Gwen (gwenkern) wrote in bad_service,

Time for a boycott...

So, my husband and I were looking to have a nice dinner out tonight, and chose to try a new place, a pan-Asian restaurant that has been open in our neighborhood for less than a year. We ordered an appetizer (fresh spring rolls) and two main dishes (yaki soba and pad thai, both with tofu).

The appetizers came immediately and were good. The main dishes were also done quickly, and the waitress very nicely gave us extra plates, since I had told her that we planned to share. We were enjoying the yaki soba when my husband made a terrible face.

Me: What's wrong?
Him: This pad thai tastes... very strange.
Me: What's wrong with it?
Him: I don't know... it just... doesn't taste good.

I took a chopsticks-ful of noodles from the serving dish and tasted them. Immediately I could tell that something was wrong. My husband thought the noodles tasted fishy, but then, he's a vegetarian and hasn't had fish in many years. To me they tasted rubbery, or plasticky, or something. My guess was that rancid peanut oil or something similar was the culprit. We decided to wait until the waitress came over to check on us and then let her know that there was a problem.

Waitress: Is everything okay?
Me: Actually, well, the pad thai tastes really odd.
Waitress: Odd?
Me: Well, like there's something wrong with it. It tastes sort of rubbery, or plasticky. Neither of us is going to be able to eat it.
Waitress: Well, hang on and I'll be right back. Let me refill your water glasses while I see what I can do.

So she disappears and within a minute or two reappears with a man at her side. He was sort of difficult to understand, as he had a thick accent, and he didn't introduce himself to us at all, but we later figured out that he must have been the chef.

Him: What's wrong with the pad thai?
Me: Well, there's something strange about it. It just doesn't taste good.
Him: How do you define "good"?
Me (taken aback): Well, we've eaten pad thai in a lot of different restaurants, and it's certainly never tasted like this.
Him: Where have you eaten pad thai before, may I ask?
Me: Well, at [restaurant across the street], and [restaurant in an adjacent neighborhood], and several places in Seattle...
Him: I'm from Seattle, and I learned to make pad thai in Bangkok, and this is how it always tastes. This is how it's supposed to taste.
Me: Well, neither one of us is going to be able to eat this.
Him: You ordered it, so you're going to have to pay for it.
Me: Well, if that's your policy, then we won't be back.
Him: That's fine.
Me: Can you at least take it off the table?
Him: Okay.
Me: And please bring the check as soon as possible.

As my husband and I picked at our food, trying not to let the steam coming out of our ears show, the cook reappeared with the check and said, "The chef at [restaurant across the street] used to work here, and it's the same recipe." My husband said, "I've eaten pad thai at that restaurant many times, and it never tasted like this." The chef said, "Then eat there," and left.

Eager to end the experience, we got out a credit card and waited for the bill to be collected. After about five minutes I got sick of waiting and took it up to the counter to pay. As my husband signed the credit slip, the waitress came over and apologized, saying that the chef was always sort of like that, and she hoped our evening hadn't been ruined. We assured her that it was not her fault and left her about a 25% tip to reiterate that.

It's not the first time I've gotten bad service at a restaurant, but it is the first time I've ever been berated by the chef. We tried to be as nice as we could and not make a scene, but on the way out I couldn't help wishing that we'd had someone along with us who was less worried about being a jerk and willing to refuse to pay for the inedible dish. Oh well. I'll be telling this story to everybody who asks me for restaurant recommendations around here.

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