair. When I left, they were still carrying on in front of a staid threesome who had entered and were seated near the bar. No one said goodbye to me when I pushed open the door to leave, and I walked out into the gravel walkway on my own. That was a sad oversight, because I enjoy Laja. The service had been smiling and good, but an oversight at the end of a restaurant meal is grave, since that is how the customer remembers his experience: It is what happens first and what happens last that is critical in the formation of our opinion of the restaurant experience: We can forgive what happens in the middle, but what happens at the beginning and what happens [or doesn't happen, in this case!] at the end, is ingrained in our mind forever.
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