Monday, October 5, 2009

Under New Management...?

More often than it should, things like this happen: you head to a "reputable" restaurant, with moderate expectations, only to be disappointed by some (if you're lucky), most, or all aspects of the experience. Then you're faced with a dilemma: do I warn others about the potential dangers, or let them discover and decide for themselves?

For my twitter followers (there aren't that many, to be honest) you probably would've seen my tweets about my disappointment at a certain Chinese restaurant in Sydney CBD. I'll recount (in detail) what happened tonight, and decide for yourself whether my comments were fair or not.

We --a party of 5-- arrived at the restaurant shortly after 6pm, and were promptly seated at a table set up for 4, though numerous, if not all the tables set up for 6 were available. Once seated, we were given one set of 2 menus for the table, leaving 3 of us with basically nothing to do but inspect the cutlery and plates. All of them had water stains. All of them had some sort of food remains on them. One had fatty sauce stuck on half of the underside of the plate. The same for the bowls. A prompt and polite request for fresh (and clean) plates and other pieces of crockery was made, only to be met by an icy and somewhat annoyed response. Nonetheless, new plates (and plates only!) were delivered; however, on closer inspection they showed pretty much the same problems as the first batch, though on a smaller scale. Fearing retribution, we clean the plates ourselves, with tissues and hot tea.

Orders were taken (the response to each dish ordered was "sure, you can have that"), and the complimentary soup delivered. The waiter discovered that we had no spoons, went to fetch them, dropped them off and went away. Three other waiters and a manager passed us by, none of them noticing that the soup had not been served. We give up and do it ourselves.

Then the food. Roast Pipa duck was delivered with the stir-fried spinach (vegetable dishes are usually served last), as well as the rice. The duck had not been flattened and dried enough, and the spinach much too salty. And, yes, the rice was self-service. The third dish, a beef and mushroom stirfry on a hot plate, comes shortly after, a seemingly smaller portion to the one served to the neighbouring table. The meat had been so tenderised with bicarb, its appearance was the part that resembled beef. The fourth, braised sea cucumber with prawn roe in a hot pot, came when we had almost finished all the other dishes. The sea cucumber pieces were a bright orange instead of a mellow brown; the taste was, however, acceptable.

It took a good 15 minutes after clearing all the food on the table for the wait staff to realise we were done, and another 5 before they did anything about it. While for our neighbouring table dessert consisted of sweet soup, biscuits and a moderate-sized fruit platter for their party of 4, we were only presented with a small offering of sliced fruit (5 pieces each of orange, rockmelon and watermelon). Seeing that our chances of getting anything more than that were next to none, we call for the bill, met again by a sour and spiteful cashier who looked on with distain as the credit card was replaced by cash. No thanks, no smiles, only looks of spite and disgust as we walked out of the restaurant.

Sure, it wasn't a expensive meal, the bill coming to less than $30 per person. But for the restaurant's former reputation, location, and target market, paying $30 per head is, in my opinion, too much. Apart from the delivery of food, all other requests were met with disgruntledness and distain. It was as though we were not guests at their restaurant, but unwelcomed gatecrashers who were squandering their food. Not to mention the hygiene--or lack thereof. Beneath its seemingly shiny exterior is a restaurant which is crumbling, from its bathrooms to its management. Considering last time they tried to charge me tea and rice even though I showed up at the restaurant after the bill had been called, I'm more convinced than ever to avoid that place like the plague from now on.

So, dear reader, having heard my tale, would you prefer to be warned, or to discover the disaster for yourself?